Oakmoss essential oil or rather oakmoss absolute oil has an interesting smell. But it can affect your skin badly even at low concentrations. So very few aromatherapists even use the oil.
Oakmoss Absolute Properties
The botanical name of oakmoss is Evernia prunastri.
As the name suggests, it is a type of moss or lichen that grows on oak trees. But you can also find it growing on some pine and fir trees as well.
The lichen is not treated like typical plant material. It does not undergo steam distillation. Instead, it is mixed with a solvent and separated out to get oakmoss absolute oil.
Color and Smell
Oakmoss absolute has a dark brown color and smells unique. Think of it as earthy, woody, and mossy. Personally, I’m not a fan of the smell.
What is in the oil?
The absolute contains heavy compounds like methyl beta-orcinol-carboxylate and ethyl everninate. Ethyl chlorohematommate and ethyl hematommate are also in the oil. And secondary compounds like atranorin and chloratranorin are associated with oakmoss.
Research on Oakmoss Absolute Oil
There is little research into oakmoss absolute.
The studies that are available show the absolute can cause serious skin reactions.
This 1992 study noted the oil is known to:
cause allergenic skin reactions due to the presence of certain aromatic aldehydes such as atranorin, chloratranorin, ethyl hematommate and ethyl chlorohematommate.
Another study (2003) on oakmoss was published in the Archives of Dermatological Research. It did agree atranorin and chloratranorin has a sensitizing nature. But it also linked skin reactions to methyl beta-orcinol-carboxylate. And this compound is one of the most abundant and important in oakmoss.
So it is best to avoid skin contact with the absolute. But it isn’t all negative though.
This 2017 review looked at studies on atranorin. It found the compound has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, pain relieving and antimicrobial benefits. That’s awesome.
But the compound – like many others in oakmoss absolute – can cause skin problems. That’s why aromatherapists only use oakmoss blends at concentrations less than 0.1%.
Personally, I don’t use oakmoss because my skin is very sensitive. And I’m not a fan of the smell. But if you do try the oil in massage blends or in your diffuser, you can blend it with spicy, citrus and woody oils.