AskDefine | Define elemi

Dictionary Definition

elemi n : fragrant resin obtain from trees of the family Burseraceae and used as incense [syn: gum elemi]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A tree, Canarium luzonicum, native to the Philippines.
  2. A resin harvested from the elemi tree.

Extensive Definition

Elemi (Canarium luzonicum) is a tree native to the Philippine Islands, and an oleo-resin harvested from it.


Elemi resin is a pale yellow substance, of honey-like consistency. Aromatic elemi oil is steam distilled from the resin. It is a fragrant resin with a sharp pine and lemon-like scent. One of the resin components is called amyrin.
Elemi is chiefly used commercially in varnishes and lacquers, and certain printing inks.
Elemi is used as a herbal medicine to treat bronchitis, catarrh, extreme coughing, mature skin, scars, stress, and wounds. The constituents include phellandrene, dipentene, elemol, elemicin, terpineol, carvone, and terpinolene.

History of the name

The word elemi has been used at various times to denote different resins. In the 17th and 18th centuries the term usually denoted a resin from trees of the genus Icica in Brazil, and before that it meant the resin derived from Boswellia Frereana. The word, like the older term animi appears to have been derived from enhaemon (εναιμον): the name of a styptic medicine said by Pliny to contain tears exuded by the olive tree of Arabia.
"The name Elemi is derived from an Arabic phrase meaning 'above and below', an abbreviation of 'As above, so below' and this tells us something about its action on the emotional and spiritual planes." (Davis, 108)


  • Listed as Vulnerable (VU A1cd v2.3)
  • J. Lawless, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils (Rockport, MA: Element Books, 1995), 59-67.
  • R. Tisserand, Essential Oil Safety (United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone, 1995), 135.
  • Davis, Patricia. Aromatherapy A-Z. Revised and Enlarged Edition. Book Production Consultants plc, Cambridge. The C.W. Daniel Company Limited. 1998.


elemi in German: Elemi
elemi in Spanish: Canarium luzonicum
elemi in Polish: Elemi
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