Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, April 29,2012

Last week James posted a question that stumped me.  I attempted a weak answer about "why isn't there any rosa centifolia essential oil?"
Rosa centifolia photo from Aromatics International - where they sell the hydrosol of this rose

I asked three experts to help me, and they quickly came to the rescue:

Andrea Butje of Aromahead is one of those experts who is humble enough to say when something is outside of her area of knowledge:

Hi Anya,

Nice to hear from you! I *imagine* that it is because the flower petals are too delicate to withstand the heat of a distillation. That may be why it is produced only as an absolute. Must be the damascena flowers are stronger. But not being a distiller or expert on distilling roses, I can not be totally sue. Maybe ask a rose distiller? How about Alain at Florihana. He is amazing.

So I asked Alain of Florihana and he offered this expert information:
Bonjour Anya,

There is no essential oil available  because the petals do not contain any or only a very very small quantity of molecules which is not really economical to produce. The Rose centifolia is mainly used to produce concrete and absolute.

In addition rose otto is only for the rosa damascena origin and not the centifolia.



The third expert I asked was Robert Seidel of Essential Oil Company, another distillation guru.

 Hi Anya,

There is indeed Oil of Rose de Mai around.  Mostly distilled in North Africa, with some distilled in Southern Europe.  Much of the centifolia is extracted with solvents.

I believe the issue is that of volume grown and yield of oil.  Centifolia yields a smaller percentage of essential oil upon distillation (than damascena), that is why it's mostly solvent extracted.  

Best regards,
Robert Seidel

Andrea and Robert are both members of the Natural Perfumers Guild, and I am lucky to have them as expert sources!

So there you have it.  Hope this helps, James.  Now we're all a little smarter about rosa centifolia - EO and absolute.

Any other questions out there?  I'll be here until 10 PM tonight, EST USA.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Smells Like a Winner: Jasmine improves batting averages

Well, there is some room for fun double entendres.  After all, isn't jasmine associated with lusty romance, the scent known to entire the opposite sex (no matter what sex you are!)? So when I read this article, well, yes, my mind went there.

The only problem I have is with the fact that Dr. Hirsch, who is well-known for his aromatic sensory studies (remember the findings that men find lavender and pumpkin spice arousing - that was his study) is that it's never clear if he using true, natural aromatics or synths.  Are we to believe he use pricey jasmine grandiflorum?  If not, and a well-paid ball player wanted "the real stuff", believing it would give him an advantage over his synth-sniffing opponents, would he try to source from reputable suppliers?  I guess the analogy of replacing steroids in the story shows parallels of a sort :-)

Oh, and the photo below. Priceless! "Jasmine makes me bite my bat".  Please, stop me, I can't help myself, LOL.,0,4120735.story

Smells like a hit: Sox players help test theory jasmine can improve hitting

Smells like a hit: Sox players help test theory jasmine can improve hitting

Here's a curveball.
Could jasmine increase the batting performance for baseball players?
If you ask Dr. Alan Hirsch from the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, which studies how smells affect behaviors, the answer is yes. He'll be presenting his findings on Thursday to the Association of Chemoreception Sciences at its annual meeting in Huntington Beach, Calif.

In a study conducted last summer, six White Sox players alternated between wearing jasmine-scented and unscented wristbands. They sniffed them once before swinging at 10 pitches in the batting cage atU.S. Cellular Field. Each player faced the same pitcher, who tried to throw the ball consistently to the batter.

The pitcher and batting coaches rated how each player swung at the ball, connected for a hit, how far the ball went, how fast the swing was and whether the performance changed for better or worse. The pitcher and batting coaches didn't know when the players were wearing the scented and unscented wristbands. Each batter rated how he felt about the swing and batting ability.

"Across the board, they were better with jasmine. They hit better. Their follow-through was better," Hirsch said.

The results of the study mimicked Hirsch's findings that the smell of jasmine helped improve the performance of bowlers, according to a study published in 2007 in the International Journal of Essential Oil Therapeutics. Another study showed jasmine improved reaction time.

