CALENDULA/Pot Marigold

CALENDULA/Pot Marigold

Growing Calendula flowers and a bottle of the CO2 total extract

CALENDULA plant – Infused OIL, CO2 – HERBAL USES  

Calendula officinalis is a simple garden plant with a hundred healing uses as an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. The CO2 is also used for the treatment of skin disorders and pain as a bactericide, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory.

Jeanne Rose ~ circa 1972 – 2023

COMMON NAME/LATIN BINOMIAL ~ Calendula, Calendula officinalis

Kingdom is Plantae (includes all the plants; eukaryotic, multicellular, and autotrophic organisms.)
Order is Asterales (cosmopolitan herbaceous species known for flowers with fused petals)
Family is Asteraceae (unique because of their composite flowers; daisies, asters, chamomile, etc.)
Tribe is Calenduleae (this group varies from herbs to shrubs with showy flower heads)
Genus is Calendula – referring to the first day of the month or the long growing period, and holds about 15-20 species of annual and perennial herbaceous plants.
species is C. officinalis – originally meaning used in cooking, medicine,  and herbalism.

The language of flowers –  Giving a gift of the pot Marigold signifies “my thoughts are with you”.

OTHER COMMON NAME/NAMING INFORMATION ~ Pot Marigold, Marigold, or Mary’s gold.

Family ~ Asteraceae and this family also include aster, daisy, composite or sunflower family, Lettuce, echinacea, Chrysanthemum, fleabane, zinnia, and so many more.

            Calendula, from the Latin calendae (the first day of the month), refers to the long flowering period of this annual herb.2.

COUNTRIES OF ORIGINS ~ This plant is probably native to the southern part of Europe but is now naturalized in many temperate climates and available in many countries. Some sites say it is native to Asia and to other places. It is grown for its herbal uses in many states across the United States. Various varieties are grown for the beauty of the flowers, but often these varieties do not have the same medicinal value or carry the resin that the originating species has.

ENDANGERED OR NOT ~ Of least concern.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT HABITAT AND GROWTH ~ Most species of Asteraceae are annual, biennial, or perennial herbaceous plants; and there are also members of this family that are shrubs,  vines, and trees; all of which, if you call yourself an herbalist are >HERBS< because you use all of these plants in herbalism.            

_______Calendula grows well in full sun in poor to moderate soil. When I used to teach at the world-renowned wellness center and spa, Rancho La Puerta, near Tecate, Mexico, the gardens were quite lush, and Calendula and other sun-loving plants grew abundantly. These are plants with wonderful, sticky, resinous orange or yellow flowers. The resin comes from near the green base of the flower.

­­­­­_______ If you grow it, please choose the authentic Calendula officinalis and not any of its varietal forms.

PORTION OF PLANT USED FOR EXTRACTION, EXTRACTION METHODS; DISTILLATION, HOW DISTILLED, AND YIELDS ~ The flowers are harvested and used, via carbon dioxide extract, macerated in oil, for the hydrosol; all to provide a base ingredient for skincare, therapeutics, or food. The top third of the plant, including flowers, are harvested herbally for making infused or macerated Calendula oil, for foods, and for garnishes.

            YIELD – The CO2 yield from the flowers is dependent on extraction pressure and flow rate and is from .56% up to 4.2%. 

>It is estimated that 1 acre of Calendula could keep a crew of three to four people busy every day for three or four months, with dry flower yields of 400 to 600 lbs./acre.< There are about 250 flower heads of Calendula per pound.

• Source  of CO2
~ This work is supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals. ~

PARTS OF CALENDULA USED. The flowers and leaves are used for distillation and only the flowers for infused oil.
             Calendula Leaves –The leaves can be alternate, opposite, or whorled. They may be simple but are often deeply lobed or otherwise incised, often conduplicate or revolute. The margins can be entire, or lobed, or toothed. Gather these in dry weather, in the morning, before the sun is high but after the dew has dried — for tea or for oil maceration. The whole flower can also be dried for tea.

             Calendula Flowers – The flowers are picked in the morning when they are covered and sticky with the resin and then used, and if they will be dried, it needs to be done quickly in the shade, in a good current of warm air. They can be hung in mesh bags from tree limbs or spread out on sheets of paper without touching each other. If they are dried, and the flowers have been touching, they will become discolored. Another method of drying is to spread them on screens in a warm, dry attic or over a stairway. This has been described extensively in The Herbal Studies Course, chapters 31 and 33. The flowers and leaves are used for distillation and only the flowers for infused oil.

A table laid out with fresh Calendula flowers.

             Calendula resin: When you pick Calendula, your fingers should be sticky from the resinous bracts, which form the green base of the flower head. The species Calendula officinalis resina strain was developed by medicinal herb pioneer Mark Wheeler at Pacific Botanicals in his quest for the highest resin content and specifically to increase this therapeutic substance1. This resin is an important part of Calendula’s healing and is a good indicator of strength. If you are buying Calendula, make sure you purchase the brightest yellow or orange flowers, which is a good barometer of its freshness and medicinal quality. If picking fresh flowers, the stickier (with resin), the better. The leaves and the stems very often contain secretory canals with resin or latex. This is particularly common among the Cichorioideae, a sub-family of the Asteraceae).

CALENDULA CHEMISTRY ~  The German herbal medicine manufacturer, Dr. Theiss, registered ‘Rinathei’ in 1998 for its own exclusive production use. This variety is claimed to be rich in the faradiol triterpenoids believed to be most responsible for Calendula’s anti-inflammatory activity. Also readily available is a dwarf ornamental variety, ‘Calypso Orange,’ rich in faradiols, having the highest content of 10 cultivars tested, and often a third more than ‘Erfurter Orangefarbi.’         The petals and pollen contain triterpenoid esters (an anti-inflammatory) and the carotenoids flavoxanthin and auroxanthin (antioxidants and the source of the yellow-orange coloration). The leaves and stems contain other carotenoids, mostly lutein (80%), zeaxanthin (5%), and beta-carotene. This plant extract is also widely used by cosmetic makers in their products due to the presence of compounds such as saponins, resins, and essential oils.

CALENDULA SCENT AND ORGANOLEPTICS ~ Calendula total extract is a rich and thick, almost solid CO2 extract of Calendula flowers. It is dark brown, thick, and viscous, with a low intensity of scent that is floral, earthy, vegetative, and herbaceous. This extract must be diluted for use, has a good tenacity in a carrier oil, and/or mixed with other scents in a blend for healing. It is used in many skincare products as an anti-inflammatory.

Showing a bottle of Prima Fleur Calendula Total extract



CALENDULA OFFICINALIS CO2 EXTRACT  is used for the beneficial treatment of skin disorders and pain and as a bactericide, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. The petals and pollen contain triterpenoid esters (an anti-inflammatory) and the carotenoids flavoxanthin and auroxanthin (antioxidants and the source of the yellow-orange coloration). The leaves and stems contain other carotenoids, mostly lutein (80%), and zeaxanthin (5%), and beta-carotene. Plant extracts are also widely used by cosmetics, presumably due to the presence of compounds such as saponins, resins, and essential oils.

APPLICATION/ SKINCARE ~ Calendula officinalis CO2 is used for the treatment of skin disorders and pain, and as a bactericide, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. The creams that are made with the carbon dioxide product are fragrant, hydrating for the face and body, and have a pleasant herbal odor.

A jar of Calendula Hydrating Face Lotion

CALENDULA for the Skin – Jeanne Rose favorite ~   Calendula CO2 and infused oil is a wonderful product to nourish dry skin. It also makes good carrier oil used in aromatherapy massage. To make the infused product, use The Aromatherapy Book and refer to pages 249-250. Calendula-infused oil is a wonderful product to have on hand. I do not recommend sun infusion, as letting something sit in the sun is an excellent way to grow bacteria. Sun sitting was very useful in hot, dry climates when one did not want to use a stove. See directions below.

