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Feb 142014
 

"Why do bulls and horses turn up their nostrils when excited by love?" Darwin ponderedWhere_is_the_love deep in one of his unpublished notebooks.  Scientists long ago documented a rich array of animal pheromones, everything from seal, fox and civet, various rodents, boars, beavers, musk deer . . . even the effluence discharged by whales.  Discovering biochemical bouquets for attracting mates as well as marking territory and used for defense, as is the case with the noble skunk.  And, we took them as our own for exotic and sought after perfumes, not putting much thought into human scent, assuming our unique evolution and poor sense of smell lends to the idea that unique olfactory-challenged, sight-oriented hairless bipeds would be the species that conquers the Earth.  Hah! 

I don’t doubt that many of my readers here, like myself, dismiss the notion that we humans are bereft of scent-driven socializing.  That just because early scientists in autopsy couldn’t find the same hardware in humans, those two little pits, the VNO (vomeronasal organ) in each nostril, we had been left out of the savory realm of scent.  So, our olfactory prowess was dismissed and discarded, those early analysts  nodding their heads in agreement that humans simply did not rely on scent to any appreciable degree . . . and even physiologists declaring in the 1930’s that humans lacked the brain apparatus necessary to process VNO signals.  So, even if we had a VNO, the thinking was our brains wouldn’t be able to interpret its signals.

So it goes, the scientific dogma for most of the previous century that humans do not rely on scent to any appreciable degree.  I’m here to report that reports of our olfactory devolution have been greatly exaggerated!  And, it will come as no surprise to readers here that physiologists did discover a functioning vomeronasal organ inside the human nose. Using microscopes unavailable to early nasal explorers, discovering pits lined with receptor cells that fire like mad when presented with certain substances.  And probably less surprising that the discovery was prompted by a venture capitalist searching to cash in on manufactured human pheromones.  Tom Tykwer’s 2006 movie Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, featuring Jean-Baptiste Grenouille’s dark quest for the ultimate perfume ingredient and its exquisite period sets could have us fantasizing a clever 17th century feminine entrepreneur doing a brisk business selling handkerchiefs scented with her body odor.  Or, who knows, perhaps it is the next olfactory market evolution yet to come.

Getting back to smelling each other and our pleasure therein, it appears we are also profoundly equipped with attraction-beckoning pleasant odor-producing capability . . . human sweat, urine, saliva, breast milk, skin oils, breath and sexual secretions all contain scent-communicating chemical compounds.  Zoologist Michael Stoddart, author of The Scented Ape, points out that humans possessThe Lovers denser skin concentrations of scent glands than almost any other mammal.  We have long believed that humans don’t pay much attention to the fragrant or the rancid in their day-to-day lives.  Part of the confusion resides in the fact that not all smells register in our conscious minds and that they are rejected when we don’t want to think about them anymore.  In studying aromatherapy, we learn that our conscious mind can refuse to acknowledge the presence of odor, especially after prolonged periods of smelling it.  We are, therefore, advised to  diffuse in time periods according to other protocols and parameters not related to actively and consciously detecting the aromatic blend being diffused.

As we study and learn more about DNA, there is a segment called the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), codes which function as the immune system’s eyes for recognition.  This recognition triggers the immune system’s teeth – the killer T cells – who then swarm the intruders. Studies in mice have proven that females choose by evaluating males’ MHC profiles and choose those most dissimilar to their own to avoid inbreeding.  It was during early studies involving humans that we discovered we were capable of discerning small differences in the immune systems of mice. This led to further tests in which women rated men’s body odor and sexiness . . . exactly like mice do.  We much prefer men with scents that vary the most from our own. 

Although, even that is complicated in that there are still anomalies to the general rule of choice yet to be definitely ascertained. Doctors have known since the mid-1980s that couples suffering repeated spontaneous abortions tend to share more MHC similarities than couples who carry to term. And, if we don’t also know and accept same sex attraction by now, we might remain in those dark, dank ages.  Those who might be offended by the notion that animal senses play a role in their attraction to a partner need not worry. As the role of smell in human affairs yields to understanding, we see not that we are less human but that our tastes and emotions are far more complex and sophisticated than anyone ever imagined.

Perfume_Bottle_AntiqueWhile this ramble may give you something interesting you may not previously know, on this Valentines Day, you’re probably more interested in a simple bottle of perfume, rose-scented tea and the ever-beloved chocolate delight.  Just remember, if you haven’t developed an awareness yet, while you are nibbling on that lover’s ear, to sniff a bit . . . and judge for yourself whether he/she is the one. 

Love and Smelly Kisses,
Marcia

Jul 012013
 

LB Patch 1366x408

Lemon Balm, Balm mint, Blue balm, Garden balm, Honey plant, Sweet balm – these are all common names for Melissa officinalis, an aromatic plant in the mint (Lamiaceae) family having a long history as a delightful garden plant and medicinal aromatic herb.  As far back as the Middle Ages, Lemon Balm was recognized as a calming herb that would reduce stress and anxiety.  It was used to ease the discomfort of indigestion (including gas and bloating as well as colic).  Even before the Middle Ages, it is reported in ancient herbals to lift spirits, help heal wounds and treat insect bites and stings.  Native to Europe, Lemon Balm grows all over the world . . . in gardens to attract bees, in commercial crops for medicine and cosmetics, and even furniture polish.  The plant will mound into 3+ foot clumps; it is one of the easiest plants to grow and if left unattended will become invasive.  Leaves are deeply wrinkled, ranging in color from dark green to yellowish green.  Rubbing the leaves between your fingers releases the aromatic essential oil which smells tart and sweetly of lemons.  If left unpruned the plant will flower; clusters of light yellow flowers grow where the leaves meet the stem.  The plant will self seed and propagate profusely from the roots. 

