While the history of aromatherapy goes back many centuries, one particular oil has a history of its own. Jasmine is known by some as the “king of essential oils.” King, you say… the gender reference seems surprising? Rose oil is known as the queen of oils because of its decidedly feminine appeal. Jasmine, on the other hand, has a more universal charm for many reasons, and here’s a bit of the story.
Jasmine—the word itself draws a mental picture of Middle Eastern starlit nights and all sorts of magic. The name is derived from French (jasmin), from Arabic (yāsamīn), from Persian (yāsamīn) meaning “God’s gift.”
The mythical perception of jasmine itself perhaps comes from the universally-acclaimed scent of its flowers which open at night or early morning. The aroma has been sought-after for centuries. The essence is widely used in the perfume industry. Some perfumers use at least a touch of jasmine in many of their scents to add a fullness and a more universal appeal.1 Floral scents, especially rose, are light and very feminine, whereas jasmine is floral but with a richness and a touch of the wild.
The scent itself has been described as exotic, sensuous, intense, warm, sweet, and the list goes on In aromatherapy, the oil is powerful, expensive, and sought-after for many reasons. Traditionally, as a medicinal plant, jasmine is considered an antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, a soothing stimulant but yet soothing, and aphrodisiac. The oil is also highly-regarded in health and beauty for its rejuvenating effect on the skin.
The History of Jasmine
The jasmine flower is written into the stories of ancient China, Persia, and Egypt. This amazing flower was revered by royalty in China and traded along the Silk Road. Additionally, jasmine was an important part of perfumery in the times of Cleopatra and Louis XVI. In Hinduism, jasmine holds a place of honor as the “perfume of love.”
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It may be the aphrodisiac properties that placed jasmine oil in such high demand throughout history. Jasmine essential oil was used in healing and religious ceremonies because of this compelling quality. In China, jasmine oil was used in sick rooms to make the air fragrant, but it was also thought to clear the air of pollutants even before the discovery of bacteria. Ancient Egyptians used jasmine oil for headaches, nervous disorders, and to promote restful sleep.
Today, jasmine tea is popular all over the world. The tea is produced by layering jasmine blossoms with tea leaves, infusing the tea with the fragrance. In some cases, the flowers themselves are dried and included as jasmine pearls which expand and appear to blossom in the tea.
The jasmine plant genus has around 200 species, native to warm, temperate climates. Many are vines and climbers. Out of all of these, only two are used in the creation of jasmine essential oil.
Most essential oil suppliers refer to the Jasminum officinale, variety grandiflorum species as traditional jasmine. The horticulture trade seems to consider the officinale and the grandiflorum to be two separate varieties, but in essential oils, the reference is Jasminum officinale/grandiflorum.
This plant is a deciduous vine. The sturdy vine can grow up to 15 feet tall in many areas, including western China, India, Nepal, Europe, parts of the United States, and the West Indies. This is a day-blooming jasmine, picked first thing in the morning as it opens for the first time so light and time don’t diminish the scent. It grows easily and quickly.
All jasmine varieties have a distinctive scent, but there are slight differences in the varieties. Jasminum officinale/grandiflorum is considered a very warm, rich fragrance which creates the base or longest-lasting note in perfume blends. Like wines and cheeses, this oil is sometimes aged to attain a fuller, heavier scent.
Jasminum sambac is known for its heady, greener scent. Its country of origin is thought to be western China and Tibet in the Himalayas. It is often referred to as Arabian Jasmine, even though it is not really grown in ancient Arabia. It thrives in many regions with warm, humid climates.
The plant is a smaller shrub, ranging in height from one and a half to nine feet tall, and is everblooming and evergreen. Its flowers open in the evening and stay open until early morning as they are pollinated by night-flying moths.
This variety has the same therapeutic qualities of the Jasminum officinale/grandiflorum but is considered more sensually powerful as an aphrodisiac. While this floral oil might seem less sweet than traditional jasmine, it has a more energetic profile, with a touch of herbal or citrus tones.
Unlike other essential oils, floral oils like jasmine are very expensive. The only part of the plant harvested for therapeutic or perfumery purposes is the flower. Flowers are small, delicate and begin to lose their aroma as soon as they are picked. Depending on the variety, the buds or flowers are picked by hand at night or first thing in the morning.
It can require as many as 8,000 flowers to make one gram of essential oil. A talented picker can pick 10,000–15,000 flowers per night. These freshly-picked gems are rushed to processing to retain as much of the valuable essence as possible. All of these factors make jasmine oil among the most costly of essential oils.
Traditionally, most of the growing and processing of jasmine for oil took place in the south of France. The floral oils cannot be processed as other, sturdier herbals can. In the past, floral oils were produced by a process called enfleurage, rarely used anymore because of the high cost. Flower petals were laid on a layer of fat spread on a glass chassis. The floral scent diffused into the fat over one to three days.
The petals were removed and replaced with fresh ones, intensifying the scent picked up by the fat. The process was repeated until the fat was saturated with the scent of the flower. The fat was then soaked in alcohol, drawing the fragrance into the alcohol and separating it from the fat. The alcohol was evaporated, leaving just the absolute essence of the flower.
Today, the essence is produced through a process called solvent extraction. The flower petals are placed on trays and immersed in a drum of solvent, sometimes hexane or ethanol. The racks rotate the petals through the solvent, releasing the fragrance molecules into the solvent. The longer the flowers remain in the solvent, the more fragrance oil can be removed.
