Tuesday, 22 November 2016


or How come we can buy essential oils all year round?

In a modern world, in the developed countries, we have lost sight of seasonal patterns. Old timers will remember that it was not so long ago that one bought food and cooked food in tune with the seasons. We used to understand that harvest time was a season of abundance and that there was a hungry gap between the end of winter and the beginning of spring. 

With the rise of the supermarkets this seasonal balance was lost. Many modern youngsters believe that they should be able to buy fresh apples in April and spring greens in December, buy fresh roses at Christmas and Christmas roses in June. The supermarkets and hypermarkets, in their greedy desire for profit at any price or cost to the environment, have exploited the Third World countries. These countries produce cash crops and transport produce from one half of the world to the other at great cost to the environment and often at great cost to the Third World countries themselves. Such countries know all about poor harvests and famine and the fluctuations of nature.

To many buyers, aromatherapists included, essential oils are mere commodities – something to be purchased when they want, where they want and at a price they want. There seems to be some strange belief that you can buy an essential oil from any place and at any time, and it should be exactly the same. Even amongst educated aromatherapists there seems to be a gullibility that allows a chemical analysis to fraudulently lead to the belief that one essential oil is the same as another. Our nose tells us something quite different. 

Aromatherapy has, however, become big business and those sellers of essential oils around the world whether in Japan, the United States, Great Britain or France, do want essential oils when they want. Supermarkets, department stores, and even therapists, seem to demand an unending supply regardless of harvest, weather and distillation possibilities. In the main they are duly satisfied by essential oil suppliers, little realising, or perhaps not even caring, that what they offer their customers is no more than a chemical soup. One cannot blame the supplier but one must ask the question who is responsible for this? Is it the sheer ignorance of the buyer, the consumer or the user?

Consider this: Aromatic plants grow best and provide the most superb aroma when they are grown at the edge of the optimum environment. They often grow on so-called 'poor' soils but that are just right for the aromatics, the perfumes that grow from such soils.

When you are a real plantsman and genuine grower, a lover of the soil, you know that plants have a strong sense of place. You can feel it in the soil. You can feel it in the plants that grow. This is not romantic nonsense and is known to every wine lover around the world. True, as one Biblical reference suggests, you can throw pearls to pigs and they don’t appreciate it. Today one can drown in vinegar and propylene glycol that is sold as wine but that just tells us that the audience is uneducated and has poor taste – both metaphorically and literally. The same can be said of essential oils and perfumes.

Undoubtedly the best aromatics come from land that is uncultivated and wild, whether this be Lavender or Chamomile, Cedarwood or Thyme. You only have to walk the land, feel and touch the plants, to understand this. Unfortunately the few 'experts' that debate about wild crafting, or comment on what should or should not be done in the environment, have little real experience of the beauty of essential oils from the world’s natural resources. Of course the wild needs protection. Of course endangered species should be protected. But not every wild crafter is an environmental rapist, not every government agency is stupid, not every essential oil distributor is a rogue. 

Rather there are many people who have been concerned about the developing of such rich resources and protecting those resources before many of the Johnny-come-lately environmentalists were born. This is especially so of tribal communities, of ancient village communities and local crafts people who are well aware of the destruction that greed and demand from the developed countries have wreaked on their land. Often it is the academic experts from around the world from, say, Aberystwyth to Tokyo, that have been at the bottom of the advice that has destroyed a great deal of land.

Those truly dedicated to aromatherapy, the classical aromatherapists, those with a passion for nature and real plants, understand only too well that there is a finite limit to the very best. The average consumer does not always realise this. Led by the supermarket mentality of cheap food, consumers think that essential oils can be turned on like a tap, with an unending supply. That is just not true.

We can briefly review the most popular essential oil of all time to illustrate the difficulties that affect the supply of essential oils. This oil is of course Lavender. French Lavender in particular is famous worldwide. Yes it is grown in Tasmania; yes it is grown in Norfolk; yes it is grown in the Balkans; and yes it is grown in the Crimea; but they all vary, they are all different. Chardonnay from France is different from Chardonnay from California.  Ask yourself then how something that was a dry wine becomes something that is fruity and sweet? The answer is not always in the chemical factory but a difference in the soil and the clone – something that appears to be the same is not always the same. For example, to suggest that one can buy wild Alpine Lavender and supply the world is simply ridiculous. It is not possible. It is not really even possible to supply large volumes of High Altitude Lavender. It is not even actually possible to supply really large volumes of true Lavender. 

