Rosewood Essential Oil

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Rosewood essential oil has remained a staple in aromatherapy for several decades. It is one of the most versatile essential oils because it is used for numerous skin conditions as well to relax the mind, clear out the backlog in our thoughts and lower anxiety. There was a time when immense demand for rosewood oil led to indiscriminate cutting of the rosewood tree, which is mainly found in the rainforests. This has contributed to the deforestation and forest degradation in countries like Brazil, where rosewood oil production has remained a major source of income. Thankfully, with emphasis on sustainable use of natural resources, the ground situation is improving.  

Source

Rosewood essential oil is produced by steam distillation of the wood of Aniba rosaeodora tree. In Brazil, it is known as pau-rosa oil. Another prominent name for rosewood essential oils is given by the French as Huile Essentielle (essential oil )Bois-de-Rose. Although the wood of this tree resembles rosewood, it is not the dominant tree which yields rosewood. Trees of the genus Dalbergia, like Dalbergia latifolia (Indian rosewood) and Dalbergia nigra (Brazilian rosewood) are the more commonly used trees to get rosewood for furniture purposes.  

Rosewood Tree
Rosewood Tree (Image:Shutterstock)

Since, Aniba and Dalbergia are two different genuses altogether, they have certain differences in the aromatic compounds, which translates into different essential oils. In this article, we shall be discussing about the essential oil of Aniba rosaeodora. This tree is found naturally in the rainforests of Amazon river basin, which is an extensive biome. It is a huge tree, measuring 2 meters in diameter and often reaching up to 30 meters in height, which is just mighty. It bears green leaves throughout the year (so it is evergreen) and it is a meeting point for the gorgeous toucan birds. If you haven’t seen a picture of the toucan, you really need to see it because it is remarkably beautiful.  

Coming back to the essential oil, it is produced in distilleries that are fixed on boats and steamers plying on the Amazon. The amazing thing is that the wood of this tree floats, which makes it easy for logs to be transported cheaply via the dense network of tributaries up to the mobile distillation plants.  

Few decades back, most of the essential oil was extracted from the wood of the tree. For this purpose, the entire tree was cut. This not only killed the tree, but also destroyed the entire food webs and ecosystems dependent on the tree, which was not a good practice by any means. Now, much of the exploitation is done sustainably as leaves are being used to draw out the essential oil. So, actually, we now have two different kinds of Aniba rosaeodora essential oils, one from the wood and another from the leaf.  

Color and Aroma

Classic rosewood oil is transparent, clear with greenish hues. At the meniscus, the greenish tinge is quite apparent. The scent, on the other hand, is a mix of many different base notes. Its aroma is mainly woody and earthy, with a major hint of lavender like floral aroma. That is actually because it has a lot of linalool in it, which is the major compound in lavender oil. The aroma is soft, not very sharp but enticing. However, a rosy aroma is noticed more characteristically in the oils from the trees of the Dalbergia genus, staying true to their rosewood name. [1] Most perfumes that want to achieve a woody aroma with a hint of rose go for Brazilian rosewood instead of Aniba rosaeodora 

In the realm of perfumery, rosewood oil and other woody oils (like the essential oil of sequoia) are used as base notes, because they provide such essential oils that vaporize slowly and are thus persist in the atmosphere for long. This is what makes them so useful in developing fragrances.  

Properties

Aromatherapists have noted that rosewood essential oil is a relaxant, mood lifter, anti-depressant and sedative. It has a calming effect on anxiety and effects a sense of calm. It is also believed to be an aphrodisiac and is thus beneficial for libido and self-confidence. It also has many properties that make it useful in general and specific skin care, like for acne. Many of these properties have been noted in peer reviewed journals as well.  

  • Anti-Inflammatory [2] 
  • Skin Regenerative [2] 
  • Decongestant [2] 
  • Sedative – It reduces the excitability of the nerves and aids in achieving deep sleep. This effect may be because of linalool. [3] 
  • Bradycardic, Vasodilatory and Hypotensive – Rosewood oils, particularly those rich in linalool have been noted to create vasodilation. They widen our blood vessels and allow blood to flow at a lower pressure. This can reduce the blood pressure, called a hypotensive effect. It can also have a bradycardic effect, that is, it can lower the resting heart rate. A reduced pulse rate may also have an anxiety reducing effect. [4]    
  • Anti-Cancer – It has demonstrated efficacy in preventing skin cancer. [5] 

It may also be having some effects on the central nervous system and anticonvulsant property because of the high amount of linalool in it. 

Uses and Health Benefits

Rosewood essential oil for skin 

It is quite useful because of its anti-inflammatory and skin regenerative properties. It can be used to deal with acne as it reduces inflammation. Add about 3-5 drops of rosewood essential oil to about 1 oz of jojoba oil. Jojoba is non-comedogenic and is thus suitable here as a carrier oil. Shake the mixture properly. Now, after washing the face with an appropriate face wash (usually salicylic acid-based face washes are prescribed for the various types of acne), wipe the face dry. Then, soak a cotton ball in this oil and apply it gently on the entire face. Jojoba allows easy penetration of phytonutrients from rosewood oil into the skin, where it begins the task of minimizing inflammation. The jojoba oil helps to modulate our skin’s sebum production. An ideal amount of sebum is highly desirable, because it provides a glowing, moisturized skin without a greasy look on the face. This may also help in reducing the pain and redness of pimples. However, acne is a multidimensional issue. So, one should also focus on a cleaner, healthier diet and avoid air pollution.  

