Amyris balsamifera is an essential oil that I first started using as a fixative in many of my products. A fixative helps keep other essential oils from evaporating. It helps to maintain the fragrance of the essential oils over time.
Amyris was originally grown in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, but is now grown and distilled in other South-Central American countries as well. That is how it got its name as “West Indian Sandalwood.” It will be a great disappointment, if you purchase it in hopes of getting East Indian Sandalwood. It has none of the deep and intense fragrance of “true” sandalwood.
Originally the oil of the Amyris tree was useful because wooden torches, made from the tree, burned brightly. Hence the name “torchwood” that was an early name for Amyris. With the distinctive smell, it would have been a fragrant beacon to use in nighttime ceremonies or to light the way home.
Valerianol is one of the primary chemical constituents of this essential oil, which gives it sedative properties. It may help to calm the body. It also has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti fungal qualities. It mixes well with evergreen oils and woody oils, such as pine, cedar wood and fir oils. It enhances Eastern Sandalwood when the two are mixed. But it does not stand up by itself as “sandalwood.”
Amyris, like true sandalwood comes from trees that must be grown to adulthood. Originally only fallen Amyris branches were used for torches. But most surely that is not the case now as the demand for Amyris oil increases.
Enjoy its subtle woody scent. Use it to stabilize other fragrances or to enhance essential oils that you love, enjoy its calming properties. Remember that it is different from Sandalwood from India and Australia.
Source: Purchon, Nerys and Lora Cantele, Aromatherapy and Essential Oil, handbook
for Everyday Wellness, Robert Rose, 2014