The fragrance is associated with beauty smell with ugliness yet both are odours. Is it nature’s way of warning us of possible danger? Smells, unpleasant odours, come from rotting vegetation or animal matter, both of which are likely to be toxic. Whereas fragrance is mostly given off by beautiful parts of plants. Of course, there are exceptions to these generalizations there are some flowers that smell exactly like decaying meat and unmentionable animal parts that supply prized perfumes.
Historical Uses of Fragrance
But it does seem that fragrance is associated with pleasure and health and it is a pity that sweet-smelling perfumes are not now in everyday use in the home, as they were in the past. The Romans, great sybarites that they were, had perfumed doves flying above banquet; they scattered tons of rose petals on festival days and sprayed their rooms with perfumed oils, in spite of the fact that Caesar regarded perfume as effeminate and made it’s sale illegal.
The Greeks thought perfume was divine in origin, and the ancient Egyptians, who originally confined the use of perfume to religious rituals, gradually allowed it’s personal use until it became an essential were part of the toilet. From Rome, its use spread throughout northern and western Europe to Britain, and thence eventually to the New World in the 16th and 17th centuries by the first settlers.
They’re it must have met the long-standing tradition of herbal medicine practiced by the Indian tribes already established, who would have appreciated the therapeutic use of aromatic oils. In medieval times in Britain, and even more so in Europe, aromatic and fragrant herbs had a hundred everyday uses.
One has a vague impression that those times and later, perhaps up to the end of the 18th century, were distinguished by a general lack of hygiene, dirt, smells, fleas, sores, boils, and skin complaints, in general, were commonplace things.
Yet, in fact, people had a good deal of natural material available to overcome all these. For most people life was a rural one, and many families probably had a little bit of ground outside their homes on which to grow plants. For those that had not, there were many herbs which were native plants growing wild and in much greater quantity than they do now.
It would have been a common habit to strew aromatic and fragrant leaves on floors to combat insects, to use them in all one’s clothes and household linen, and to burn sprigs of such plants in various rooms to offset unpleasant odours, or simply to provide a sweet fragrance.
Finger bowls contained flower petals, gloves were perfumed, pomanders and tussie mussies were carried and scented carried, and scented candles burnt. Lavender was used in washing water, and potpourris were an essential part of everyday life. Furniture polish was perfumed.
Perfume as such consisted at first of the simple natural oils, such as rosemary, sage, and lavender, but those with an alcoholic base began to make their appearing in the fourteenth century, with the production of Hungary Water.
It is of note that a writer of `1560 described an English home thus; the neat cleanliness, the pleasant and delightful furniture, wonderfully rejoiced me; they’re chambers and parlors strewed over with sweet herbs, refreshed me. Gerard described meadowsweet as far excelling.
All other strewing herbs, to deck up houses to straw in chambers, halls and banqueting houses in the summertime; for the smell thereof makes the heart merrie, delighteth the senses; it would do no harm, and probably a great deal of good, to follow some of these practices, in scenting out homes or parts of them.
It might even be possible to use them in the same way that color is, to create a certain mood for instance for soothing and tranquilizing in resting rooms for stimulating in living rooms, and for making the heart merry at dinner parties.
How to detect Fragrance?
Odours of any kind are detected by a small piece of lining membrane at the top of the nasal cavity. On the surface of this, there are olfactory hairs which connect with a nerve fiber ultimately in contact with the central nervous system.
If these filaments are covered with a thicker layer of mucous fluid than normal, as with catarrh, or if this layer is replaced with a dry one, the ability to distinguish between smells is reduced or even temporarily destroyed.
Different reactions to smells and perfumes when some people cannot detect any odour, and other different odours, is probably due to one’s though smoking can interfere, and prolonged sniffing blunts the ability. Incidentally, the Latin to smoke is fumes par or per means through; perhaps perfume is so-called because herbs were burnt for various reasons. Fragrance originally meant simply smelling and its meaning of sweetness is a modern one.
