Monthly Archives: January 2012

A natural nose

My nose prefers natural.  Gradually he started rebelling against the artificially fragranced aroma’s I been wearing on my skin and using in my home. My mood joined forces and it seems as if only natural essences can make my happy or lift me up. What happened?

Maybe I want more authentic and genuine experiences now that I’m in my middle years? Maybe I need a closer or deeper connection with nature? To find answers to these questions I’ve been exploring natural perfume and the sense of smell.

According to Mandy Aftel natural essences bring emotional depth, mystery and complexity to a fragrance experience. Although synthetic essences have the same aroma they will not be able to “reach the animal place inside a person”.  As scent is not rational and a very un-languaged way of communication, we can’t always explain the emotional intensity and memories an authentic smell can create.

From an aromatherapy perspective the body knows what to do with natural ingredients.  Antoinette Pienaar mentions in her book The Griqua’s apprentice that the herbs and plants from the region you grew up in, works best for you.  For those fortunate enough to spend their childhoods on wine farms, Tammy Frazer created a natural perfume that reflects the terroir of the Helderberg Vineyards (and the wine from the grapes grown there).

So I came to the conclusion that a simple combination of rose and sandalwood essential oils as a perfume works in perfect balance with my (middle years) soul.  And for home fragrance fynbos essential oils transports me to the coastal plains of Cape  Agulhas where I grew up. Soon I may want something more exotic and challenging but for now my nose is happy and content with authentic and natural!

                                            The perfume of sandalwood,

the scent of rosebay and jasmine,

travel only as far as the wind.

But the fragrance of goodness

travels with us

through all the worlds.

Like garlands woven from a heap of flowers,

fashion your life

as a garland of beautiful deeds.

         Buddha

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The fragrance of consolation

The empty space being left after the death of my beloved Burmese cat, Mochah, has been filled by the healing fragrances of rose, lemongrass and lavender.  Friends and family came to celebrate the life of this remarkable cat and left these wonderful aroma’s to comfort and console.

The strong connection with fragrance and memory was confirmed with the gift of a Rain lemongrass candle. When I first met Mochah and brought him home ten years ago, I had a similar fragranced candle in my home.  Now I will always connect this aroma with the start of a relationship that brought me much joy and companionship.

Fragrances, like cats, can help to create atmosphere, good energy and consolation.  And Mochah was an excellent “therapist”, giving attention even to those who didn’t want it! Fortunately there will always be lovely fragrances to fill this empty space.

Buchu for the animus

Agathosma ciliaris / Bergboegoe (Afr) Photo: http://www.newplant.co.za

The fragrance of buchu is strong, wild and I would like to call it an “inner male” or animus aroma. Carl Jung described the animus (or a woman’s inner male) as positive energy that represents empowerment, the capacity to engage in and fight for what she wants, and the assertion of the live force.

My initiation into buchu was facilitated by the late Eps Joubert, an eccentric and passionate mathematics teacher and nature lover from Bredasdorp.  He is also known as the “father” of the Foot Of Africa Marathon and his lasting gift to athletes from over the world is the fynbos route in the Bredasdorp mountain.

If I had to select one plant for introducing a visitor to South African fynbos fragrance, it would be the green, minty and fruity aroma of the Agathosma species.  Agathosma betulina or round-leave buchu played an important role in the Khoisan culture, and have been used for cosmetic and medicinal purposes since early days. Brandy tinctures (“boegoebrandewyn”) for stomach problems and vinegar infusions for washing and treating wounds are early Cape remedies.

The Khoisan’s close relationship with buchu includes this fragrant plant being an agent of both physical and mental transformation.  During initiation rites for girls reaching puberty, buchu was sprinkled on standing water to pacify the “watersnake” or “rainbull”.  Its invigorating and stimulating properties were also utilized in rituals to “wake up the body”. For an interesting article about buchu as presenting the “life force” in the Khoisan tradition, please visit africanaromatics.com.

