Spermaceti – Uses, Botanical Source, Characters, and Chemical Constituents



Biological source:

Spermaceti is a solid wax obtained from the head and blabber of the sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus Linn. of the family Physeteridae.

Geographical source:

Physeter macrocephalus are naturally found in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans chiefly near the coasts of Mozambique, Zanzibar and Ceylon.


Spermaceti occurs as a white, translucent crystalline mass. It possesses little or no odour and taste. It has a specific gravity of 0.95-0.96, acid value of not more than 1, Saponification value of 125-136, Iodine value of 3-5 and melting point of 46-50°C. It is insoluble in water and cold alcohol, but soluble in ether, chloroform and boiling alcohol.

Chemical constituents:

Spermaceti consists principally of cetyl palmitate (C1sH31.COOC16H33) with smaller quantities of cetyl myristate, cetyl laurate and cetyl stearate. It also contains 50-63 percent of wax alcohols.


Spermaceti is used as a base for certain cold-creams and ointments.

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