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Progress in Essential Oils

By: Brian M. Lawrence
Posted: September 23, 2011, from the October 2011 issue of P&F magazine.

Amyris oil
Amyris oil (Amyris balsamifera L.) is produced by steam distillation of the heartwood of a small tree member of the Rutaceae family. The distribution of A. balsamifera is mostly limited to islands in the Caribbean, particularly Cuba, Dominican Republic and Jamaica, although it can be found to a limited extent in certain South American countires. The tree is known as bois chandelle (candlewood) in Haiti, torchwood in Jamaica, and amyris or West Indian sandalwood in the United States.

Between 1956 and 1967 the quantity of amyris oil produced annually in Haiti ranged from 46 to 104 metric tonnes (Igolen, 1968). Lawrence (1985) reported that in 1984 production had decreased to 40 tonnes, while Champon (2001) reported that the level of amyris oil produced in Haiti had stabilized to ca. 50 tonnes. More recently, oil production seems to have stabilized at around 55–65 tonnes. Amyris oil production in the Dominican Republic has grown from a few tonnes to 20–35 tonnes annually.

Van Beck et al. (1989) used both GC-FID and GC/MS to determine that a commercial oil of amyris presumed to be of Haitian origin was found to possess the following composition:

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