         Calendula and Comfrey herbs have skin-softening properties. They can be used in a facial sauna or to make herbal or floral waters. Comfrey also reduces redness and soothes irritated skin. Add water from making your breakfast oatmeal for additional skin conditioning.


DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION ~ EMOTIONAL/ENERGETIC USE ~ The mystery of aromatherapy —Get to know the elusive essence and herb that is able to create such a variety of emotional and physical changes.

This is a relaxing earthy application, and Calendula is used in ceremony for remembrance along with Rosemary, in death and dying ceremony, and also in spell work for happiness and harmony. Its bright orange color is evocative of the sun and all that the sun is used for.

Calendula flowers with a jar of hydrating face lotion and total Calendula extract superimposted.

BLENDING & PERFUMERY ~ Calendula total, is a CO2 extract, suitable for skincare and skin  issues. I do not used it in perfumery as I consider its value to be in therapeutics, cosmetics, lotions, and creams. This extract will blend well with almost all vegetable oils.

         Use the Calendula infused oil (Olive oil) for nourishing dry skin in a full body massage.

CALENDULA HYDROSOL ~  I prefer the Calendula infusion and oil maceration to EO and hydrosol as I believe that wasting 10-30 lbs. of flowers for 3 gallons of hydrosol is an ecological waste and destruction of good flowers, not to mention the environmental waste of gallons of valuable water in the condensation part of the distillation. The hydrosol is made from fresh flowers and is being used in new ways to combat old problems.

“I know that some will disagree with me on this subject, but I strongly feel that distilling Calendula flowers is a waste of botanical product.Calendula Hydrosol is obtained from freshly picked Calendula flowers and distilled in a copper still. It produces a green and vegetative smelling hydrosol. It seems a waste of good Calendula flowers. My suggestion is to not distill it but to infuse the fresh flowers in good-quality Olive Oil for an infused oil. This can be used in all skin care lotions. It works to smooth and soothe the skin, to heal small eruptions or sores. It makes a perfect infused oil.

When you distill the Calendula, you will use up to 30 POUNDS of flowers (250 flowers per pound or 7500 flowers) to make ONLY 3 Gallons of hydrosol + all the water going through the condenser. So yes, there are some water-soluble compounds, but we can use the flowers as a tea or compress. With the Calendula infused oil, you use 1 lb. of resin-covered flowers to 1 gallon of good Olive oil. When you distill for hydrosol, you have to also think of the environmental impact of your work and the value of the water used. Sometimes an herbal product is better to use than a distilled product.”

PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or even a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil, or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh.


fresh Calendula flower

fresh orange Calendula flowers


~ Definitions always seem to be a problem to sort out by people and they often vary by discipline. People are prone to invent their own definitions based on  inadequate knowledge or poor teachers. Please folks, use a dictionary if you do not know  what an herbal term means.

_____Herbalists infuse (soak flowers and leaves) or decoct (boil roots and barks), in water to make medicinal teas. So, with teas, infusion = hot or room temp. liquid, no applied heat; decoction = applied and sustained heat.   

•An infusion starts with hot water, and the heat is turned off or no heat is applied once the plant material is added – it just sits and steeps covered, often until cool. Cold infusions are also an option for some things – no heat is applied but it takes more time.

•Decoctions simmer for 5-60 min. depending on the density of the material. Roots and barks taking more time than twigs and seeds.

•We macerate in alcohol to create tinctures; we also percolate — both maceration and percolation can be called tincturing. This is also called extracting by some.

Maceration is a word that confuses people. I don’t know why humans seem to have forgotten how to use a dictionary. Maceration is a specialized soaking in oil, water, fat, or a long soaking infusion in either alcohol or fat or oil. Macerate, Use a clean metal or porcelain pan; for perfumery use the type of flowers/plants required for the odor wanted and that are carefully picked (fresh). And removed and exchanged in a short time. Therapeutic maceration and fragrant maceration are two different processes.

For a Maceration – place in the warm alcohol or liquid fat or add to the fat or alcohol and allow to remain from minutes to hours; and for fragrant maceration – exchange the flowers every 24 hours, many times, until the menstruum has the scent. It may take up to 20 exchanges. Fat/oil has a particular affinity or attraction for the scent (fragrance) of flowers, and thus, as it were, draws it out of them and becomes itself, by their aid, highly perfumed.
           For therapeutic maceration, soak the plant in the warmed oil or fat for hours until the oil or fat has taken on the color and properties of the plant.            

Alcohol has an affinity for the plant’s therapeutic values. And is often called a tincture when completed.



 Healing Skin – Simply put — using a compress or infusion of the following herbs, either singly or in a combination, will be healing Calendula, Chamomile, or Comfrey.

There are many herbs that would be useful and helpful to treat torn, burn, or tattooed skin. I have written two skin care books that list many treatments. Both the Herbal Body Book and Kitchen Cosmetics would have useful information.


PROPERTIES AND USES OF HERBAL TREATMENTS ~ Pot marigold florets are edible. They are used to add flavor when Saffron is not available, and color to salads, added to smaller plates as a garnish. The leaves are edible but not very tasty. Leaves have a history as a leafy green vegetable and both leaves and flower are used to make tea.

The flowers also called Marigold are chiefly used as a local remedy. They have a stimulating action and are diaphoretic (makes you sweat) when taken as a warm tea. Given internally, it encourages a natural internal action and prevents suppuration (pus formation as in an abscess or a vesicle and the discharge of pus). The usual recipe for herbal infusion is of 1-ounce dried herb to a pint of boiling water, steep for 10-20 minutes and take internally, in doses of one tablespoonful, every hour; and used externally as a local application for sores, pus’y wounds, pimples or irritation. It is useful as an internal tea in chronic ulcer, varicose veins, etc. This infusion was formerly considered to have much value as an aperient (mild laxative) and intestinal cleanser in obstructions in the digestive system and for jaundice.

Fresh Marigold flower is a useful remedy for the pain and swelling caused by the sting of a wasp or bee when rubbed on the affected area.

•Calendula Flowers were used in ancient cultures such as Middle Easter, Green and Roman, and as a medicinal herb as well. The flowers are used to dye cosmetics, fabrics, and foods. They are an unforgettable addition or sole ingredients in an infused oil for their therapeutic value on the skin.
            An infusion of the freshly gathered flowers, drunk hot is useful in summer fevers and cold, as it gently promotes perspiration – a decoction of the flowers has been used to treat smallpox and measles. Marigold flowers are very useful for children’s ailments.

The expressed juice of the flower or the dried powdered flowers, snuffed up the nose triggers sneezing and a discharge of mucous from the head. Years ago, when I tried to express the juice of fresh flowers, I used a Champion juicer, got only a few drops of juice but used this, diluted by half with water, as nose drops for a client who had a hole in the septum.

•Calendula leaves can also be made into a poultice that will help scratches and shallow cuts to heal faster, and to help prevent infection. A strained mild infusion has also been used in eye drops.
            The leaves when chewed at first taste gummy and sweet followed by a strong penetrating salty taste.

Calendula flowers and leaves expressed juice, which contains the most of this pungent matter, especially with Rose petals has been given in cases of costiveness (retained feces), where it acts as an aperient and proved very useful for this problem. Since it is gentle, it can be used with children and in small doses for your pets. These Calendula leaves and flowers can be eaten as a salad and also been considered a medicinal culinary herb, useful in skin diseases and swollen lymph nodes of children.