This comes as a remarkable surprise to many purchasers.  Here are some basic facts:
  • True Lavender is grown at an altitude of between 800 and 1800 metres. The 1800 metres height is very rare indeed and is truly a speciality product.

  • The yield per hectare at the lower heights (800 to 1000m) is between 12 and 20 kilograms and nearly all of this goes to the select perfume industry and specialised aromatherapy companies like Fragrant Earth. 

  • The total tonnage produced of essential oils is between 40 and 50 tonnes. That’s it – no more. It includes good oil, bad oil, high altitude, middle altitude and so on. There really isn’t very much to go round. 

  • Most of the Lavender is produced in the Ardeche, Drome and High Alps by a relatively small number of growers, numbering just in the hundreds. 

The majority of Lavender is grown by co-operatives – groups of farmers who join together, perhaps using one central distillation unit. This is the commonest way that fine Lavender is produced. Several crops are blended together to give a co-op standard. If the Lavender is grown in Provence, it will be given an AOC mark, AOC meaning Appellation d'Origine Controlée – simply meaning that it has been government approved, or stamped, guaranteeing that it comes from where it says it comes from. This is a French system and it is also applied to some of the old French colonial territories like the island of Reunion. Wine drinkers among our readers will recognise that this is exactly the same system that is applied to fine wines. Co-op Lavender with an AOC mark is good Lavender but it is not necessarily the best. Each grower may compete for medals based upon aroma and other merits. A number of specialised growers also have their own stills or favour putting their crop for distillation to a small and expert distiller. This often applies to organic growers who want their product separated from general or standard co-op Lavender. 

Altitude plays a part in quality and the majority of Lavender is farmed between 800 metres and 1000 metres by co-operatives. Remember too that one side of a mountain produces something different from the other side of a mountain. There are many quality parameters that combine to make some materials scarce or even rare. Much of the material sold by Fragrant Earth is classed as High Altitude, a phrase that many co-op farmers would shrug their shoulders at.  After all they are in the business of the mass market as far as is possible and, truthfully, it is not really practical for a co-op to grow such a specialised crop. For many years Fragrant Earth has, however, offered well grown material from specialised and selected growers from altitudes even as high as 1600 metres, which is virtually unheard of! These specialists may produce even as few as 5 or 10 kilos per year, but what they do produce is sought after by the cognoscenti, those that really know. 

Actually the term Lavender itself is very misleading because it includes a number of species and covers a multitude of meanings. Let us be clear about what we mean at Fragrant Earth.  Our High Altitude and Wild Lavender is true Provence Lavande Fine from Lavandula angustifolia or officinalis. This is true population Lavender. That means that each plant is unique, it is different, it has no particular parentage, it is natural. Every single plant varies in shape, size, colour or fragrance all of which gives a wonderful subtlety and complexity of aroma and, incidentally, ensures that no bug, virus or anything else can adapt to it. 

Beyond this comes cloning. Every good gardener knows that you can take cuttings from woody plants. Cuttings are essentially clones. This means that a specific plant has been taken from a population, perhaps with a certain shape or a certain flower or, particularly with Lavender, having a higher yield and the ability to grow at lower altitudes. The common varieties of clonal Lavender are Maillette and Matheronne. We offer an excellent Maillette clonal Lavender, organically grown. This too is good, general 'work horse' Lavender.

It will surprise many that the majority of Lavender that is sold is in fact Lavendin, a hybrid Lavender, a cross between True Lavender and Spike Lavender. Lavendin is grown because it yields essential oil 5 or 6 times higher than that of true Lavender. It also has the commercial benefit of growing at lower altitudes than Lavender.  The aroma of Lavendin is always dominated by camphor although Lavendin Grosso has lower camphor content and its fragrance is not so far away from true Lavender. The yield of Lavendin is well over 1,000 tonnes and accounts for most of the so-called Lavender that people are buying. The Plateau of Valensole is the Lavendin capital of the world and the co-operatives are kings of this world. Lavendin helps to make up many of the chemical 'soups' that are sold as Lavender. Perfume and other companies buy in varieties of Lavendin and Lavender, mix them, blend them, and add natural or synthetic components to them, whatever is required to arrive at smells that purport to be Lavender. These are sold around the world at different prices in different ways, often to an unsuspecting public and often to an unsuspecting therapist who believes that a GLC will determine what is authentic and what is not. That is only true to some extent.

