"Throw away the crutch of knowledge and use the Knowing..." Thomas Elpel.

The Power of Plant Oils is a forum for learning about the therapeutic use of essential oils.
This 13 module course is a means of acquiring the knowledge and experience so you can KNOW the properties
and uses of the plants and their oils.

Please read this blog from the bottom up and check out previous posts to the right under Blog Archives.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Oldest "Perfumery" Ever Discovered:

(The following article appeared in The Age [www.theage.com] on 22 March 2007)

4,000 year-old Perfumes Found on Aphrodite's Fabled Island:

ITALIAN archaeologists have found the world's oldest perfumes on Cyprus.

The perfumes were scented with extracts of lavender, bay, rosemary, pine or coriander and kept in tiny translucent alabaster bottles.

The remaining traces found at Pyrgos, in the south of the island, are more than 4000 years old.

They were discovered inside what archaeologists believe was an 3995-square-metre perfume-making factory.

"We were astonished at how big the place was," the leader of the archaeological team, Maria Rosaria Belgiorno, said. "Perfumes must have been produced on an industrial scale."

At least 60 stills, mixing bowls, funnels and perfume bottles were perfectly preserved at the site, which had been blanketed in earth after a violent earthquake about 1850BC.

The abundance of perfumes fits well with Cyprus' mythological status as the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.

"The goddess' myth was strongly linked to the perfume she used to get what she wanted," the head of Cyprus' antiquities department, Pavlos Flourentzos, said.

The finds are now on display at the Capitoline Museum in Rome.

Four of the perfumes have been re-created from residues found at the site.

An Italian foundation, which aims to re-create antique traditions, distilled them according to techniques described by Pliny the Elder, by grinding the herbs, adding them to oil and water, and burying them in a long-necked jug over hot embers for 12 hours.

"It smells good, but strong," museum visitor Alessia Affinata, 30, said. "I can smell the pine especially," said Giulia Occhi Villavecchia, 23.

Neither was sure they would actually wear them.


And from the head archeologist, Maria Rosaria Belgiorno from http://www.pyrgos-mavroraki.net:

M.R. Belgiorno "I Profumi di Afrodite" - Gangemi 2007 :

The most ancient prescriptions to make perfumes with olive oil come from Sumer. They have been written on some clay tablets since the IV millennium. A mention of perfume fragrance is present in the holy hymns, in the heroic histories and mythology, as in the Gilgamesh tale. In turn, the Egyptians considered perfumes a necessity of life and death, of personal prestige and religion.

In Egypt sacred and profane found a real common denominator in production and use of perfumes and cosmetics. However, nobody knows when in Egypt the production begun, possibly it was a trade from Sudan, the legendary land of Punkt, home of all the spices.

However, the use of scents in olive oil started in the Mediterranean around the middle of the fourth millennium, when small vases for cosmetics and perfumes appeared among the funerary goods. Around the same date the first types of alabaster vases appeared, probably invented intentionally for the storage and conservation of oil perfumes. Stone is the best material to keep fragrant oil scents in a dark and fresh environment to prevent it from going rancid. Nevertheless, probably it was the torrid climate which suggests the olive oil maceration system. The procedure consisting in preparing an infusion of fragrant plants in rain water and olive oil (at 50 %) in a recipient left at a medium temperature (50-70°), for different times (between 1 to 5 days). During this period, vegetable fibres soaked completely releasing essential oils in water to join the olive oil on the surface. Water and olive oil maceration has been the most common method in antiquity, used until the late Roman times. Numerous recipes tell precise ways and times to obtain essences and the quantities of fragrant compounds necessary to make a specific perfume. Theophrastus, Plinius the senior and Dioscorides had traded most of these recipes. Maceration in oil and water was in antiquity the most used method, described in details by Theophrastus, Plinius the senior and Dioscorides.

At Pyrgos, the eastern side of the olive pressroom hosted the perfumery. It was arranged in a large sector of floor where 14 pits plastered with calcarenite and talc have been carved.

