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What is Amyris?

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  • Written By: Sonal Panse
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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Amyris is an essential oil extracted from the wood of the Amyris balsamifera tree. A native of Haiti, this tree is often referred to as the West Indian Sandalwood tree, as its wood has a fragrance similar to that of sandalwood. Like sandalwood, amyris wood can be used to make furniture. It is also known as candle wood since, with its propensity to burn longer than other woods, it has often been used as a beacon.

Oil is extracted from amyris wood by a method known as steam distillation. The essential oils are a popular and less expensive alternative to sandalwood oil in making incense sticks, scented candles, perfumes and soaps. The pale yellow or brown viscous oil may be used on its own or blended with other essential oils and aromatic essences like rose absolute, lavender, myrrh, sassafras, cedar wood, citronella, spruce, pine, or geranium.

Known to have antiseptic and soothing properties, amyris is used in many herbal remedies. It has been used to treat influenza and diarrhea, and has been found effective as a mosquito repellent. As an ingredient in many massage oils, it offers relief from muscle pains, and it is regularly used in aromatherapy as a herbal remedy for reducing stress and tension. Amyris has some reputation as an aphrodisiac and has been used to make tonics and love potions.

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Amyris is also used in various skin care herbal remedies and cosmetic products. The essential oil helps with skin regeneration, and is an excellent home herbal remedy to treat wounds, dry skin and many other skin disorders. It is important to note that the oil needs to be diluted in vegetable oil before applying it to the skin; it does not dissolve in water. While amyris is for the most part a non-irritant, it is a good idea to do a skin patch test before use. Some people may show allergic reactions such as skin reddening or itchiness, in which case, it is best not to use the oil.

In highly concentrated quantities, the oil has been observed to have a detrimental effect on the nervous system. As with all essential oils and alternative therapies, it is advisable to consult a professional therapist or physician before embarking on a health regimen using it. The oil should not be ingested or brought in direct contact with the eyes or the mucus membranes, and should be kept away from children.

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