Some of the stronger scented Calendula with lots of resin is recommended to remove warts.


Sometimes an herbal product is a better choice of a product to use than a distilled product.

KEY USE ~ The skincare flower.

clear and clean Calendula infused oil

Calendula infused oil  Contents: fresh Calendula flowers and virgin Olive oil



 CALENDULA INFUSED OIL is a wonderful product to nourish dry skin. It also makes good carrier oil used in aromatherapy massage. To make this product, use The Aromatherapy Book and refer to pages 249-250. or the Aromatherapy Studies Course and read up on it. Calendula Infused Oil is a wonderful product to always have on hand.

If you want your blend/infusion to have a strong good scent or to boost the olfactory powers of a scent, make sure you pick the plants when they are ready. When they are ready means at the time when their scent is the best. For instance, Jasmine at night, Tuberose early in the morning or at dark, Chamomile types in the early morning, Roses, and Calendula when the dew is dried but before the sun is high.

The best time to start infusions or blends is in the New Moon/First Quarter in a Fire sign (Aries/Leo/Sagittarius) and when the days are not humid. If that is not possible, check your moon lore in other sources, such as the Llewellyn book on Moon signs that can be used for offline reference. I am going to go back to my herbal and gardening, and perfumery basics of gardening, tincturing, infusing, weeding, blending, etc., by incorporating the moon lore,
and working by the sign of the moon. There

 I am keeping my book, Herbs & Things, open in my reading room because I want to be able to reference the formula and what I had to say then. I already visit various moon lore and weather sites on the Internet for basic charts. When I make Calendula Infused Oil or Bruise Juice, I pick and start work on a waxing to full moon when the herbs are at their fullest. Let it drain and bottle on a waning moon. For great moon information, see — any weather or U.S. Navy site or go to MoonMenu for a quick moon update. 

I do not recommend sun infusion ~ I AM NOT a proponent of letting something sit in oil for 4-6 weeks in the sun or on a windowsill or when it is hot and humid during the day and cooler at night, as this is a perfect way to create spoilage. I use the hot maceration method and get my perfect brightly-colored, clean, and clear, Calendula oil and perfect St. Johnswort Oil in about 2-3 days.

Use 1 lb. of fresh flowers to 1 gallon of organically grown Olive oil.

 Essentially, you have to get freshly picked flowers when they are ready and covered in resin; pick them in the morning when the dew is dry but the sun not yet high and infuse and macerate them slowly over a series of days in organically-grown Olive oil, heating gently but not boiling, cooling, heating, and cooling until the flowers have exuded (sweated) their liquid moisture. Keep heating and cooling until the pot lid no longer collects the condensation, pouring off the condensate into a glass and drying the inside of the lid. During hot weather, this might be done in a day, but here in San Francisco, it takes about 3 days. Cool, and allow the oil to drain into a clean container.

Don’t be lazy and choose to do this therapeutic oil with dried-out flowers. Yes, I know most other herbalists have taught you that dried is the way to go. It is a bit harder to do with clean, freshly picked flowers, but the resultant oil will be so much more healing and healthful.

• •

  1. Weigh or count out your flowers. You will need about 1 lb. or 250  flower heads + 1 gallon of Olive oil for about 120  ounces of finished infused oil.
Calendula flowers being weighed and some olive oil beside it.

2. Add the flowers and the oil together in a proper porcelain or stainless steel pot. Bring to a soft boil, and sweat off the excess water, removing the lid and pouring off the condensate into a separate container. Turn off the heat to allow the flowers to cool, and then repeat this process several times. Depending upon the humidity of the day, this may take at least 3-5 times bringing to a boil, turning off the heat, allowing the pot to cool, taking off the condensate from the lid, and then repeating the process. Repeat over and over again until no more fluid condenses on the inside of the lid … BUT do not let the contents burn.

Two different kinds of pots to use when macerating and making Calendula infused oil.

3. When pouring off the condensate, remember to not pour it back into the oil but into a separate container. This liquid can be considered a perfect hydrosol of Calendula as it is the natural exudate from the flowers. Collect it and then use it as a facial tonic within the next three days.

4. After the oil has taken on the deep orange color of the flowers (up to 2 days of warm maceration or of heating and cooling), let it cool enough to pour into a glass jar. Use a funnel lined with fine silk cloth or a mesh bag and pour the oil through the bag into the jar. This will collect any stray bits of plant material. If you use silk, it also will not drip off the ends as other fabrics can do. It is not necessary to use a filter or filter paper as that just adds another dimension to the product and does not remove any bacteria or yeast. If you have made the oil correctly, it will be yeast and mold-free for up to a year, and the filter paper doesn’t filter; it only makes a mess.

a silk mesh bag for straining the infused oil.

5. Now, you will have to be patient and let the finished Calendula Infused Oil sit for a day or two and settle quietly on its own while it totally cools. Any liquid that may be left will drop to the bottom of the jar and the oil can be decanted into a clean container. If the oil is cloudy, however, decant it, and you will have to heat it gently one more time to remove the fluid. My Calendula Infused oil is golden yellow-orange in color and clear and will stay this way.

5 bottles of infused Calendula oil showing how clear, clean, and orange it should be.

6. At this point, pour your oil into sterile quart or 8-oz. bottles. Label your product with its name, contents, the size of the container, and your name or phone number or website. Store them in a basement or wine cellar at about 45-55°. They will keep until you use or sell them.


            CALENDULA INFUSED OIL MEDICINAL ACTION AND USES ~ Used externally as a local application for sores, pus-filled wounds, pimples, or irritation. A lotion made from the infused oil, plus flower wax (and maybe the addition of a healing essential oil), is most useful for sprains and wounds. If you have a hydrosol distilled from these flowers, this is good for inflamed and sore eyes; use it (but only used if kept sterile).

  INGREDIENTS of Calendula infused (Olive) oil. Calendula flowers and Olive Oil. This is a wonderful product to nourish dry skin. Olive oil by itself contains the phytonutrient oleocanthal, which mimics the effect of ibuprofen in reducing inflammation in the body, and olive oil components are squalene and lignans and are being studied for their possible effects as a cancer treatment.

            USEs ~ Used for dry or sensitive skin, baby care, and also good carrier oil used in aromatherapy massage. Essentially, you have to get freshly picked flowers, infuse and macerate in olive oil, heat gently, and cool several times, removing all condensate that collects on the lid. Then allow the oil to drain into a clean, sterile container. Only the common variety with a deep orange color and sticky resin is of medicinal value. The yellow flower can also be used, but it does not make as deeply colored infused oil, and it seems of ‘lesser’ strength. Calendula Infused Oil is a wonderful product to have on hand.

½ cup Calendula-infused oil
1 cup Calendula hydrosol
½ oz beeswax [you can also use a floral wax]
10 drops EO
[healing oils such as Thyme linalool, Rosemary verbenone, or ?]

Melt beeswax in the infused oil- use a double boiler or the low setting on your oven. Make sure it is

melted and thoroughly mixed. Pour hydrosol into a clean/sterile blender; the hydrosol must cover the blades.

Wait for the infused oil to cool just enough to start a “skin” If it is too hot, it will not mix properly. Start on the low setting of your blender and slowly add the oil to your hydrosol, turning up the speed as it bogs down. When all infused oil is added, quickly add the EO. Do not over-blend. Put in clean, sterile jars, label, and refrigerate.

–Ann Harman formula–

Medicinal Action and Uses. Calendula-infused oil made from fresh flowers and organic Olive oil is a wonderful product to nourish dry skin. It also makes good carrier oil used in blends, lotions, and massage.

