Costus Root Oil (Saussurea costus)

Costus Root Oil
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Botanical name  Saussurea costus

Botanical synonyms Aplotaxis lappa Decne., Aucklandia costus Falc., Saussurea lappa (Decne) C.B. Clarke

Family Asteraceae

Source  Dried roots

Origin  India

Processing Method  Steam Distillation

Color/Consistency  Pale yellow-brownish yellow

Aromatic Summary / Note / Strength of Aroma  Soft, warm, delicate , Musky, woody

Blend With  Sandalwood, Patchouli, Vetivert, Violet and Rose

Product Abstract

A high altitude plant with a unique and beautiful physical form is Saussurea lappa commonly known as Costus Root. It grows on the moist slopes of the Himalayas at altitudes of 8000-12000 feet in Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Lahul-Spiti, etc. It both grows wild and is cultivated. The roots have a long history of medicinal and aesthetic use in Tibet, India and other mountain regions.It was a prized item of commerce from the earliest times as the roots were reputed not only to have great curative properties but also wonderful aromatic qualities much prized in perfume creations of the ancient world.  It not only was appreciated as an oil but as a prime ingredient in incense.


In Ayurveda the name Kushta refers to an ancient Vedic plant god mentioned in the Atharvaveda as a remedy for takman, the archetypal disease of excess or jvara (fever). In ancient India Kushta was considered to be a divine plant derived from heavenly sources, growing high in the Himalayas,considered to be the brother of the divine Soma. In Ayurveda Kushta is a rasayana for Vata, helping to normalize and strengthen digestion, cleanse the body of toxic accumulations, enhance fertility, and reduce pain.

Harvesting/Extraction Information

This essential oil has been extracted from the roots of Costus by using the process of steam distillation. The yellow to brownish yellow liquid is obtained after complex extraction method. Costus plant is an erect, large and perennial plant which grows up the height of 2 m. It belongs to Costaceae family.

Common Usage

  • Aids immune system
  • Assist digestion
  • Skin health
  • Ointment
  • Prevent cholera
  • Cure ulcers
  • Speed up healing process


The excessive use of Costus oil leads to obnoxious effects.It should be used in moderate amounts. Pregnant and breast feeding woman should consult the doctor for its use. People who are allergic to Asteraceae or Compositae plant family such as ragweed, marigolds, chrysanthemums, daisies, etc. should avoid it.

Key constituents

Aplotaxene  20.0%

Dihydrocostus lactone  15.0%

Costusic acid  14.0%

Costunolide  11.0%

Dehydrocostus lactone  6.0%

Dihydrodehydrocostus lactone  6.0%

Safety summary
Hazards  Fetotoxicity (based on costunolide and dehydrocostus lactone content); skin sensitization (high risk).
Contraindications: Should not be used on the skin.
Contraindications (all routes) Pregnancy, lactation

Regulatory guidelines
IFRA recommends that costus oil should not be used as a fragrance ingredient due to its sensitizing potential, unless the costus oil being used has been shown not to have sensitizing potential (IFRA 2009). Costus oil is prohibited as a fragrance ingredient in the the EU.

Organ-specific effects
Adverse skin reactions Undiluted costus oil was mildly irritating to mice; neither of two samples of costus oil tested at 4% on 25 volunteers was irritating. It is non-phototoxic. In a human maximation test at 4%, costus oil produced 25 sensitization reactions in 25 volunteers, and in a similar test at 2%, there were 16 positive reactions in 26 volunteers. Costus oil is regarded as a high-risk skin sensitizer in Japan.

Reproductive toxicity Since costunolide and dehydrocostus lactone are antiangionenic, and in view of the probable link between antiangiogenic effects and reproductive toxicity, we have contraindicated costus oil in pregnancy and lactation.

Systemic effects

  • Acute toxicity 
  • Subacute & subchronic toxicity
  • Essential Oil Safety
  • Carcinogenic/anticarcinogenic potential

The data on costus oil and skin sensitization are highly inconsistent. In every study, petrolatum was used as the vehicle. Either sensitivity to this oil is extremely dependent on concentration, or the maximation tests conducted by RIFM produced a large number of false positives. A total of six studies failed to find the degree of sensitization reported by RIFM in 1974, and the consequent IFRA prohibition may be heavy-handed. It seems likely that concentrations up to 0.01%, perhaps even 0.05%, will be safe in almost all circumstances. However, the plant is listed by CITES under their Appendix I: species threatened with extinction, and that are the most endangered.

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