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The Queen of the Night
Peter Holmes, L.Ac., M.H.
© Peter Holmes 1998
"But who cared whether dawn we sipped or dusk ... as we lingered, long as the heart allowed, in silky, longtime passion."
— Gloria J. Leitner The Queen of the Night
The Queen of the Night
The Fragrant Plant from Kashmir
The Woman's Medicine
Jasmine's Neuroendocrine Actions
Jasmine's Energetic Actions
The Specific Symptomatology
darkness has nurtured the fragrant fields of white jasmine all night
long. The night-blooming pearls have shimmered with silent joy in the
luminous moonlight. Now the inkling dawn is a soft gushing of jasmine
that colors the sky with opalescent streams. The queen of the night
releases her final and most delirious wave of fragrance before yielding
to the stricture of daylight. A true creature of the moon, her milky
flowers will once more close to dream until the gathering dusk arrives.
She knows her pallid petals will again disclose their aromatic nectar to
the mysterious narcosis of darkness.
from the dawning daylight like a swat team, teenage children start to
work their way through the white-tufted fields. It's July, and because
the holidays have arrived they have to help the grown-ups pick the prime
jasmine, which they will do at least until the end of September.
Grown-ups always complain of what a back-breaking job this is, they
think. They have to bend over while we just reach straight ahead! The
children pick only the fully-opened blossoms off the shrubs and throw
them into a small, hand-held basket. They know not to squash any flower
in the process, however, as this would mean a certain penalty.
The Floral Oil
children may not know is that any bruise to the flower generates more
of the compound indole, which is undesirable. Indole has a deep, raw
animal note that should not dominate over the sweet, floral notes for
which jasmine oil is valued. But then again, jasmine from India has a
naturally high level of indole, giving it a green, earthy base note.
Egyptian jasmine, however, has more floral top notes, with a hint of
black pepper, while Italian jasmine has more fruity notes.
Although commonly known as an oil, Jasmine
is only successfully extracted by solvent extraction, not by steam
distillation. Like many flowers used in perfumery, the hot steam would
alter and destroy the floral accords for which jasmine is so prized. In
France jasmine is traditionally extracted by enfleurage, where the
flowers are placed one by one onto a mix of beef suet and lard spread
over a wooden-framed glass tray, called a chassis. They are left to
release their oils to the fat over a 24 hour period, then removed. The
whole process is repeated many times, which can last up to four weeks,
until the fat is completely saturated with essential oil. Finally, the
fat is separated through alcohol, which itself is then evaporated,
resulting in an absolute extract. Moreover, enfleurage only works where
the flower continues to produce volatile oils after it's picked -as with
jasmine, tuberose and many others. Jasmine by enfleurage, or jasmin de
chassis, is still produced in small quantities in Grasse (France) and
Italy. This simple method produces the finest fragrance material as it
retains most of the flower's aromatic components, producing the same
rich, deep, natural version of its scent as when on the bush.
so with the most common extraction practiced today for jasmine, the
concrete extraction. Here the essential oils, waxes and dyes are freed
through petrochemical solvents that have a lower boiling point than
water, thereby preserving most of the components otherwise lost through
hot steam. For perfumery this concrete is then treated with alcohol to
remove the waxes and the majority of pigments, which again results in an
absolute. Egypt produces 70 - 80% of the world's jasmine absolute using
this method, although India is gradually increasing its output. Many
countries produce other very high quality floral absolutes besides
jasmine, including jasmine sambac, tuberose, carnation, boronia, orange
flower, oleander, frangipani and narcissus. Still, although the level of
solvent in these absolutes has been found to be less than 10 parts per
million, most aromatherapists believe that their use should be kept to
topical applications in appropriately low dilutions.