What is Farnesol?

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  • Written By: Erica Stratton
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 25 December 2019
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Farnesol is a fatty alcohol found in nature. Most notably, it is distilled from flowers, but it is also a component in vitamin K. This essence has a long history of being used in perfumes to make scents more intense and as an additive in cosmetics and food. It may also be used as an anti-tumor agent.

Originally derived from acacia flowers, farnesol is also found in essential oils, such as those made from lemon grass, tuberose, rose and musk. It has a green, flowery scent and is colorless. It cannot be dissolved in water, but mixes readily with oils.

The essence is used as a way to enhance the scent of a flower-based perfume or aromatherapy oil. It works as a solvent, making the scent of the perfume more intense and uniform as it breaks down. Farnesol has also been identified as one of the key ingredients in perfume, so people with perfume allergies should avoid exposure to it in other products.

Farnesol has anti-bacterial properties. For this reason, it is often used in hygienic products. Farnesol can kill some of the bacteria that causes acne and is commonly used in deodorant for the same property.


Skin toners include farnesol as a way to tighten the skin and lessen the appearance of wrinkles. It is said to cause regeneration of the skin cells when it is applied, lessening the effects of aging. It is sometimes referred to as "dodecatrienol" when used in skin care products.

The essence can be ingested in small quantities. It's been put into food as a flavor enhancer and is a common ingredient used in cigarettes. Conversely, it can also be used as a natural pesticide to get rid of mites.

There is a possibility of farnesol being used as an anti-tumor agent. When inhaled as an aerosol, it has shown the capability to kill cancer cells in the lungs. It may also be useful in treating other cancers, and experts are still studying this possibility.

Farnesol gets its name from the Farnese acacia, one of the first flowers from which the compound was derived. In turn, the farnse acadica got its name from the Italian family of Farnese. The noble family became famous by starting one of the first botanical gardens and maintaining them from the 15th through the 17th centuries. The "ol" ending was added to indicate that the derivation was alcoholic.


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