Here at Samara Botane, starting with one organic plant, we now have about 18-20 large shrubs.  Leaves will be harvested by shearing with scissors throughout the summer, approximately every 4-6 weeks.  We will then distill leaves for hydrosol; macerate in organic coconut and olive oil for balms and salves; tincture in organic alcohol and vinegar for a variety of topical applications and household products, and we will dry leaves for teas andlemon-balm-1 525x394 bath herbs.  Fresh leaves will also find their way into culinary applications in syrups and jellies, and even as a flavoring for homemade ice cream.  I’ve been sharing a number of Lemon Balm recipes on our facebook page which you can find by following this link where we will be sharing Lemon Balm recipes throughout the rest of summer. 

Modern research has determined that Lemon Balm’s mild sedative (anxiolytic) effects are attributed to its ability to inhibit GABA transaminase due to its rosmarinic acid content. [1]   Lemon Balm has been shown to improve mood and mental performance, involving muscarinic and nicotinic acetycholine receptors [2] and positive results have been achieved in a small clinical trial involving Alzheimer patients with mild to moderate symptoms [3] due to the high acetylcholinesterase and butyrycholinesterase co-inhibitory activities, as well as its rosmarinic acid content. [4]  Melissa officinalis exhibits antithyrotropic activity, inhibiting TSH from attaching to TSH receptors, hence making it of possible use in the treatment of Graves’ disease or hyperthroidism, according to a mention in the scientific journal Endocrinology. [5] 

Lemon Balm leaves contain plant chemicals called terpenes, which play at least some role in the herb’s relaxing and antiviral effects, as well as tannins, which may be responsible for many of the herb’s antiviral effects. Lemon Balm also contains eugenol, which calms muscle spasms, numbs tissues, and kills certain bacteria.

In another double blind, placebo controlled study, 18 healthy volunteers received 2 separate single doses of a standardized lemon balm extract (300 mg and 600 mg) or placebo for 7 days. The 600 mg dose of lemon balm increased mood and significantly increased calmness and alertness.  Caution:  Using Lemon Balm as a sedative may interact with prescribed sedative medications (CNS depressants), causing extreme drowsiness or sleepiness. If you are taking thyroid regulating medication, ask your healthcare provider before using it extensively.  It is not clear whether Lemon Balm may interact with antiretroviral agents, but it is best to avoid Lemon Balm if you are taking medication for HIV. 

Unfortunately, Melissa essential oil enjoys the reputation of being probably one of t11069_melissa_250he most frequently adulterated essential oils.  A pure, undiluted or unadulterated Melissa officinalis essential oil is difficult to source.  There is very little essential oil in the plant and it takes a large quantity of plant material to produce a small amount of the essential oil.  For this reason, what we will find in the broader marketplace is usually inferior quality essential oil that has been co-distilled or recombined with Lemon oil, Citronella, Lemongrass and other ‘lemon’ smelling essential oils.  At Samara Botane, we have a limited quantity of high quality essential oil from England available for sale, but you will see by the price that is is rare and precious and quite costly.  We also have limited quantities of CO2 and absolute. 

For a tea, steep 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of the chopped dried herb (use more if fresh) in 1 cup hot (just under boiling) water.  Drink up to 4 times a day.  A stronger tea can be added to a warm/hot bath for a delightfully relaxing and rejuvenating home spa experience.  Lemon Balm hydrosol can also be added to a regenerating bath or spritzed on skin after a shower.

In Europe, the local name for Lemon Balm is “heart’s delight” and some of you may remember a French perfume of the late 1030’s named Coeur-Joie, which translates from the French to ‘heart’s delight’.  Coeur-Joie had a fresh Melissa topnote with faint floral undertones.  A traditional floral water using Lemon Balm as its basis, said to have been invented in 1611 by Carmelite monks was used as a perfume and toilet water, and was also taken internally as a cordial.  Many versions of Eau de Melisse des Carmes have developed over the years.  You will find one version, including several variations, on the Samara Botane facebook page later this week.  Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter.  We will be featuring a very good discount on all Lemon Balm products during the month of July and the coupon code will be in the ads in the newsletter.

There are many aspects to cover about Lemon Balm, I’ll revisit Lemon Balm again in the future. 

