Unlike many essential oils that are derived from the leaves, stems, and flowers of living plants, amber is a material that can be hundreds of millions of years old. You may be familiar with amber in it use in jewelry as a gem, though it is not technically a gemstone. Rather, amber is the hardened resin that comes from certain types of ancient trees that has fossilized over millennia.
Amber has been valued for centuries and while its most common usage may be ornamental, it has applications in perfumery and cosmetics as well. Here’s what you should know about amber.
What is Amber?
Amber is fossilized tree resin and there are five different classes, defined by their chemical constituents. The word amber is derived from the Middle Latin ‘ambar’ and Middle French ‘ambre’ and was adopted into Middle English as ‘ambergris’ during the 14th century. The term originally referred to a solid waxy substance derived from sperm whales but the sense of the word was extended to ‘ambre jaune’ by the English around the 15th century. Over time, the use of ambergris waned in favor of the new usage.
Because amber starts as a sticky, soft tree resin, insects and plant materials are often found in the fossilized material. When heated above 200°C (392°F), amber starts to decompose and yields an oil while leaving behind a black residue known as amber pitch.
Amber is found throughout the world, primarily in rocks dating to the Cretaceous period or more recent. Historically, the world’s leading source of amber is found along the west coast of Konigsberg in Prussia – an estimated 90% of the world’s extractable amber is located there. It is collected by hand or by dredging or diving for pieces of amber separated from the seafloor. In other parts of the world, amber is mined through various techniques.
The Health Benefits of Amber
Though it is most commonly associated with a yellow-orange-brown color, amber comes in a wide range of colors. It can range from near-white to pale yellow all the way to brown or black. There are even red, blue, and green varieties of amber, though they are very rare. Amber that is translucent to light yellow is known as genadite while dull black and opaque amber is stantanite. The most common form of amber, Baltic amber, comes from the resin of the conifer Pinus succinifera and is called succinite.
Because amber can be hundreds of millions of years old, amber essential oil is quite unique and can be very expensive in its pure form. Though it does not have much of an aroma on its own, it is often combined with other essential oils such as sandalwood, cedarwood, and frankincense. The benefits of amber essential oil come from the chemical compounds in its makeup.
Here are some of the benefits of amber essential oil:
- It may help lower stress and relieve anxiety
- It contains certain antioxidant compounds which may improve cognition
- It has been used to relieve muscle aches and pains
- It may help reduce inflammation, particularly when inhaled
- It offers anti-spasmodic properties which may boost heart health
- It has antibacterial and expectorant qualities which may help with respiratory infection
- It is thought to be an aphrodisiac that can boost male sex drive
- It can be applied topically to help promote circulation and improve blood flow
Amber has a wide range of applications including perfumery and cosmetics. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that there are a number of potential side effects associated with this essential oil. It can cause an upset stomach when ingested or skin inflammation when applied topically, so it is always best to dilute it with a carrier oil and exercise caution when using it.
Ways to Enjoy Amber Fragrance at Home
Because amber has very little scent of its own, it is commonly combined with other essential oils like sandalwood, cedarwood, and frankincense. This essential oil is beneficial for relaxation and stress relief, and it has been shown to help relieve anxiety and ease depression. It also works well as a home deodorizer due to its antibacterial properties.
Here are some of the top LAFCO fragrances featuring amber:
- Amber Black Vanilla – Presented in a 15.5-ounce reed diffuser, this warming fragrance features notes of black currant, lemon, orange, and raspberry that fade into a heart of gardenia and jasmine before settling into a lasting undertone of amber, patchouli, and vanilla.
- Sea & Dune – Enjoy the subtle scent of coastal lily and natural sea grass in this luxurious bar soap. Crafted in Europe using ultra-hydrating ingredients, this all-natural bar soap cleanses and hydrates, leaving the skin luxuriously fragranced with the scent of amber, lily, and blue lotus.
- Star Magnolia – Relax and breathe in the fragrance of bamboo, neroli, and bergamot in this 15-ounce reed diffuser. A heart of magnolia, jasmine, rose, and lilac gives way to a lasting base of bois de rose, orange flower, and sheer amber.
- Amber – Presented in a brilliant blue art glass vessel, this fragranced candle comes in the Classic 6.5-ounce and Signature 15.5-ounce sizes. This woody fragrance features notes of bergamot and coriander that settle into a heart of Baltic amber before giving way to a base of Moroccan amber, frankincense, and labdanum.
- Vetiver Sage – The welcoming scent of almond blossoms and vetiver floats over an earthy note of white sage and lavender before giving way to a heart of orris, chamomile, iris, and sage clary. These woody fragrances fade into a base of vetiver, patchouli, and amber.
- Lavender Amber – The warming combination of lavender and amber lights up this fragranced candle which is presented in a purple art glass vessel. Made with solid soy wax and a 100% cotton wick, this 15.5-ounce Signature candle offers a generous 90-hour burn time.
Amber itself has very little aroma, but in perfumery and aromatherapy it often consists of a blend of other fragrances including vanilla, labdanum, and patchouli. If you’re curious to see how the scent of amber fits in your home, try one of LAFCO’s fragranced products listed above. Not sure which to pick? Try a sample-size of three LAFCO candles for just $16 in the LAFCO Discovery Trio or use the LAFCO Fragrance Finder to be paired with your perfect fragrance.