The aroma of jasmine is known to put people in a more awakened, alert state, he said. The idea is the more energized people are, the better they do in an athletic performance. He wanted to test the smell of jasmine on other athletes who have quick reflexes and good hand-eye coordination.

So, why did the baseball players do better with the scented wristbands?

The scent of jasmine could have put the players in a positive, happy mood, made them less nervous, or given them an extra boost of energy, leading them to perform better, Hirsch said. Or it could have increased hand-eye coordination and alertness. Another possibility, he said, is it could have enhanced their motivation, meaning they wanted to do better in the presence of the smell.

Even though the batters were able to smell the scent, they were unaware of the intent of the experiment and the nature of the odor.

Hirsch said he doesn't think it's enough that jasmine can be a pleasant odor. Findings from another study he conducted show lavender, an odor people like, had no effect on improving reaction time.

He admits he wasn't so sure any scent would have an effect on the highly paid major league baseball players whose job it is to play well.

But the study worked.
"Even when you're at the top of your game, you can be that much better," he said.
Maybe the Cubs need to take a whiff of jasmine in the clubhouse.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Are you as cold and flu free as me? Could it be the natural perfume materials you use, either through inhalation or ingestion? Inquiring perfumers want to know!

I want to thank Christopher of White Lotus Aromatics for bringing the passage from Chapter XXL (quoted below) from George William Askinson's book Perfumes and their Preparation (1892) to my attention. Christopher added a link to this part of Askinson's book to his Facebook feed, and I wanted to quote it here, because this passage from Askinson's book shows that the antimicrobial value of airborne essential oils were recognized as killing the bugs for many centuries. 

When I tell people I haven't had a cold or flu since December 1970 - yes, 1970 - they are shocked.  For many years, I told them that I think my use of fresh herbs and essential oils in my food and drinks built up my immune system.  EOs are fabulously anti-microbial, and many aromatherapy/medical research studies have documented that fact.  The studies, however, mostly address the inhalation or ingestion of oils after an affliction occurs, and do not speak of addressing the strengthening of the immune system over time.  The strength of the immune system is my focus, because of my freedom from viral respiratory problems.

Askinson's reference re: Ungerer is what really caught my eye - that the workers in perfume factories seemed free 'from disease of the respiratory organs...'.  So, I suppose not only my decades-old ingestion of the oils is to get the credit.  I had built up my immune system by inhalation, too.  Now, this is not news for aromatherapists, but I know that many perfumers have never studied or perhaps do not believe in aromatherapy.  This is for you, the non-choir members, because I know those of us who believe in the healing/anti-microbial properties of natural aromatics are the choir, and I don't need to preach to them.

In all fairness, I know of many perfumers who do suffer from bad colds and flus.  I also note that these tend to be older, and perhaps discovered natural essences late in life, and thus did not build up their immune system as well as I did, since I was using them since my teenage years.

Most of us do not live in a cloud of EOs, as the perfume factory workers may.  Of course, that cloud, even at barely-detectable levels, would kill the germs in the air before the workers had a chance to inhale them.

After reading the excerpt below, I'd love to hear from you - are you cold- and flu-immune?  How long have you been using EOs and absolutes?  What do you think of this post - believer or debunker, and at what level - do you constantly, almost every day, have airborne EOs around you, and/or do you also ingest them? 




WHILE the popular use of perfumes, of course, is due to the
pleasurable sensations resulting from the inhalation of their
agreeable odor, it is well to call attention to the fact that they
have a recognized antiseptic and therapeutic value as well.
A belief in the antiseptic value of perfumes is very ancient,
and the custom of burning aromatic substances was general in
times of epidemics during the middle ages, but it was not until
very recently that this belief was confirmed by practical experiments.

Criton, Hippocrates and other ancients, classed perfumes
among medicines, and prescribed them for many diseases, especially
those of a nervous kind. Pliny also attributes thera-
peutic properties to various aromatic substances, and some
perfumes are still used in modern medicine.