These adjusted "Lavenders" have many uses. One of the greatest uses is to neutralise the odour of detergent – it acts like a white out if added at the right proportion, making the unpleasant detergent smell neutral. After that, many other types of fragrances can be used in the material.

So let’s be real. If you want the best then you have to accept the difficulties that go with it. The best is not always available, whether it is Lavender, or Thyme of a specific chemotype, or Cedarwood coming from a specialised area. There are harvests and growing cycles that have to be taken into consideration. At Fragrant Earth we also have a policy of choosing the best distillers. Often our material comes from those who are medal winners or prize winners in competitions for their essential oils. For example, we look for distillers who use both old fashioned methods and new types of stills, such as hydrodihesion. We do not use materials that are 'green' or shredded and immediately distilled. We avoid co-operative blends where possible, preferring single source material from named growers.

All of this makes for fine fragrances. If you are a lover of nature and a lover of perfume, a lover of essential oils, a lover of plants, then you will understand the shortages that come from supply. You will understand the necessity to buy when available. You will understand the value that an essential oil will have and you will have the intelligence to appreciate it through your senses. Be quite sure – the best is finite. Understand that if you sell on commercially that there may be problems in the continuation of supply. Be prepared to switch from a wild Alpine type to a clonal Maillette type should the season run dry.

Remember that Fragrant Earth works near to nature, near to growers, with short supply lines.  We do not readily substitute materials and we do not hide behind the generic term Lavender. Rather we really tell you what is going on and offer you the best without compromise. If you believe that chemistry is all that counts in aromatherapy then this material is not for you. If you want to sell it in a supermarket and have reproducibility and regular supplies then, again, such material is not for you. If you are in therapy where impact counts, where your desire is for a simple aroma to change the immune system, then this type of essential oil is for you. If you are a true perfumer, you already know.

© Jan Kusmirek

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Christmas Closure and Deliveries

Our offices will be closed from Friday 23rd December 2016 to 9.15am Tuesday 3rd January 2017.

Last dispatch date for International customers for small orders of essential oils if sent by 1st Class Royal Mail Signed For is Tuesday 20th December 2016 (we cannot guarantee goods will be delivered before Christmas).

For larger Industrial Order if you require the goods before Christmas (UK only) the last dispatch date will be Monday 19th December 2016.

Normal services will resume from Tuesday 3rd January 2017.

Christmas, Santa Claus, Imp, Nicholas                            Christmas, Santa Claus, Imp, Nicholas

Wednesday, 12 October 2016


“The goal of Blending is to balance the artistic form of the oil with its designated function”
 – John Steele.

ALCHEMY, the secret art of the land of Khem, is one of the two oldest sciences known to the world. The other is astrology. The beginnings of both extend back into the obscurity of prehistoric times. According to the earliest records extant, alchemy and astrology were considered to be divinely revealed to man so that by their aid he might regain his lost estate in Paradise.

What is life? What is intelligence? What is force? These are the problems to the solution of which the ancients consecrated their temples of learning. Who shall say that they did not answer those questions? Who would recognize the answers if given? Is it possible that under the symbols of alchemy and astrology lies concealed a wisdom so abstruse that the mind of humans of today are not qualified to conceive its principles?

The Chaldeans, Phœnicians, and Babylonians were familiar with the principles of alchemy, as were many early Oriental races. It was practiced in Greece and Rome; was the master science of the Egyptians. Khem was an ancient name for the land of Egypt; and both the words alchemy and chemistry are a perpetual reminder of the priority of Egypt's scientific knowledge.

Many interesting solutions to the riddle of alchemy's origin have been advanced. One is that alchemy was revealed to man by the mysterious Egyptian demigod Hermes Trimegistus. This sublime figure, looming through the mists of time and bearing in his hand the immortal Emerald, is credited by the Egyptians as being the author of all the arts and sciences. In honour of him all scientific knowledge was gathered under the general title of The Hermetic Arts.

Alchemy did not actually make an appearance in Europe until the 8th century when Muslims finally brought alchemical knowledge with them to Spain. The first European text to mention alchemy appeared in roughly 1050 CE.

Early in the 20th century Carl Jung incorporated the symbolic language and images of alchemical texts into modern psychology. We are going to look at some of the aspects of alchemy and place them in the context of Aromatherapy.