 

[1] Kennedy, D. O.; Little, W; Scholey, AB (2004). "Attenuation of Laboratory-Induced Stress in Humans After Acute Administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm)". Psychosomatic Medicine 66 (4): 607–13.doi:10.1097/01.psy.0000132877.72833.71.PMID 15272110.
Awad, Rosalie; Muhammad, Asim; Durst, Tony; Trudeau, Vance L.; Arnason, John T. (2009). "Bioassay-guided fractionation of lemon balm (Melissa officinalisL.) using anin vitromeasure of GABA transaminase activity". Phytotherapy Research 23 (8): 1075–81.doi:10.1002/ptr.2712. PMID 19165747.
[2] Kennedy, D O; Wake, G; Savelev, S; Tildesley, N T J; Perry, E K; Wesnes, K A; Scholey, A B (2003). "Modulation of Mood and Cognitive Performance Following Acute Administration of Single Doses of Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) with Human CNS Nicotinic and Muscarinic Receptor-Binding Properties".Neuropsychopharmacology 28 (10): 1871–81. doi:10.1038/sj.npp.1300230. PMID 12888775.
[3]Akhondzadeh, S (2003). "Melissa officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial". Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 74: 863–6.doi:10.1136/jnnp.74.7.863. PMC 1738567.PMID 12810768.
[4]Chaiyana W., Okonogi S."Inhibition of cholinesterase by essential oil from food plant". Phytomedicine. 19 (8-9) (pp 836-839), 2012.
[5]Auf’mkolk, M.; Ingbar, J. C.; Kubota, K.; Amir, S. M.; Ingbar, S. H. (1985). "Extracts and Auto-Oxidized Constituents of Certain Plants Inhibit the Receptor-Binding and the Biological Activity of Graves’ Immunoglobulins". Endocrinology 116 (5): 1687–93.doi:10.1210/endo-116-5-1687. PMID 2985357.

 Posted by at 7:40 pm
Jan 252012
 

ambergris 192x259All natural aromatic substances that exist in Nature have a purpose other than to smell good in perfumes.  In the case of ambergris, it is produced in the stomach of the sperm whale, where it serves to protect the intestinal lining against the tough, horned snout of cuttlefish, a kind of squid that the whale swallows whole.  All very practical, as we most assuredly find in Nature.  While most teach that it is secreted as vomit, some argue that it also passes through the feces. Some, especially commercial, American perfumers usually avoid it because of legal ambiguities. It was banned from use in many countries in the 1970s, including the United States, because its precursor originates from the sperm whale, which is an endangered species.

Historically, it was considered the second most treasured commodity to come from the sea, second to pearls.   After being excreted by the whale, it would be collected from the surface of the ocean near the islands of Sumatra, Molucca and Madagascar, and was referred to as “the gold of the ocean”.   The hardened shape, resembling fossilized lumps of amber (albeit grey in color), thus derived the name “grey amber” or ambergris.  It is a known fact that certainlate twelfth century incense burner 308x163 kinds of ambergris are known to float in the ocean for up to a hundred years. Ancient Egyptians burned ambergris as incense, while in modern Egypt ambergris is used for scenting cigarettes.

We humans have chosen to not fully embrace our own animalistic odor and instead we mask it with myriad smelly cover-ups.  Probably originating in hygiene and sexual modesty that ultimately fevered the Puritanical movement.   The enigma that we are drawn to smells that reflect our deeper centers of pleasure and love perfumes rich in products of animal origin (any animal other than human, that is) only confirms what complex and contradictory beings we are, especially when it comes to sexuality.  It is true that those perfumes with a ‘hidden’  pungency, unidentified intellectually in our awareness, are extremely popular.

Avery Gilbert challenges us to  stop randomly studying aromatic molecules in the laboratory and to “start observing odor fluency where it happens naturally.”  He reminds us that Charles Darwin was a “careful observer” and “attuned to smell”.  In Darwin’s words (speaking of the musk deer, another animalic odor): “On the banks of the Plata, I have perceived the whole air tainted with the odor of the male Cervus campestris, at the distance of half a mile to leeward of  a herd.”  Darwin recorded odors, along with other facts like species, place and time.  I mention this because I, like many of you, struggle with adequate descriptors for odors and Avery makes a perfect case for getting out in Nature herself as it might serve both perfumer and writer.  Since I, also, cannot disconnect my work with aromatics from the importance and joy of relating to unabashed Nature, I very much like the way he thinks in this regard.

Pomade 155x297One of the earliest devices for enjoying aromatics in the fourteenth century actually derives its name from ambergris.  The ornately designed apple-shaped globe, sometimes decorated with gold and silver, with small individual sections held together with hinges was called a pomander, from the French pomme d’ ambre or apple of ambergris.  Originally, a simple, but pungent rolled ball of ambergris  would suffice, but art emergedpomade open 293x299 to house the scent, like this lovely ornamented creation pictured here.  The chambers were filled with scented paste and powder, using beeswax and other aromatics, each chamber sometimes housing a different odor.  Aristocrats of both sexes would carry these devices to occasionally sniff to ward off the malodorous smells of the street.  Larger ones were attached by a chain to the belt or worn around the neck and smaller ones, no larger than a thimble, were connected by a tiny chain to a finger ring.

During the Renaissance, the “girdle” (not to be confused with the modern-day “corset”)The History of Jewellery was an important accessory made of leather, textile or flat metal chain that formed a belt-like strap worn diagonally along the waistline, draping from just above the hip on the right, downward to the left thigh. The girdle was typically accessorized with items like a purse, keys, knives, lockets, girdle books, decorative bangles, or a pomander.  The bangles or pendants (just as the pomanders themselves) could be bejeweled, enameled, or decorated with cameos, and were fastened to the girdle with equally decorative clasps. Of course, it was also one of those perfumed fallacies that the pomander would keep one from getting the plague.

