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Scentient Nature

ŌKUSU - Delicate & fragrant Japanese Camphor Essential oil (twig and leaves only)

ŌKUSU - Delicate & fragrant Japanese Camphor Essential oil (twig and leaves only)

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Growing among the the laurel-dominated evergreen forests of central and southern Japan is a tree with a millennial history of uses. This very special member of the Lauraceae family goes by the name kusu-no-ki in Japanese; while in English it is called either laurel camphor  or, simply, camphor tree, botanically identified as Cinnamomum camphora.

Ōkusu means "great camphor" is the name given to some venerable old sacred trees, particularly to the Kamo tree, considered the oldest in Japan.

Camphor was one of the most important, and precious, aromatics in ancient times, but in the present world, it is regarded as common. Because of the extensive use of low to generic quality camphor in many products, for example the tiger balm, it has the reputation of a powerhouse, not one of olfactive nuance.

This oil, though, will make you rediscover camphor with its subtle and surprising notes that reveal around the harmonious camphor core, including fennel and ... pear !

Artisan distilled with care in Japan, using twigs and leaves only (wood gives a less interesting oil), joining both the full aromatherapy properties and a refined olfactive profile.


Of (camphor) trees and (hu)man(s)

The scented camphor tree can grow to a formidable size, but their its life span is even more impressive. The  camphor tree in the Shoren'in Shrine in Kyoto is several hundred years old and has been registered both as a giant tree and a historical tree, as well as a city-designated natural monument. The specimen at Yamada Shrine in Tottori is said to have been planted more than 1000 years ago, and is sacred. Even older, the giant camphor tree at Atsuta Jingu in Nagoya is said to have been planted 1300 years ago by the priest Kukai (Kobo Daishi), founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. The tree fondly referred to as Ōkusu in Kamo is located on the grounds of the Hachiman Jinja shinto shrine is said to be 1500 years.

However, camphor trees are not only long-lived, but they are also astonishingly vigorous and capable of surviving even the worst that humanity can throw at them. A specimen at the Sanno Shrine in Nagasaki was designated a natural monument by that city in 1969, because it had survived the atomic bombing of Aug. 9, 1945. Then, in 1973, the camphor tree was made the official tree of Hiroshima to commemorate those trees that not only survived the atomic bombing of the city on Aug. 6, 1945, but then recovered quickly and gave inspiration to the people trying to rebuild their lives.

According to traditional Japanese folklore and Shinto traditions, trees that are particularly massive and older than 100 years can be home to tree spirits called kodama. Though the presence of kodama is sometimes associated providing protection and healing, grave misfortune is said to follow those who cut down trees in which kodama reside. Such trees are considered sacred, and are often marked near shrines with a straw rope called a shimenawa.

The herbal medicinal uses of camphor are many and varied. One theory explaining the name of the tree proposes that “Kusunoki” originates from the word  “Kusuri-no-ki,” which literally  means “tree of medicine.”

It is deemed by traditional japanese medicine to be helpful for colds, chills and various nervous, and digestive complaints, as well as a stimulant and even as a sedative liniment. Camphor is also widely used massage compounds to ease bruises, inflammation and joint pains, and in lip salve and inhalants. It is also said to numb the peripheral sensory nerves and  to have mild antiseptic properties.

Both the aromatic wood itself - which repels insects and has long been used to moth-proof clothes - and the chemical camphor derived from it provide effective protection against insects. Consequently, cabinets for storing natural-history specimens are often made of camphor wood to prevent insects reaching and damaging the contents.

The wonderful animation film My Neighbour Totoro has a camphor tree at the centre of its narrative. In the movie, forest spirits called totoros live in a giant camphor tree, marked with a small Shinto shrine (and a protection rope). In the narrative, the tree serves as a symbol of comfort and protection from disease. It's creator, Hayao Miyazaki always so sensitive to nature and it magical dimensions, thus pays a personal homage to this unique cultural history.

Bottles / Vials Info

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Terms, Conditions, Scope of use, etc

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Care information

For optimal longevity:

Keep away from (sun)light, heat, oxidation and external materials in the bottle : they degrade your aromatics.

Keep in the dark at room temperature, ideally below 25 Degrees Celsius


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