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Musk fragrance is a type of perfume usually made from musk, an animal product long used to make perfumes and scents. The use of musk in fragrance is believed to have begun more than 1,300 years ago in China. The main component of musk fragrance is traditionally derived from the scent glands of the musk deer or the dwarf musk deer, two species indigenous to India and China respectively. Non-animal sources of a musk-like fragrance include seeds from the plants Musk Dana and Hibiscus Abelmoschus. Musk is generally used to make perfumes, either to form part of the scent bouquet or as a fragrance fixative, and it is sometimes used therapeutically in Chinese medicine.
Many who enjoy musk fragrance consider it mysterious, exotic, and alluring. Musk fragrance forms the top note in many perfumes and scented creams, lotions, and soaps. Musk is also often used as a fixative to draw the blended scents of a lighter, more floral fragrance together. Synthetic musk may be used in some perfumes, and others use musk derived from plant sources. Many of the fragrance industry's highest quality scents, however, continue to use authentic musk extracted from the glands of musk deer.
The musk deer and dwarf musk deer are relatively small animals that normally inhabit the mountains of Asia. They can reach heights of about 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) tall, and do not usually have antlers. The males of the species possess a unique scent gland that may weigh up to 1.05 ounces (30 grams). These glands produce a powerfully aromatic musk, and both species of deer have historically been hunted almost to extinction in order to obtain musk. Today, musk fragrance is most often obtained from farmed deer.
Fragrances of all types have been popular throughout most of history. Early fragrances often consisted mostly of essential oils that were rubbed on the skin or applied to clothing and accessories. Eau de cologne is believed to have appeared on the scene in the 1700s, giving fragrance enthusiasts an alternative to unguent fragrances. Synthetic fragrances and sophisticated scent blending are believed to have occurred alongside advances in chemistry in the 1800s. Musk fragrance has often been combined with popular floral and other scents, such as mint, to create sophisticated blended perfumes.
In addition to its cosmetic use as a perfume, musk is also believed to have therapeutic properties in Chinese medicine. It is believed to help treat allergies and other inflammatory disorders. It may also act as a stimulant, and has been used to relieve fatigue and weakness.