Each hosted a jug for the maceration, but around the pits, hundreds of flint blades of different shapes and dimensions have been found mixed with more than 70 clay vases. The finding of two paraphernalia to still fragrance essences, was of special interest. Each of them was composed by four pieces: two jugs, one alembic head and one basin. All pottery was made in metallic ware to support high temperatures.

(Sounds to me like this may have been an essential oil distillery where plant oils were extracted through distillation and infusion for therapeutic purposes. The oils they used weren't typically perfume oils and they do have therapeutic properties. Cultures during this time used these oils as medicines. I'm guessing that these lovely vials were medicine bottles, not perfume bottles.)

According to the kind of scents produced and considering the pottery typology found in the perfumery there is evidence of three methods utilised at Pyrgos to extract aromatic essences: boiling, distillation and maceration in hot water and olive oil. The first procedure, water boiling, was for the extraction of resins and oil compounds from the barks, which, after the boiling, were squeezed in a cloth turned by two sticks. The second, distillation, was mainly used to extract essential oils from flowers; the third, maceration in water and olive oil (or almond oil), takes scents from roots, musk, leaves and vegetable parts.

From www.kinyras.com:

A particular attention is devoted to the funnels found in the factory of scents, which are a real novelty in the Mediterranean repertoire. The objects are composed of a spherical bowl with handle and a long spout vertically positioned under the base. A similar funnel was found in the excavation of Alambra (Coleman, J.E., Barlow, J.A., Mogelonsky, M.K. and Scharr, K.W., 1996. Alambra. A Middle Bronze Age Settlement in Cyprus, Archaeological Investigations by Cornell University 1974-1985 (Sima) Jonsered)) in room 8 of building IV, associated to material similar to the Pyrgos perfume factory, including a possible alembic head.

Given the lack of contemporary comparisons, it is plausible that this kind of funnel is a Cypriot invention of the Early-Middle Bronze Age. A close examination of the form and its possible use suggest that funnels were related to the manufacture of perfumes, utilised not only to transfer the essence, but mostly to separate the essential oils during the distillation. The funnel is indispensable in the process of distillation, since after it you can remove the water through the spout preserving the essential oils inside the body of the funnel. The flow of waste water is today controlled by a kind of valve, while in the past it was sucient to put in the middle a cloth or some cotton in order to prevent the precious essential oil to be wasted.

Similar funnels have been found on Ein Ghedi oasi (Israel, Dead Sea), (Dothan Dunayevski and Mazar: En-Gedi, The First and Second Seasons of Excavation 1961–1962. ‘Atiqot 5), famous for the production of a rare perfume, the persimmon. It was considered three times more precious than gold, and it was probably obtained from the resin of Commiphora opobalsamum, a type of myrrh that had a special fragrance. Glass funnels are common in the equipment of alchemical laboratories since the Roman period.


If, indeed, these funnels are a Cypriot invention, then it would follow that the distillery at Ein Ghedi is either not as old as the one in Cyprus, or is at least a contemporary. Since Pyrgos is located about 50 miles from my childhood home, I am very excited about this discovery - pretty much right in my old backyard!

(NB: The island of Cyprus is located in the eastern Mediterranean, south of Turkey, west of Syria/Lebanon, and north of Egypt. It is at the crossroad of ancient civilizations.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Natural Perfume-Making with Essential Oils

The following article is reprinted from the American College of Healthcare Sciences newsletter:

by Doreen Peterson, ACHS president

Looking for a natural perfume? A fragrance that does not contain a collection of synthetic chemicals, which place a burden on your liver and other detoxifying organs?

Wander through any perfume counter at the local department store and your olfactory system is bombarded with aromas. Some have names you recognize like gardenia, jasmine, or even rose. But, if you take a closer look at these perfume formulas, it is unlikely you will find anything resembling plant-sourced material even though they may use the term “natural” or “nature identical.” Don’t be fooled. These terms do not mean the perfume was blended from essential oils or absolutes, which are all distilled, expressed, or dissolved from plant leaves, flowers, stems, roots, or seeds in a solvent base.

Unlike perfumes made from plant-based materials, most perfume counter perfumes are made from a combination of synthetic chemicals, derived from petroleum. These ingredients allow perfumers to create an array of fragrances that are either unavailable or difficult to obtain in nature. Of course they are less expensive, too.