In his History of Chemistry, James Campbell Brown, late professor of chemistry in the University of Liverpool, sums up the ends which alchemists sought to achieve, in the following paragraphs:
"This, therefore, was the general aim of the alchemists - to carry out in the laboratory, as far as possible, the processes which Nature carried out in the interior of the earth. Seven leading problems occupied their attention:-

1. The preparation of a compound named elixir, magisterium medicine, or philosopher's stone, which possess the property of transmuting the baser metals into gold and silver, and of performing many other marvellous operations.
2. The creation of homonculi, or living beings, of which many wonderful but incredible tales are told.
3. The preparation of the alcahest or universal solvent, which dissolved every substance which was immersed in it.
4. Palingenesis, or the restoration of a plant from its ashes. Had they succeeded in this, they would have hoped to be able to raise the dead.
5. The preparation of spiritus mundi, a mystic substance possessing many powers, the principal of which was its capacity of dissolving gold.
6. The extraction of the quintessence or active principle of all substances.
7. The preparation of aurum potabile, liquid gold, a sovereign remedy, because gold being itself perfect could produce perfection in the human frame.
Gold was perceived to be the perfect metal, with all others being less than perfect. The pursuit of the transmutation of lesser metals into gold was thus also the pursuit of the perfection and transmutation of the human spirit.
Alchemy then is the philosophy and practice of liberating a physical substance from its "fixed" physical properties. But the most important thing to understand is that there can be no external alchemy without their first being internal alchemy.
Alchemy covers several philosophical traditions spanning some four millennia and several continents, but we can sum it up in this way... Alchemy is the philosophy and practice of liberating a physical substance from its "fixed" physical properties.

Like other sciences, early alchemists used scientific processes, in other words techniques that could be replicated in a lab. But unlike other sciences, you cannot separate the scientific process of alchemy from hermetic principals and spirituality. Those principals and spiritual truths are the basis upon which alchemy stands.

It was believed that without achieving a form of enlightenment or inner spiritual revelation, the truths of the universe (which would enable you to transcend temporal reality) would not ever be learned and known to the practitioner. There would be no hope of you transcending the fixed properties of the physical dimension so as to transform something like ordinary metal into gold without gaining access to the higher truths of this universe through spiritual practice and mastery.

The Great Work of Alchemy is often described as a series of four stages, which are represented by colours:

Nigredo (a blackening or melanosis), which represents a process of putrefaction or decomposition. In this stage, ingredients had to be cleansed and cooked extensively. Internally, this represents a kind of spiritual death and the confronting of one's shadow aspect.

Albedo (a whitening or leucosis). The washing away of impurities. The physical subject (such as ingredient) is to be purified and divided into two opposing principles. Internally, this represents re gaining the original purity and receptivity of the soul. Symbolically, it represents the process of washing away the ashes to find the soul.

Citrinitas (a yellowing or xanthosis). This refers to transmutation and the actual turning of a subject (such as an ingredient) into its highest state such as silver into gold. Internally, this represents awakening...becoming a manifestation of the soul. Becoming a walking embodiment of the soul, rather than a muted reflection of it. It is a process of anything turning into a higher form of itself.

Rubedo (a reddening, purpling, or iosis). Rubedo refers to the end state; alchemical success. Achievement of the perfected state... The final state of perfection of a subject (such as an ingredient). It can be interpreted as achieving enlightened consciousness and the total fusion of spirit and matter. This stage is often represented by the symbol of the phoenix.

However one regards Alchemy today as a science or philosophy, Alchemy provided the beginnings of chemistry, and certainly helped to develop the apparati of chemistry. It is part of the history of science, which is the history of human interaction with nature, and humanity's attempts to harness the power of nature for very human needs and wants.

Was alchemy magic? Was "magic" used in the processes of alchemy? That question remains. One answer to that question is that "magic" is anything that cannot yet be explained through science and/or reason. Certainly, in seeking the secrets of nature, some alchemists were searching for a greater connection to "God," to the spirit moving the world. There was also a great deal of astrology at play in the work of alchemy, as was ritual in the laboratory processes.

Not until Paracelsus in the 16th century was alchemy pulled away from this stigma of "magic" when he, among others, began promoting the experimental aspects of it over the philosophical and spiritual. Many later practitioners of the 17th and 18th centuries were well-known scientists such as Isaac Newton with solid reputations and who are revered to this day for their many other accomplishments. Alchemy was just one of many scientific pursuits for them. There seemed to be less of a focus on the supernatural and more of a focus on science, as something more recognizable to modern sensibilities.