 Jeanne Rose Aromatherapy •


2. Dictionary of Plant Names. Allen J. Coombes. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon

The Aromatherapy Book.

 ~ JR ~

VANILLA – a Profile

  Vanilla, in all its forms, is an essential ingredient in skin care, perfumery, culinary, and emotional needs.
 Read Jeanne Rose’s profile of this essential plant.

Vanilla ~ The Favorite Flavor and Scent

By Jeanne Rose

photo of Vanilla vine at the Conservatory in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco with an overlay of two types of Vanilla in bottles.

Photo by Jeanne Rose at the Conservatory in Golden Gate Park

Other Common Name/Naming Information: The word vanilla comes from the Latin ‘vagina’ (sheath) or scissors case and refers to the shape of the pods, and ‘planifolia’ means flat leaves.

VANILLA FAMILY ~ Orchidaceae. Vanilla is the only species of Orchid that is extracted, distilled, or used in aromatherapy or foodstuff. There are some Orchid varieties that contain fixed oils.

VANILLA COUNTRIES OF ORIGINS ~ Vanilla is indigenous to Mexico and tropical America. It is now grown in many places, including Madagascar and the island of Réunion (western Indian Ocean about 420 miles (680 km)  east of Madagascar.

HARVEST LOCATION of Vanilla ~  Our Vanilla originates in Madagascar and Comores (between Madagascar and the southeast African mainland), India, and Uganda.

ENDANGERED OR NOT ~ Vanilla planifolia, the source of Vanilla essence, grows in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, in India in the Bay of Bengal, and classified as a vulnerable species, while Vanilla andamanica, a wild relative of commercial Vanilla, is considered endangered.

VANILLA. GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT HABITAT AND GROWTH ~ Perennial, herbaceous vine trained to grow in rows and reaches up to 75 feet. There is so much that is interesting about this plant, and I suggest that you go to a botanical site for a complete description. Start with the Wikipedia description of growth and habitat. [See Wikipedia for Vanilla]

           I suggest that you read one of the many wonderful books that have been written about the history and uses of Vanilla.  So much has been written and explored.  This is one of the most fascinating plants that I know.

A Vanilla flower and flower buds

Vanilla flower at the U.S. Botanic Garden

VANILLA. PORTION OF PLANT USED IN DISTILLATION, HOW DISTILLED, EXTRACTION METHODS  ~ Solvent extracted absolute. “The green fruit which looks like a green bean is picked after it spends some time on the vine and is then cured.”  This is another one of the plants that have no odor; the odor develops upon drying and curing (See also Orris and Patchouli).  These immature pods are then picked, put on trays, and left to ferment.  When they turn brown, they become extremely fragrant, this fermentation process allows the Vanilla to develop, and the best quality beans accumulate white Vanilla crystals on the bean375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols, p.154.

•Pure vanilla is made with the extract of beans from the vanilla plant. While the substance called Mexican vanilla is frequently made with the extract of beans from the Tonka tree, an entirely different plant that belongs to the pea family. Tonka bean extract contains coumarin.

•The only company I know of that actually grows/processes pure Vanilla beans from Mexico is Nielsen-Massey Mexican pure vanilla extract. I have it in my fridge. This is Nielsen-Massey, “Mexican Pure Vanilla Extract is made from premium, hand-selected beans cultivated in Mexico, the original birthplace of the vanilla plant. The proprietary cold extraction process gently draws out and preserves the vanilla’s more than 300 flavor compounds, resulting in one of the world’s most exceptional vanillas. A rich marriage of sweet and woody notes, the (true) Mexican vanilla flavor profile has a deep, creamy, spicy-sweet character, similar to clove or nutmeg. Mexican Pure Vanilla Extract’s unique flavor profile means it works especially well with chocolate, citrus fruits, cinnamon, cloves, and other warm spices. The vanilla’s spiciness complements Chilé peppers and tomatoes, smoothing out their heat and acidity.”3.

•Nielsen-Massey also processes Tahitian Vanilla, Vanilla x tahitensis, a species of Vanilla that is unique among the hand-grown varieties. It is a hybrid of two species, Vanilla planifolia, and Vanilla tahitensis, with a thinner stem, oval-shaped leaves, and darker green in color. 

•Vanilla comes from Mexico but is grown extensively in the Tropics, most noticeable in Madagascar. It is the only orchid being grown as a domestic plant. The long, slender fruits (‘beans’ or ‘pods’) are harvested before they ripen, but the powerful vanilla flavor only develops after several months of special curing. The beans are spread in the sun in the morning, then covered and kept enclosed during the night. After a while, the green beans turn brown, and the glycosidically bound vanillin is slowly liberated. It is understandable why vanilla is so expensive. The small, black ‘speckles’ in a dessert show that true vanilla has been used and are the seeds, which are unusually large for orchids. White fluffs on the surface of the vanilla pods are neither mold nor insecticide but pure crystallized vanillin and a sign of high quality.

vanilla flower and vanilla beans

(photo by Jeanne Rose of fresh Vanilla beans)


Vanilla Absolute has the best and strongest scent, and this dark brown viscous product makes an excellent addition to many perfumes. It is alcohol soluble, but portions of the absolute will settle out of the perfume, and the perfume will need to be filtered.

Vanilla CO2 This creamy substance extracted with carbon dioxide with a lovely Vanilla odor is pale yellow to tan and has a shelf life of about 3 years. This can be used as a flavoring agent as well as in solid perfumes. The scent is irresistible pure vanilla.

Vanilla oleoresin is also available. Arctander describes the scent as rich, sweet, and Vanilla without the Tobacco note of the absolute. This is usually used in oil-based scents and not alcohol-based scents or products.

Vanilla water-soluble. I was able to get a sample of this some years ago from a supplier in Madagascar. It was very interesting, but I prefer to use the others.

2 types of CO2 extract, shown diluted in 2% and 12%
Vanilla organoleptics of the absolute and two types of CO2 extraction


ODOR DESCRIPTION/ AROMA ASSESSMENT – Vanilla planifolia is an incomparable scent that cannot be duplicated in the laboratory. It is the scent that comes from the female part of an orchid. The pollinated ‘bean’ or seed capsule is picked green, cured by fermentation and enzymatic action, and the scent develops over several months. The scent is woody floral fruity, and spicy. Sometimes the floral note is at the forefront, but in my experience, a soft wood scent presents first and then the floral, fruity, and spicy. •

Vanilla beans and avanilla absolute

This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals. 


Vanilla products are a powerful calmative and relaxant and can be used as an aphrodisiac.

Properties and Uses – Vanilla is used by inhalation and application. Inhaled, it is calming, relaxing, and soothing to the mind. It is used in many body care products and as a sexual lubricant. Applied in a massage blend, it can be an aphrodisiac. I suggest using the CO2 product for the most effective and flavorful results.

I personally use this substance as an odor for inhaling, relaxation, sweet thoughts of where I have seen it, and as a necessary part of most of my perfume base notes as well as in cooking.

Application/ Skincare – Vanilla CO2 is preferred for skin care, and here, it is somewhat anti-inflammatory and will help to soothe and calm skin that is irritated.


Alter this recipe as you need to suit yourself;
you can use a different carrier oil each time you make it.

Maple Sugar/Vanilla Body and Foot scrub
½-cup Maple sugar (for a grainier scrub, use Turbinado sugar for a nice change)
½-cup fine sea salt
¼-cup or less or more of a combination of favorite carrier oils, I choose Sunflower.
1 tablespoon kaolin or China clay (white)
1-tablespoon honey
10 drops each of Vanilla abs or CO2, Lemon, and Orange essential oils.

