Elemi Essential Oil: A Lifesaver for Your Skin

I have to be honest; as familiar as I am in the essential oil world, elemi has not pinged on my oil radar. So, I started to do some digging, and below is a compilation of what I discovered!

In this article, I will share with you my discoveries on what elemi oil is, where it came from, what are its uses, alternatives to elemi, and the top recommended brands.

What is Elemi Essential Oil?

Elemi oil is most commonly recognized and used in skincare products. The primary function of elemi in the products is to heal and restore skin.

However, elemi oil is also known for boosting your immune system function, reducing muscle and joint pain, speeding up the healing of external wounds along promoting a greater sense of well-being.

Essential oils contain terpenes. What are terpenes? Terpenes are a broad class of organic compounds that primarily protect the plants and insects that produce terpene from being eaten. While I am not the biggest fan of Wikipedia, it does provide a straightforward definition of terpenes listed below.

Terpenes and terpenoids are the primary constituents of the essential oils of many types of medicinal plants and flowers. Essential oils are used widely as fragrances and in alternative medicines such as aromatherapy.”

Elemi oil has six noteworthy chemical components. While I will not go in-depth on all six elements, I believe it bears worth mentioning the terpenes that contribute to the healing properties discussed in this article.

The components are dipentene, elemol, elemicin, limonene, phellandrene, and terpineol.

Limonene, in particular, can be used as an antibacterial, antidepressant, and immune stimulant. These properties are all effective in treating infection, mood disorders, and illnesses.

Elemol is a prevalent terpene in the perfume industry used in massage oils, skincare products as well as insect repellants. It has a strong citrus scent that is found primarily in elemi but can also be found in citronella.

Combined, limonene and elemol create a powerhouse of healing and restoration within the body, making elemi an excellent choice for ailments requiring this type of attention.

Origination and History of Elemi Oil

Elemi oil comes from the Elemi tree (aka Pili tree) or the Canarium luzonicum tree, originally from the Philippines. It can also be found in Brazil and other Central American countries as these countries started cultivating the tree for commercial use.

It is a tree closely related to the Boswellia tree, which frankincense comes from and the Commiphora tree, the origination tree of myrrh. Elemi does have similar properties as frankincense and myrrh but is a more cost-effective alternative.

Elemi is extracted from the tree, much like syrup for your pancakes. A small ‘wound’ or hole is made into the tree where the sap will drain out of the tree for approximately two weeks. The sap is initially white until it hits the air and turns brown. Until it has dried into a hard resin. The resin is then collected to be processed into oil.

Once the resin has been collected, it is steam distilled to extract the oil from the resin.

Where Did Elemi Get its Start?

It was Magellan’s discovery of the Philippines in 1521 and then introduced to Europe and the Middle East. The product’s name dates from this period, from the Arabic El-lemi.

It was used as a fumigant to perfume homes. Also, it has been noted that small bags of elemi were worn around the neck in that era. This could be seen as some of the earliest essential oil necklaces!

Starting in the 18th century, the West began regularly using elemi for its therapeutic properties. It is mentioned in many texts, including “the inventory of simple drugs that elemi must always be kept on hand in the King’s hospital pharmacies.”

Elemi Essential Oil Benefits

Elemi is noted primarily for its analgesic properties. This means it helps to relieve pain. This is quite a wide net to cast as far as elemi oil benefits as most conditions we experience involve some level of pain and discomfort.

However, that is not all elemi is used for. It is noted for boosting the immune system, healing wounds, and restoring skin. It has stimulant properties that encourage healing and restoration from everything from external cuts and wounds to internal viruses and bacteria.

Boosts Immune System Function

In Western Europe, aromatherapists use elemi oil to stimulate the thymus gland. The thymus gland is located in your chest behind your sternum and is most significant and most productive in our early years as children. Its primary function is to create T-cells that protect the body against certain viruses and infections.

As we get older, the thymus gland is slowly replaced by fatty tissue, and by the average age of 75, is nothing more than that, fat. However, before that occurs, it is possible to stimulate the thymus gland when dealing with autoimmune disorders to strengthen the immune system in the body by tapping into the thymus double duty responsibilities as an endocrine and lymphatic gland.

