Benzoin is a confusing essential oil for many people. Not because of what it does, which is quite straight forward, but because of its name. Let’s get this clear from the outset; Benzoin essential oil is extracted from the resin of the Styrax Benzoin tree: it has absolutely nothing in common with benzene which is found in coal and gasoline. Apparently they both smell sweet, and their names sound a bit similar, but they are two totally different beasts. There is also an organic compound called benzoin that again is completely different chemically from the oil and resin extracted from the Styrax Benzoin tree. Is it any wonder people get confused?
If you smell a bottle of Benzoin essential oil, you may not think you like it very much. However, as with any resinous essential oil it’s quite shy and only comes into its own when it’s warmed a little. It’s certainly sweet and smells like vanilla and chocolate mixed together. As a base note, it does not evaporate quickly and the scent can last for several hours. In perfumery, it is used as a fixative, giving lighter scents a bit of staying power, and traditionally it has been used as one of the components of incense. Some of the oldest civilisations in the world have used Benzoin in religious ceremonies, and this may well have been because of its effects as well as its scent.
Like many essential oils, Benzoin affects the body in so many ways that we wonder how we managed without it. Primarily it is used to relax; it calms both the nervous system, digestive system and the respiratory tract. It helps release stress, relieves anxiety and has anti-depressant properties, and these may well be the primary reasons it was so often used in the aforementioned ancient religious ceremonies. It promotes contentment, almost restoring the neurotic system to its factory settings which is why it can act as both a mood booster and a relaxant. Do not use this oil if you need to stay awake as its effects can almost be tranquilising!
As a naturally warming oil, Benzoin is useful in dealing with all things cold. If you are coughing, its natural expectorant properties means it is useful for
bronchitis, coughs and colds, especially when combined with its relaxant qualities which means that sometimes it will help you sleep with a chesty cough or congestion when all else fails. It is used in many balms to help arthritis sufferers and has an added benefit of promoting surface circulation, which brings a sensation of warmth. It is a natural disinfectant with anti-inflammatory capabilities and is used in tincture form by the U.S. Army to treat blisters. It has been used in creams to assist with skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema as it promotes healing and increases skin elasticity, helping to prevent further cracking.
Benzoin essential oil: cheers you up, calms you down, helps you sleep, stops you coughing, heals your wounds, relieves your aches, gives your skin some love and smells divine. Worth all the confusion!