Siberian musk deer, picture: Николай Усик 

Musk scent can be found as far as the eye can see .The scent is everywhere *) – but mostly unrecognized – because it is not required to declare.

Better real musk or the synthetic alternative?

Is it really necessary to exterminate animals and torturing them? *1.)
Using chemical substitutes that are not completely harmless instead of real musk? * 2).
Is there nothing else without torture and without bad side effects? * 3).


Especially in this market segment scruples are ignored and “thrown unnoticed overboard”. Musk scent has a strong erotic effect due to the contained pheromones and it’s wonderful compatible. For centuries, there has been this tincture in medicine and perfumery – obtained from the glands of musk deer. The scent was so much in demand, that the animals were almost eradicated. To get 1 kg of musk, at least 160 animals had to be killed.
Well- maybe… if you don’t kill them right away? In China, the deer are bred in farms and “scraped” about 10g secretions per deer per year. This is not much better – the animals are traumatized with it and do not always survive this procedure. In addition, the quality is worse and the amount much lower. Therefore, real musk is extremely expensive and almost impossible to get.


Musk fragrance is said to give perfumes an animalic and “warm-sweet” fragrance, evoking a feeling of security and sensuality. An oral intake of musk even acts as a doping agent because it increases the level of testosterone – as researchers from an anti-doping laboratory in Cologne found out by accident.


Since the end of the 19th century, it was possible to synthesize musk fragrance, a few years later followed a cheaper variant. Today, for reasons of biodiversity (and if you want to be honest – because of cost and availability) only ‘synthetic musk’ is used. In traditional Chinese medicine, however, it still has its place.
Artificial musk fragrances have become indispensable in textile and cosmetics industry. Since natural musk is forbidden for the reasons mentioned above, the artificial fragrance is produced in quantities of several thousand tons. Very few people know that these special fragrances are difficult to break down and that they accumulate in the environment and in our bodies. In investigations in Belgium, the FRG, the Netherlands, musk compounds were found even in the rainwater (in all samples!).
*) Artificial musk compounds are used as fragrances in detergents, cleansers, skin creams, soaps, bath additives, hair shampoos, perfumes, room sprays, insect sprays, incense sticks and textiles. (Why just a “children’s perfume” must have an eroticizing effect? ​​… you do not even want to think about that …)
Dishwashing, cleaning and washing agents bearing the Austrian eco-label (“Hundertwasserzeichen”) must not contain nitro-musk compounds and the polycyclic musk compounds Galaxolide and Tonalide. The EU eco-label sets the same condition. In natural cosmetic products artificial musk compounds are not allowed.

How do these substances get into our organs, into fatty tissue, into breast milk

where they were also detected?  It is absorbed through the skin (laundry, perfumes, cleansers), food (for example, sweets are flavored with it, or it accumulates, for example, in oily fish) and the respiratory air (deodorant spray, hair spray, room spray, etc.). The musk fragrances then enter the fatty tissue and organs through the blood and are partially stored there.

Unfortunately, there is no separate labeling requirement for these substances (in contrast to certain substances, which may be allergenic, carcinogenic, immune “disturbing”, etc., but these side effects may not necessarily occur naturally as part of an essential oil. This difference is not taken into account in the labeling.)

Nitro-musk compounds can be harmful to health: musk-ambrette causes an increased sensitivity of the skin for sunlight and in animal experiments testicular shrinkage. Like musk xylene, it also damages the nervous system and immune system and is suspected to be carcinogenic. In 1995, “musk-ambrette” was banned in the EU and in 1997, the use of some nitro-musk compounds (musk-mosquitoes and musk-tibets) was banned. In contrast, other nitro-musk compounds are still allowed. The long-term effects of polycyclic musk compounds on health have not been really studied (but this is true for many additives).
All the more worrying is that these environmental toxins are produced in large quantities and used in products we come into contact with daily. That can not be prevented: on the one hand because of missing labeling – on the other hand we live not alone in a “bubble”. The polycyclic musk compound “Tonalide” was found to be toxic to the liver in animal studies. Even a single dose of Tonaliden caused inflammation in the liver of rats and led to a disintegration of the liver cells. Galaxolides are also suspected of damaging the liver.
In municipal sewage treatment plants, these substances can only be partially removed from the wastewater. Therefore, Galaxolid and Tonalid are detectable in water, sediments and suspended furnace of all German rivers.

Enough of these scary stories!
Finally there is an alternative 🙂

by Francisco Manuel Blanco (O.S.A.) – Flora de Filipinas […] Gran edicion […] [Atlas II].[1], Public Domain,

A plant that belongs to the mallow family, produces seeds whose scent is comparable to the real musk – hence the name “musk grains” (another name for this is “ambretta seeds”). You are interested closer in the “botany”?:

The strong animal odor content is lower when the oil has a lower fat(acid) content. The “defused variant” naturally occurs if the seeds are not processed immediately. (Interesting in this context: About one-third of people feel strongly attracted to musk scent, but about a third extremely repelled. In addition, the cultural background seems to influence the preferences. For musk-sensitive people the herbal alternative extract with lower fatty acid content is a real good alternative. This fragrance doesn’t have the extremely pronounced animal content.)

Most aphrodisiac fragrances are automatically assigned to the female gender (this also has a cultural background). The scent of musk kernels / ambrette seed is accepted by / for both: men and women. The scent of the seeds is “very complex and typical”. It is even noticeable in a concentration of 0.01-0.04%. It is described as “slightly flowery” with a “tone of cypress, rose, sage and cognac”.

Are you able to imagine the scent only with a description? Difficult?!  I agree. Try it yourself. (I belong, for example, to the third, which perceives “musk” as an unpleasant and intrusive smell of sweat. With ambretta seed / musk kernels, I have no problems – if they have been deposited – especially with the softened variant of ambretta seed extract my “vomiting center” stays relaxed – yes, it smells quite pleasant.    It’s best to test it by yourself before you buy it.)

In traditional medicine, the seeds are used as a bitter tonic, for cooling, as an aphrodisiac, for digestion, deodorant and antifungals – in India also in snake bites. In aromatherapy, the essential oil is not used as a single agent, only in mixtures in which it acts as a warming, earthy, relaxing and sensual base note and as a fixator. It gives “boring” or “mind-beating” fragrances kind of depth and it works well with exotic, oriental and masculine scents.

In different combinations it can support different effects. Together with jasmine, patchouli, sandalwood, ginger, cinnamon, vetiver or ylang-ylang, for example, results in an erotic effect. The mixture is soothing with basil, coriander, rosewood, lemon, orange blossom, grapefruit, geranium or nutmeg. It can also be conducive to concentration together with eucalytus, rosemary, lemon- relaxing with vanilla or lavender or stimulating with iris, pepper, laurel, pine needle.

The use of this extract is not limited to perfumes, etc .: even in meat preserves, sauces, tobacco, sweets and baked goods the extract of ambretta seed can be used.
Ambretta seed extract/oil is expensive, but this is offset by the small amount you need and good durability (and don’t forget: the unmistakable musk deer and this fragrance don’t pollute the environment).