Supports Respiratory Health

Elemi is used for congestion caused by the flu, colds, and bronchitis, which commonly come with an excessive amount of fluid and phlegm. Inhaling elemi has been shown to help break up the mucus in the chest, nose, and sinuses providing respiratory relief.

Pain Relief and Healing

Elemi has analgesic properties, which means it can relieve pain. As a natural pain reducer, elemi essential oil can ease head pain, muscle aches, joint pain, and earaches.

It also works to reduce fever. Because elemi has not only analgesic properties but antiseptic properties as well, it has also been shown to help heal minor cuts, scrapes, and abrasions.

Fun Fact: In the 15th century, Europeans used elemi in liniments, medicinal balms, and ointments, as well as to treat respiratory issues. Soldiers applied elemi to their wounds to speed up healing, and plaster of elemi was used to repair broken bones.

Skin Care Benefits

Elemi has been identified as an antiseptic, analgesic, and stimulant, all of which promote healing. When talking about the skin it is important to identify what the needs of the skin are starting with its immediate health.

Initiating Healing

It is hard to heal skin that is still infected, so we deal with the infection first by using an antiseptic. Once the infection is under control, we can still be left with pain. Whether it is pain from an incision or pain from cystic acne, pain is pain, and everyone wants relief from it.

To control pain, we reach for an analgesic. Analgesics come in topical or oral form. Most of us are accustomed to reaching for acetaminophen or naproxen-sodium (Tylenol and Aleve). Elemi is an excellent alternative to pain relief without the side effects the non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory drugs can cause.

Once the healing process has taken place with the infection under control and pain is being managed or having dissipated, we can move into the restoration process.

Restoring Skin

Restoring skin is essential in our society. Everyone is chasing the skin of their youth by investing in ways to restore it.

Elemi can be found in almost every major player in the skincare market. Take a look at your ingredients list and see if pili an as an ingredient. If it is, you can be sure elemi is part of your daily regimen.

Reading face cream ingredients can be daunting. Trust me, I did it for quite some time when preparing to write this article, and here’s what I discovered. The names can be confusing. Just because the name elemi or pili an isn’t showing up on the ingredients list, doesn’t mean it’s not in there.

Towards the end of the list, you may see an ingredient that says parfum. This means elemi oil can possibly be in your cream but is used only as a fragrance and not as an active ingredient.

After a couple of hours of extensive research, my conclusion in using elemi in skincare is to go straight to the source or make your own.

Several brands use elemi as a primary ingredient. These are not your mainstream, department store, or even drug store products. These are found mostly online and vary in price from just $30 to several hundred dollars.

Through my research for this article and discover what a beautiful and beneficial oil elemi can be, I have opted to make my own!

Currently, I use a medical-grade facial regime, but my skin has gotten somewhat “used” to it. In my attempts to change to another brand, I ended up breaking out like a kid just starting high school. This look is less than desirable at almost 40, so I have been looking for something that will shake up my serum without breaking the bank or my skin for that matter.

Top Brands of Elemi

When perusing Amazon for elemi products, you will find a variety of choices. The first one to pop up is Elemis. It is a brand name company using elemi as its primary ingredient. While the reviews are good, the price is high on most of their products.

I am a reasonably mindful shopper, but I am also aware that you get what you pay for. However, I am not willing to spend $225 on a 2-ounce bottle of face cream. With that said, I am willing to pay $10 for a bottle of Artizen pure Elemi oil and add it to my $60 bottle of ZO medical face cream and see what happens!

Some of the other top sellers of elemi oil are Plant Therapy and Eden’s Garden. If you decide to go with another brand, be sure to do your research. Often it can say “100% Elemi Oil” which may be true that there is pure elemi oil in the bottle, but they do not advertise how much of the bottle is elemi oil and how much it has been diluted with a carrier oil.

Also, when shopping for your oils, be mindful of searching for labels that say “therapeutic grade.” It is not a term regulated by the FDA, and companies use this term for marketing purposes.

How to Use Elemi Oil

How you will use elemi oil largely depends on what you are treating. Including elemi oil will look a little different if you are treating a chest or head cold as opposed to a wound or skin treatment.


Nebulizing Diffuser 1024X683 1 - Elemi Essential Oil

If you are suffering from a head cold, bronchitis, or allergies diffusing is the way to go. You can take this a step further by plugging your diffuser in your bathroom, closing the door, and allowing the oil to condense in the air of a small space.

