Monthly Archives: December 2011

Moving forward with Cape Chamomile

Cape Chamomile / Eriocephalus punctulatus / Boegoekapok

Whether you are reflecting on the past year or planning for the next one, Cape Chamomile can assist you in this time of transition.  This deep blue essential oil with its fine fruity fragrance is distilled from Eriocephalus punctulatus, an aromatic bush from the mountainous areas of the Eastern Free State and Eastern Cape Province.

Cape Chamomile will be my EOTD (Essential Oil of the day) for the last two days of the old year.  In some African cultures the fumes of the burning leaves, twigs and flowers are used to disinfect the home after a death has occurred and also to clear away any evil spirits (a similar way to Kooigoed) In the absence of having a twig to burn, I will have to use the essential oil in a burner.

Apart from the transitional properties, Cape Chamomile oil is used to alleviate stress, depression and anxiety. The presence of linalyl acetate in the oil means it has similar properties to lavender as a sleep enhancer and relaxant. It is not related to German and Roman Chamomile essential oil and is 100% South African.

Perfumers use Cape Chamomile to blend with delicate scents such as rose. I’ve discovered natural perfumes and candles with fynbos fragrances made by Mandy Aftelier. She combined Cape Chamomile with Blue Mountain Sage to create a true South African fragranced candle.

Whether you use Cape Chamomile for its fine fragrance, as a stress reliever or to clear your mind, heart or home – have a wonderful transition to 2012!

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Christmas smells like Katjiepiering

Gardenia jasminoides / Katjiepiering Photo: Wikipedia

My favourite fragrance association with Christmas is a combination of gardenia flowers, pine needles and watermelon.  Mixed with the smell of seaweed from Stinkbaai and dekriet from the thatched roof of our holiday home at the southern tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas. How I wish I could bottle this fragrance to bring back memories of sunny holidays during the rainy Cape winters and send it to friends who emigrated to countries with white Christmases.

Gardenia jasminoides or Katjiepiering in Afrikaans, is also called Cape jasmine or Cape jessamine based on the earlier assumption that the plant originated in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.  It actually originated in Asia and as a tropical plant it thrives best in warm and humid environments.  The gardenia family (Rubiaceae) is a large cosmopolitan family with coffee, Coffea arabica as a member.

A true South African relative is Gardenia thunbergia – the White Gardenia, Forest Gardenia or Wild Gardenia from KwaZulu-Natal with beautiful Afrikaans names like Witkatjiepiering, Buffelsbal and Kannetjiesboom.  The decorative white fruits of this plant will make wonderful natural Christmas baubles.

The fruit of Gardenia thunbergia/ White Gardenia / Witkatjiepiering Photo: the floweringgarden.com

I was thinking about the origin of the Afrikaans name Katjiepiering which translates to “kitten saucer”. For those of you who allowed yourself to get carried away by the royal wedding this year, The Duchess of Cambridge (formerly known as Kate Middleton) was wearing a perfume called Illuminum White Gardenia Petals. Maybe that is why Prince William looked like a kitten who got his saucer of milk!

To create an aromatic Christmas arrangement for my home I’ve picked my favourite fynbos like geranium, buchu, snowbush and confettibush and added gardenia flowers to drift on water in a salad bowl.  You can also make a wreath with a circular oasis and add ribbons and a few Gardenia thunbergia  fruit for the festive effect. Always a good idea to have gardenia in any form to either keep your Prince close or invite one in…

Cotton with Cape snowbush

Eriocephalus africanus / Cape snowbush / Wild rosemary / Kapokbos (Afr) Photo from anniesannuals.com

In Cape Town the closest you will get to snow in December will be the fluffy cotton-like seeds of Cape snowbush or wild rosemary (Kapokbos in Afrikaans). At this time of year we need to be gentle with ourselves but it is almost impossible with everything that must be done before Christmas. Holidays can be extremely stressful for some people, and especially for those who struggle with being out of their comfort zone. This is an excellent time to wrap yourself in the sedative, restorative and mood enhancing fragrance of the essential oil distilled from this aromatic plant.

Cape snowbush is a pale yellow oil with a unique combination of bitter, spicy and aromatic notes.  If you need to allow yourself time to heal, or if recovering from depression of addiction this warm fragrance may help by “warming your emotions”. It can also help with letting go and clearing the mind of negative thoughts.

Kapokbos have been used in South African households as a hair tonic as well as a muscle relaxant. I’ve created a bath oil that may help you to “cotton” yourself against the pressures of the “silly season”!

Snowbush bath oil 

Add to 50 ml of carrier oil like sweet almond oil: 8 drops of cape snowbush essential oil, 8 drops of cape chamomile essential oil and 8 drops of lavender essential oil in a dark container. Gently shake and try to spend more time in your bathroom than in shopping malls!

