Amyris balsamifera is a unique species of the genus Amyris in the botanical family Rutaceae of the Tree and Plant Kingdom. The name Amyris is derived from the Greek word “amyron” meaning “intensely scented.” This strong odor comes from the high levels of resin found in the wood, which also make her highly flammable and easy to burn. Thus, Amyris is commonly referred to as Torchwood, Amyris balsamifera specifically as Balsam Torchwood. Other common names for Amyris are “West Indian Sandalwood” or “Poor Man’s Sandalwood,” as she shares similar aromas to Sandalwood and is often used as a cost-effective alternative for her scent (Amyris Balsamifera). However, the therapeutic and medicinal properties of Amyris balsamifera are unique and separate from those of Sandalwood.

Amyris balsamifera originates in Haiti, and grows as a bushy tree as tall as 60 feet. She grows clusters of white flowers that produce edible black-bluish fruits. Amyris balsamifera essence is steam distilled from the wood of wild trees and branches that have naturally fallen and dried. Essence of Amyris balsamifera is thick in consistency and is a light amber in color. She has a rich, smoky, woody aroma, with undertones of musk and vanilla. In aromatherapy, Amyris balsamifera has a calming effect and is also an aphrodisiac. She is commonly used to make incense, perfumes, soaps, and candles for her aromatic properties, as an alternative to Sandalwood (Amyris Essential Oil).

                                                                                                        Photo: G.F. Guala

Medicinally, Amyris balsamifera has sedative, anti-stress, analgesic, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties. She has a deeply soothing and relaxing effect on the Central Nervous System, and relieves stress-induced inflammations in the body, as well as insomnia. Amyris balsamifera is yin in temperature when applied topically and acts as an emollient, soothing and softening the skin. Coupled with her analgesic properties, Amyris balsamifera is effective in the treatment of hemorrhoids. Amyris balsamifera is also yin in energetic quality, though extremely powerful. She is a gentle, yet firm teacher.

According to the Journal of Essential Oil Research, Amyris balsamifera consists of about 75% of sesquiterpenic alcohol, the major chemical compound being Valerianol, at approximately 20% (Valerianol). David Stewart, Ph.D., author of “The Blood-Brain Barrier,” states:

“Sesquiterpene molecules deliver oxygen molecules to cells, like hemoglobin does in the blood. Sesquiterpenes can also erase or deprogram miswritten codes in the DNA. Sesquiterpenes are thought to be especially effective in fighting cancer because the root problem with a cancer cell is that it contains misinformation, and sesquiterpenes can erase that garbled information. At the same time the oxygen carried by sesquiterpene molecules creates an environment where cancer cells can’t reproduce. Hence, sesquiterpenes deliver cancer cells a double punch—one that disables their coded behavior and a second that stops their growth.”

Thus, Amyris balsamifera, along with other high-sesquiterpene essences such as Cedarwood, Vetiver, Spikenard, Sandalwood, Black Pepper, Patouchli, Myrrh, Ginger, and others, are natural, brain-oxygenating agents that can pass the blood-brain barrier. The American Medical Association (AMA) has stated that finding such agents could cure ailments such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s and Parkinson’s diseases (The Blood-Brain Barrier).

 Valerianol, the major sesquiterpene compound found in Amyris balsamifera, is also found in Valarian Root and Clary Sage, which are essences known to have a soothing effect on the body’s Central Nervous System (Amyris balsamifera). Amyris balsamifera calms the nerves, deeply relaxes tight muscles, induces deep breathing, and reduces stress-related inflammation, allowing the body to enter into a state of deep relaxation and rest. Thus, Amyris balsamifera is a great sedative essence for treating insomnia, relieving anxiety, and soothing the mind.

Apart from her physical uses, Amyris balsamifera can be used to address mental, emotional, and spiritual imbalances in one’s being as well. For the mind, Amyris balsamifera can serve as an aid in times of transition. She is a teacher of reexamining your own thoughts about life, self, and changes that need to be made. She can also teach you to move from a primal way of thinking only about the self, into a creative way of thinking of the self as a part of the greater whole. Emotionally, she is a teacher in feeling calm, assured, grounded, self-connected and self-confident and helps to release confusion, fear and uncertainty about the future.

Amyris balsamifera can indicate transitions on a spiritual level as well. She can indicate your good work on your own emotional and mental development, and that you “are coming into your own and are ready to transition into a more powerful and responsible state of being… that you know you are the creator of your own reality. Amyris is expansive”  (Amyris Essential Oil).

“Listening to the Trees and Plants will put us back in touch with Source, True remembrance, True knowledge, True intelligence and True wisdom” (Wisdom 65).

My personal experience with Amyris balsamifera has been deeply profound. She chose me as a student and I surrendered to her teachings, though I believe she has much more to reveal to me in due time. At the time of my training at Josh and Lemia’s home, they had a table with hundreds of essences. We were instructed to choose one, or rather, let one choose us. Energetically, I felt her pull on me very strongly, and I knew that my essence was sitting near the front left corner of the table. Without much thought, I allowed my heart to guide me and my fingers gravitated towards the Amyris essence. When I opened her up and put her under my nose, her smell repulsed me. Throughout the rest of the training, after smelling and applying dozens if not a hundred more different essences, she was the only scent that truly repulsed me. So I knew she was to be my teacher.

At first, I worked with her by applying her on my wrists and temples. She felt very soothing to the skin; however, repulsive to my nose and even gave me headaches. On a physical level, she was soothing and detoxifying. Mentally, she was urging me to let go of my overactive mind, and simply be. I believe this was the source of my headaches, perhaps my mind’s ego resisting her encouragement to let go, surrender, and just breathe. She revealed to me that I was overexerting myself, particularly in my job, and that I needed to take a step back, create boundaries, and redirect my energy. Once I became aware of this and put her teachings into practice, after one or two weeks, the headaches went away and her scent became more and more bearable, until finally she became sweet and comforting to smell.

 Amyris and I are both water lovers, so I would apply her liberally on my neck and shoulders, and then sit in a bath. Using essences with water amplifies their chemical and medicinal properties, whereas oil reduces. I could feel her analgesic properties through my skin, almost a slight numbing sensation, but extremely soothing and relaxing. Within a month of working with her, she told me that she needed to work in my mouth, specifically with my tongue and lower jaw. Amyris was compassionate and patient with my pain, yet she was firm and gave me strength and faith that with her help I could overcome and heal my physical body. I began massaging her into my jaw and neck, and then brushing my gums and tongue with her on my toothbrush. In my mouth, I could immediately feel her analgesic properties, as she created a slight numbing sensation, indicating that she was working very deeply to relax the muscles of my head.

I found that by working with her like this directly on my tongue, she helped me to more freely speak my truth and express myself without inhibitions. I felt more confident and trust in myself to express my true thoughts and feelings. She gently and lovingly brought awareness to old habits that protected me as a child but no longer served me as an adult, and has aided me in beginning my journey through and past those old ways of being. I am forever grateful to Amyris balsamifera for choosing me.

Works Cited

“Amyris Balsamifera: Why we should start paying attention to it!” Danielle Sade. <

“Amyris Essential Oil.” Gritman Essential Oils. < essential-oil.html>

“The Blood-Brain Barrier.” David Stewart. <>

“Valerianol—The Major Sesquiterpene Alcohol from Amyris balsamifera.” Journal of Essential Oil Research. Volume 3, Issue 1. 1991. <>

“Wisdom of the Earth Speaks: The Truth About Medicinal Aromatherapy.” Barry Kapp. 2008.