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl.  Spoon into jar.  This recipe makes 2 cups + ounces.  The oil will rise to the top; just stir before use.  This is an invigorating scrub, so rub gently.  Bath gloves work best for a good exfoliation.  Works very well on legs, feet, knees, and elbows.  Not recommended for the face.

Botanical drawing of Vanilla flower

Vanilla flower

Diffuse/Diffusion ~ Filtered Vanilla tincture can be used in blends in the diffuser. It adds a soft, pleasant, floral note to any blend.

Emotional/Energetic Use ~ Vanilla is used to soothe and calm the psyche and to help with frigidity and sterility.

PERFUMERY Using Vanilla Products

Blends Best with – Vanilla adds an exotic note to just about any formula and is mostly used with floral, fruity, woody, and spicy scents. It is stunning with Amber, Labdanum, and floral scent such as Ylang-Ylang. Blends well with all types of citrus such as Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Mandarin, Orange, and Tangerine, woods like Atlas Cedar and Sandalwood, and spicy notes such as Frankincense.

Blending with formula – A Favorite Perfume Formula.

8-flowers Perfume – Huit Fleurs
Jasmin abs OR CO2
Lavender SD & abs
Linden abs
Mimosa abs
Neroli SD
Rose abs
Tuberose abs
Vanilla CO2
Ylang-Ylang SD

These can be mixed in any quantity and/or in equal quantities to make a stunning perfume.

Don’t forget to let it age for several weeks before adding an equal quantity of 95% neutral grape spirits. Then let it age again for several weeks. Smell it, sample it. You may want to dilute by half again and age again. The resultant perfume will be 25% pure natural perfume ingredients.

Vanilla tincture ~ I like to make my own Vanilla tincture for use as the fixative in a perfume, a flavoring agent for foods, or in blends that will be alcohol-soluble.

This is what I do: Take a small container and fill it with chopped Vanilla beans that have been sliced open, the grains scraped out and added, and the beans chopped. (It is the grains that will have the most odor). Add just enough 95% neutral grape spirits to fill the container. Let this age for a period of time (at least a month).  Now use the tincture in foods or in alcohol-based perfumes. Portions of the Vanilla cannot be extracted with this high-proof alcohol, and when added to a perfume blend, it will settle out as a dark brown sludge or particles, and the tincture or perfume will need to be filtered. As you remove the tincture for use, you can refill the container with alcohol several more times. The first fraction will be the best, however.
For best flavor results, it is best to use 70-75% grape (spirits) alcohol.—jeannerose-2000


KEY USE ~ Perfumery and flavoring food.

The Vanilla Box ~ In 2000, I received a box from Madagascar – a gift. The box was full of Vanilla beans and a small bottle of a new product, a water-soluble extract of Vanilla.  This is the box. It has a puzzle-style opening and smells very beautiful.

Vanilla box and a bottle of absolute

Vanilla Box

CHEMICAL COMPONENTS ~ Vanillin, ethyl vanillin, and coumarin.
            Comparison of Main Components: Vanilla can be detected in very small quantities – at concentrations of 0.1 parts per million when it is dissolved in water. To show how small changes in chemical structure can influence taste, ethyl vanillin, which has one more carbon and two more hydrogen atoms than vanillin, is 3-4 times stronger in its vanilla aroma.


HYDROSOL: I think it would be a waste of water to try to distill Vanilla beans. To date, there is no hydrosol.

PLEASE NOTE – A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or even a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components, and most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh.

VANILLA. HISTORICAL USES ~ As flavoring and as an aphrodisiac. Vanilla was used by the Aztecs and indigenous people of Central America to flavor Cocoa; Vanilla was combined with Chilé Pepper and Chocolate to make a tasty drink only fit for the god/kings. It was cultivated for ornamental use.

Vanilla beans from the Vanilla box.

Vanilla Beans

HERBAL USES OF ORCHID ~ Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/24 – 79) was known as Pliny the Elder, a Roman author, a naturalist, and a natural philosopher, claimed that even holding the roots of an orchid would stimulate one to ecstasy.  The Latin word for an orchid is orchis, which comes from the Greek orkhis, meaning testicle, because of the twin bulbs resembling testicles. The Romans believed that orchids came into being when Satyrs (a male nature spirit with ears and a tail resembling those of a horse, as well as a permanent, exaggerated erection) spilled their seed upon the earth.1.  

Sometimes orchid flowers are infused in oil. The resultant ‘orchid’ infused oil is used on the skin to promote new tissue formation, accelerate healing, and encourage healthy skin growth. It also has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties and is a useful germicide, helping prevent or eliminate infections. It is a versatile ingredient to add to lip balms, creams, lotions, and soap. [There are some orchids that can produce a fixed oil, that is, a non-volatile oil, from the leaves and flowers] •

Seeds of Vanilla - exhausted and dried.

CULINARY USE OF VANILLA ~ What would cookies, cake, Coca-Cola, ice cream, eggnog, hot Chocolate, and Christmas desserts, be without Vanilla? It is the penultimate flavor enhancer of so many delicious foods.

Please note that most Vanilla flavoring today is not from the Vanilla plant
but from wood pulp as a byproduct of papermaking and from coal-tar.

INTERESTING INFORMATION ~ The Vanilla plant is so interesting that entire books have been written about it. In 2004 I spent many happy hours reading “Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World’s Favorite Flavor and Fragrance” by Patricia Rain. It is the only plant of the Orchid family used in Aromatherapy.  The plant hasn’t any odor; the odor develops upon drying and curing. Vanilloside breaks down to Vanillin and glucose upon ripening and, when cured, is the source of Vanilla extract. In Madagascar, the anther and stigma have to be pressed together by hand as pollinating bees are absent. Here Vanilla is the only hand-pollinated crop (this was pioneered in 1841 by a 12-year-old slave from Réunion); all West Indies Ocean stock is allegedly from a single cutting in Jardin des Plantes in Paris.

KEY USE ~ Flavoring and in Perfumery.

ABSTRACT/SCIENTIFIC DATA: VANILLA–ITS SCIENCE OF CULTIVATION, CURING, CHEMISTRY, AND NUTRACEUTICAL PROPERTIES. By Anuradha K1, Shyamala BN, Naidu MM. Abstract. Vanilla is a tropical orchid belonging to the family Orchidaceae, and it is mainly used in food, perfumery, and pharmaceutical preparations. The quality of the bean depends on the volatile constituent’s, viz., the vanillin content, the species of the vine used, and the processing conditions adopted. Hence, proper pollination during flowering and curing by exercising utmost care are important aspects of vanilla cultivation. There are different methods of curing, and each one is unique and named after the places of its origin like Mexican process and Bourbon process. Recently, Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore has developed know-how of improved curing process, where the green vanilla beans are cured immediately after harvest and this process takes only 32 days, which otherwise requires minimum of 150-180 days as reported in traditional curing methods. Vanillin is the most essential component of the 200 and odd such compounds present in vanilla beans. Vanillin as such has not shown any antioxidant properties, it along with other compounds has got nutraceutical properties and therefore its wide usage. The medicinal future of vanilla may definitely lie in further research on basic science and clinical studies on the constituents and their mechanism of action.— PMID:24090143 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]


3. Nielsen-Massey Mexican pure vanilla extract.

Arctander, Steffen. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin. Steffen Arctander. 1960
Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose & Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 2000
Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, 2014 printing, Cambridge University Press.
Rose, Jeanne.  375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.  Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999
Rose, Jeanne.  The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations.  San Francisco, California


SAFETY PRECAUTIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS ~Prolonged exposure can be deleterious to the nervous system.