Geranium against the bugs

Pelargonium Graveolens / Roosmalva (Afr) / Rose-Scented Geranium (Eng)

A bottle of rose geranium essential oil in my “Drift” cupboard saved my life today. It may sound a bit dramatic, but I’m really grateful for this herb with its wonderful fragrance that not only lifted my mood but also helped chasing  a tummy bug away.

The pelargonium species are indigenous to South Africa and were traditionally  used as perfumes.  Dassiepoeier (Afrikaans) is the crushed and dried leaves of Pelargonium crispum that was used as a fragrant deodorant powder.

During Victorian times geraniums were exported to Europe to be planted indoors in winter and then taken outdoors in summer to release their fragrance when women brushed against them with their dresses. The antiseptic properties of the plant was already acknowledged at that time.  During the First World War geraniums were planted in boxes outside the windows of German hospitals to keep germs away. Maybe that is why we still find them in window boxes through Europe.

The traditional South African malvapoeding (translated as geranium dessert) is baked with the fresh leaves of the geranium plant. Talking about recipes, I’ve decided to share a recipe with every post, and the first home-made product will be a room spray I’ve created and named “Fynbos Mist”. It is uplifting and will  take you outdoors when you are confined to your bed on a sunny public holiday.

Fynbos Mist

200 ml distilled water, 5 ml ethyl alcohol, 5 drops rose geranium essential oil, 5 drops cape snowbush essential oil, 5 drops cape chamomile essential oil.

Combine all the ingredients in a bottle with a spray pump, give it a good shake and enjoy!

Goodwill with Kooigoed

Helicrysum Petiolare

This aromatic herb with its grey woolly leaves and persistent flower heads is one of the many everlasting species.  It is said that the oil that keeps the flowers “lasting forever” will also stop your skin’s aging process, which makes it a must have for your vanity case.

A dried bundle of this strongly aromatic herb is called Imphepho (Zulu) and is burned to invoke the goodwill of the ancestors. The smoke is reported to be sedative and inhaled by traditional healers to induce a trance.

The Khoisan stuffed mattresses with this herb, therefore the Afrikaans name Kooigoed or Hottentotskooigoed.  This everlasting is also used as cosmetic and perfume and is effective in keeping insects and parasites away.

Helichrysum petiolare

For survival in veld this should be your number one emergency plant: it can provide fragrant bedding without parasites, you can burn it to relieve insomnia and the oil from the crushed leaves may protect your skin against the harsh conditions. You might just return with a Botox from nature…

Koekemakranka For Courage

According to legend the fruit of the Koekemakranka plant worn in the hat of a prospective lover (“vryersklong” in Afrikaans) will give him extra courage (“koerasie” in Afrikaans). This exotic, aromatic plant is indigenous to the Southern Cape and Namakwaland and can be used in many interesting ways.

Gethyllis afra / Kukumakranka (English) / Koekemakranka (Afrikaans and Khoi)

The white or pink flowers of this bulbous plant transform into fragrant club-shaped fruits.  The ripe fruits are edible and have a powerful sweet, fruity odour. Dried flowers and fruits were once popular to perfume rooms and linen.

Koekemakranka Flowers

 Based on an old Cape remedy, fruit are  infused in brandy or witblits to cure stomach ailments (“ongesteldhede van die maag” in Afrikaans).

Koekemakranka Fruit

You should consider yourself fortunate if you find this plant because its conservation status is rare.  And then you can decide whether you want to use koekemakranka on your hat, in your brandy or between your linen…

Bait For The Weekend

Do you prefer your partner to smell more like the veld and not like a chemical experiment gone wrong? Or maybe you would just like to bring a memory of walking amongst fynbos into your home? Most of us are not fortunate to live close to aromatic plants or fynbos (and it is illegal to pick them alongside the road), but there is a solution in the form of essentials oils.

One of my favourite close relatives to buchu is Aasbossie/Konfettibos (Afrikaans) or Cape May/Confetti bush (English). The botanical name for this aromatic bush is Coleonema Album. The name Aasbossie is derived from its use by fishermen as a perfume to hide the foul smell of red bait (rooiaas in Afrikaans) on their hands. The Himba and Topnaar people in Namibia use this warm and peppery aroma for perfume and scented neck powder.

Coleonema Album

One of the many myths and legends surrounding the aromatic buchu relatives of the Cape is that men should avoid the “cousin” Bokboegoe (Diosma Hirsuta) if they wish to retain their virility!

Diosma Hirsuta

Whether you want to conceal some unpleasant smell of create a new perfume for your home, partner or friend, I recommend that you use an essential oil and not take any chances with picking the wrong shrub!