What is Musk?  

Musk is one of the animal’s products which is considered as the best odor in the world. It has a magical effect of soothing the soul and strengthening the inner organs as well as the outer body if applied whether thru sniffing, eating or drinking. The good musk is a dry and black substance, sometimes purple, smooth and tastes bitter.  

Musk is produced in a gland between the stomach and the genitals in a form of a hairy sac in the male deer.  

 Its scientific name is Moschus moschiferus (Musk deer). The name Musk is derived from Sanskrit name MUSKA meaning testicle. The musk deer is 1 meter long and half meter of height, with grey, long and fragile hair. It’s a nocturnal animal and very shy which makes it hard to find. Hunters usually resort to entrapments to capture it because of its evasive nature. Its natural habitat is the Himalaya heights and forests, Tibet, Siberia, and Northwest of China generally. The musk deer female is considered the most precious producer of black musk which is a high quality perfume additive. Hunters watch the female for extended period of time to make sure of its health condition. Then they attempt to capture it in a certain season of the year, extracting after all a small, congealed, black clot below the stomach. 



Musk, a strong-smelling secretion produced by the glands of Asia’s musk deer, has been used in perfumes. Musk deer are relatively small and antlerless, with a pair of protruding, tusk-like teeth. Only adult male musk deer have musk glands.  

China and Russia are home to the majority of musk deer. They are also found in India, Nepal, and other Asian nations.   

Head shot image of the Siberian musk deer (Moschus moschiferus)


It is estimated that musk is being used in as many as 400 Chinese and Korean traditional remedies, making it one of the most common—and most valuable—medicinal products to come from an animal. Musk is used in preparations intended to treat complaints of the nervous system, circulation, heart, and lungs—and as a stimulant or sedative, depending on what it is combined with.  

More Valuable Than Gold: “Gram for gram, musk is one of the most valuable products in the natural kingdom and can be worth three times more than its weight on gold. Protecting musk deer is therefore important from both commercial and conservation perspective,” said Stuart Chapman, with WWF-UK in Godalming, England.    

Today, perhaps only 5% of all musk traded is used in perfumes. In 1999 the European Union banned the import of musk, forcing cosmetics producers to switch to synthetic alternatives.  

[Excerpts from an article “POACHERS TARGET MUSK DEER FOR PERFUMES, MEDICINES” by John Pickrell for National Geographic News]

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