However, there is growing public awareness about the relationship between synthetic ingredients—potential toxins—and health challenges. To maintain optimal health, natural perfume blending is a healthy green alternative. These perfumes are made from high-quality essential oils, which are known to have therapeutic health benefits and are truly natural. In this context, the term “natural” refers to plant-sourced perfumes. The plants are grown or wildcrafted naturally and, preferably, grown organically (without synthetic pesticides) and sustainably whenever possible.

It is fun and easy to create an exquisite essential oil or absolute perfume blend that is as beguiling and aromatic as any department store perfume, but has the added benefit of health-promoting qualities. Let’s take a look at how.

How to Successfully Create a Natural Perfume

Essential oils are a complex blend of aromatic constituents that fall into three descriptive categories called notes: more specifically, top notes, body (or middle) notes, and base (or fixative) notes. Essential oil perfume blends are more successful when they are created with oils from each of the aroma categories.

A top note is like a first impression. This note is short lasting and the most difficult note to reproduce artificially. Top note essential oils include: Anise (Pimpinella anisum), Bergamot (Citrus aurantium var. bergamia), Mandarin (Citrus reticulata), Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara), and Peppermint (Mentha piperita).

The middle note is the body of the fragrance. Unlike the top note, which only lingers for minutes, the middle note effervesces for one to two hours. Often referred to as the bouquet or heart of the fragrance the middle note is easier to reproduce artificially and includes oils like: Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans), and New Zealand Tea Tree (Leptospermum scoparium).

By contrast, the base note (also called the fixative or dryout note), supports the top and middle notes. The base note can linger for up to one day, and is selected for a blend because of its resonance, strength, and depth. Base note essential oils include: Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica), Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin), New Caledonia Sandalwood (Santalum austrocaledonicum), and Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata var. genuine). Note that East Indian Sandalwood, traditionally used to impart a rich, woody aroma, has been overharvested and is now considered endangered. New Caledonia Sandalwood, which has a similar constituent profile, is an environmentally friendly alternative.

All essential oils contain qualities of top, middle, or base note aromas to some degree. However, when blending a perfume, essential oils are selected for how their notes work in combination. For example, Lemon (Citrus limonum) oil has a fresh top note, a faint body note, and a very faint base note. Therefore, Lemon essential oil may not be a good selection for perfume blending because its scent fades quickly unless it is blended with a tenacious base note that harmonizes.

Blending Your Essential Oils

By and large, your perfume blend should reflect your personal tastes. However, there are a few general rules to keep in mind.

Evaluate strength

When blending oils together, the strength of each separate essential oil should be taken into account. For example, Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) and Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) may be your favorite scents, but are they balanced? Chamomile is a middle note and Lavender is a top note. If you were to mix one drop of each, your perfume would be imbalanced; Chamomile would dominate. Therefore, to create a balanced perfume you would want to blend one drop of Chamomile essential oil with four to eight drops of Lavender. Try this. It is a great experiment to help you understand aroma dominance.

You are the expert!

Selecting five or six essential oils will keep your perfume harmonious and understated. To select your oils, first try to imagine an overall mood, emotion, or experience that you want to portray. Then, narrow your oil selection by association. For example, if you want to capture spring, fresh scents like Bergamot (Citrus aurantium var. bergamia), Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), and Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara) would be appropriate. But, here you have three oils that are top-note dominant. So, pick your favorite one or two and then try other combinations of base and middle notes until you find something that works for you.

Once you have made your final selection of oils you are ready to blend. To determine how much of each ingredient to include, base your blend on a small quantity to start, say a 25-drop total. Then, decide what you want the overall scent perception to be. In other words, are you looking for more of a citrus daytime perfume, or are you looking for an intensely feminine floral?

From here, blend in percentages where less is more (it is much easier to add fragrance than to mask or take away). For example, if you want a warm, spicy fragrance, start with five drops of a light citrus, add two to five drops each of a spice and herbal middle note, and then add two to five drops of a floral. Blend from here, adding more or less to preference as you go.