The late Mr. W. P. Ungerer was the first modern observer
to call attention to the antiseptic qualities of perfumes in general.
He suggested that the fact.of so few cases of tuberculosis existing
in the flower-growing districts of France was attributable to the
atmosphere being so full of the germ-killing odors of the flowers.
He also pointed out that many working in perfume laboratories
were free from disease of the respiratory organs, and that those
with bronchial affections often unconsciously cured themselves
in the atmosphere filled with the odors of the volatile oils.

Later this theory, based upon years of observation, was con-
firmed by several series of scientific experiments as to the germi-
cidal qualities of several of the essential oils used in perfumes.
M. Chamberland, of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, MM. Cadeac,
Meunier, and Smetchensko experimented along the same line
and M. Charrin presented a note to the French Biological Society,
emphasizing and supporting their conclusions.

To read more about the experiments, you can read the Askinson book at Google by clicking here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Anya's Garden Perfumes - Module 1 of the Natural Perfumery Institute's basic course

A main element of the basic natural perfumery course from the Natural Perfumery Institute is the intent to bring the student a strong foundation in all aspects of perfumery.  Below is a sample of one of the technical reports known as a GC - gas chromatograph.  The basic course does not go far into the reading of such a technical report, as that requires much more in-depth study to be able to interpret.  Being aware of such reports, and knowing some of the basics of it, and why it is valuable, is covered.


1.12:  Forms, Sheets, and Charts for Module 1                                                       
Organoleptic Evaluation Forms                                                                               
Organoleptic Evaluation Form - Sample                                                              
Organoleptic Evaluation Form                                                                             
Aromatic Lexicon                                                                                                 
A Chart of Relative Intensity/Impact Levels of Natural Aromatics                                   
Sample MSDS Sheet                                                                                           
Sample Certificate of Analysis       
Sample of Gas Chromatography Report (GC)                                                     

Golden Boronia absolute sale - for Anya's Garden Perfumes newsletter subscribers only

Dear readers: you have until midnight tonight, Apr 23, to sign up. 

Alert for those who love beautiful natural aromatics: this week I'm going to have an incredible sale on golden boronia absolute. IF you can find it elsewhere, the price is much, much higher than what I'll be offering the 4mls for. This will be offered to my newsletter subscribers only, so please sign up at:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, April 22, 2012

Have you planted fragrant plants in anticipation of using them for tinctures, distillation or another means of extraction.  I have this pricey butane extraction unit that I was given to play around with, but I need a source of PURE butane before I can use it.  Anybody in the South Florida area know of one? Acme Gas doesn't carry it.  I'd love to use the butane extractor, but I'll settle for any of the above processes in the meantime.  If you have any perfumery questions this Sunday, I'll be here until 10 PM EST USA to help.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rangoon Creeper - a new flower for perfumery

Last year Trygve of Enfleurage asked me if I was growing Quisqualis in my fragrant garden.  She knew I grew and harvested fragrant flowers leaves and roots for scent extraction.  The distillations, tinctures and enfleurage washes are made from my garden bounty and find their way into my perfumes.  At first the name didn't register, then I remembered Rangoon Creeper, a vine that is almost a weed here in South Florida.

It can spread aggressively, covering trees and buildings! I decided to give it a try, on a length of fence on the far side of my property, a place that doesn't get any supplemental irrigation.  Within one year, the vine is about 25' long, and is setting out spreader branches in several directions.  I'll prune it to keep in check, and in the meantime, I'm enjoy the nighttime/early morning fragrance of the thousands of flowers blooming.  I'm growing the single-flowers variety, and there is a double-flowered variety available.  The double-flowered variety is most fragrant in the afternoon.

The fragrance?  Intoxicating - sweet, fruity and floral.

I have read of it coming back from hard freezes in zone 8.  If you want to grow it in a cold climate, I recommend you join an online gardening forum for your area and ask for tips.

I'm still pondering how to extract the scent.  I'll probably do 50/50 - tincure half and enfleurage half.  

Quisqualis indica

The flowers open white, then turn pink, then red.  Spectacular!

The Rangoon Creeper has a long flowering season, spring through fall.

