Amyris balsamifera has been referred to as West Indian Sandalwood, but it is not a sandalwood. In fact it is a very different plant and oil. While its aroma might be similar to Sandalwood’s it belongs to a completely different Botanical Family and Genus.
It was in 1886 that Kirkby and Holmes first discovered the differences between Amyris and Sandalwood. By examining the leaves of this small bushy tropical evergreen tree very carefully through a microscope, the striking differences that they found confirmed that these plants were not related. In recognition of these discoveries the botanical name was changed from Schimmerelia oleisera to Amyris balsamifera.
Amyris is the genus name of flowering plants belonging to the citrus family, Rutaceae. Amyris derives from the Greek word (amyron), meaning “intensely scented” and refers to the strong odor of the resin. The wood’s high oil content makes it highly flammable. In Haiti the locals call it “Candle Wood” in Haiti, while in Jamaica it is called “Torch wood”.
Steam distillation of the broken up wood and branches produces a pale, yellow, slightly viscous essential oil, with a good yield of between 2 – 4%. Distillation of wood that has been seasoned for up to six months will produce a better quality oil than distillation of the fresh wood. On the other hand, some of the oil will be lost during the aging process which results in the aged wood having a lower yield than the fresh wood. Most of the essential oil is produced in Haiti, with some production in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Venezuela.
The aroma is reminiscent of sandalwood. I find the Amyris I have to be soft, woody, sweet, balsamic with some vanilla undertones. This base notes light aroma is soothing, relaxing, uplifting, warming and grounding. It is used extensively in perfumes, as both a bridge and an excellent fixative. I find it blends well with many oils, including most of the woods, florals lavender, lavandin, patchouli, vetiver and ylang ylang.
Looking at the chemistry of the oil we see that it contains up to 70% alcohols and around 20% sesquiterpenes. The high alcohol and sesquiterpene content would certainly contribute to the oil’s sedative, calming, soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. I would suggest that you consider using it for any of the conditions that would benefit from these properties. Skin Rashes; Muscle Cramps; Digestive Cramps; Bronchitis; are examples of conditions that might benefit well by having Amyris included in the blend. Amyris is also considered to have a positive action on the Immune System.
I made a lovely relaxing blend with Amyris using equal parts Amyris and Lavender and lightened with Bergamot. Amyris 2 parts; Lavender 2 parts; Bergamot 1 part. Of course aroma preferences are always personal, so you might find yourself wanting to tweak the blend a bit. It is a blend that can be used in many different applications. For instance it could be added to a diffuser or a mister, it could be used for meditation, or just generally relaxing, it could be added to an aroma inhaler to have on hand if one suffers from anxiety or lots of stress. It could be added to a personal body product or used in the bath. Do remember to consider the correct dilution of your blend, particularly when using it topically. You can see the Methods of Use article in the Article Archives for some guidelines.