The key to alchemy is found in the word transmutation, a word that in its original Latin meaning refers to total change. Physically this denotes a change of the properties of matter, and thus of substance; spiritually, it refers to inner transformation—in specific, certain actions to aid in freeing the spiritual essence that is ‘trapped’ within (echoing the Gnostic view that spirit is trapped in matter). This idea had its basis in the ancient belief that within itself the Earth ‘grew’ metals and that, given enough time, these metals would ultimately become gold. Nature was seen as fundamentally engaged in a process of evolution, and the essential idea of alchemy was to speed this process up—in short, to save time.

Alchemy is really the study of consciousness; it's the study of life, particularly how matter affects consciousness in life.

This is something well understood in Aromatherapy. Smell alone is a powerful motivator. Our concentration maybe upon the chemistry of essential oils but our experience shows that a person often has  healing via a yet not understood connection to a specific oil through its aroma alone. The aroma exerts an influence that when allowed can transform a person or situation.

Every physical condition reflects our mental, emotional, and spiritual condition and the reverse. Our thoughts and feelings influence our experience of the reality, and this applies to the physical body. When dysfunctional thought patterns, limiting beliefs, or unexpressed emotions are held long enough in the energy field, often unconsciously, they will manifest into the physical body as dis-ease.

The original plant too has an energy, it is a being that goes beyond chemistry. Aromatherapists deal in volatile aromatic material from distillation to which we shall refer later. However herbalists and alchemists even today will extract the essence of a plant via tinctures. 

Anyone who's made a spagyric tincture will be familiar with the idea of the wholeness of maintaining life force. A spagyric tincture is a plant tincture to which has also been added the ash of the calcined plant. You take some dried herbal material put it in a jar and then add in very strong alcohol. Alchemy would require that you make your own alcohol by distilling red wine! The jar needs to be kept away from the sun preferably in the dark. This then macerates for a few weeks. Perhaps the difference between an herbalist and an alchemist would be that the latter would undoubtedly use astrology in the practice.
Likewise some Aromatherapists use astrology in their practice of making blends of oils. Both Tricia Davis in the U.K and Ixchel Leigh in the US have written on the subject of essential oils and astrological connections. They recognize that just as we have biorhythms or certain peak periods during our day or week so does life and the world we live in. And the alchemist seeks to understand those peak periods, those peak energetic impulses, to take advantage of them while making product. 
Likewise certain organic growing methods have a similar practice for planting and for when harvesting takes place. This is known as Biodynamic cultivation. Those making flower remedies do the same. So why not Aromatherapy?

Echoes of Alchemy can be found in homoeopathy whereby the smallest substance can affect the whole and in modern science whereby at such subtle or sub molecular levels the experimenter can affect the outcome by state of mind. This modern concept of physics is similar to the key point found repeatedly within alchemy being the idea that the alchemist can only succeed in his work if he approaches it with purity of intent, with a heart free of ulterior agendas (an idea that was mirrored in the Grail myths, where only a knight of pure heart had any hope of finding the Grail). Likewise with those familiar with massage whereby healing comes from a pure unification between giver and receiver and intent is conveyed by touch.
Distillation of plant matter in an alembic is at the heart of Aromatherapy. The Alembic still is a simple apparatus used for distilling. It has been used for many hundreds of years, very often related to the study of alchemy. The Egyptians were the first people to construct stills, and images of them adorn the ancient temple of Memphis, but it is from Arabic that we get the word 'alembic' (al ambic) and alcohol (al cohol). The first means the distillation vessel, and the second kohl, was used to describe a very hard lead or antimony based powder used for eye makeup, however it also expresses the idea of delicacy and subtlety, as in distillation vapour. The word 'alembic' is derived from the metaphoric meaning of 'that which refines; which transmutes', through distillation.

Distillation can be defined as a method of separation based on the phenomenon of the liquid-vapour balance in mixtures. In practical terms it means that when two or more substances form a liquid mixture, distillation is used to purify them: they only need to have reasonably different volatilities. One example of distillation which has been practised since antiquity is the distillation of alcoholic drinks. The drink is made by condensing the alcohol vapour released on heating a fermented must. As the alcohol content of the distilled drink is higher than that in the must, this is characterised as a purification process.

Historians state the alembic was probably invented around AD 200 - 300 by Maria the Jewess, or Zósimo of Panoplies an Egyptian alchemist and his sister Theosebeia, who invented many types of stills and reflux condensers. Others state that during the eighth or ninth century Arab alchemists perhaps the Arab alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan who devised an alembic in an effort to obtain finer essences for perfumes. 