Buchu essential oil with its intense and overpowering fragrance should be used with care, but in times when you want a strong, blackcurrant or Bourgenons de Chassis flavour in you home or life, it is perfect.  As a men’s cologne or facial wash for teenagers it may create a balance between “pacifying” and “lifting up”!

After experimenting with buchu essential oil in soap making and solid perfume, I came to the conclusion that this fragrance I would keep close to my body (as in a Khoisan tortoiseshell powder compact) but not directly on my skin.  And used daily in an exfoliation soap, it might keep the “inner man” alive and happy!

The honeybees’ perfume blog

Honeybee / Apis mellifera / Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes nature shows us a more elegant, but not necessarily simpler, way of going about our everyday lives.  Last week while experimenting with home-made lip balm, I received unexpected guests in the form of four honeybees. It could be the fragrance of the melted beeswax or the added essential oils (Rose geranium, Lavender and Cape snowbush) that attracted them to my kitchen.  Although an experienced beekeeper remarked that the beeswax lured them, I prefer to think that the bees loved the blended fragrance!

This experience made me think about how much the amazing honeybee (Apis mellifera) can teach us about sense of smell and fragrance preferences. Bees have an acute sense of smell and are choosy about which plants they pollinate. While reflecting on this, the following questions came to mind: How do they choose flowers from a bewildering number of options?  Do they also feel overwhelmed by all the fragrances at their “perfume counter”? And how do they inform their friends about their discoveries?

The Beekeeper explained: A scout bee goes out foraging for nectar and pollen. She is attracted to the brightly coloured flowers and their fragrances. Eventually she will find flowers with usable nectar and will return to the hive to communicate her discovery by doing a waggle dance. Research indicates that the waggle dance of the scout bee transfers the direction, distance and quality of the food source.

If I could be a scout honeybee for a day, I would spend most of my time visiting the following fynbos flowers and their wonderful fragrances:

Aandblom / Gladiolus tristis / http://www.newplant.co.za

Maartlelie / Belladonna lily / Amaryllis belladonna / http://www.newplant.co.za

Bobbejaantjie / Babiana odorata / http://www.newplant.co.za

Wild freesia / Freesia alba / http://www.newplant.co.za

If an inspired perfumer could create a fynbos perfume with these floral notes, I will do my best waggle dance for him or her! If you want to read about natural perfume and floral notes visit the perfume blog Olfactoria’s Travels. Her beautiful descriptions are so uplifting that you can indirectly experience the positive effect of the lovely fragrances and visualize yourself being a honeybee for a day!
Information about honeybees provided by:  http://www.pollination.co.za

Blue Mountain Sage for clarity

Cape Town Minstrel Carnival / Kaapse Klopse / Photo: collectionmcgrath.com

Today’s blog is inspired by the colour blue: the vibrant costumes at the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival on the 2nd of January (Tweede Nuwejaarsdag in Afrikaans), the mixed shades of the Indian and Atlantic oceans at Cape Agulhas and then the shy Blue Mountain Sage (Salvia stenophylla).

The essential oil of this South African herb is my choice for the second day of the new year as it can assist in creating positivity in one’s self. It is also good for space clearing, as well as supporting mental and emotional clarity. Think blue if you need to remove negativity and bring in fresh clear energy!

The oil of Salvia Stenophylla is not blue, but light straw-coloured. The fragrance has been described as: herby, fresh, camphoric, and spicy with a maritime note.  The last description captures the essence of this interesting fragrance. It is an indigenous (and better smelling) alternative to Tea Tree Oil and known for its anti-bacterial and anti-inflamatory properties.

Traditionally Blue Mountain Sage was used as a disinfectant by burning it in huts after sickness. The leaves were burnt as an insect repellant and also mixed with tobacco for smoking.

Try a combination of Kooigoed, Cape Chamomile and Blue Mountain Sage essential oils in a burner or use them individually for “smudging” – a Native American cleansing ritual. Something from Africa for an American tradition  could bring you clarity on Tweede Nuwejaarsdag…