The early gastronomer Brillat-Savarin created a recipe for ambergris-laced chocolate in 1826, perhaps for the tables of Casanova, Madame DuBarry and Madame de Pompadour. And, Nostradamus believed the chewing of lumps of ambergris could increase the production of seminal fluid.  Jean Paul Guerlain observed that ambergris “was to perfume creation what cream is to haute cuisine: an exquisite binding agent.” Since we find in history the use of ambergris as a spice in food, his observation is more than metaphorical. Musk and ambergris notes in perfume composition are of great significance and are a used in the composition to produce a sense of pleasure via ancient neural pathways without so much as a conscious thought as to the true nature of the stimulus.

Chinese pomander_181x285Since we are in the middle of celebrating the Chinese New Year, it is worth mentioning that the Chinese considered ambergris to be a potent aphrodisiac. The ancient Chinese called the substance “dragon’s spittle fragrance”, lending yet another allusion to the current Chinese Year of the Dragon.  The early Chinese also used their version of pomanders like this small one pictured.

In the eighteenth century, it was made into one of those “single-note” perfumes, like jasmine and neroli.

Styles and attitudes change and during the Restoration and into the later years encompassing the July Monarchy animalic scents fell into disfavor.   The more erotic scents began to be replaced with less controversial floral and herbaceous compositions.  Women became more worried about “being provocative”.   The newspaper Les Messager des odes et de l’industrie from 1853 identifies ambergris as “the primary perfume ingredient for women of easy virtue (cocettes) . . . and in the decade just preceding the Revolution, Mercier, the chronicler of social customs wrote that the decline of favorability for scented gloves was due to their “violent odor.”  Ultimately, strong animalic scents were banned and only worn by women of questionable morals.

Septimus Piesse, the early nineteenth century chemist-perfumer, lamented that the scent of ambergris “clings pertinaciously to woven fabrics and is still found in the material after passing through the lavoratory ordeal” by which he no doubt means washing of clothes. I would argue that Piesse exaggerated somewhat and that one must always consider the final odor note in a composition after the melding of all others, as well as all other variables when evaluating the odor of an aromatic ingredient of natural origin.

In perfumery, it is the finest of all fixatives and will delay the volatility of other scented ingredients in a composition.  It is one of those perfume substances that sometimes draws revulsion when one learns of its origin, however, in the raw it actually has a relatively mild odor –  marine, slightly fecal, reminiscent of balsamic leather with a slight wet, sour aspect.  And, of course, we must keep in mind that odor can differ greatly from one batch to the next depending on the origin,  age and processing method to obtain a perfume ingredient.

At Samara Botane, when we have the material available, we make a strong alcohol tincture using a Soxhlet extraction procedure which can then be diluted to the perfumer’s preference. This process produces ambrox and ambrinol, which are the main odor components of ambergris.  In perfumes, once married to other notes, ambergris becomes quite warm, earthy and velvety.  Some natural perfumers who wish to steer clear of animal ingredients,  appear to get an ambergris doppelganger by combining labdanum, olibanum and vanilla.

Aug 092010
 

Samara Botane Products You may think if you are a natural perfumer,  aromatherapist, massage therapist, or other alternative practitioner using essential oils or other raw botanical extracts or materials in your practice, craft or art,  that this bill will not directly affect you. At least you don’t think so.  However, you could be dead wrong.  If you are not a licensed doctor (M.D. or D.O. have the broadest authority) who can legally write a prescription, then you may be at risk under H.R. 5786 if you make essential oil blends or synergies for your clients or natural perfumes sold to clients (the general public). Thus far, essential oils have not been legally designated as either prescription or over-the-counter drugs.  The definition most used is, “A volatile oil, usually having the characteristic odor or flavor of the plant from which it is obtained, used to make perfumes and flavorings.”  In other words, they are manufacturing ingredients.

In H.R. 5786 (subchapter B), the definition of ‘ingredient’ reads:

“The term ‘ingredient’ means a chemical in a cosmetic, including – –
(A)  chemicals that provide a technical or functional effect;
(B)  chemicals that have no technical or functional effect in the cosmetic but are present by reason of having been added to a cosmetic during the processing of such cosmetic;
(C)  processing aids that are present by reason of having been added to a cosmetic during the processing of such cosmetics;
(D)  substances that are present by reason of having been added to a cosmetic during processing for their technical or functional effect;
(E)  contaminants present at levels above technically feasible detection limits;
(F)  contaminants that may leach from container materials or form via reactions over the shelf life of a cosmetic and that may be present at levels above technically feasible detection limits;
(G)  the components of a fragrance, flavor, or preservative declared individually by their appropriate label names; and
(H)  any individual components of a botanical, petroleum-derived, animal-derived, or other ingredient that the Secretary determines to be considered an ingredient. 

It is probably worth your while to ponder these definitions and take in their full impact.

Here in Washington state, the definition of ‘manufacturing’ in the state revenue code (RCW) reads:

"Manufacturer" means every person who, either directly or by contracting with others for the necessary labor or mechanical services, manufactures for sale or for commercial or industrial use from his or her own materials or ingredients any articles, substances or commodities.” (RCW 82.04.110)

"To manufacture" embraces all activities of a commercial or industrial nature where labor or skill is applied, by hand or machinery, to materials so that as a result thereof a new, different or useful substance or article of tangible personal property is produced for sale or commercial or industrial use . . . “

As you can see, this definition applies to the individual ‘person’, whether they are registered or incorporated as a business or not.  We can find similar manufacturing legislation in every state of the Union.  There is no exemption for individual practitioners, as many would define themselves.