"Ambix” is a Greek word defined as a vase with a small opening.  The vase was part of the distillation equipment.  Initially, the Arabs changed the word “Ambix” to “Ambic” and named the distillation equipment “Al Ambic”.  This was later changed to alembic in Europe.

Let’s now look at the four elements of Alchemy and the relationship to distillation:-

Air in the alchemical sense carries the archetypal properties of spirit into the manifested world. It is associated with the operation of Separation and represented by the metal Iron.

Earth is one of the Four Elements of alchemy. Earth in the alchemical sense carries the archetypal properties of manifestation, birth, and material creation. It is associated with the operation of Conjunction and represented by the green ore of copper.

Fire is one of the Four Elements of alchemy. Fire in the alchemical sense carries the archetypal properties of activity and transformation. It is associated with the operation of Calcination and represented by the metal lead.

Water is one of the Four Elements of alchemy. Water in the alchemical sense carries the archetypal properties of cleansing and purification. It is associated with the operation of Dissolution and represented by the metal tin.

The fifth element Quintessence (Quinta Essentia) is the fifth Element with which the alchemists could work. It was the essential presence of something or someone, the living thing itself that animated or gave something its deepest characteristics. The Quintessence partakes of both the above and the below, the mental as well as the material. It can be thought of as the ethereal embodiment of the life force that we encounter in dreams and altered states of consciousness. It is the purest individual essence of something that is unveiled and understood in order to
transform it.  

So when an essential oil was produced it was ephemeral in the sense that the personality was found in the smell, the spirit. It was produced by water a feminine aspect, in a sacred marriage or union with fire, the male aspect that gave this ecstasy of spirit or divine aroma. Here we find shades of sexual magic which is a form of spiritual exercise found in religions to induce rapture. The Greek term hieros gamos refers to the sacred alchemical marriage of male and female energies which takes place between two human beings during the act of lovemaking. In its true form the union is arranged, sanctified, shared, and celebrated by the patron god(s) and matron goddess(es) of the individuals involved.  The experience of lovemaking in this type of union is subtle, extremely intense, and goes beyond purely physical pleasure into a deep ecstatic merge on all levels (e.g. emotional, mental, etheric, spiritual, etc.). So as with humans the distillation gave forth something that was difficult to comprehend a liquid which was manifest in only the sense of smell which produced effects at all levels of consciousness.

At alchemy's core, it is stated that the cosmos is fitted in three spiritual substances. They are known as the tria prima, a.k.a. The Three Primes. The Three Primes are Mercury, Sulfur, and Salt. These substances were important principles that gave objects their essence and form. They were not actually the substances but were symbolic.  In Alchemy, Mercury is used as the transformative agent, sulfur is the binding between substance and transformation, and Salt is the solidifying agent. A very common example of the symbolic roles these substances play is when a piece of wood is set on fire. Smoke would be Mercury in this case, flames would be Sulfur, and ash would be Salt.

Similarly traditional herbalist favour grouping their medicines in groups of three. The first herb chosen would be to deal with the direct problem the second and third as supporters of the first. All three are then blended to ‘heal’ the issue rather than concentrate on one symptom or problem.

This grouping of three is the basic method of development with essential oils in Aromatherapy in blending. Let us take an example with a simple cut and bleeding. The first aspect is to stop the flow for which we might use Helichrysum and to stop contamination Eucalyptus or perhaps Tea tree, the next to reduce inflammation could be a Chamomile. This fits perfectly with the symbolism used in Alchemy. The actual essential oils used would depend correctly upon the fundamental knowledge of the therapist but also especially with the supportive essences the therapists intuition should be considered.  Apart from the first essence the choice of essential oils is very varied and the therapist should have a relationship with these oils certainly enough of one to look and feel beyond the chemistry. The proportion is likely to be 50% of the first choice and equal parts of the other two. 
The blend created may now rightly be considered a healing unity beyond the normal approach which would simply be one of wound cleansing. This would then be added to a carrier oil or other substance.

The standard blend of essential oils within a vegetable oil is around 2 – 3% whilst a medicinal blend may reach 5%. And yes depending upon circumstances neat blends can be used.

Some may feel ill equipped to gauge the proportion of one oil to another. There is a system called the blending factor which is a sort of potency scale. It is based upon the perfumers scale and should not be seen as a hard and fast rule. Knowing and sensing the oils fragrance well is more reliable. But then you have to know your oils! I have learnt to trust that the plant shares information with each aromatic conversation conducted with mindful body awareness and sensitivity. So maybe it is the soul part of the nature of plants that can speak. Aroma is certainly a powerful conduit of subtle change, response and reaction. Essential oils are active in their aroma and this should be remembered, they are not just chemistry to be applied topically.