They are said to be only seven primary
odours; ethereal, camphoraceous musky, floral pepperminty, pungent and putrid, and all other odours are compounds of these; almond, for example, is a mixture of the floral, camphoraceous, and pepperminty ingredient;
Methods of Extracting Perfume
The art of perfumery is extremely complex and the professional perfumer has literally thousands of sources of fragrance on which to call when blending a new perfume. In general, perfume is based on a solvent such as oil or pure alcohol and it is possible, in spite of the potential for complexity, to make one’s own perfumes based on the flowers and or leaves of herbs in the same way that potpourris can be satisfactorily made.
Pure alcohol is usually not obtainable, but a good substitute is isopropyl alcohol, for oil, any vegetable oil can be used, though olive or sweet almond will give a better product. They will keep longer if 10% of wheat germ oil can be added, after infusing.
There are four main methods of extracting the perfume or, more precisely the essential oil which contains the perfume or aroma of a plant; distillation, extraction maceration, and enfleurage. A fifth is an expression, used largely on fruit, in which considerable pressure is exerted to squeeze out the oil. For perfumes made at home, maceration and enfleurage are the most practical methods to try out.
Maceration in effect is the way in which attar of roses is said to have been discovered. The story is that a Persian princess and her bridegroom were rowing on a lake after the wedding in which rose petals had been prodigally used, and the surface of the lake became covered with them. The princess, trailing her hands in the water, discovered that they were covered in a sweet-smelling oil, and so the method and the perfume were born.
At home, it is simply a case of steeping fresh flower petals or other scented material in water, topping up with new material until sufficient oil is obtained, and then extracting it with Isopropyl Alcohol; Enfleurage involves the use of fat applied to perfectly clean sheets of glass. Each sheet is held in a wooden frame, of any convenient size, and fat or grease spread over each surface.
The flowers or other scented material are pressed into the fat, without the stems and left in a dark place for 24 hours when fresh flowers are used to replace the old. This continues until the flowers are no longer available. In this way the fat absorbs the perfumed oil and then becomes a pomade; the oil can be extracted with alcohol;
Alternatively, olive oil can be used, placing it in a bottle and filling the bottle with the scented material. After 24 hours in a warm dark place, the flowers and oil should be strained through a net or muslin (cheesecloth) bag, and the resultant oil now slightly perfumed, placed in a 2nd bottle, and again filled with flowers.
This can be repeated until there are no more flowers available. Then an equal quantity of isopropyl alcohol is added and the mixture was shaken together than extract the essential oil and be perfumed. However, the now-perfumed olive oil can be left as it is, and used as an after bath oil.
Roses lavender honeysuckle, clove pinks, and wallflowers can all be tried for perfume. For aromatic oils for cooking, rosemary, tarragon marjoram, sage, and thyme can also be soaked in the oil, using complete sprigs. Use freshly dried material in this case, to avoid cloudy oil, and again keep it warm-hot the higher the temperature, the quicker will be extraction occurs.
Potpourris and how to make them
The art of potpourri-making became sadly lost until recently, but with the renewal of interest in herbs and all things, herbal many of the old recipes are being revived together with detailed direction for preparing the contents and putting them together.
The word potpourri literally means ‘rotten pot’ and is derived from the French pot and pourrir, to rot. Originally such a mixture contained what were regarded as disinfectant herbs; rosemary, lavender, sage, southernwood, and they were mixed with spices, oils, and fixatives and left in a closed container to mature or ‘rot’ into a moist mixture, strongly aromatic and long-lasting.
Later, perfumed material became popular and gradually replaced the original formulae. Potpourris now basically consist of the material to be used, whether it is flowers or leaves to which spices and fixatives are added and sometimes also essential oils.
The spices may be such seeds, fruits roots, etc, as coriander, caraway, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, or ginger; fixatives include orris root, sweet flag root (calamus), sandalwood, common salt, or bay salt and the essential oils can be any extracted from perfumed flowers, from the aromatic herbs and citrus and from the fragrant timbers.
The dry version of potpourri is the one most often made at home or available in stores and is easier to make as well as being visually more attractive than the most kind which, however, lasts longer and is stronger and more penetrating. Dry potpourri consists of petals and leaves dried in the same way that culinary herbs are, and collected at the same time of day and in the same condition. Darkness is especially important to preserve the color of the flowers.
The material should be crisp but not powdery when finally ready, and may take a day, or a week or longer to reach the right stage; it can be added to as the season goes on. All are mixed together in, preferably a glazed earthenware container or at any rate, not a metal one, the spices then added and also thoroughly mixed in, and then the essential oil, drop by drop, depending on the fragrance achieved already.