I urge all my customers and clients, whether large corporations, small businesses or individuals to become more aware of the growing legislative efforts across the world that may affect the use of essential oils.  Please join the other 3,593 (and growing) signers in the advocacy efforts to oppose H.R. 5786 and make a point to stay abreast similar legislative issues.  

Thanks for listening,

Marcia

 Posted by at 7:50 pm
May 182010
 

We hope you enjoy this conversation with botanical perfumer, Justine Crane, who teaches natural perfumery, creates impressive natural perfumes, blogs and blogs.  Her shy, unassuming demeanor shadows a vibrant rebel passion for her art.   Although her current class is filled, she and partner Ruth Ruane are opening another ten slots in September at the Nature’s Nexus Academy of Perfuming Arts.  

You’ve been quietly pursuing your aromatic art for some time, what or who have been your greatest influences and why?
Justine_Crane_248x239 My maternal grandmother was a great influence, and she was something of a green witch. She passed when I was ten but we spent a lot of time together, puttering around in the garden. She could literally pull a twig off a plant and stick it in the ground somewhere else and that twig would grow into a bush or tree with little more care from her than watering and a little Gaelic lullaby. There was also this really cool hippie woman who lived in the mountains in a logging camp where I spent a couple of summers. My step-father was the camp “Bullcook”, a camp name for the maintenance man, so I had access to the cabins and the families who lived in them, including befriending the cool hippie woman. I can’t for the life of me remember her name, but I do remember she made everything from scratch, her incense, her wine, her bread, and she kind of took me in for a while, showing me how to make incense of the forest with stuff like tree sap, cedar bark and manzanita berries. I helped her pick elderberries one year and followed her through the process of making elderberry wine. She was a fascinating woman. A more recent influence has been Anastasia Angelopolous. Ana ran a Yahoo group years ago called “Blue Lotus Moon” — it was my first foray into using exotics like jasmine, neroli, rose, tuberose and orange blossom in soap. That really opened the door for meJustine's_Studio artistically. Ana still makes soaps using all those gorgeous ingredients and she sells her wares on Etsy.com. Ylva Rubenssen was one of the Natural Botanical Perfumers I met through that group, and she still stands out in my mind as one of the best NBP formulators I’ve ever known. And then there’s Lisa Camasi. She’s been a huge, huge influence. Lisa’s like the Natural Botanical Perfume Oracle! She gives you the answer to your burning NBP questions, but she makes you work a little for them — it’s all about the hands-on experience. She’s a font of perfumery information, and if she ever decided to teach perfumery, I’d definitely be one of her first students. I gain a lot of influence from the aromatics themselves. I finally discovered what all the fuss was over tuberose. For years I’d been apparently receiving inferior tuberose absolutes because to me they all smelled like boiled beef wieners and metal. The tuberose I recently experienced dispels all the negative feelings I previously had for tuberose. I get the honey and the floral and the sweet. And I got inspired! When I find these gems, I’m gone, in the zone, furiously writing briefs for some new spectacular perfume to create. The fact is, if I ever attempted to create all the perfumes I’ve written down, I’d be formulating for the next 100 years or more! And last, but definitely not least, my biggest influences have been my mom and dad. My dad is deceased, but while here he was my biggest cheerleader. He never made me feel as if he was disappointed by the wacky career choices I made. He thought it was “cool” that his daughter could make soap and balms and perfumes. And my mom is a constant inspiration. She’s almost as excited about Natural Botanical Perfumery as I am. And she’s got the green witch touch too, growing many of the plants I use in my home distillations, like rosemary, lavender, rose geranium, and citrus. I get calls from her at least once a week and she usually says, “Hey! Come out here and pick this bush!”

If you could pick the 10 most important aromatic ingredients, what would they be and why?
purple_white_lavender_269x149 At first I thought this was going to be an easy question, but once I got started, I realized — just ten!? I’ll give it a shot. Petitgrain sur fleur neroli because it embodies all the wonderful aromatic nuances of both petitgrain and neroli, and it just smells so delicious! It’s a perfume in its own right. Geranium absolute — this a recent discovery for me, and I realized while sniffing it that it has some of the notes of a fresh rose, those spicy and green notes that are missing from rose otto. Oakmoss because it reminds me of home. I grew up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and oakmoss is a scent which is nearly constantly wafting through the air in the summer months. And for what it does to a perfume, exalting. There’s something very visceral about oakmoss. Lavenders because of their versatility. Because of that white lavender from Samara Botane, and a hand full of really extraordinary lavenders I received in a swap last year, I’ve completely rearranged my thinking regarding lavender. The scent profiles run the gamut from exquisitely floral to abrasively herbal. Patchouli because — well, because it’s patchouli! Earthy, warm, herby — dirty! Love it. Vetiver used to be something I couldn’t stand using (since mixing it once with cocoa absolute and a few other dark oils and getting something that smelled like it needed to be scraped off the bottom of a shoe) but now I love the stuff. Again, the scent spectrum for vetiver runs from floral Sri Lankan, woody smoky Bourbon, powdery sweet Haitian, to the bitter tobacco of the Indonesian. Roses — all of them. No explanation necessary. Bergamot because it’s so darned versatile. The floral notes of bergamot make it “work” with almost anything. Vanilla because it’s luscious and sweet and comforting. And tuberose. *Swoon*

How much do you rely on actual textbooks and how much of your teaching comes from personal experimentation?  If you could split these into percentages, how would this be reflected?
old_perfumery_books_225x202There is nothing I teach in the course that I haven’t actually done. I am definitely a hands-on  learner, so I may read on a subject to get the gist of how something works, but I do to get to the practical application — I do and do again until I get it right. Right now I’m experimenting with how to standardize tinctures and evulsions. I have all the necessary equipment and am conducting trials as to how to make them work. I will have to hit up a chemist or wine maker to mentor me through the process. I have a tacit rule of thumb in that I conduct stringent field trials and bench tests before ever including any of the date in the course curriculum.