In and through the process of this distillation the essential oil undergoes a process of metamorphosis into a more complex essential oil. Complex because during distillation process a number of new molecules are formed creating a new spectrum of chemistry.
Our physical bodies are also as we now know surrounded by an energy field which interacts with the energy fields of the blend of essential oils we create. We receive this information perhaps as smell and these impulses we turn into unique messages. Every blend is unique to itself. 

The relationship of fragrance to music is not new. Sound as we understand today is about wavelength and vibration and resonance. The classification of fragrance materials into top, middle and base notes like music is being reconsidered by science today.  This system originated from a 19c British perfumer called GW Septimus Piesse who tried to classify each type of fragrance to a musical chord, unfortunately the system fell out of use, however the terminology is basic to the present day perfume industry. The current structure commonly used now to illustrate the stability of perfume materials is the perfume pyramid, developed by William Poucher in the 1920′s.

Today we should look back to Piesse which is very interesting for aromatherapy blending. There is a new word Smounds. Smound is a perception or sense experience created from the convergence of scents and sounds in the brain. The word is a portmanteau of "smell" and "sound." The idea that sounds and scents may be linked in the brain was suggested in 1862 by Septimus Piesse, who said, "Scents, like sounds, appear to influence the olfactory nerve in certain definite degrees." Today it is being studied again.

So let us think of this in relation to blending. We all in aromatherapy after some time have developed a sense of feeling for individual oils. From this we should be able to detect in any combination a synergy like a symphony or even a discord as with much experimental modern music or art. This is what I called intuition above, a sense of knowing what will relate. But I stress the first choice of oil is one of knowledge based upon need. 

Another method of blending is based in the morphology or the shape, form or part of the plant used. In my earlier days this was the method I used and proposed. This was developed as a course by Jade Shutes at the Institute of Dynamic Aromatherapy then based in Seattle USA. It too has its origin in herbalism and not unlike the Doctrine of Signatures which of course is discredited but has an uncanny knack of being fairly useful. For example lungwort resembles lungs so is good for breathing difficulties and is still used for use in the treatment of coughs and bronchitis, especially where associated with upper respiratory catarrh.

So now we could consider that as seeds represent the beginning of life for a plant therefore they are equated with the reproductive system as well as the other organs which lay in the lower area of the body such as the digestive and urinary tracts. 

The seed function within the plant is for reproduction and protection.

So we can translate this into Aromatherapy as being for growth, the reproductive system and the emotions associated with sexuality. Nourishment and new birth would be appropriate settings and some would say the Base chakras. 

Examples of essential oils derived from seeds would be Angelica, Black Pepper, Caraway, Carrot, Celery, Dill, Sweet Fennel and Parsley. 

Roots cannot be seen as anything less than grounding. Roots feed the plant with nutrients and water. All things needed for stability and growth.  Should we not consider roots then as ideal from homeostasis?

Roots have three main functions for the plant. They anchor the plant in the substrate. They give out sugars which fertilise the soil and take back nutrients for structure. They produce hormones and chemical messengers within the plant.

So for aroma therapeutic purposes we can refer to grounding and emotional stability, nourishment and support and maintaining physical balance i.e. homeostasis.

Look at some of the emotional matters which roots would help with. Anxiety, coping with change, fear, day dreaming, panic attacks, overactive thinking or talkativeness from nerves, self-criticism, and insomnia. There are many states to be considered.

Some root oils are Angelica, Vetivert and of course the warming Ginger.

Stems and trunks are not just the structural elements of a plant but are the conduit for nutrition. Hence essential oils from stems and wood in particular conduct energy and provide support. Woods induce self-contemplation and can assist the skeletal structure and muscular disorders which affects the structure as well as the proverbial aches and pains.

Heartwood is the central structural core of a tree, sapwood is the outer nutrient bearing layer.

The function of the trunk in a plant or treed is to conduct water and Water soluble nutrients to the leaves and flowers and to hold the plant or tree upright.

Translating these aspects to Aromatherapy we can use them to increase energy levels, to give a core reinforcing support or strength to a blend. As noted above an inward look at self and of course to address the fundamental causes of muscular and skeletal problems.

Stems and trunk woods are good for indecision and conditions that worry causes. To encourage thought and wisdom.

Some woods to consider are Cedar, Rosewood, and Birch.