At each stage of blending, take a short break. This will curb “scent overload,” and will also allow the fragrance a few moments to settle into its true nature.

Use perfume-blending strips to test your perfume every step of the way. Write your initial formula down and when you are ready, use the same ratios to increase the volume of your concentrate.

From Essential Oil Blend to Perfume

The primary difference between an essential oil blend and a perfume is the inclusion of diluents, which help to harmonize the blend and make it easier to use as a fragrance.

Don’t think you have to add anything further though. As is, you can use your essential oil blend topically, where it will be directly absorbed into your skin. Not only will your blend envelop you in a satisfying aroma but, depending on the oils included, it may also be providing antibiotic or anti-inflammatory properties as seen with both Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and Peppermint (Mentha piperita) essential oils.

Essential oil perfume blends do not lose their aromatherapeutic benefits and can, in fact, improve in aroma. Inhaling essential oil perfume blends can also have balancing, energizing, and calming effects, and with correct storage, can remain therapeutic topically for three to six months after blending.

So, where to start? For an aroma that is long lasting and customized, perfume is the solution. Focus on the end mood of your perfume and the therapeutic qualities will follow. With a few essential oils, base ingredients, and bottles you can create a perfume that is a lavish treat without making a large investment.


To create a traditional parfum, blend 15-30% essential oil concentrate with 70-85% alcohol ethyl and 0-10% distilled water.

For eau de parfum, a scent lighter than parfum, blend 10-15% essential oil concentrate with 70-80% alcohol ethyl and 5-20% distilled water.

For a hint of eau de toilette fragrance, blend 5-10% essential oil concentrate with 75-85% alcohol ethyl and 5-20% distilled water.

This article appeared in the ARC Newsletter September

Reprinted with permission from the NAHA E-Journal (2009.3).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Eucalyptus globulus

This month's oils are Clove (Syzigium aromaticaum),
Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), Elemi (Canarium luzonicum) and Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus).

In this post, I'll share a little about eucalyptus essential oil.

Many people are familiar with the warm, medicinal smell of eucalyptus. It's a common ingredient in over-the-counter cold remedies. Of course, for therapeutic purposes, we only use genuine and authentic, pure, unadulterated essential oils from a specific genus and species.

Eucalyptus is a native tree to Australia and Tasmania and is now found on many continents. For example, in Ecuador, two species of eucalyptus were imported from the Land Down Under: E. radiata and E. citriadora. They have intermingled and cross-pollinated over the years to yield a distinct species with a unique aroma. Young Living Essential Oils has distilled this plant to produce an essential oil (Blue Eucalyptus) with a soft, dusky aroma that has both anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities.

At present, about 25 eucalyptus species are used to produce oil.


Eucalyptus is a word that means "well-covered", referring to the lid-like cover of the bud.

Baron Von Muller, a German botanist who was the director of the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne in 1873, was the first to suggest that the leaves of the eucalyptus might be useful as a disinfectant. It was frequently planted in marshy areas, where its heavy water requirements made it extremely useful in preventing the malarial fever epidemics in swampy areas. The eucalyptus tree is one of the earliest native medicines used in Australia.

Medicinal Uses:

Eucalyptus globulus is an effective analgesic, having an immediate pain-relieving and soothing action. It is also antibacterial, antiseptic, antifungal, wound healing, a decongestant, and an expectorant (expels mucous from the lungs.)



Alcohol, 90%: 4-5 cups

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) oil: 6-t

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) oil: 3-t

Pine (Pinus sylvestris) oil: 3-t

Lemon (Citrus limonum) oil: 2-t

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) oil: 2-t

Mix all ingredients. To prepare as an inhalation, add 3-t to 6 cups of hot water. This mixture can also be added to the bath water or to footbaths. Use 3 drops in the bath or 1-2 drops in a footbath.

Rubbing Oil

Olive oil: 1-cup

Marjoram (Origanum majorana) oil: 10 drops

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) oil: 8 drops

Cajuput (Melaleuca leucadendron var. cajuputi) oil: 4 drops

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) oil: 2 drops

Mix together and massage painful joints with the warmed oil.

(This formula may be even more effective with peanut oil instead of olive.)