7 Benefits of Tonka Bean Essential Oil

Updated on March 22, 2016
Tonka Bean Oil is mostly known for its high coumarin content, but it has other useful properties too, as we shall explore here. Image edited by healthmunsta.
Tonka Bean Oil is mostly known for its high coumarin content, but it has other useful properties too, as we shall explore here. Image edited by healthmunsta. | Source

Tonka Bean Quick Facts

  • The Tonka bean gets its name from the language of Galibi, spoken in an area of French Guyana. The word bean in the Galibi language is “tonquin” or “tonqua” hence the name Tonka bean.
  • In modern times, the use of the tonka bean medicinally has been discontinued due to claims that the high coumarin content can cause heart damage, liver damage and cancer.

About the Tonka Bean and Its Oil

  • The Tonka bean, also called Tonquin bean, comes from the seeds of the Tonka tree, also known as cumaru/kumaru, which is native to Central and South America. It is a member of the legume family.
  • Though the tree is also highly valued for its hardwood timber, it is the bean which has received international attention. The wrinkly black-skinned beans may not look like much but their rich sensual vanilla-esque aroma make them highly used in food, cosmetics, perfumery, and tobacco.
  • The scientific names include Baryosma tongo, Coumarrouna odorata, Dipteryx odorata.
  • Spiritually, the oil is also known as the Oil of Initiation.
  • The bean contains up to 46% of oil by dry weight. Tonka bean oil is amber or yellow coloured oil, which is very thick and solid at room temperature and can be heated by running the oil container under hot tap water. A hair dryer can also be used to melt it.
  • Different grades of the oil are made, including concretes, absolutes, and tinctures. However Tonka bean essential oil can be rare to find. Tonka bean absolute essential oil is created by allowing the beans to soak in rum for 1–2 days. The beans are then dried to allow coumarin, characterized by small white crystals, to form on the surface. These crystals known as coumarin are what give the beans their intense aroma.
  • Often used as a fixative oil, the bean has a warm powdery fragrance reminiscent of caramel vanilla. Its sweet and fruity candy-like aroma makes it a heavily used essential oil in the perfumery industry. It is often used as an adulterant for vanilla extract.
  • Historically, the bean was used in the extraction of coumarin for usage in tobacco flavouring. These days, the flavouring used in tobacco is synthetically made to cut down costs, and the demand for the Tonka bean fell.
  • Tonka bean oil is mainly used in bath soaks, perfumes and mists, as well as spa and massage

The Tonka bean is used in the food, perfumery, cosmetics and tobacco industry. Also used in traditional medicine for its antiseptic, expectorant properties. Image edited by healthmunsta.
The Tonka bean is used in the food, perfumery, cosmetics and tobacco industry. Also used in traditional medicine for its antiseptic, expectorant properties. Image edited by healthmunsta. | Source

Benefits

1. Antiseptic

Traditional herbal treatments still used to date in the forests of South America recognizes the importance of this oil as an antiseptic, as it is successfully used to treat ear aches. The beans are soaked in rum to treat cuts, bruises, rheumatism, and even snake bites.

2. Expectorant

The bean is said to have anti-spasmodic properties and is used to treat coughs and asthma. By signaling the body to increase the amount of secretions, the expectorant property works by propelling infectious matter out of the body through mucous, and lubricates the lung passageways. This clears chesty coughs and relieves asthma.

3. Anti-coagulant

The coumarin derivatives obtained from the bean and found in the oil, are used medicinally as anti-coagulants. Anti-coagulants are substances that prevent clotting of blood. Such substances are found naturally in leeches and other blood sucking parasites. Allopathic drugs for blood thinning, such as Warfarin contain Tonka bean extract—however, large doses of this oil are toxic and fatal when consumed.

The Tonka bean is used as flavouring in the culinary world for puddings, smoothies, cakes and other desserts. Featured here is a Tonka bean Tea Cake. Image edited by healthmunsta.
The Tonka bean is used as flavouring in the culinary world for puddings, smoothies, cakes and other desserts. Featured here is a Tonka bean Tea Cake. Image edited by healthmunsta. | Source

4. Fixative

A fixative is known as any natural substance that will help grip and “fix” a base fragrance and increase its lasting time on skin. Tonka bean oil acts as a strong anchor to many vanilla, floral, or fruity scents, improving their lasting time and enhancing fragrance tones.

