World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000220806
Reproduction Date:

Title: Musk  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Synthetic musk, Chypre, Muscone, Civet, Historical money of Tibet
Collection: Animal Glandular Products, Olfaction, Perfume Ingredients, Perfumery, Perfumes
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Musk is a class of aromatic substances commonly used as base notes in perfumery. They include glandular secretions from animals such as the musk deer, numerous plants emitting similar fragrances, and artificial substances with similar odors.[1][2] Musk was a name originally given to a substance with a penetrating odor obtained from a gland of the male musk deer. The substance has been used as a popular perfume fixative since ancient times and is one of the more expensive animal products in the world. The name originates from the Late Greek μόσχος 'moskhos', from Persian 'mushk', from Sanskrit 'muska-s' "testicle", from Latin 'mus' "mouse" (so called, presumably, for resemblance; see muscle). The deer gland was thought to resemble a scrotum. German has Moschus, from a M.L. form of the Late Greek word. Spanish has almizcle, from Arabic al misk "the musk", from Persian. Applied to various plants and animals of similar smell (e.g. musk-ox, 1744) and has come to encompass a wide variety of aromatic substances with similar odors, despite their often differing chemical structures.

Until the late 19th century, natural musk was used extensively in muscone.

Modern use of natural musk pods occurs in traditional Chinese medicine.


  • Natural sources 1
    • Musk deer 1.1
    • Other animals 1.2
    • Plants 1.3
  • Artificial compounds 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • Further reading 5

Natural sources

Musk deer

A musk pod, obtained from the male musk deer

The musk deer belongs to the family Moschidae and lives in Nepal, India, Pakistan, Tibet, China, Siberia and Mongolia. The musk pod is normally obtained by killing the male deer through traps laid in the wild. Upon drying, the reddish-brown paste inside the musk pod turns into a black granular material called "musk grain", which is then tinctured with alcohol. The aroma of the tincture gives a pleasant odor only after it is considerably diluted. No other natural substance has such a complex aroma associated with so many contradictory descriptions; however, it is usually described abstractly as animalistic, earthy and woody[3] or something akin to the odor of babies' skin.[4]

Musk has been a key constituent in many perfumes since its discovery, being held to give a perfume long-lasting power as a fixative. Today, the trade quantity of the natural musk is controlled by CITES, but illegal poaching and trading continues.[4]

Moschus moschiferus, Siberian musk deer 
"Musk-cat", woodcut from Hortus Sanitatis, 1490 

Other animals

Ondatra zibethicus, the muskrat

Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), a rodent native to North America, has been known since the 17th century to secrete a glandular substance with a musky odor.[5] A chemical means of extracting it was discovered in the 1940s, but it did not prove commercially worthwhile.[5]

Glandular substances with musk-like odors are also obtained from the musk duck (Biziura lobata) of southern Australia, the muskox, the musk shrew, the musk beetle (Aromia moschata), the African civet (Civettictis civetta), the musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus), the American alligator of North America, and from several other animals.

In crocodiles, there are two pairs of musk glands, one pair situated at the corner of the jaw and the other pair in the cloaca.[6] Musk glands are also found in snakes.


Some plants such as Angelica archangelica or Abelmoschus moschatus produce musky-smelling macrocyclic lactone compounds. These compounds are widely used in perfumery as substitutes for animal musk or to alter the smell of a mixture of other musks.

The plant sources include the musk flower (Mimulus moschatus) of western North America, the muskwood (Olearia argophylla) of Australia, and the musk seeds (Abelmoschus moschatus) from India.

Artificial compounds

Galaxolide, a polycyclic musk commonly found in laundry detergents to mask the smell of the detergent chemicals

Since obtaining the deer musk requires killing the endangered animal, nearly all musk fragrance used in perfumery today is synthetic, sometimes called "white musk". They can be divided into three major classes: aromatic nitro musks, polycyclic musk compounds, and macrocyclic musk compounds.[3] The first two groups have broad uses in industry ranging from cosmetics to detergents. However, the detection of the first two chemical groups in human and environmental samples as well as their carcinogenic properties initiated a public debate on the use of these compounds and a ban or reduction of their use in many regions of the world. Macrocyclic musk compounds are expected to replace them since these compounds appear to be safer.[3]

See also


  1. ^ "musk"Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary: .  
  2. ^ Chantraine, Pierre (1990). Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque. Klincksieck. p. 715.  
  3. ^ a b c d Rimkus, Gerhard G. (Ed.); Cornelia Sommer (2004). "The Role of Musk and Musk Compounds in the Fragrance Industry". Synthetic Musk Fragrances in the Environment (Handbook of Environmental Chemistry).  
  4. ^ a b Rowe, David J. (Ed.);  
  5. ^ a b Groom, Nigel (1997). New Perfume Handbook. Springer. pp. 219–220.  
  6. ^ Wareham, D.C. (2005). Elsevier's Dictionary of Herpetological and Related Terminology.  

  • Borschberg, Peter, "O comércio europeu de almíscar com a Ásia no inicio da edad moderna - The European Musk Trade with Asia in the Early Modern Period", Revista Oriente, 5 (2003): 90-9.
  • Borschberg, Peter, "Der asiatische Moschushandel vom frühen 15. bis zum 17. Jahrhundert", in Mirabilia Asiatica, ed. J. Alves, C. Guillot and R. Ptak. Wiesbaden and Lisbon: Harrassowitz-Fundação Oriente (2003): 65-84.

Further reading


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.