Edition 25: November 2010
Essential Oil of the Month
Joyous jasmine lets the heart flow through the river of the senses
IT TAKES up to eight million flowers, which yield 0.2 per cent aromatic molecules, to product 1kg of jasmine essential oil (absolute) - one of the most expensive aromatherapy oils.
Fortunately, it is very potent and best diluted before using; a little will go a long way to bring a lightness and happy feeling to those who use it.
Native to China and Northern India, and west Asia, jasmine is a member of a small family known as the Jasminaceae. The Jasmine grandiflorum is an evergreen, fragile, climbing shrub that can grow up to 10 meters high and has dark green leaves and small white star-shaped flowers, which are collected before sunrise and handled with care to preserve their delicate scent.
An experienced picker can pick 10,000-15,000 blossoms per night. Eight thousand jasmine flowers, for example, produce only 1gm of absolute. The absolute is an orange-brown, viscous liquid and there is no denying that the fragrance is superb; almost identical to that of the living plant.
The extraction process is a delicate one demanding great skill. Jasmine oil starts it journey as a 'concrete', which is made by solvent extraction of the newly opened flowers; the absolute is obtained from the concrete by separation with alcohol. An essential oil is produced by steam distillation of the absolute. It may also be extracted by the traditional painstaking enfleurage process or by expensive carbon dioxide extraction. This labor-intensive process and the huge amounts of flowers required that produce so little oil; means that the price of authentic jasmine oil is very expensive and many imitations are made. Adulterations are made with indole, cinnamic, aldehyde, ylang fractions and more; and lack the healing power of the real thing.
Burners and vapourisers: jasmine oil can be useful for easing nervousness, treating addiction, lifting depression, soothing coughs, promoting relaxation and easing tension.
Blended massage or bath oil: During birthing, lifting post-natal depression, easing muscle pain, reducing tension, nervousness and stress. Anoint the chest and upper body first with a few drops before slipping into a deep warm bath.
Lotion and creams: for dry, aggravated or sensitive skin, as well as to help reduce stretch marks and other scars.
Of the 300 species of jasmine, only two (Jasminum grandiflorum and Jasminum officinale) are usually used in the production of essential oils. Jasmine officinale was grafted from Jasmine grandiflorum to make it more adaptable to differing growing conditions. Both are very similar in their chemical constituents and the oils from each are used interchangeably in aromatherapy.
Jasmine is cultivated in the Mediterranean region, China and India, depending on the exact species, and the absolute is mainly produced in France.
This exquisite-smelling essential oil can cost many thousands of dollars per kilogram and although it does have great medicinal value, it is best employed for psycho-therapeutic situations unless one can afford to use it more liberally.
Jasmine is very useful as an anti-depressant, producing optimism and confidence and a feeling of euphoria. It uplifts and helps overcome a sense of diminished self-worth as well as the fear of not being able to cope with immediate problems. It has a calming and sedative effect on the nervous system and is especially beneficial in conditions caused by psychological stress and imbalance such as despair, fear, paranoia, grief, sadness, guilt, insecurity, loss of self-confidence, emotional shock or trauma.
Fear of intimacy, emotional distrust and low body-image are all ideally treated with jasmine, which is very suitable when treating anorexia nervosa.
The aroma of this oil has a pleasing, uplifting effect on the mind, particularly in depression where there is cold, apathy, lethargy and listlessness. Although jasmine is a sedative and relaxant, research reveals that it promotes beta rhythms in the brain, those associated with mental alertness. It has a calming effect on the autonomic nervous system, while still leaving the mind clear and alert. It offers relief from the anxiety and anger that can plague people struggling from narcotic and other addictions, during times of hopelessness despair, by decreasing the stress response from the hypothalamus.
Sweet jasmine is an aphrodisiac and rouses our spirits in a very special way, beckoning us to lush flowery fantasy worlds where we feel sensual yet playful and carefree at the same time.
This scent makes us receptive to temptations of all kinds, a certain thought may lead us off on imaginary journeys to foreign or inner worlds; a person we desire may seduce us with tender caresses. The fragrance does arouse yearning for faraway places and adventures in foreign realms.
It can restore creativity and enhance the imagination and intuition, coaxing us out of our familiar comfort zone. Jasmine oil clears away dark clouds of worry, leading us to a brighter world where life is worth living and full of joy.
Latin name: Jasminum grandiflorum, Jasminum officinale
Scent: Jasmine absolute has a sweet, exotic bouquet that is sensuously rich, warm and floral. The aroma is tenacious, slightly heady, even intoxicating.
Blends well with: Bergamot, Rose, Sandalwood and all Citrus oils. Jasmine is, like all absolutes, powerful oil that rounds off rough notes and blends with most of the oils. Although the jasmine flowers themselves are delicate and quite feminine, jasmine is often described as the King of essential oils. Rose is termed the Queen and they both marry beautifully in a blend.
Therapeutic properties: antidepressant, sedative, aphrodisiac, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, cicatrisant, expectorant, galactagogue, emmenagogue, parturient and uterine tonic.
