Feb 25, 2022
This is a WikiPost for Costus

Members with the ability to edit Wiki's will be able to edit this first post to collate useful information about this ingredient / accord
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Basenotes Junkie
May 7, 2010
I just received a small shipment of oils from Liberty Natural. One of them is Costus root which I have been wanting to get for ages. I find the smell to be strongly of rubber (natural latex rubber) plus maybe a hint of the scent of ink from a ballpoint pen. Not what I expected, but then not really sure what I expected. Is this consistent with what others have found? Or do I have a dud bottle? (I diluted to 10% but same result). I have a similar issue with spikenard. Will post a separate thread.

Chris Bartlett

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Jul 17, 2011
Costus root oil isn’t something I use - as I expect you know it is the subject of an IFRA Prohibition Standard - however I do know that the main use in perfumery was as a fixative and it isn’t generally regarded as smelling very nice on it’s own. You might find it useful to have a look at the organoleptics section of the Good Scents Company page on costus root.

David Ruskin

Basenotes Institution
May 28, 2009
I love the smell of Costus,and think it a great shame that it has been restricted/banned by IFRA. Costus Oliffac used to be a pretty good substitute but it has recently been reformulated ( Oakmoss and/or Nitromusks) and is now not so good. To me Costus has a sweaty fatty animalic character, and has been described as the smell of wet dog. It is very useful is duplicating the smell of natural musk, and Nitromusks. I have even used a touch in Lily (not Muguet) and Hyacinth accords.


Basenotes Dependent
Apr 13, 2013
Beautiful and extremely useful substance, skin-like, green musk. It's just really sad we can't use it. A current perfume I'm working on contains it anyway. I'll just substitute it out when I sell it in a context where IFRA matters. I hear PA's synthetic is acceptable, but you know how that goes...

I think IFRA is over biased toward skin allergies as being the greatest evil known to physical health; as that is like the only problem you get with most natural substances, as opposed to cancers, birth defects, and the like. It's a shame, as costus has been used steadily from biblical times (some believe it to be the substance used to anoint Jesus, that or spikenard), and only now is it prohibited. If you get a rash, just don't use the product. No harm done. As opposed to cancer creepin up on you and kiling you, at least you know immediately with a skin allergy and have the opportunity to discontinue use with no further harm. OK, done ranting now. I'm biased.
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Basenotes Institution
Jul 2, 2005
Is there any similarity or crossover in scent between costus root and calamus?

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Basenotes Junkie
Mar 15, 2009
Is there any similarity or crossover in scent between costus root and calamus?

To me there is very little similarity between costus and calamus. Costus is much more low-register and very musk-like. Calamus is extremely strong with a pungent sweet, weedy tea scent.

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Nov 27, 2013
I've just bought Costus E.O. (Saussurea Lappa, India) from Proxisanté. Quiet expensive but amazing.
To me it's smelling like greasy hair and... green tea !
Very far from rubber...

I see that Perfurmer's Apprentice and Liberty Natural are selling Costus CO2 extract (Saussurea Lappa, India).
I wonder if those materials are identical ?
What are they actually smelling ?

scents or

Super Member
Dec 11, 2014
there is "Saussurea costus" and there are the spiral gingers of the family "costaceae" such as "costus arabicus", "costus cosmosus", "costus barbatus" etc. found in China, Africa, and Latin America, but perhaps not in India. "Saussurea costus" is the plant traditionally used in perfumes, but there could be some confusion with the names.


New member
Aug 4, 2015
A few weeks go I bought a very tiny amount of costus root essential oil (Saussureja costus - Saussureja lappa)
It was described as having a "penetrating mustiness/mold smell"
Indeed I smell a little bit of mustiness/mold.
It is sweet, smells like orris root mixed with violets and yes some mustiness/mold smell.
It is not unpleasant al all. I pour only 1 drop on the aroma lamp and all my rooms smells for hours and hours
this actually pleasant smell.
I don' t smell dog hair or goat. But I heard that if is old or bad preserved (the essential oil) it can get unpleasant
and some people can associate it with the smell of wet dog hair (fur)


Basenotes Member
Nov 28, 2020
Apologies for thread necromancy, but I just picked up this same ingredient from Liberty Natural-- Costus Root SCO2 India. Absolutely smells like rubber/motor oil/my father's garage (he was a master mechanic in my youth)

It seems to have zero in common with the 'vetiver/orris/sweat/wet dog' smell I'm reading about in what I assume is the EO.

I know this ingredient is ifra banned, just for my own education Im wondering if others have experience with this. It'd make a killer leather note, but is that how its supposed to be???

Solua Botanica

Basenotes Member
Oct 11, 2022
Costus is a very special material. I have bought so many different types of extracts with so many different names. Some were good, others still sit on my shelf , unused. After being disappointed a few times with extracts, I decided to order a bag of roots and make my own tincture.
I liked it at 25 % but now make it at 50 % because I like it strong.
It really is an animalic smell of wet, fatty hair. The tincture makes a great base for other animalics and for woody and precious resins type perfume.
I still have experimenting to do. It may be more versatile than I think !

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