You may be surprised when you first smell benzoin essential oil — because it smells an awful lot like vanilla! This thick, resinous oil is solvent-extracted from the gum resin of the Benzoin tree (Styrax benzoin), which grows in Indonesia, Malaysia, Java and Sumatra. The tree is tapped and exudes gum resin which is then used to create the oil. Benzoin trees can apparently produce resin in this way for 15-20 years.
Benzoin smells lovely, with a sweet, warm, rich and again vanilla-like aroma, but can be challenging to work with like any resinous oil — it’s quite thick! It has been used in religious ceremonies and medicines in some of the world’s oldest civilizations for thousands of years.
Used topically, benzoin is said to be a powerful skin regenerator, helping with chapped and inflamed skin, wounds and scars. It acts as a deodorant, disinfectant and astringent. When inhaled (not diffused, unfortunately, as it is thick enough to clog your diffuser), it is said to be helpful for respiratory infections, asthma, bronchitis, cough, laryngitis, cold, flu and fever.
Benzoin also offers benefits for the mind, combatting issues such as stress, grief, panic and nervous tension. It is said to promote peace and personal power, and help one to focus during prayer and meditation.