Trunks also give out resins which have been used in rituals for centuries in incense. 

Resin is the trees healing property as induced by cutting the tree. And the function is to heal wounds and protect from infection.

So how might we see these in Aromatherapy using the way our less scientific ancestors would have done? First we could see them as meditation aids to increase spiritual awareness and certainly in wound healing and skincare. We may see them as protective both as antibacterial agents and as psychic agents.

Pleasant resins include Myrrh, Elemi, Frankincense and Benzoin.

Leaves and needles represent the lungs of the plant but are also converters of sunshine to create the plant form. Originating from the stems and branches these too have structural benefits. However the basic ground cover is from the leaves of grasses small and tall.

In the plant of photosynthesis is the predominant feature along with respiration. Leaves and needles too have abilities to prevent water loss and to secrete matter to ward off insects and fungi.

Translating these to aromatherapy oils from leaves and needles are used muchly for breathing exercises as well as antibacterial actions and antiseptic purposes. They would be indicated for hysteria and its counterpart depression. For infectious disease and fungal infections as well as for lesions and skin conditions.

Essential oils derived from leaves and needles include Rosemary, Cypress the Eucalypts, Laurel, the Petitgrains.

Ultimately we come to the flower or flowering top. The ancients always relate flowers to emotions from love to friendship. They are the plants beauty and sexuality. 

The plants purpose is to reproduce and attract pollinators. Hence there are many forms or vibrancy of colours.

Flower oils represent erotic love, compassion, forgiveness, self- sacrifice, family feelings beauty and desire and all these are the realms of aromatherapy treatments.  Strangely most flowers do not easily give up their value by distillation some are macerations or by enfleurage others are absolutes but all are powerful and should be used with discretion. It is probably true to say as many have very quick impact that flowers are overused.

Examples include Rose, Chamomile, Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Neroli and so on.

Lastly we come to Fruits. By fruit we mean the drupe or outer flesh or rind which protects the seed. The ‘casing’ is attractive to animals and birds to spread seed and when rotting to provide a natural fertiliser base.

For aromatherapy purposes the fruit oils are also attractive generally considered to be uplifting, cheerful and brightening or put in less esoteric terms, cleansing and refreshing. Due to the association with the seed fruit oils may also be welcomed during the menopause in dealing with emotional side effects. Certainly such oils are good for sadness grief, ill humour and anger.

Examples of these oils obtained from or being the zest and mostly citrus in origin are Lemon, Lime, Bergamot, Sweet Orange and more.

I hope this has stimulated you to think about the shape and form a plant has. Relating form and plants to health is certainly old fashioned and brings howls of protest from sectors of science but the idea has been around a lot longer than modern science. It does require thought and knowledge and to allow intuition to operate. Intuition requires humility and modesty to function so I do not refer to the do-gooders of the world always seeking a cause and becoming a healer overnight.

In using this or any other system do not forget the alchemical rule of three. The Pythagoreans taught that the number three was the first true number. Three is the first number that forms a geometrical figure – the triangle. Three was considered the number of harmony, wisdom and understanding. We could call it a magical number we are all familiar with the expression “third time lucky”. In fairy tales three is often the magical number.

If making a fragrance it is best to build accords based on multiples of three. So you first build a threesome to which you add another threesome making six. 

Six the first perfect number. In mathematics a perfect number is when all the numbers divisors (excluding the number itself) are added, the sum equals the number itself. 1+2+3=6. It is a symbol of good fortune. Think of the number six as the highest score on a dice. The sixth sense” refers to extra sensory perception (ESP). It is also common to use the phrase “the sixth sense” when meaning hunch or instinct.

The next jump would then take us to nine. Nine is the number of magic and witchcraft. Nine is a sacred number.  Nine is the number of completion and fulfilment. Nine is a symbol of wisdom and good leadership. Nine is the number of heaven. In Hinduism nine is the number of Brahma, the Creator.

After this you would jump to twelve and you can do your own numerical research thereafter. It make sense to create this way to blend in groups as it is an easy to create in the way Septimus Piesse would have understood i.e. creating something that works added to something that also works is more likely to produce accord than discord. 

To build an aromatic treatment of blends based on morphology or any other system requires taking the case history thoroughly. Like the psychiatrist it is best to take notes on the first visit and then spend time examining the case notes thoroughly rather than rushing to make an immediate blend. Sometimes too it must be remembered that the aroma of a blend especially when in an oil base, will not achieve its full aroma for some days after its first mixing. 

J.Kuśmirek© 10.2013