Newsletters

2003

  • Aromatics Explorations

    I hope that all of you are enjoying the winter season as it is a fine time to collect ones thoughts and develop a plan for the coming year. Each and every time of year has some special quality about it that can help us develop into the people we would like to be. The winter has that lovely quality of contemplation where we can diget what has happened before and use the wisdom gained for making one’s own life and the life of those around them peaceful and happy. Soon I will begin another series of newsletters with the first one focusing on Eucalyptus. April Shalon has done a wonderful job of editing it and making it more presentable. I hope that in the coming year I may be able to send out a newsletter every two to three weeks as happened in 2002. People sometimes say to me, “It must be a lot of work to collect all the information,” and on one level that is true, but for me it also a form of creative relaxation which keeps the whole world of aromatics alive and vibrant for myself and hopefully for all of you.

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  • Cedarwood

    I hope that each day is bringing you many new avenues of discovery and awakening. It is a fine time of year as the earth comes to life and shares her many facted botanical gems with us. Myriads of colors, textures and scents invite one to explore her treasured realm. If one becomes very small, one can slip into that sublime place where one sees things from inside out instead of outside in. If even for a moment we see the world from that perspective it can brighten up our hearts considerably.
    Today I will endeavor to share a few thoughts about some of the grand evergreen beauties of the USA in Canada. If all goes well a few newsletters will be dedicated to Thuja, Spruce, and Fir. We will start with Thuja which is also called as Arbor Vitae or the Tree of Life. Thuja plicata is referred to as Western Red Cedar and Thuja orientalis is know as White Cedar. These are the two main species of Thuja which are extracted for absolutes and distilled for essential oils. They have played a major role in the life of the Native American peoples and hopefully we can enter their world and see things from the vantage point of folks who lived in close association with nature for thousands of years and deeply appreciated and respected the world around them. The beautiful absolutes and essential oils of the Cedar, Spruce and Fir when inhaled can act as an open sesame into the world inhabited by these ancient people in a way that few other things can. The invisible influence of the charged molecules can activate our creative imagination.

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  • Fir Balsam

    The explorations we are endeavoring to make are a small attempt at bringing into the field of the attention a way of living that has been a natural part of the bodies, hearts, minds and spirit of cultures that have lived in close proximity to natured as a result integrated into every cell of their being a way of experiencing the universe that was in many ways balanced and respectful. It is a bit difficult to capture the “spirit” of such people and how they really felt about the plants, animals, insects, rivers, oceans, etc that were part of their world. Indeed one has to live like they lived to really understand it. But at least we can in our own various ways allow our hearts to connect with theirs as best we can.

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  • Hyssop

    Hyssop officinalis is a plant that I cannot recollect being near to very often in my life although a very close relative Anise Hyssop is known to me in a more intimate way so in that way there is a link to this plant and its oil. When my mother and I started a small organic fresh and dried flower operation in the Sierras in 1978, Anise Hyssop became an important plant for us as it is one of the most renowned bee plants yielding an amazing amount of nectar in small space. So on our homestead we decided to plant this wonderful plant in order to supply the bee hives my mom kept with an immediate supply of delicious food during the later part of the summer months. So in this way I became aware of the virtues of this plant.

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  • Himalayan Explorations

    As most of you know that have been reading the newseletters for some time, I have had the good fortune to work closely with one of India’s finest researchers in natural essential oils since 1996. His name is Ramakant Harlalka. He continues to be an inspiration to me as his enthusiasm for the subject seems to have no end. In the natural course of his work he travels throughout India extensively helping set up projects concerning aromatic plants and their proper distillation. He works extensively with government sponsored organizations like CIMAP (Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants) which is based in Lucknow as well as many people in the private sector.

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  • Rajasthan Reflections

    The region of Rajasthan we were in is so remote as to be quite unimaginable unless one has been in those types of regions themselves. Yet in a few simple words I will try to share a little of what it was like. The Thar Desert is one of the hottest regions of the world. Yet due to extensive irrigation canal systems that are supplied by water from rivers coming out of the Himalayas, areas of that desert have become farmable. The people who live in the region where we visited were mainly Hindu land owners with smaller percentage of Sikhs scattered throughout the region. The distinctive apparel of the women in the form of colorful dresses has been often depicted in documentaries of Rajasthan.

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  • Kewda, From the Travel Journal

    India possesses a great wealth of aromatic plants which, until recent times, have been little known outside the country. Even at this time very little authentic information about plants such as Kadam (Anthocephalus cadamba), Parijat (Nycanthes arbortris-tis), Bakul (Mimopsus elengi), Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera, Water Lily (Nymphae nouchalii), Golden Champa (Michelia champaca) and Kewda (Pandaus odoratissimus) has been available. These exotic scents have played a very important role in Indian culture and have been used in perfumes, and cosmetics since ancient times. With the rise of artisan perfumery and other fragrance crafts a new interest in the ways ancient cultures have used their natural aromatic resources has awakened. Today we are entering a phase where countries like India can provide a whole new palette of exotic aromatics which offer us aesthetic windows in the heart and soul of a people, in a non-verbal intuitive way.

