Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The ABCs of Essential Oils: Ho Wood

Cinnamomum camphora

"H" has some good woods, like hiba and hinoki, but ho wood is easier to find and cheaper to buy. There's also helichrysum, an amazing aromatherapy essential oil, but I'm not an aromatherapist. Ho wood isn't one of those essential oils you should run out and buy, but it's a good oil for explaining some aspects of EOs.

First, ho wood oil might also refer to what is actually ho leaf oil. When buying essential oils, look to see what material it is distilled from, such as the wood, bark, branches, twigs, and/or leaves. I know it as ho wood, so that's how I'll refer to it here. There are three chemotypes of ho you can find, and as the Latin binomial suggests, camphor is one of them. Ravintsara is the cineole chemotype of ho leaf oil, and it is often confused with ravensara. Not only do they have similar names, but they're both distilled from trees in Madagascar. It's like someone was messing with us naming them.

The third chemotype, and the one I'm most familiar with, is linalool. You can also fractionate the camphor off from the camphor-type, leaving you with linalool and small amounts of other constituents. You might recognize linalool (aka linalol) from ingredient lists, where it's listed because Europe requires certain known allergens to be declared in the ingredients, whether they come from natural or synthetic sources. It's scent is a sweet, spicy, and woody floral present in many essential oils, with ho leaf ct. linalool leading the way. Linalool is one of the numbers in Lavender 40-42 essential oil, the other being linayl acetate.  There's also quite a bit in coriander seed essential oil. If you have that EO, give it a sniff and try detecting a rosy-floral note to it.

Rosewood (aka bois de rose) is also comprised mainly of linalool, and some consider ho wood oil a substitute for it. I think it could work ok as a substitute in some products, like soap, for fine perfumery, rosewood has a much finer scent compared to the ho wood oils I've sniffed. The problem with rosewood is that it is listed as an endangered species, per CITES. Listed under Appendix II, it does not currently face extinction, but might some day. When shopping for rosewood essential oil, look for sustainable oils distilled from twigs, branches, and leaves. Also buy from a reputable buyer, since rosewood is easy to adulterate. Consider alternatives, such as ho wood or the aromachemical linalool. 

Other Ho/Rosewood Notes:
Linaloe wood and seed oil (Bursera delpechiana)

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