Those who practice natural perfumery are beginning to shy away from traditional perfumery training. Is it because so much emphasis is put on synthetics, and what are the factors that have spurred those working with naturals to seek or create perfumery training that focuses exclusively on natural ingredients?
I don’t think perfumery, as an art form, can be quantified. The approach is as individual as the perfumer. As such, I think our course offers unique aspects as my personal experience, training and “touch”.

Do you find that most of your students come with a previous experience, say in aromatherapy or other related business that deals with scents, or are they completely untrained with little odor recognition and simply like the idea from an intellectual standpoint?
They run the gamut. We have students from every color of the perfumery spectrum. There areJustine Crane197x221 laypersons, professionals, aromatherapists, aspiring perfumers — you name it. We strive to make our course one in which there is room for all. Everyone can feel comfortable, everyone can learn. We are apolitical. We support one another and everyone leaves the course richer than they started, with more knowledge and a larger network and community. Let me amend that — a lot of our students don’t leave. They stay on to mentor acolytes!

It has often been said that not everyone can become a ‘nose’, with the capability of discerning and identifying thousands of different scent molecules.  What stages of development do you think your perfume training gives a student in developing this ability, and what is your opinion about this somewhat limiting statement based on your experience working with developing a student’s abilities?
Again, like dance or painting, we have natural ability, and then we have training and hard work. What may appeal to you, say a Warhol, may not appeal to me, who likes Waterhouse. That’s what is so great about this medium, there’s room for everyone, and just when you think you’ve smelled it all, a fresh new talent, like rising stars Jill McKeever and Jaymie Smith, startles us all with something new and wonderful. There’s a scene in the movie “All That Jazz” where Joe Gideon tells Victoria, and I’m paraphrasing a bit, “I can’t make you a great dancer. I don’t even know if I can make you a good dancer. But if you hang in there, I know I can make you a better dancer.” That’s us in a nutshell!

I’ve often felt that it takes time and certainly hard work to establish a vocabulary that intellectually describes the myriad senses, thoughts and feelings that come into play when working with aromatics.  What advice can you give to prospective students or even the layperson who wants to embark on understanding odors and articulate them well?
beaker_bottles_243x182 Smell consciously, and study and do. The first step to building a full aromatic vocabulary is to train oneself to smell consciously, every day, and write down whatever thoughts come through, no matter how strange they may be. Not everyone does this conscious smelling thing, but as a perfumer, I feel it’s extremely important to mentally acknowledge every scent and think about how the scent makes me feel.

Do you feel that you are somewhat limited in an online course study and that some aspects might be better understood in a classroom setting, and how do you overcome any barriers this might present?
I don’t feel there are any significant limitations in our online course. We provide the students with workbooks and evaluation and formulator’s kits, so everyone starts at the same place, and works at the same pace. Teaching locally limits our reach. We have students who live in Brazil, France, Canada, Norway, Australia, England, the US — there is no way that kind of international diversity could happen on a local level, especially for a course that spans a year of instruction.

You know that I, as a supplier, am very committed to insuring not only the sustainability of aromatics ingredients, but protecting the indigenous cultures who produce them.  What do you convey to your students along those lines? Do you exclude any aromatic ingredients for ecological reasons?  What are they and why?
I know this is going to sound odd, but I aspire to be like Gandhi: I am the change I want to see in the aromatic world. It goes without saying that I eschew such cruelly obtained ingredients as civet and musk; these, I feel, will only serve to infuse the resultant product with negativity. We teach our students the facts about civet and musk, ambergris and castoreum, sandalwood, oudh, rosewood and other oils on the verge of extinction, whether it’s about unethical or illegal use or unsustainable sources, and we allow the students to make their own decisions about these products. We do, however, attempt to show the students methods of creating alternative and sustainable botanical  profiles for the above mentioned oils.

What do you see for the future of natural perfumery?  What are some of the successes, and what obstacles are presented?  What community or networking efforts might be developed that continue to elevate this fine art?
JameelThis field of artistic expression is limitless. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, someone new  comes along with something astonishing to share. If you check in to LPR, you can keep abreast of many of the success stories in our field. There is no obstacle that cannot be overcome. It has been said of me that I walk softly and carry a big scent strip — I’m not an activist, I’m more of the mouse in the corner, quietly and diligently doing my own thing. If people like what they see — and smell — they’re welcome to join in. The soapbox is not for me, it’s not my style. I think that simply by the Zen of doing, we elevate the art form. As Natural Botanical Perfumers, I believe we must support each other, lift one another up. Geesh, we have enough to worry about with the coming FDA changes, and the IFRA breathing down everybody’s necks.
We are actively seeking Natural Botanical Perfumery students. Anyone interested is heartily encouraged to contact us for details on enrollment at www.naturalperfumeacademy.com. We guarantee learning in a warm, respectful, supportive environment, and as such are always looking to strengthen our ranks. We’ve filled the current course session which begins May 24th, but are beginning a new course in September 2010 with ten spaces available. We’re also adding four additional courses, two self-study and two correspondence. More information regarding those courses will be posted on the website some time in June 2010.  We added all these extra courses because this year we were inundated with requests for enrollment, but a lot of factors prevented students from gaining access to the May session.

