In the realm of health, the desire to surround oneself with pungent fragrances traces directly to the rank odour of the unwashed human, a story that starts with sweat. Human sweat by itself barely smells at all. But the symbiotic bacteria that lives all over our bodies finds our sweat a yummy meal. Post feast, the bacteria releases molecules that we recognize as body odour. Yup. We’re smelling of bacteria poop.
Throughout human history, we weren’t aware of the bacterial cause of body odor. But we sure could smell it. And so the art of extracting fragrance from plant materials began centuries ago in ancient times in different cultures all over the world. When early alchemists began extract the “essence” of a plant (or its fragrance) into oils, they believed that these concentrated extractions were a spiritual embodiment of nature, a plant’s soul, if you like.
In Ancient China, India, Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome, fragrances were primarily processed in oil-based infusions. Oil was pressed first from ingredients like olives. Then plants and woods were added to the oil using meticulous scale measurements and left to steep. This process is still used today by many body care makers, ourselves included. Another process used was maceration, meaning plant material was pressed to remove oils and then ground into powders which could be used on their own or combined with other ingredients to create a paste. Or there was enfleurage, in which leaves or petals were placed in a thin layer of solid fat, usually animal, which absorbed the plant’s essential oils. This was the process probably used to produce the spikenard used in the Bible to anoint Jesus.
Europe became a huge market for fragrance products primarily because of the belief that bathing was bad and dangerous to the health. Yup. Not making that up. It was wildly held that water’s ability to soften skin and open pores actually weakened the flesh, making it more susceptible to sickness. One of the side effects of this belief system was the development of more complex methods of perfume production, ingredients and scent dissemination. Ornamental devices continued to be developed that would mask unseemly odours, like the pomander, a spherical pendent that acted as a scent diffuser worn to purify the air wherever one walked.
Aroma jewelry is back, too, in answer to the scent sensitivity problem. Paired with fragrance oils, the jewelry brings flexibility to fragrance wearing. You can keep your scent very personal, experiencing it when you want. You can control how much fragrance you want to wear. You can still wear fragrances you love without irritating your sensitive skin. Wearing your Aroma jewelry allows you to move freely from scent-allowed to scent-free environments—just put your locket in your pocket. And should you have an aromatherapy blend that helps you stay calm, or ease a headache, this is a great way to have it quickly on hand.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team