Archive for February, 2013

Essential oils vs Perfumes

An ancient still extracting essential oils. From Popular Science Monthly Vol 51

An ancient still extracting essential oils. From Popular Science Monthly Vol 51

Happy Valentine’s to you all!

I’ve always loved the smell of after-shaves and perfumes. There was a time I got a real kick out of visiting a shop specialising in fragrances, perfumes and men’s after-shaves. Perhaps this has come from my Italian background, as my mum and dad, uncles and aunts and family friends always wore some kind of fragrance. However since I’ve come to learn what’s used in after-shaves, I’ve avoided them like the plague.

You see until the last 50-100 years or so, perfumes were essential oils or essential oil based. Now-a-days perfume manufacturers use animal secretions, such as musk (from the musk deer) and ambergris (a by-product of whaling), and synthetic imitations. The latter is pre-dominant, as obtaining animal secretions is quite expensive. Where plant fragrances (essential oils) are used it tends to be the lowest quality or grade, e.g. Frankincense. Then you have something like Rose oil where it takes as much as 5000 pounds of rose petals to make one pound of rose oil. Or Melissa essential oil which requires 3 tons of plant to make one pound of oil. So as a consequence, Melissa will cost anywhere between US$9000 and US$15,000 a pound. Ouch!!! Now that would hurt the hip-pockets of many perfume manufacturers. And here we come to the quintessential devil in the matter – profit!!.
Manufacturers would rather use synthetics, that not only have little or no therapeutic value but can also harm you, for the sake of the mighty dollar. So what types of fragrances do manufacturers aim to create?

Aphrodisiac fragrances

Generally speaking, they try create or re-create aphrodisiac fragrances, arousing the pleasure centres in our brains; both making us feel attractive and making us attractive to other humans. And they do this by creating blends similar to body scents.[1]
There are 3 types of body scents which correspond to hair colouring:
  • Blonds apparently have a sour cheesy scent
  • Red-heads have an acrid, sharp scent
  • Dark haired people have a sweet pungent scent very similar to perspiration.
So the perfumeries try to re-create these scents using animal secretions, plant fragrances or synthetic imitations (pre-dominantly). Let’s forget about the animal secretions and synthetics, shall we. Which essential oils correspond with the body scents we just mentioned? The following are some examples:
Essential oils from Neroli, Jasmine and other blossoms give the scent of Indole which is very animalistic in character. This is apparently a scent found in many classical perfumes.
Frankincense corresponds to the scent and persipiration of both dark-haired and red-haired people
Myrrh is similar to the scent of blond people
Geranium and carrot seed oil correspond to the scent of blonds.
Cypress apparently corresponds to the scent of blonds.
Not all essential oils have aphrodisiac properties. In a recent post I wrote for Wellbeing, Using essential oils in your love life, I go into more detail on what are some of the best oils to use and how to make blends.
One thing to note, perfumes (essential oil based or not) should never be used to cover up body odors; they will actually exacerbate those odours. And like body scents, perfume fragrances are more intense at night-time. For those of you interested in making your own perfumes, be sure to also check out my posts on making blends and making essential oil perfumes. Erich Keller’s book (see below) is also a great source of information for making your own hair and skin care products using essential oils.
Till next time

Disclaimer: Please remember that anything discussed here does not
constitute medical advice and cannot substitute for appropriate medical care. Where essential oils are mentioned, it’s recommended you use only pure, unadulterated therapeutic grade essential oils and follow the safety directions of the manufacturer.

[1] Keller, Erich, Aromatherapy handbook for beauty, hair and skin care. Rochester VT, Healing Arts Press, 1992

Further Reading:

Aromatherapy handbook for beauty, hair and skin care, Erich Keller, Healing Arts Press, 1992
Making essential oil perfumes, 11th September 2012
Aromatherapy Handbook for beauty, hair and skin care
Those of you who like me are concerned about the less than natural content in our personal care products (hair, skin care, toiletries, etc) will find this book of great value.
Erich Keller starts by describing the history and essence of modern day cosmetics and moves on to talk about what was the original source of cosmetics – essential oils.
So much of what we use today is not only denuded of therapeutic grade essential oils, but replaced with synthetics that can harm us.
Keller’s book gives people an alternative to this.
You’ll find:
  • information on the key ingredients found in natural cosmetics.
  • dealing with different skin types and hair types
  • recipes for skin care, aromatic baths, hair care and natural perfumes.
The format of the book makes it easy to use and refer back to.
All in all you’ll get great benefits from this book if you’re the kind of person interested in making their own grooming products.

Buy the book

Till next time

Sugar: the poison we ignore

Sugar crystals on a ruler.Photo by Lauri Andler, Wikimedia Commons

Sugar crystals on a ruler.
Photo by Lauri Andler, Wikimedia Commons

The other day, I heard on the news of a study from researchers at the University of Adelaide, into the effects of soft drink consumption on the dental health of children. The study (carried out on 16,800 Australian children) found that children who consumed 3 or more sweet drinks a day had 46% more decayed or missing teeth. The study calls for more warnings to be put on beverages and foods of the risk of excess sugar consumption. But I wonder if this really goes far enough. The study also found that the greatest consumption of these sugary drinks was from lowest income families.

The hidden sugar
The other and perhaps greater risk to our health is the sugar in our diets we aren’t aware of. Forget the cakes, biscuits and confectionary, I’m talking about the rest of the foods that we buy from our supermarket and the sugar that’s added to a lot of our junk food and take-away/drive-through conveniences. Now, I don’t know about you but if some barista or coffee shop was to stick one, two or more spoonfuls of sugar into my tea or coffee without asking me, I’d be a VERY upset customer. So why is this stuff being put into our food and beverages without asking us? Simple. It creates a craving in our brains; brings us back for more. So much of food science is now dedicated into how to draw a consumer into buying a food or coming back again and again.

Are taxes the answer?
Predictably there are calls for taxes to be put on these types of food and beverages. In Britain, a paper published by the group Sustain, calls for a levy to be placed on sugary beverages. This is backed by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. In Australia there have been calls for a ‘fat’ tax on high fat foods. I remain skeptical of such taxes. Just looking at the impact of taxes on alcoholic beverages and tobacco, one sees that it doesn’t have much impact on the demand for these items. All they do is increase the government coffers and keeps people complacent, that something has been done about the problem, when in fact little has. You see taxes on things like sugary beverages, fatty foods or tobacco don’t address the addictive nature of these substances.

Ultimately I believe that something like sugar needs to be taken right out of our food supply. But until the thick skulls in our regulatory bodies and governments act, it’s up to us as individuals to learn as much as we can about the dangers and act – for ourselves – and our children; who let’s face it don’t understand that sugar is hurting them.

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