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This month’s Winged Seed Newsletter is out and features new Samara Botane/Nature Intelligence offerings and specials, as well as tidbits you might not know about carbohydrates and some thoughts on moving your body more.  Sign up here if you want to receive our newsletters.

 Posted by at 5:48 pm
Feb 272010
 

Here’s a quick update and addition to our conversations surrounding FDA Globalization Act and CO HB 10-1248 Colorado Safe Personal Care Products Act.

Friend and Colleague, Tony Burfield, has been fighting the good fight re: aromatic ingredient regulations in the EU. He runs the fab site Cropwatch and is a contributor on aromaconnection. He’s headed to speak at the British Society of Perfumers Safety & Regulatory Issues Symposium at Cambridge on 11th March 2010, …talk entitled "Is excessive regulation destroying the perfumery art?"

I’ve passed on to him what’s happening here re: FDA Glob Act and CO HB1248. He’s hopeful that there might be "some victory for common sense looming" and will be using information about our movement to help staunch EU march to over regulate. He is grateful for what we are doing here and passes on,  "In SE Asia anti-IFRA and anti-REACH groups are forming, since producers of natural products feel that their livelihoods are being put in hexapody by the effects of creeping legislation." This is hopeful news.

P.S. new word for my vocabulary "hexapody". 🙂 Love those Brits.

 Posted by at 3:06 pm
Nov 062009
 

According to Goethe, the most evolved plants go through a transformation from the primitive germ to the exuberance of the flower in a natural movement toward spirituality where the flower, in its impermanence and openness, represents an instant of rapture and jubilation. No other floral fragrance compares to that of the precious rose, often inspiration for poetry, prose and tales of love and sorrow. The natural fragrance extracted from the rose has become the cornerstone for many signature perfumes since time began.

‘Rosa’ comes from the Greek ‘roden’, meaning ‘red’, as the ancient rose was thought to be crimson. Avicenna, the 10th century physician and chemist used the rose as his first distillation. Perhaps the first rose distillery existed in 1612 in Shiraz, Persia. Roses have a long history of use in celebrations. Rose petals have been scattered at weddings to insure a happy marriage. Also traditionally used in meditation and formal inaugurations.

It takes about 60,000 roses (approximately 180 lb.) to make one ounce of rose otto, and similar quantities are required for other extraction methods. If you consider that it takes about a dozen and a half roses to produce 1 drop of essential oil, you will have a greater appreciation of the preciousness.

Samara Botane has carried many different extractions of rose over the years.  Here are a few to choose from along with a few tidbits of information about each.

image Rugosa Rose, Ramanas Rose or Japanese Rose (Rosa rugosa) Native to Japan, China and Korea, the petals are used to flavor Chinese tea. The plant bears slightly purplish-pink flowers and is often cultivated for its enormous rose hips, which contain a high quantity of vitamin C. This rose is said to be "richly fragrant", having "one of the most delicious fragrances to be found among roses, and very strong".  Michael Shoup recommends, "plant it where you have access to its delicious fragrance or you will end up with a well worn path leading to it." We have two rugosa bushes on the property, one now towering at about 9 ft.  The other was planted later and is a little slow poke, only about 4 ft. in height and diameter. The essential oil of the flowers in our collection is obtained by hydro distillation. Using capillary GC-FID and GC-MS; 35 major constituents are identified, and include over 100 components including citronellal, geraniol, nerol, citronellyl acetate making up over 76% of the total. In Chinese medicine, both petals and roots are used. The fragrance of Rugosa Rose is more honeyed than Bulgarian otto with a peppery or spicy note in dry-down.

May Rose Absolute, Rose de Mai, Cabbage Rose or Provence Rose (Rosa centifolia var. Nabonnand or image Rosa centifolia L. var. Lunier) Macoboy writes, "the artists do not exaggerate its beauty, but they could hardly convey the wonderful sweetness of its perfume. Indeed it has for over a century been grown in the south of France to supply the perfume industry there with attar of roses," This rich Old Rose fragrance is extracted early in the Springtime, hence the name “May” Rose. Highly sought after in perfumery, it is rare to obtain outside that industry. Considered a superior odor amongst roses, concrete production now is less than ¾ ton, representing a 22% yield from the flower. This fragrance is a full rose with cinnamon-spicy undertone, with a fresh, herbaceous sweet-honeyed note. Most rose absolute is produced in Morocco in the valleys between the High Atlas and Jbel Sarhro mountains east of Marrakech. Rose absolute is a refined, liquid extraction of fragrant compounds from the fresh blossom. Although absolutes contain essential oil compounds they differ from distilled essential oils. An absolute is a refinement of a concrete, which is a thick, fragrant material extracted from the plant using a hydrocarbon solvent. The concrete contains essential oils, fatty acids and waxes. Absolutes are extracted from concretes with pure alcohol. The alcohol dissolves and absorbs the fragrant material from the concrete. Waxes, fats and other non-aromatic contents precipitate out and are removed by filtering. The alcohol is removed through evaporation. What’s left behind is the pure, fragrant absolute – a concentration of aromatic compounds including essential oil constituents.

