Guaiacwood essential oil (Bulnesia sarmientoi, Guaiacum officinale) is often used to enhance fragrance or flavor in foods,* beverages,* candles, soaps, and perfumes, and to enhance the healing restorative function of therapeutic skin care products. (Guaiacwood essential oil is found in Ageless La Cure Ageless La Cure Nourishing Cream.)
Guaiacwood essential oil plays a supportive rather than a dominant role in perfumery as it smoothes out and balances strong or harsh fragrances. It has a sweet, delicate balsamic fragrance reminiscent of tea roses. It provides the woody notes, for example, to the support the rose in Chanel No. 19. The age of the guaiacwood tree determines the potency of the essential oil it produces.
Guaiacwood goes by many names: champaca-wood, pockwood, lignum vitae (“wood of life”), essence bois de guaic in French and palo santo (“holy wood”) in Spanish. The name palo santo originated in the jungles of Northwest Argentina, however guaiac is indigenous to Paraguay and the West Indies as well.
The essential oil has been used for hundreds of years to provide a range of health benefits to individuals living in the regions where it grows however today the benefits of guaiacwood essential oil are widely known across the globe.
Once reserved strictly for use as incense, guaiacwood is now protected and its trade is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The benefits guaiac offers as incense are similar to the benefits commonly derived from the burning of sage and cedar.
The essential oil of guaiacwood is:
tonifying and healing to the skin
antioxidizing (for slowing down the visible signs of skin pore tightening)
energetically cleansing and healing
anti-fungal (for the skin, especially)
antiseptic (therefore good for acne and oily skin)
stimulating (to the genitourinary system)
sudorific (stimulating sweat)
balsamic (sharing a root with the word ‘balm,' balsamic here means healing)
Guaicwood essential oil is known to:
purify the tissues
support venous and lymphatic circulation (so necessary for radiant skin)
calm, relax and relieve tension (slows down reflexes)
sharpen mental clarity
bring balance to an anxious or depressed emotional state
relieve emotional pain
support restful sleep
soothe swollen or injured skin tissue
loosen up tight muscles
ease respiratory challenges
enhance the meditation experience
The oil has also been historically successfully used to treat common colds, asthma, flu symptoms and headaches.
Of special note are guaiac’s high levels of D-limonene** and monoterpenes*** that have been claimed in some scientific studies to be useful in the treatment of cancer in certain animals.****
Bear in mind that natural essential oils are quite potent. It takes an enormous amount of wood to yield just one drop of guaiacwood essential oil so if you are using the oil by itself it is important to dilute it with a carrier oil such as almond, jojoba, or coconut oil. It is always safest to use products that have been expertly formulated with the most appropriate amount of essential oils. (Guaiacwood essential oil is found in Ageless La Cure Ageless La Cure Nourishing Cream.)
* baked goods, meat products, gelatins, puddings, confectionary, beverages (both non-alcoholic and alcoholic)
** a chemical found in the peels of citrus fruits and in other flora such as guaiacwood and used to make medicine; it can promote weight loss, prevent and treat cancer, and treat bronchitis; limonene is also used as a flavoring in foods, beverages, and chewing gum.
*** compounds found in essential oils that contribute to the flavor and aroma of plant from which they are extracted
**** “Experimental studies, using animal cancer models, have demonstrated that some monoterpenes possess anticarcinogenic properties, acting at different cellular and molecular levels. From these discoveries it seems clear that monoterpenes could be considered as effective, nontoxic dietary antitumorigenic agents that hold promise as a novel class of anticancer drugs.” — H. Loza-Tavera in Monoterpenes in Essential Oils. Biosynthesis and Properties
Schiller, Carol, et al. The Aromatherapy Encyclopedia a Concise Guide to over 385 Plant Oils. ReadHowYouWant, 2011.
Harborne, Jeffrey B., and Herbert Baxter. Chemical Dictionary of Economic Plants. John Wiley & Sons, 2001.
Loza-Tavera, H. “Monoterpenes in Essential Oils. Biosynthesis and Properties.” Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1999, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10335385.
Rhind, Jennifer Peace. Fragrance and Wellbeing: Plant Aromatics and Their Influence on the Psyche. Singing Dragon, 2014.