Rosewood essential oil is useful for minor cuts and scrapes. It is an antiseptic and promotes regeneration of skin. Its anti-inflammatory effect may have a beneficial effect on conditions like psoriasis, but there is little evidence of it being used for psoriasis. Sandalwood essential oil seems to alleviate psoriasis to some extent by diminishing the severity of the lesions.  

Aromatherapy 

The best way to use woody essential oils is to diffuse them using a diffuser. Add about half a cup of water and pour only 4 –5 drops of rosewood essential oil. Cover the diffuser with the requisite lids and keep it at such a place such that natural air circulation would drive it around the house. Ventilation is important, especially for linalool rich oils because if the concentration of linalool gets high, it might lower blood pressure and heart rate to dangerously low levels.  

Once proper precaution is taken, it turns out to be an invigorating aroma which aids in reducing anxiety and depression. It is good for boosting confidence and should be used when one is feeling fidgety and confused. It is excellent for smelling a few hours before going to sleep for those people who have insomnia. Linalool has been noted to improve quantity and quality of sleep, more so in middle aged women (age group of 45 to 55 years). [6] 

It blends well with essential oils of citrus family, like lemon and others like patchouli oil and rose oil. In fact, it is used to add woody character to bouquets, enhancing the composite aroma of the floral arrangement.  

Nutritional and Medicinal Information

Rosewood essential oil has a chemical signature similar to some other evergeen trees of the Amazon rainforest. It is an essential oil so rich in linalool that in the past, linalool used to be extracted from Aniba roseodora oil. Linalool is an essential oil of immense application in perfumery and aromatherapy. Apart from linalool, Aniba rosaeodora oil does possess a host of volatile compounds in small amounts, that comprise its unique aroma.  

Volatile compounds   Percentage 
Linalool  50% 
Α-selinene  4.06% 
Β-selinene  4.35% 
spathulenol  4.46% 

Source: 7 

The above composition is for the essential oil obtained from the leaf. These are brilliant green in color. Some sources however refer to linalool contents as high as around 85% in the leaf essential oil. [8] The stronger the linalool content, the stronger would be the anxiety reducing effects of the essential oil. Apart from linalool, many of the compounds formed by oxidation of linalool are also present, which may be a sign of reduced freshness of the oil.  

Side Effects and Toxicity

Rosewood oil can be an irritant to the skin, especially if used regularly. Some people may develop reddish eyes if the oil is used frequently. Before using it on the face, one should always do a patch test on the hand. It should not be used undiluted. One should not whiff it deeply. A strong inhalation of a concentrated essential oil containing such high levels of linalool may lead to detrimental effects like dangerously low pulse rate and very low blood pressures. People with serious health issues must always consult a doctor before going into aromatherapy because the chemical compounds of essential oils have strong impact on the body. It should be used in a properly ventilated room, not closed rooms. This is the most important precaution. [9] 

Buying Guide

There are some unscrupulous sellers who may try to sell off essential oil of Aniba parviflora as rosewood oil. Aniba parviflora has much less linalool than Aniba rosaeodora and the chemical signatures are also markedly different. Rosewood essential oil must be bought from a green company, one that has certified credentials proving that the exploitation of rosewood is done in a sustainable manner and that it actually contributes to the greening of our earth.  

The oil is relatively fragile considering other essential oils. It needs to be kept in an amber colored bottle, away from sunlight, heat and groceries. Essential oils are best maintained at a temperature close to 4 degrees celsius. Its shelf life is generally 12 months when kept at the right temperature.  

References

  1. Brazilian rosewood – Fragrantica.com    
  2. Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases. Ane Orchard and Sandy van Vuuren. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2017.  
  3. Rosewood oil induces sedation and inhibits compound action potential in rodents. De Almeida RN et al,Journal of Ethnopharmacology.  
  4. Linalool-rich rosewood oil induces vago-vagal bradycardic and depressor reflex in rats. De Sequiera RJ et al,Phytotherapy Research.  
  5. Selective cytotoxicity of Aniba rosaeodora essential oil towards epidermoid cancer cells through induction of apoptosis. Souer J. et al, Mutation Research.  
  6. The Effect of Lavender Aromatherapy on Autonomic Nervous System in Midlife Women with Insomnia. Li-Wei Chien et al, Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 
  7. Chemical Variability of Aniba rosaeodora oils, Maria das Gracas Bichara Zoghbi et al.GJSFR. 
  8. Plant sources of Amazon rosewood oil. José Guilherme S. Maia et al, Quimica Nova. 
  9. Rosewood essential oil MSDS, Naturalsourcing.com 

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