imageBulgarian Rose Otto (Rosa damascena) Known as the finest rose essence or ‘otto’ in the world, Bulgarian damask rose oil has been distilled for over 300 years. The exact origins cannot be traced, however, there are fossil records that show roses have existed for millions of years. It is the oldest cultivated European plant in the United States, and has been called the Queen of Flowers all over the world. The uses of rose oil date back to the ancient civilizations of Persia, Asia, Greece, Rome and Egypt. It has been and still is a symbol of love and beauty. Rose otto is steam distilled and has a pale yellow color. Most rose otto is produced in southern Bulgaria from roses grown in the valleys of the Stryama and Tundzha rivers near Plovdiv. The best oil is distilled from newly opened flowers, picked in the cool morning hours before the sun has warmed away the aroma. In order to extract every trace of the precious oil, the distillation is done in two phases. An initial distillation yields a small quantity of concentrated green essential oil and a large amount of rose flower water. The flower water is then redistilled to produce an additional amount of pale yellow colored oil that is combined with the green oil from the first distillation. The primary base notes are deep, sweet and floral with spicy middle notes. It combines well with most other essential oils for perfumery or medicinal use. Its primary constituents are citronellol, gerianol and nerol. Although most Rose Otto is used in perfumery, the therapeutic uses include: Analgesic (pain reliever), Antibacterial, antidepressant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiviral, aphrodisiac, cosmetic, deodorant, disinfectant, diuretic, emmenagogue (tones female reproductive organs and menstruation), Germicidal, hepatic sedative tonic, vulnerary (heals fresh cuts or wounds). Internal applications in the medical field include asthma, high blood pressure, bronchitis, poor circulation, diarrhea, dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), cough, fever, fluid retention, Indigestion, insomnia, palpitation, stress, urinary tract infections. For topical applications, Rose otto is specific for abrasions, boils, burns, fragile capillaries, postnatal depression, dermatitis, eczema headache, insomnia, poor memory, rashes, sores, oral thrush and tinea.

image Rose Ruh Gulab (Rosa damascena ) Another precious oil from the flower of love & passion. This extremely rare and sacred rose oil is carefully hydro distilled to produce the finest Ruh Gulab for use in love, celebration or relationship spiritual work, meditative, healing & calming rituals, sacred products, or anointing. Ruh Gulab is the most expensive attar, priced higher than gold in weight. Rose essence or Gulab Ruh, is used in flavoring Gulab Jamun (a Bengali sweet) and rose sherbet. A mild, delicate fragrance of desi (Indian) roses can be sprinkled on guests from silver rose-water sprayers’ at weddings. In the traditional process various flowers, roots, herbs, spices, etc are hydro distilled in copper vessels into a receiving vessel, using an ancient process. This means that a certain proportion of flowers or other aromatic plants is put into a copper vessel containing water, sealed and the aromatic vapors produced from a wood or cow dung fire, rises through bamboo pipes and passes into another copper vessel, sitting below the larger distilling one. There the vapors condense and after the day’s distillation the water and oil separate. This process is similar to that of producing traditional attars with the exception that no sandalwood is added.

image Rose Gallica (Rosa gallica) is commonly called Gallic Rose, French Rose, Rose of Provins and Apothecary’s Rose.  In the 19th century it was the most important species of rose to be cultivated and most modern European rose cultivars have at least a small contribution from R. gallica in their ancestry. Botanical classifiers say that R. damascenas are created from a hybridization of R. gallica and R. phoenicia occurring in Asia Minor then distributing throughout Syria and the Near and Middle East. R. gallica is a deciduous shrub much like R. rugosa with pinnate leaves and flowers clustered up to four together.   When assessing the quality of the otto produced in central and southern Europe, it is sometimes described as a crude distillation, with a few twigs and leaves included in the process. This somewhat brash, sultry cousin to the more refined damascenes from Bulgaria or Turkey should not be overlooked as a respectable perfume ingredient and it has all of the same chemical constituents as R. damascena which makes it an economical choice for aromatherapy and massage.  One might accuse the snooty finishing school damascenes of dismissing their colorful cousin from SE Europe as irrelevant, however, upon closer examination she has an exciting, street savvy personality and sings her bawdy song quite sexily with her raspy voice, especially when combined with other florals to sweeten along with perhaps some citrus and wood bottom notes.  The affordable cost of Gallic Rose also makes it a beneficial addition to creams, lotions, toners, facial masques and a wide range of skincare and bath applications.

In addition to the aromatic delights one revels in when using any of the various ottos and absolutes made from rose petals, it is a joy to grow roses in the garden for bouquets, dried petals, potpourri and other crafts.  In the kitchen, rose petals can be added to a robust black tea for flavor or made into rose petal jam.  I suspect that if women were polled across the world to name their favorite flower, it would undoubtedly be the rose.  What are some of your favorite stories about the magnificent rose?  Please share them with us.

 Posted by at 1:14 pm