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
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