About Natural perfumes
A Short Anthology of Perfumes.
There are 17,500 aromatic plant species among higher plants and approximately 3,000 essential oils are known out of which 300 are commercially important for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and perfume industries apart from pesticidal potential. In nature essential oils play an important role in the protection of the plants as antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, insecticides and also against herbivores by reducing their appetite for such plants.
At its core perfume, or parfum, is a mixture of fragrant essential oils, aroma materials, fixatives and extracts.
Modern advances in chemistry has resulted in the ability to break down natural compounds into their single chemical components and even synthesize these individual chemicals for use in perfumery.
These advances have given the modern Perfumer a far wider palette of raw materials to use than ever before. But, more than simply a mixture of natural and synthetic aroma chemicals, perfume is an emotion. That is really the key to great perfumery, capturing an emotion and then sharing it with the world.
Perfumes have the power to let you relive an emotion, a far off place, or a memory from your childhood. This is perhaps the true benefit of perfumes.
Perfumery as the art of making perfumes, is believed to have begun in ancient Egypt and later refined by the Romans and then the Persians. These perfumes were made simply by crushing flowers and other aromatics and blending them with oils, including many available herbs and spices to enhance this basic form of perfumery.
Later the process was refined to the extracting of oils by means of distillation from the 11th century on, a procedure which is still commonly used today. These oils are then blended with alcohols to develop a more delicate fragrance and to allow the fragrance to dry more quickly on the skin.
Traditionally fragrances have always been created using a scale to measure the differing amounts of each ingredient. This is the most accurate way to measure perfumery materials as the variance in specific gravity between each raw material can mean a large difference in volume & final scent outcomes. Fragrances have been made with care by hand for centuries and we endeavour to continue this tradition in providing you with your own fragrances.
The development of natural fragrances has always been by a Perfumer or Parfumier, also called a Nose, another practice which high quality boutique perfumers adhere to for your own fragrance’s selections. We believe it keeps the traditional warmth and humanity in perfumery, as opposed to the sterile laboratory feel of a gas chromatograph and complex robotic machinery churning out large volumes of industrial perfumes now almost universally adopted by large commercial perfume & cosmetics manufacturers all over the world.
Essential oils are pure liquids containing aroma compounds that are removed from the seeds, flowers, leaves, roots, and stems or bark of plants through methods such as distillation, expression or extraction. These oils carry the distinctive essence, or scent, of the plant it was made from and are frequently used in perfumes, flavorings and medicines. The only way to scent candles naturally is with pure essential oils.
Because essential oils are not available for every scent used, synthetic concentrated chemicals aroma compounds which come in powder or liquid form, are used instead.
The Cost of Fragrance Oils
the variety of essential oils and synthetic aroma chemicals used to produce quality fragrance oils means the cost of each will vary. When a fragrance has several essential oils or contains distinctive aroma chemicals, the cost will be higher. Since the price of a scent is determined by its components, some of the more unique complex fragrances are more expensive to develop.
What Are Essential Oils?
Aromatherapy essential oils are naturally occurring substances found in different parts of plants – the blossom, fruit, leaf, stem, bark, wood or resin. Through a complicated and often expensive process of steam distillation or solvent extraction, both hydrosol and essential oils are produced. Each essential oil is comprised of between 50 to 500 different naturally occurring chemicals, which can have both positive and negative effects. For example, cinnamon essential oil is known for its antiseptic and astringent properties yet it is highly irritating to the skin and caution must be taken.
What Are Essential Oils Used For?
In aromatherapy pure essential oils are used in a way to positively affect physical, emotional and mental health. They enter the body through the skin (via massage or bath) or the olfactory system (via a diffuser or humidifier). Essential oils may be used to enhance mood, to relieve symptoms such as pain, fatigue or inflammation, or be used to kill germs.
What Are Fragrance Oils?
Fragrance oils, aromatic oils or perfume oils as they are sometimes called, are manufactured scents. They are artificially created fragrances and they contain artificial substances. They are specifically designed to mimic the scent of a natural product (such as coffee fragrance oil) or are created to invoke a feeling (for example “spring rain”). The range of scents is enormous and fragrance oils are quite inexpensive.