So much growth in one year!  I couldn't get the entire 25' in one photo.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

From The Vintage Vault - An Art Deco beauty from Devilbiss c. 1927

This is the first perfume bottle I ever purchased as a collectible.  I was living in Syracuse, New York and was a student.  I couldn't resist this Devilbiss black and chrome Art Deco beauty, and I have cherished it from the day I obtained it.  It's traveled from Syracuse to Tampa, to Philadelphia, to Naples (FL) and then Fort Lauderdale and eventually to Miami.  It now resides on the upper right shelf of my new perfume display cabinet.  It only cost $12, but it is priceless and irreplaceable to me.  From research, I believe it was made in 1927.

A triptych view of my Devilbiss:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dear Friends:

I'm back hosting "Ask the Perfumer" every Sunday, after a few weeks off due to the death of my mother.  Life changes can be traumatic, but also a look towards a future that, if you're a  positive person like myself, holds many wonderful possibilities.  I didn't blend at all the past five or six months, because of my energies being channeled towards my mother, but I now feel renewed and will soon be back to making mods, challenging myself with the direction the perfume takes, and otherwise being engaged in all things related to natural perfumery, education, and the Guild.

I'd love to again start receiving your perfume-making queries, so I'll be here until 10 PM EST (USA).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Perfume Bottle Necklace - Good Idea or Bottle Half Empty?

An industrial designer has come up with an interesting concept: jewelry as a perfume bottle.  I like that the little sprayer is in the necklace.  I don't care for the modern, stark design, but that's subjective.

 I can see one big flaw in this design.  The original concept is good, but as you use the perfume, the amount in the "jewel" piece goes down, as it would in a bottle.  Might not be so attractive then.  That's one reason I never added necklaces with glass pendants to hold perfume.  To me, it would just look strange to have a half-full pendant.  Do you agree?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The State of Natural Perfumery 2012 - a Collaborative Writing Project

Several natural perfumers and the owner of a natural perfume company joined me in writing "The State of Natural Perfumery 2012" for Basenotes. It's fascinating and enlightening to see everyone's individual take on our fragrant art. I hope you enjoy this unique, collaborative effort.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Frankincense Friday - Little Frankie is leafing out after waking up from his dormant period

On December 19, 2011, I wrote about the arrival of my little frankincense tree.  Click here to read and see the photo.  Even for a dormant tree, Little Frankie looked pretty poorly.  The heat pack that he was shipped with torched his growing tip, and fried his few remaining leaves.  I potted him up in a cactus soil mix, put him on my kitchen windowsill and watered him with about a teaspoon of filtered water once or twice a week.  I'm sure my housekeeper thought I was overly optimistic, as he looked like a bare, dead twig.

On March 18, Jeanne Rose wrote to me via my Anya's Garden Perfumes group on Facebook, asking how my tree was doing, as she believed hers, purchased at the same time, was dead.  Later that day I observed Little Frankie starting with the tiniest of leaves flushing out, and told Jeanne to have patience, perhaps her tree would come out of dormancy, too.

I had been cautiously optimistic, because the dead tip, also the site of the apical meristem in the plant, troubled me.  If it continued to shrivel up, moving down the plant, that meant that perhaps there was a bacteria or fungus causing the shriveling, not just the heat-induced shriveling.  The tip shrivel didn't progress, and I predicted that since the hormone auxin was now destroyed, and the dormant side branches of Little Frankie would really sprout.  It's similar to the action taken when you snip back the growing tip of basil, and you get side shoots.  Auxin prevents side shoots from developing, and snipping that tip off allows the plant to send out side shoots.

Little Frankie sure responded to the lack of auxin!  He's covered in side shoots, and looks very healthy. I'll keep you updated on his progress.  I may keep him indoors because although the frankincense plant can take a lot of humidity, the heavy rains of Miami's summers may be too much.  I plan on getting a second frankincense plant soon, so I may experiment.  Here are some photos of Little Frankie, a naked twig no more.

Little Frankie on March 18, 2012 just starting to leaf out after winter dormancy

Little Frankie on April 6, 2012, showing tip dieback

April 6, 2012 - Little Frankie's leaves are shiny and healthy