Patch Test ~ If applying a new essential oil to your skin, always perform a patch test to the inner arm (after you have diluted the EO in a vegetable carrier oil). —Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply a diluted drop (1 drop EO + 1 drop carrier) to the area. Then apply a loose Band-Aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction, then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas. —The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations, p. 64

This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your healthcare provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor. The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©


CILANTRO/CORIANDER herb & oil  profile

by Jeanne Rose

photo of coriander seeds, cilantro leaf and essential oils of Coriander seeds CO2, and steam-distilled


CORIANDER, Coriandrum sativum ~ oil from the seed is called Coriander seed oil, while the plant and oil of the leaf is called Cilantro leaf oil.

BOTANICAL FAMILY ~ Apiaceae family includes 3700 species, including Cumin, Coriander, Fennel, and Dill.

COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN ~ Native to Europe and growing wherever it is planted.

ENDANGERED ~ This plant is GNR (no status).

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT, HABITAT & GROWTH ~ Coriander belonging to the carrot family (Apiaceae), is a large group of flowering plants. The members of this family are often aromatic, and the plants are characterized by hollow stems, taproots, and flat-topped flower clusters known as umbels.

Coriander is an intensely aromatic annual or biennial herb/plant whose leaves are called Cilantro. It is between one and three feet high, with few fine, spindly leaves and delicate whitish pink edible flowers, followed by green seeds called Coriander seeds. To harvest the correct plant, you must grow the proper plant variety, and each plant grown should be grown in the proper terroir for the healthiest plant. Grow organically without chemical pesticides or herbicides. Harvest at the correct time to ensure peak properties, and that is just before the herb flowers and bolts, and harvest for the seeds when they are young and green or when they are ripe and brown, depending on your desires for taste and longevity. 

Many people dislike the odor of Cilantro leaves; it is produced by aldehydes that also are “emitted by various insects, including stinkbugs. ….This scent is released by pounding or cooking. And for gardeners, the aldehyde content of cilantro plants rises as they develop, so the leaves smell mildest before the flower buds appear, strongest  as the small green fruits are maturing.”3

Coriander flowers and leaves



  Always distill with good equipment at the proper temperature and pressure to preserve oil molecules.

Cilantro, or Chinese Parsley, oil is steam distilled from the leaves.     

Coriander seed oil is steam distilled from the crushed, ripe seeds.             

“The world has two key sources of coriander, each operating on a different schedule. In Morocco, coriander is planted in February and harvested in May. In contrast, in Eastern Europe (essentially Bulgaria and Romania), planting is in February, and the harvest is from July to August. Eastern Europe’s longer growing season results in higher levels of essential oils, around 0.8 to 1.2 percent, compared to Morocco at 0.8 to 1 percent. This level determines the intensity of flavour, but not the proportions of citrus to mellow spice, which varies depending on the source.”1

 Yield: 0.8-1.0% for the seeds.


SOURCE ~ This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals. 

Coriander seed oil SD and Coriander seed, total CO2


Chart of organoleptic characteristics of Cilantro leaf and Coriander seed oi.

ODOR DESCRIPTION  AND AROMA ASSESSMENT – This plant has a curious and eponymous odor. Each part is different; the flower is pleasant, the mature leaves have a curious ‘soapy’ odor, and the seeds and oil especially are fresh and grassy odor – each has a different odor based on the chemistry.  Where the scent of the seed and flower are almost always acceptable, the scent of the leaves is disliked by half of the people smelling them.  The chemistry of each part is different, and the taste as well.  This is one plant and essential oil that should be individually assessed for scent.

CHEMICAL COMPONENTS of Cilantro/Coriander

Cilantro leaf has unpleasant-smelling aldehydes such as decanal (a fatty lipid,  an aldehyde molecule with a musty, fatty, grassy odor). Decanal is also part of the odor of Buckwheat.
Cilantro flowers have benzofuran and others. Benzofuran is in the odor of Daisies and Sunflowers. Coriander seeds include mainly Linaloöl, with Limonene, Gamma-Terpinene, Geraniol, and more.


HISTORICAL USES ~    Aromatic stimulant, culinary spice, and aphrodisiac.

INTERESTING FACTS ~ A remedy for the bite of the two-headed serpent. “Coriandrum is derived from the Latin koras meaning ‘bedbug.’  This is because the odor of its fresh leaves apparently resembled the insect’s smell (and is known in the odor of stinkbugs). . . Cultivated for over 3,000 years, Coriander is mentioned in all the medieval medical texts, by the Greeks, in the Bible, and by early Sanskrit writers” Aromatherapy for healing the Spirit, p.64.2

Coriander/Cilantro botanical specimen

botanical illustration of Coriander, all parts.


PROPERTIES of Coriander seed and leaf


CILANTRO LEAF oil (the leaf of Coriander) is used mainly as it is rich in antioxidants, aids digestion, can be a powerful cleanser and detoxifier; in skincare, it is soothing to the skin, and it flavors foods many foods, in particular, salsa.  

CORIANDER SEED oil is used by inhalation (IN) as it is relaxing, soporific, and sedative; by application (AP), it is used in skincare as it is anti-inflammatory and warming; and this essential oil is occasionally taken internally to soothe the stomach, as a carminative and antispasmodic and aid elimination (depurative, once known as an alterative).

•                                                                                PHYSICAL USES & HOW USED (IG OR AP) Ingestion (IN)of the herb ~ The herb tea is used for stomachache or to alleviate gas.  The essential oil has been used for flatulence, digestive problems, and as a stimulant to the entire body.

Application (AP) of the seed oil – A warming pain-easer for arthritis and rheumatism, for oily skin, clears blackheads, for skin impurities, in perfumery, and as a revivifying stimulant during convalescence.                                          

EMOTIONAL/RITUAL/ ENERGETIC by Diffusion ~ Cilantro oil and Coriander oil may have similar emotional benefits, such as relief from stress and energetic support to assist them in respecting boundaries or finding the courage to complete a difficult task or processing the events of life, and stay true to their self.            

These oils can be applied to ease externally to ease migraine headaches. Dilute in your favorite carrier oil to about 10% and massage around the temples and the back of the neck.  Also, inhaling may ease stress, anxiety, insomnia, and mental fatigue. Remember, in these cases, the scent should be pleasing and acceptable.

BLENDING AND PERFUMERY ~ Depending on your uses for these two oils, your blends may include Fennel, Dill, and other family members. Coriander and Cilantro are used in some very fashionable, high-end perfumes. They are described by D.S. & Durgas as “It is an everyday scent, light enough to meld with skin and project its presence with a subtle aura. Fresh, but unique with its pungent green atmosphere.”           

Cilantro leaf EO Blends best with strong florals such as Jasmin, and Ylang-ylang, citrus odors such as Clary sage, Lemon, Grapefruit, Neroli,  spicy odors such as any kind of Pepper, Nutmeg,  Cinnamon, Cardamom, and Ginger, vegetative/herbaceous odors such as Palmarosa, Petitgrain, Geranium, and Galbanum to enhance the green grassy odor, and deep woody odors like Vetiver.
Coriander seed EO blends with florals, citrus, woods, and spicey odors.

HYDROSOL ~ If I had this hydrosol, first, I would smell it carefully and then decide if  I would use it.  I would think that I would prefer the Coriander hydrosol before the Cilantro hydrosol.  But both could be used as a digestive drink.

PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components. Most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using fresh plant material.


Coriander seed oil, 2 types, in a small bowl of the seeds

HERBAL USE AND PROPERTIES ~ When I was able to grow Coriander, I enjoyed the flowers in salads. I harvested the seeds as they were green turning to brown and cut the seed heads directly into a small paper bag, which I then tied off the top and would hang the bag in the house until the heads had dried, and the seeds had dropped into the bottom of the bag.  It is an easy method. When the seeds were thoroughly dried, they were stored in a labeled glass jar for use during the winter.