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  • Jasmin Sambac 1

    Often we read that in India, jasmine is called the “Moonlight of the Grove.” Naturally we associate this beautiful name with the delicate flowers of Jasmin grandiflorum which is the plant that was cultivated in Europe for its ethereal floral notes that have won their way into the hearts of those who cherish fine perfumes.  But to the Indian heart and mind, this name refers to an entirely different species of the plant, Jasmin sambac. It is only in recent years that this absolute has found its way into palette of Western perfumers. Its use is still far less wide spread than the more widely known Jasminum grandiflorum. Even though the two plants belong to the same genus they each possess distinct aromatic characteristics. I will attempt, in this article, to bring to life the feeling and emotion which this exquisite flower conveys to the Indian heart, the importance of the plant to the agricultural community, traditional uses of the plant and its oils, conventional and traditional distilling techniques, and how its aroma differs from that of Jasmin grandiflorum.

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  • Jasmin Sambac 2

    As the sun begins to rise in this ancient land, we approached one of the small, immaculate farms that grace this rural district. A small farm house nestled amidst well-tended fields of sugar cane, bananas, coconuts, and jasmine. The cool air was filled with the ethereal aroma of newly opened jasmine buds and the farmer’s family was moving through the new days crop with deftness and precision collecting the delicate blossoms before the heat dissipated their(the flowers) concentrated fragrance. Men, women and children all joined together to work in the fields, to collect a crop that would bring them added income to preserve their rural lifestyles. The simple beauty of their faces, the clear sparkle in their eyes, and the grace and balance of their movements as they gather this fragile crop, all appeal to my inner sensibilities. There are no disturbing, jarring elements here, only the profound beauty of the land and her people working together to produce crops which satisfy both body and soul. In fact, one might argue that the farming community are the only ones who really get the real essence of the jasmine because the odor emitted by the living flower can never be fully captured in the absolute or essential oil. There are certain extremely volatile molecules that disappear once the flower is plucked. The absolute does approach that fragrance but it can only capture the memory of what occurs when one is totally surrounded by the timeless beauty of rural India with gentle, cool breezes blowing and birds singing their own unique praises to that pure Power which sustains all life in the creation.

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  • Jasmin Sambac 3

    Ramakant Harlalka, my fragrance mentor, travels extensively in India on essential oil related works. He and one of his dear colleagues, Dr. Mohan Maheshwari have recently been instrumental in designing appropriate distillation equipment for Geranium and Lavender which are now being grown in Himachal Pradesh on a commercial level. That equipment has been constructed and installed for this years harvest. Ramakant has been attending a series of conferences on the essential oil industry in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarkhand(a newly created state that use to be part of Uttar Pradesh). There is a growing interest in organic horticultural and even people in the highest level of government are supporting the implementation of organic gardening practices. Ramakant is working very hard to help design appropriate and affordable distilling equipment and encouraging people working at every level of the industry ot implement organic gardening practices. It is a long road ahead but it is very exciting to see this type of interest growing in India.

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  • Sandalwood

    The word, “sandalwood” in English, or “chandan” in Hindi, evokes a world of ancient mystery, sanctity, and devotion. Ever since going to live in India in 1971, this precious wood and its oil have been of great interest to me. The quest to understand this wonderful gift of nature on every level has taken many interesting twists and turns. My first encounter with the tree came on the small farm where I was living in Karnatika State. A local person one day pointed out the saplings growing in a forest area. It was hard to conceive of this plain looking tree being the source of a fragrant wood that has been treasured for thousands of years. In the nearby city of Bangalore, one could purchase the pure oil distilled in the Mysore Government Sandalwood factories, and I use to bring bottles of this exquisite scent home for my mother and friends. The first whiff of sandalwood oil is enough to produce a life long affection for the scent. It truly conjures up deep, wonderful, unexplainable feelings about India and her sacred heritage. Curiosity about the world surrounding this divine scent led to the exploration of sandalwood groves deep in the heart of Kerala State, intimate contact with traditional perfume makers in Uttar Pradesh using sandalwood as a base in their attars, and finally a visit to an incredible sandalwood oil distillery in Tamil Nadu. As many people have asked for information about this oil, an attempt is made here to share what little I know.

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  • Sandalwood 2

    This information concerns Sandalwood. Basically when I started importing oils from India the first requests I got were for sandalwood. At that time there was an official government ban on the sale of sandalwood.

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