5. Perfumery

It's also a cheaper substitute for vanilla in perfumery. However being cheaper does not deduct the rather unique and slightly fruit scent, which contains whiffs of cinnamon, cloves, and almond. Tonka bean oil blends well with patchouli, rose, lemon, sandalwood and lavender.

  • Perfumes with Tonka bean for women include Dior Addict, Thierry Mugler – Angel and Lolita Lempicka – Lolita.
  • Perfumes with it for men include Dior Fahrenheit, Thierry Mugler – A*men and Givenchy – Pi.

6. Aphrodisiac

Many scents are being used in perfumery with the promise of attracting the opposite sex. Tonka bean is a natural aphrodisiac, with its dark and sensual aroma reminiscent of a deep warm vanilla that is both mysterious and tempting.

7. Insecticide

The high coumarin levels in the bean acts as a natural insecticide and moth repellent. Many studies have been conducted on the use of coumarin and its potency in pesticides. For starters, coumarin seems to work as a natural pesticide in the trees and plants that produce it, reducing the number of insect attacks and allowing the tree/plant to grow undisturbed.

Caution:

Tonka bean oil is not to be taken internally and can be toxic if consumed. It should be avoided with blood thinning medication.

The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It is for knowledge purposes only. Please take responsibility for your own health. Consult your health practitioner before making any drastic changes to your health.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • profile image

        19 months ago

        Galibi is in Suriname, not French Guyana.

      • profile image

        Juniper 

        4 years ago

        Where can I buy good tonka bean oil?

      • chinmayXdas profile image

        Chinmay Das 

        4 years ago from Mumbai, India

        The amount of research put into this hub seems immense.

        Nice work...:)

      • Mekenzie profile image

        Susan Ream 

        4 years ago from Michigan

        I have never heard of Tonka Beans. This article is fantastic and filled with great information and helps.

        I use essential oils, for medicinal purposes, and have found them to work wonders. Peppermint essential oil for headaches works better than aspirin.

        Loved reading about the benefits of the tonka beans.

        You, my dear, are an articulate writer and communicator. Thanks for this article! Voted up, shared +++

        Mekenzie

      • healthmunsta profile imageAUTHOR

        healthmunsta 

        4 years ago

        Hey, halcyone! Tonka been is still available in the UK and is approved in Australia and New Zealand, too. Thanks for reading!

      • Halcyone profile image

        Halcyone 

        4 years ago from San Francisco

        Loove the smell of Tonka bean! Thanks for the Hub! I hear that the essential oil is illegal to sell in the US now given the blood thinning properties

      • healthmunsta profile imageAUTHOR

        healthmunsta 

        4 years ago

        Thanks, rls8994!

      • rls8994 profile image

        rls8994 

        4 years ago from Mississippi

        This is very interesting! Great information and very well researched. Voted up!

      • healthmunsta profile imageAUTHOR

        healthmunsta 

        4 years ago

        @torrilynn: Hey, thanks for dropping by! Tonka bean oil is rare but it does have some unique properties.

      • torrilynn profile image

        torrilynn 

        4 years ago

        Tonka oil seems beneficial indeed due to the different ways you can use it. Thank you. Up and useful.

      • healthmunsta profile imageAUTHOR

        healthmunsta 

        4 years ago

        Thanks, nattokinasehealth. Please consult your health care practitioner before undertaking any new additions to your diet.

      • nattokinasehealth profile image

        Andy James 

        4 years ago

        I'm going to bare what you've written in mind, as I have poor circulation and I'm wondering if this might be a good addition. Great read, thanks for posting.

      • healthmunsta profile imageAUTHOR

        healthmunsta 

        4 years ago

        Thanks, irenemaria!

      • irenemaria profile image

        irenemaria 

        4 years ago from Sweden

        So interesting!

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