I enjoy the taste of the seeds in gin when it is used as a flavor ingredient, and I am neutral about the taste of Cilantro and will eat it in tacos.  My son, however, is violently opposed to eating or smelling Cilantro.

Herbally, Coriander seed and when picked with the leaf and flowers, are used in teas and infusions; for stomach ache or flatulence, in a foot wash for athletes’ foot (with other herbs), in blended herbal remedies for the respiratory system, and also for scant or painful urinary complaints.

This is one herb that I use in cooking, in some herbal teas, and sometimes when making my Bruise Juice. The seed is good in Middle Eastern cooking and is ground for soup, stew, and many vegetable and meat dishes. It is part of many traditional spice blends in Asian, Indian, and Latin cuisine.

CILANTRO ~ some people truly dislike Cilantro.  “Cilantro and arugula, I don’t like at all. They’re both green herbs; they have kind of a dead taste to me.”…Julia Child said and “I would never order it, and “I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor.”           

Apparently, Ms. Child had plenty of company for her feelings about Cilantro. The Oxford Companion to Food notes that the word “coriander” is said to derive from the Greek word for bedbug, that cilantro aroma “has been compared with the smell of bug-infested bedclothes” and that “Europeans often have difficulty in overcoming their initial aversion to this smell.”            

Charles J. Wysocki of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia studied Cilantro and found that some people may be genetically predisposed to dislike it.

“Modern Cilantro haters often describe the flavor as soapy rather than buggy. I don’t hate Cilantro, but it does sometimes remind me of hand lotion. Each of these associations turns out to make good chemical sense. Flavor chemists have found that cilantro aroma is created by a half-dozen or so substances, and most of these are modified fragments of fat molecules called aldehydes. The same or similar aldehydes are also found in soaps and lotions and the bug family of insects. Decanal and (E)-2-decenal were the most abundant compounds, accounting for more than 80% of the total amount of identified compounds.”4

KEY USE ~ Herb For Digestive Problems and EO of seed/leaf for aching muscles and to reduce gut gas. •

Coriander seeds uncracked



“Coriandrum sativum L. (C. sativum) is one of the most useful essential oil-bearing spices and medicinal plants, belonging to the family Umbelliferae/Apiaceae. The leaves and seeds of the plant are widely used in folk medicine and as a seasoning in food preparation. The C. sativum essential oil and extracts possess promising antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-oxidative activities as various chemical components in different parts of the plant, which thus play a great role in maintaining the shelf-life of foods by preventing their spoilage. This edible plant is non-toxic to humans, and the C. sativum essential oil is thus used in different ways, viz., in foods (like flavoring and preservatives) and in pharmaceutical products (therapeutic action) as well as in perfumes (fragrances and lotions). The current updates on the usefulness of the plant C. sativum are due to scientific research published in different web-based journals.5.”

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS:          Dilute for external use; otherwise, none known.



2. Mojay, Gabriel.  Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit.  Rochester, Vermont:  Healing Arts Press, 1999. 3.McGee, Harold. Nose Dive. 1st edition, 2020, pages 258-259.

4. April 14, 2010, Section D, Page 1 of the New York Times, The Curious Cook, by Harold McGee

5 Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, Vol. 5, Issue 6, June 2015, Pages 421-428


Copeland, Dawn. Basic Profiles from the Aromatherapy Studies Course. 2005

Rose, Jeanne.  375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.  Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999

Rose, Jeanne.  The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations.  San Francisco, California: Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose & Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1992.

Worwood, Susan & Valerie Ann.  essential aromatherapy, a pocket guide to essential oils and aromatherapy. Novato, CA. New World Library, 2003.



Scent snapshot of the analyzed oil of Cilantro and Coriander.


Moderation in All Things.
Be moderate in using essential oils, as they are not environmentally sustainable.
Be selective and more moderate in your usage.
Use the herb first as tea or the infusion. —JeanneRose 2014

DISCLAIMER:  This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your healthcare provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor.  The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose

MAY CHANG – Litsea cubeba

MAY CHANG – Litsea cubeba

Essential Oil Profile

photo of berries and essential oils

May Chang – Litsea cubeba

Background, history, name, use, and essential oil

Jeanne Rose

Summary ~ May Chang, Litsea cubeba, gives us an oil beautiful in name, color, and scent. In a diffuser, it can cleanse the environment, ease breathing and uplift the spirit. Diluted in a blend with a carrier oil (Rice Bran oil is good) is healing and regenerative to the skin and leaves a clean and refreshing scent.

COMMON NAME/LATIN BINOMIAL ~ Litsea cubeba, the common name includes May Chang, Exotic verbena, tropical verbena (unrelated to lemon verbena), Kilemo, or Mountain Pepper.

         Family ~ Lauraceae, or the laurels, is a plant family that includes the true laurel, Mediterranean Bay, and its closest relatives. This family comprises about 2850 known species, including Avocado, Bay Laurel, Cinnamon, Clove, Massoia, and more.      

COUNTRIES OF ORIGINS: COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN ~ China primarily produces Litsea cubeba oil. It is also cultivated in Taiwan, Japan, and Indonesia.

ENDANGERED OR NOT ~ This species is classified as a ‘Non-Timber Forest Product’ because it produces essential oils from several parts of the tree, such as leaves, fruits, flowers, and bark.

Unfortunately, the raw material for May chang oil has been obtained from natural forests, not cultivation. Continuous exploitation without cultivation efforts will threaten the existence of this endemic species.2.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT HABITAT AND GROWTH ~ Litsea cubeba is obtained from the small peppercorn-shaped fruits resembling the black peppercorns of another plant. Litsea cubeba, the aromatic Litsea or May Chang, is a deciduous to an evergreen tree or shrub 5–12 meters high. It flowers from March-April, and the seeds ripen from August to September. This small tropical tree has lemon-scented leaves and flowers, and the small berries resemble green or black peppercorns. The species is hermaphrodite, which has both male and female organs.1. It is native to the Southern Chinese region, including Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Taiwan and Fujian, and Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Cambodia.

SUSTAINABILITY ~ you must examine each of the plants you use for their ability to reproduce before you choose to harvest or wildcraft them. Many plants are in dire straits because of human incursion into their environment. Best to learn to grow what you want to harvest.

PORTION OF PLANT USED IN DISTILLATION, HOW DISTILLED, EXTRACTION METHODS, AND YIELDS ~ Berries are steam-distilled to produce the essential oil, sometimes solvent extracted for the absolute. Sometimes the leaves are distilled as well.

         Yield ~ 3-5% from the berries

photo of berries

ORGANOLEPTIC CHARACTERISTICS OF ESSENTIAL OIL ~A pale yellow liquid, clear, not-viscous, intensity 5-6, taste is tart and irritating, with a tart lemon-fresh and fruity odor. The scent of May Chang has been compared to Lemongrass and Lemon verbena. It is considered sweeter and finer than Lemongrass and a possible fragrance alternative to the costly Lemon verbena (not an option in terms of therapeutic potential). It has been used to adulterate both Lemon Verbena and Lemon Balm (Melissa) oils — both of which have a woody back note, while Litsea does not.

Aroma Assessment ~ The scent of May Chang has been compared to Lemongrass and Lemon verbena, but if you smelled the latter, you would know that it does not. It is considered sweeter and more refined than Lemongrass. It has been used as a possible fragrance alternative to the costly Lemon Verbena (not an alternative in terms of therapeutic potential). It has been used to adulterate both Lemon Verbena and Lemon Balm (Melissa), which have a woody back note, while Litsea does not.