A dry potpourri relies in the last analysis on the added spices and oils for the strength and lasting qualities of its fragrance. The spices should be ground up very finely, and for this a pepper mill, coffee grinder, or heavy pestle and mortar are suitable. For the oil, use a syringe or eye-dropper.
Moist potpourri uses petals and leaves which are only part-dried, so that they are slightly flabby and limp, a little bit like moist chamois leather. The drying method is the same but stops much sooner you may need to examine the material more frequently to prevent it from drying too much.
Soaps, scented potpourris, rose petals, herbal waters, and oils are still used today as they were in ancient times. Fragrant essences and oils, extracted commercially from lavender, roses honeysuckle, and many other herbs have wide application in the perfume and cosmetic industries.
It takes longer to complete, as several months are required for maturation. Quite a lot of salt will be needed, in the proportion of 3 parts petals and leaves to 1 of salt. Put a layer of petals an inch thick in the bottom of the container, and cover with the salt sprinkled evenly all over it and firmed down, and repeat these two layers until all the current supply of material is used up.
Keep the layers pressed down hard and weighted well, and continue to add salt and flowers as they become available, stirring the material already in the container thoroughly before adding the new.
If liquid appears at the bottom of the container, drain it off and use it in the bath, and if frothing occurs, stir the mix to absorb it. When the container is full, there will be a caked mass of petals and leaves. Break this up with a fork and then add to it a mixture of spices, and a mixture, made up separately, of dried herbs and citrus peel, sprinkling all over the potpourri and blending them thoroughly and gradually.
At this stage, the mix will be strongly aromatic and a drop or two of essential oil of you’re choice may be necessary, but often no further additions are needed.
This final mix is then returned to the container, tightly pressed down and the container covered, mainly to keep out dust, but it should not be airtight. After about six weeks the finally matured perfume will be apparent, and will then last for years. It is usually kept in a closed jar and opened when the fragrance is required to scent a room.
Recipes for potpourris, fragrant and aromatic oils, and culinary vinegar will be found in the descriptive list of herbs, but in addition to these, the following make delightful gifts and are easily made.
Use a thin-skinned orange and make a narrow slit in the skin around the circumference, removing about 6mm ¼ inch width then make another at right-angles to this, so that the orange is marked in quarters. Put the orange in a warm place for a day or two to dry out, then push whole cloves into it closely enough to ensure that the heads are virtually touching.
Use a thin knitting needle to make holes if the orange is tough. When the whole orange is covered, roll it in a mixture of powdered orris root alone, or a mixture with spices of you’re choice, such as cinnamon, ginger, mixed spice, etc, and then wraps it up for two weeks and store in the dark. Take off the wrapping, the colored ribbon around the orange over the cut sections, and use for hanging in cupboard or wardrobe.
For these, use lavender or the dried version of potpourri, or makeup you’re own mixtures of aromatic herbs, depending on whether you want them for fragrance or forwarding off moths and other insects from clothes and household linen.
Lavender should be cut just before the flowers are fully open and hung upside down for a few days to dry, then rubbed down to remove the flowers. Used alone it is a pungent fragrance, long-lasting and pervading insect-repellent mixtures can contain any of the following; costmary, southernwood, tansy, rue, rosemary, mint, all crushed, and powdered cloves, in whatever combination you prefer.
Make up the small bags to contain them from muslin (cheesecloth) or nylon net or any thin material in pretty designs; pack them fairly tight, and finish with ribbons or cords. They should remain effective for one to two years.
This is a tiny bunch or nosegay of fragrant flowers and herbs, principally used in medieval times for carrying in the hand and warding off unpleasant smells and infection from plague and another disease. The formal Victorian posies were a derivation, but by then we’re merely a pretty conceit to provide decoration and perfume.
As a modern gift, they can be made up, using small, perfect blooms fresh leaves, with perhaps a rosebud or pink as the center, and the outside finished off with a white paper doily and secured with ribbon. It should be as neat and formal as possible, with the blooms arranged in concentric circles, interleaved with foliage. The diameter should be about 6-7 cm.
Originally posted 2018-06-19 15:32:11.