Another alternative to diffusing is to boil a pot of water, put one to two drops of elemi oil in the pot and put a towel over your head with your face over the pot for a more concentrated effect for about five to ten minutes.

This recommendation does not apply to children because of the possibility of burning the skin. Be very mindful when using this method at all times.


Merely inhaling the oil from the bottle works well on the go. Also, sitting with a hot towel over your head or in the bathroom is not an option.


Massage Therapist Massaging Woman Hyq8E3V 1024X683 1 - Elemi Essential Oil

Massage works best for sore muscles and aching joints. Elemi oil has been reported to cause mild skin irritations at best, so it is safe to apply directly to the skin. However, you will be using more of the oil than is necessary if you start rubbing it on straight from the bottle.

Instead, take a ¼ cup of your preferred carrier oil and add four to five drops of elemi oil and blend. Keep in a glass container out of sunlight, and you will have a rub ready for whenever your muscles need it. You can also use this rub on your chest if you are suffering from allergies or a cold.


To make a compress, you have one of two options. You can either place a couple of drops directly on the affected area and cover it with a warm or cold cloth. Or you can apply some of the massage rub you made and cover it with an ice pack or a heating pad. Be mindful when using ice packs and heating pads; make sure to place something like a hand towel or washcloth between the warm/cold compress and your skin for protection.


What does elemi oil smell like?

If you like citrus scents with a bit of pepper and earthy tones, elemi will be perfect for you. It is not too overwhelming and the scent can be adjusted through diffusing and diluting with a carrier oil.

What blends well with elemi essential oil?

Elemi oil blends well with frankincense, myrrh, lavender, rosemary, and sage.

Adding herbal and floral notes to your blend is a personal preference and also depends on what you are trying to achieve with your blend. Of course, we want something that is aromatically pleasing, but we want something beneficial, as well.

Elemi oil is considered to be the substitute for frankincense and myrrh for economic reasons as elemi is less expensive to harvest and manufacture. Just as we want to find something that appeals to our olfactory system when we blend our oils, we want to maintain the integrity of the desired healing properties we are trying to achieve when we combine oils.

Elemi is an antiseptic, a stimulant, and a pain reliever, so looking for oils that achieve the same results is what you want to look for. How the smells blend is based on personal preference. For example, peppermint is an antiseptic and stimulant, but blending mint with citrus and musk scents is not pleasing to me. Rosemary is an analgesic, stimulant, and mucous thinning agent that would better support the same goals of using elemi oil.

Does elemi essential oil help with scars?

Elemi oil does have the potential to help with scars. It has regenerative properties and is a stimulant thought to encourage the growth of new cells. There is a lot to consider when attempting to reduce scarring though. Is the wound thoroughly healed? Is it a new scar or an old scar? Are you willing to apply the oil multiple times a day over an extended period of time? Is the scar on the face or the body? All of these questions are incredibly individualized, therefore producing a variety of results.

In my research, I read several testimonials from women expressing how elemi oil helped reduce acne scars, as well as smaller scars like scrapes and cuts on their kiddos. It is important to do a small skin patch test prior to using elemi oil directly on the skin.

In my research, I read several testimonials from women expressing how elemi oil helped reduce acne scars, as well as smaller scars like scrapes and cuts on their kiddos. It is essential to do a skin patch test before using elemi oil directly on the skin.

While I found no imminent dangers or severe side effects of elemi oil, everyone is different, and it is crucial to take caution, particularly if you are choosing to use this on children. The recommendation in general for all essential oils is not to use them on children.

However, in total transparency, my son is 8 ½, and I use oils with him all the time. I am careful to do a smell test to make sure he does not have a respiratory reaction and a small skin patch to see if it causes any irritation.

I do not have him ingest any essential oils for any symptoms. We stick with the diffuser, some blends in a spray bottle, and rubs. For me, that is the safest option when treating him holistically.

Is Elemi Essential?

After much research and the use of many different oils, I would say yes! Elemi has a wonderful scent and many different useful healing properties.

It is inexpensive, has an appealing scent, and contains several healing properties making it an excellent addition to your collection or could be a great oil to start your holistic healing adventure!

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