Musk - king of perfumes

Musk is a legendary perfume, which gives many perfumes their special fragrance. In addition, musk is a coveted natural product for Chinese folk medicine. But what exactly is behind the material? What does musk smell like and where does musk come from? We provide the answers to the most important questions about musk.

What is musk?

Musk is a perfume that is produced in the musk bag - a walnut-sized gland - of the male musk deer. The substance is a dried, powdery and extremely smelling secretion that is used by the musk deer to attract females.

What does musk mean?

The word can be derived from the Greek "moschos", from the Latin "muscus" or from the Persian "musk" and means testicles or scrotum. The musk bag has been compared to this one - but musk is not actually extracted from the testicle of the musk deer.

The term is also used for secretions of other animals and plants, the one musk-like scent to have. The animals include the musk ox, the musk-hive, the muskrat and the musk-duck. In the plants it is for example the Juggler flower, the musk mallow, the musk herb or the Abelmoschus.

How is musk recovered?

Naturally, musk originates in the Musk gland of male musk deer, formerly also known as musk deer.

By the end of the 70s, perfumes were also produced for this purpose real musk used. However, this is no longer allowed for reasons of animal welfare. Because a lot of musk deer had to lose their lives for the production of musk - a musk gland contains only about 30 grams of the secretion. Even today, the musk deer is threatened with extinction.

That's why musk today comes from one synthetic production. In addition, artificial musk can be produced quite cheaply, whereas the natural product is extremely expensive.

In essence, four types can be distinguished:

  • Tonkin musk from Tibet and China
  • Russian musk
  • Assam or Bengal musk from India
  • Bukharian musk

In total, there are about 1,000 substances whose scent resembles musk - but find use as a musk substitute only about 30.

How does musk smell?

Both as a natural secretion and in its synthetic production, musk has on the one hand a tart animal and another radiant sweet smell on. The typical odor description characterizes the animal musk scent through leathery, hair and urine-like scents.

Musk as a perfume

Musk plays a particularly important role in perfumes. The scent is usually there only as Unternote, but it is contained in almost every perfume. Musk scent should never be consciously perceived, as too much of it is perceived as an intrusive body odor. For many perfumes, a light musk fragrance gives a warm character, intensifies the scents and completes them.

In addition, the human skin absorbs musk very well, so that the smell of perfume with musk lasts long - musk serves as a so-called fixator. The musk odor is also good with other fragrances such as patchouli or amber combinable.

Musk scent: effect

Musk perfume or musk oil on the one hand produces in humans Feeling of warmth and security, on the other hand, but also sexual arousal and Sensuality.

This is responsible for certain aphrodisiac components of musk, the structure pheromones resemble. Pheromones are secretions that are emitted by vertebrates in order to influence the behavior of other individuals of the same species during the mating process, for example.

Depending on the combination with other fragrances, musk can cause different effects. So musk can work in conjunction with other fragrance ingredients like this:

  • eroticising
  • cheering
  • relaxing
  • or even promoting concentration

By the way: musk has one attractive effect on men. Surveys have shown that men, in addition to fresh perfumes, also like fragrances with a mochus-like, spicy or woody touch on women.

Certain musk perfumes have been specially developed for this erotic effect and attraction.

Is synthetic musk harmful?

There are now numerous detergents, cleansers and cosmetics containing synthetic polycyclic musk compounds. But these synthetically produced substances are not biodegradable and accumulate in human adipose tissue. Therefore, the cosmetic use of musk is controversial.* In older generations of synthetic musk, it is even thought that they are toxic and can promote the development of cancer.

Because of poor degradability, artificial musk in sewage treatment plants can only be partially removed from the sewage.
For these reasons, researchers are looking for healthier and more environmentally friendly musks.

Musk in medicine

The demand for natural musk still exists today, because in Chinese medicine musk is still considered an anti-spasmodic, nerve-strengthening and invigorating panacea. Especially for cardiovascular, nervous and respiratory problems musk should be able to help. Musk should also be beneficial for potency.

With the Crusades, musk also came to Europe, where the fragrance gained prominence as an aphrodisiac.

The musk deer

For a long time it has been assumed that the fawn-like musk deer are relatives of deer, so they were also called musk deer in the past. However, there are some major anatomical differences: Moose have a gallbladder in contrast to deer, also has the musk deer elongated upper canines, but no antler. And of course, the musk gland makes a difference between the two animals.

Musk deer live in herds, are herbivores and mostly in wooded mountain areas in southern Asia, especially in the Himalayas - in Europe they are already extinct. To get on leaves and branches, musk deer are good climbers.

* Sources and further information

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