At some point, the solvent will begin pulling non-fragrance molecules from the petals, affecting the true scent of the jasmine. When the perfect saturation point is reached, the solvent is distilled off. The resulting product is a highly-fragranced, waxy product called a “concrete.” In this form, the jasmine scent can be stored and transported without loss of quality.
The concrete can be used to make solid perfumes, but the second phase of solvent extraction is required to produce an essential oil. Grain alcohol is added to the concrete to remove the color and wax. With the wax gone, the alcohol is distilled off, leaving the aromatic jasmine absolute.
Absolutes are the most concentrated and truest form of the original jasmine scent. These absolutes are then diluted in various percentages with pure carrier oils to produce essential oils for use by therapists and consumers.
With Cost Comes Imitation
With all this work: large quantities of flowers, processing, and transportation, perhaps you can begin to understand why jasmine oil is one of the most costly of all oils. But that cost is worth it with jasmine’s beautiful scent and therapeutic functions.
Just be aware, as with any essential oil, that less than honorable suppliers will substitute synthetic scents in order to sell lower-cost oils. With essential oils, you often get what you pay for, so know your oil supplier. Synthetic scents do not have the therapeutic capability of the true essences, and in many cases can cause adverse reactions in sensitive clients.
While the beauty of jasmine oil might seem to be all in the scent, it is the chemistry that really provides dynamic healing properties. There are 100 chemical components in Jasminum officinale/grandiflorum, some of which are highlighted below.
- Benzel acetate is an ester. Esters often have a fruity aroma and are considered to have antiseptic, aphrodisiac, and sedative properties. It also has germicidal, bactericidal, fungicidal, and antiviral properties when used externally on wounds or skin disorders, but can also work internally. 2
- Linalool is a monoterpene ester with antibacterial and antifungal properties. It has uplifting and sedative effects, another lovely aspect of jasmine. It acts as a sort of balancer, offering uplifting yet calming results.
- Linalyl acetate, also a monoterpene ester, has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-hypertensive properties.
- Benzyl alcohol is an antimicrobial, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal.
- Phytol is a sedative and reduces anxiety while not affecting motor activity—calming the body and mind without causing lethargy, one of the favorite powers of jasmine oil. It also works to reduce inflammation.
- Indole is an interesting amine with a wide range of applications. In low concentrations, it has a flowery smell, but at higher concentrations, the scent impression has inky or fecal notes. 3
Uses for Jasmine Essential Oil
At first glance, jasmine is all about scent. Its complex, floral energy is a mood-lifter for most people and often provides aphrodisiac qualities. Studies have shown that just smelling jasmine can increase alertness, hand-eye coordination, boost self-confidence, and happiness, and reduce stress. 4 Some of the key benefits of jasmine essential oil are highlighted below.
Improves Appearance of Skin
Historically, jasmine was a part of skincare for people in many areas of the world. In China, India, and Egypt in particular, jasmine blended with other pure oils was a part of the beauty and healthy skin regimens.
In a therapeutic sense, jasmine can treat dry, aging skin. It is used in low concentrations to treat eczema and dermatitis. Additionally, jasmine is useful in fading scars and treating stretch marks after delivery.
Jasmine can relieve anger, anxiety, and stress without acting as a sedative. Jasmine opens one up to options available through clearer thinking. This calming and balancing power can also reduce inflammation from emotional stress.
Improves Sleep Quality
Depending on the cause of poor sleep, jasmine can offer assistance. Its properties as an expectorant, sedative, and antispasmodic combined with settling mood often produces improvement in length and restfulness of sleep
Jasmine’s faculty to counter spasms can be seen all over the body—relieving muscle cramps, intestinal pains, spasmodic coughs, and breathlessness.
Jasmine is an antiseptic and disinfectant. Ingredients in the composition, like benzoic acid, and benzyl benzoate have germicidal, bactericidal, fungicidal, and antiviral properties. Additionally, jasmine is thought by some to have free radical scavenging potential.
Acts as an Expectorant
Jasmine helps clear the respiratory system by thinning and moving phlegm. The decongesting strength can also be beneficial for some snorers.
Jasmine has a long history of enhancing libido, releasing inhibitions, and inspiring sexual desire.
Provides Menstrual Support
Jasmine has properties which regulate period cycles, can reduce period pain, lethargy, and mood swings. It can also delay the onset of menopause.
Safety and Precautions
For all its powerful results, jasmine has few contraindications for external use and inhalation. It is generally non-toxic and non-irritating, although there are people who do have allergic reactions, therefore, it should always be used in diluted form.
Due to its effect on the uterus, it should not be used in pregnancy. As with all essential oils, each person’s response could be different so approach the use of new oils with caution and respect for the power of the oil and the health of the individual.
In our busy and sometimes chaotic world, an oil which promises to bring clarity, optimism, and perhaps produces a bit of euphoria sounds like a fabulous idea. The image of beauty, peace, and love that has surrounded this complex and lovely floral oil seems particularly needed today.
Jasmine oil seems to work well with all other oils, allowing you to bring a fresh note of positivity to your favorite blends while using this most expensive of oils in its best way. MONQ has embraced these attributes of jasmine in the Sexy personal oil diffuser, to give you feelings of positivity and confidence. Enjoy!