Precautions: Jasmine oil is non-toxic, non-irritant and generally non-sensitising, although some people do have an allergic reaction to the oil. Due to its emmenagogue properties it should not be used in pregnancy until the woman is about to give birth. It is most useful during labour.
‘Jasmine as good as valium’ – report
RECENTLY the media has had a bit to say about the sedative powers of Jasmine oil, even comparing it to valium!
Headlines in the international press read: “The sweet smell of jasmine is as good as valium at calming the nerves with none of the side effects, according to new research.”
It seems scientific lab tests on rats have at last validated to the scientific community what we aromatherapists have known all the time.
We were just following the lead of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, who knowingly utilised the calming effects of jasmine oil. They well understood how inhaling jasmine oil molecules transmitted messages to the limbic brain region that is involved in controlling emotions and influencing the nervous system.
Scientists at last agree with Aromatherapy proponents that essential oils affects a number of biological factors, including heart rate, stress levels, blood pressure, breathing, and immune function.
The German study published earlier this year tested fragrances to see the reaction of a chemical produced by the body called GABA, which calms nerve receptors.
The study found that the scent of jasmine increased the GABA effect by more than five times; and acted as strongly as sleeping pills, sedatives and relaxants which have the side-effects of depression, dizziness, hypotension, muscle weakness and impaired condition.
Jasmine acts as a natural remedy, free of such side effects, for stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms.
Professor Hanns Hatt said the results, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, can ‘be seen as evidence of a scientific basis for aromatherapy’.
“Applications in sedation, anxiety, excitement and aggression relieving treatment and sleep induction therapy are all imaginable,” he said.
Jasmine has been used for thousands of years in herbal medicine and as an aphrodisiac. The Chinese, Arabians and Indians used it in both situations plus for other ceremonial purposes.
Valuable calming oil also has medicinal properties
JASMINE’S psychological benefits are well documented; but it is also widely used in herbal medicine - for those who can afford it.
The precious oil is soothing and calming to the skin and is a valuable addition to any skin care cream. A restorative for dingy ‘city’ skin, it is particularly beneficial for hot, dry sensitive skins especially where there is redness and itching and in low concentrations has been used to treat dermatitis and eczema.
It tones the skin, increasing elasticity and is often used to assist with stretch marks and to reduce scarring, particularly, facial skin scarred from acne pox or boils.
Jasmine is a standout in natural perfumery and it can transform a mediocre perfume into a high class floral, rendering it richer and more enduring.
Jasmine is a very good anti-septic and disinfectant and its constituents such as Benzaldehyde, benzoic acid and benzyl benzoate have very effective germicidal, bactericidal, fungicidal and anti-viral properties - though there are probably more affordable oils to apply externally on wounds, to prevent infection.
The action of Jasmine is warming, opening, and relieving of spasm. It can help bring relief from spasmodic coughs, cramps, congestions as well as intestinal cramps.
Due to the expense of jasmine, however, various other oils perform as well or better for various pulmonary conditions.
Jasmine can also help with muscle pain, sprains, and stiff limbs. Its main therapeutic use however is on the uro-genital organs, where it is warming and restorative.
Jasmine absolute is invaluable in women’s healthcare. In the bath, as a massage oil, or simply inhaled, it can help relieve PMS symptoms and menopausal problems.
It is an emmenagogue, bringing relief to those women who suffer from irregular and painful periods. This gorgeous oil will help assuage the other problems associated with the menstrual cycle such as fatigue, irritability and the blues.
It is a tonic for the uterus, balancing the hormones which ensure uterine function and health. It relieves spasm in the uterus and also helps push back early onset menopause. Research has revealed that it may even protect the uterus from tumours, particularly after menopause, by restricting flow of estrogen.
Jasmine oil acts as a truly fine parturient, facilitating delivery in childbirth and hastening the birth by strengthening the contractions and at the same time relieving pain.
Its presence eases the trauma of a prolonged labour and it enhances the joy of giving birth by encouraging a deep bond between mother and baby.
So suited to the new mother is the oil of Jasmine that it is even effective in post-natal depression and actually promotes the flow of breast milk, being a galactagogue. The beautiful smell is calming for both lactating mothers and the feeding babies.
Jasmine has a long history of enhancing libido, releasing inhibition and fully releasing both male and female sexual energy.
It has a direct hormonal impact on the body and helps with sexual problems such as impotence, premature ejaculation and frigidity, especially where there are depressive thoughts of inadequacy and undesirability.
Jasmine does so much more than just stimulate sexual activity; it harmonises the sensual aspect of our being with the emotional; it is the aphrodisiac property of Jasmine that makes you feel romantic, putting you in the mood for love by awakening amorous and poetic feelings.
It can increase excitability when worn as a perfume. Its erogenic quality (the perfumery term for sexual attractant) has been attributed to the presence of indole - one of the repulsive smelling scent markers from animal sex glands.
When present in tiny quantities and in balance with the other constituents of pure jasmine oil, it takes on a pleasantly musky character that harmonises with human body scent, enhancing sensuality with a faint animalic quality.