What Are Fragrance Oils Used For?
Fragrance oils are used primarily in the manufacture of perfumes, cosmetics and flavorings. They are also used by soap and candle makers to enhance the smell of their product. While some essential oils can also be used by soap and candle makers, they are not as commonly used for these purposes due to cost and a more complex blending procedure.
Precious essential oils are so called because they have wonderful scents and they are more expensive than other oils. These essential oils have a long history of use for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Their expense is either a result of the smaller amount of essential oil contained in the plants or because of the lengthy and difficult processes to produce them. Light versions (3% essential oil in jojoba carrier oil) of Jasmine, Neroli and Rose are available.
Hydrosols are also known as hydrolats or steam distillates. They are 100% non-alcoholic waters that are drawn straight from the aromatherapy still. They are a true product of distillation and cannot be manufactured synthetically.
A hydrosol”s properties are similar to those of its corresponding essential oil. The difference is that hydrosols are much less concentrated, and they are missing the terpene hydrocarbon. This makes them very tolerable, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic substances. Hydrosols can be used in creams, lotions, compresses, facial misters, body sprays and other recipes. They are great for skin that has seen too much sun as well as for rashes and burns. Hydrosols are soothing and antiseptic. They are gentle enough to be used on children, pets, and the elderly, where essential oils may be too powerful. 100% natural, no additives. We recommend keeping your hydrosols in the fridge to extend their shelf life.
Hydrosols & Aromatherapy
In the late 80″s and early 90″s one of the biggest problems that essential oil distillers had was what to do with the by-product of the distillation process, hydrosol. It soon became apparent that hydrosols had their own healing properties and benefits. Hydrosols are now also known as floral waters, hydrolats, and essential waters.
The steam distillation process of essential oils itself is remarkably simple. Plant material is placed in a still and water is boiled underneath it. As steam rises through the plant material it brings with it the essential oil. As it passes through the condenser and cools, the steam goes back to its liquid form. As it settles, the water left over (which is heavier) falls to the bottom of the collection container and the essential oil sits on top. The essential oil is then scooped off and the left over water is hydrosol.
Essential Oil Stills
Stills used in the production of essential oils come in all sizes – small ones for home use (about a gallon) or larger commercial ones that distill thousands of gallons. Smaller farms often have a portable still that the farmer on a tractor pulls out to the field where the harvesting is done. These stills are between 100 and 200 gallons. This means that every time a distillation process is finished and the farmer has to skim off the essential oil, they have to get rid of about 200 gallons of hydrosol. In the past this “waste water” was often used to water the crops, was buried in plastic containers in the ground or was set up to slowly leak back into the ground.
Uses of Hydrosols
What to do with hydrosols is no longer a problem, thanks to people like Suzanne Catty who wrote the book Hydrosols – The Next Aromatherapy and has spent many years promoting all the wonderful ways to use them. There are many recipes online or in books that will help you to find ways to naturally and effectively use hydrosols in your home and health care.
So why would one use hydrosol rather than essential oil? Essential oils are highly concentrated and need to be diluted in a carrier oil (such as sweet almond oil) to be used on the body. Hydrosols are much less concentrated and have a low pH making them safe for use on the skin for cleansing, cooling, removing makeup or a general freshen up. They can be used to clean babies bottoms (instead of wipes which often contain alcohol) and for menopausal women who feel the need to freshen up and cool down. Hydrosols can be added to creams, lotions, compresses, facial misters, body sprays and other recipes.
Because of its antiseptic qualities, Tea Tree hydrosol is great for teens with troubled skin. Apply it to the face with a cotton pad or cotton ball. If you wax or do any hair removal, spray Tea Tree hydrosol on afterwards to remove the sting and redness. Lavender hydrosol is excellent for cuts and scrapes as it helps to clean the wound as well as calm the wounded! Diaper rash can be helped with a spritz of diluted Chamomile hydrosol or blended 50/50 with Lavender hydrosol.
References: Catty, Suzanne. 2001. Hydrosols: The next aromatherapy. Canada: Healing Arts Press
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