  • Color – pale yellow
  • Clarity – clear
  • Viscosity – not viscous
  • Intensity of odor – 5-6
  • Tenacity of odor – 6-7
  • Taste – strong, bitter, aromatic, and sour

Chemical Composition: Litsea cubeba is valued because of its high citral content, estimated to be at 75%. Geraniol is the alpha-citral, and Neral is the beta-citral. The sensitization risk, due to the high citral level, is mitigated by the presence of the chemical limonene.



May Chang is most valued for its anti-inflammatory and calming properties. Other therapeutic actions are astringent, antiseptic, insecticide, hypotensive, stimulant, and tonic. The oil is used as a scent (especially in bar soap) and for flavoring in its own right. It is also used as a raw material by the chemical industry for the synthesis of vitamin A and for violet-like fragrances.

         Circulatory system: Research in China has focused on the oil’s ability to regulate cardiac arrhythmia.

SKIN CARE ~  This oil is helpful for general skin cleansing due to its antiseptic properties. It is also beneficial to the aromatherapy treatment of oily, acne-infected skin areas. It can be used directly on a cold sore (lip or nose) or wart to kill the virus, but this will sting. Best to always use this oil in dilution.

APPLICATION ~ There have been times in the past when I would develop a cold-sore/herpes outbreak on my lip. This was easily but painfully treated by directly applying a drop of one of three high citral-containing essential oils; Litsea cubeba, Lemon verbena, or Melissa. Litsea is, by far, the easiest to obtain. At the first notice of irritation on your lip, apply the tiniest drop of EO. Yes, it will burn, but it is killing the virus, Apply again about three times per day. Herpes will not develop and will disappear by the 2nd day.

INHALATION ~ May Chang seems to work very well on the respiratory system as it functions as a bronchial dilator and is, therefore, helpful for relieving symptoms associated with bronchitis and asthma. “When given orally or by inhalation (citral), may possess prominent protective effects against bronchial asthma that is induced by inhalation of broncho-constrictors. May Chang oil may inhibit anaphylactic shock when inhaled and has a relaxing effect on the tracheal muscle.” (I am unable to find the original quote to cite)

            •Diffuse/Diffusion – Effect on the nervous system ~  This oil is helpful in the treatment of fatigue, lethargy, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. It should be used in a blend along with limonene oil, such as Orange peel or Lemon peel oil, and with a gentler oil, such as a high linalool Lavender oil.

•Emotional/Energetic Use ~ In a diffuser, Litsea cubeba is a useful addition to a blend as it is emotionally uplifting, clearing, and naturally refreshing. Tone its exuberance with Lemon or Grapefruit oil, and it will clear a room of negative energy and ‘clean’ a space for you.

photo of flowers

Litsea flowers on the tree

NATURAL PERFUMERY & Blending ~ Blends well with Cedarwood, Chamomiles, citrus odors, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Palmarosa, and more, such as Patchouli, Labdanum, Oakmoss, and Ylang. Battaglia recommends using May Chang with the following essential oils: Basil, Bergamot, Geranium, Ginger, Jasmine, Rose, Rosemary, and Rosewood.

It is best used in smaller quantities as a bridge note or connecting note.

Extra information about citral and bridge notes.


basic perfume formula and a formula using May Chang

HYDROSOL ~ I have not had Litsea hydrosol. It might be slightly irritating if sprayed on the face directly, but it would work well as an application to acne sores and/or sprayed on minor cuts.

PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be explicitly distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components, and most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using fresh plant material.

CULINARY AND HERBAL USES ~ The berries are used extensively as a spice by the aboriginal peoples of Taiwan; it is seen as one of the features of aboriginal cuisine.

HISTORICAL & INTERESTING USES ~ Litsea plants are the primary source of traditional medicines, but they also serve as a secondary food source for muga silkworms (Antheraea assama). The silk from the muga silkworms produced from the Litsea plant is very attractive and more expensive than the silk produced from other plants. The silk cocoons fed with Litsea produce a creamy, glossy silk five times more costly than silk produced from a primary source of food plant, i.e., Machilus bombycina King4. [Silkworms mostly eat mulberry leaves. Silkworms eat vegetables mostly, especially mulberry leaves, and they are predominantly herbivores. The quality of food they eat determines the quality of silk they spin].


ABSTRACT/SCIENTIFIC DATA ~ “…The plant [Litsea cubeba] possesses medicinal properties. It has been traditionally used for curing various gastrointestinal ailments (e.g., diarrhea, stomachache, indigestion, and gastroenteritis) along with diabetes, edema, cold, arthritis, asthma, and traumatic injury. Besides its medicinal properties, Litsea is known for its essential oil, which has a protective action against several bacteria, possesses antioxidant and antiparasitic properties, exerts acute and genetic toxicity and cytotoxicity, and can even prevent several cancers. …” 3.

Key Use ~ Oil of Soap Odor

This work is sponsored and supported
by Prima Fleur Botanicals.

photo of two bottles of different Litsea cubeba essential oil from PrimaFleurBotanicals




3.Ethnopharmacological Properties and Medicinal Uses of Litsea cubeba. Y Heryati et al 2022 IOP Conf. Ser.: Earth Environ. Sci. 959 012045



_____.  The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations. San Francisco, California:

——. Respiratory Chart. 2002

Battaglia, Salvatore, The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. The Perfect Potion Pty Ltd, 1995.

Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose, California: 1992

Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, 2014 printing, Cambridge University Press.

Rose, Jeanne, 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Frog, 1999

Webb, Mark A. Bush Sense.2000

Williams David, The Chemistry of Essential Oils. Micelle Press, 1996.

Safety Precautions

ORRIS ROOT – a profile

Orris Root (Iris pallida, [Iris germanica]) is this Iris’s aged, peeled, and dried rhizome.

This Iris plant bursts into life in the spring in a variety of colors. The flower is fragrant

and has been named after the Rainbow Goddess, Iris.

photo by JeanneRose showing a small 1-liter copper still, and two types of Orris root in front of a lincrusta wall.


By Jeanne Rose

COMMON NAME/LATIN BINOMIAL/NAMING INFORMATION ~  Orris Root, Iris germanica, or I. pallida, and from the subgroup ‘florentina’ is the substance commonly called Orris root and is really the rhizome product of a particular Iris. The apothecary’s name is Rhizoma iridis. And other common names include Queen Elizabeth root and “eye of heaven.”

FAMILY ~ A perennial and hardy flowering plant of the family Iridaceae and grows from a rhizome, the modified main stem of a plant growing horizontally underground.

COUNTRIES OF ORIGINS ~  It is also called Iris florentina germanica, which means ‘of Germany.’ Florentina means ‘of Florence’ (Italy). This incredible ancient plant is native to the Mediterranean and used in Greece, Rome, and Macedonia in unguents and perfumes.

HISTORICAL & INTERESTING INFORMATION ~ The plant was known, dried, and ground to powder, used for its violet scent, “to scent bedclothes in the 1480s and for flavoring certain gins.  It has been used medicinally as a fixative in perfume, a fixative scent in potpourris, and for powdering wigs and hair in the 18th century. The flowers are possibly the origin of the ‘fleur-de-lis’ of France.”1. To the French, the flower is often used in ceremony, symbolically or natural; the three petals symbolize faith, wisdom, and valor.

            It was possibly used to decorate the Sphinx and was known to Thutmose III of the era 1501-1447 BC. In the seventh century AD, the Slavic people used Iris germanica and other herbs in cosmetics.

A Jeanne Rose Orris Root Tomato Tale

It was a lovely spring day in 1980, and I was traveling in Boulder, CO. I had come to visit friends, talk about bath herbs to other friends, and eat great food. They picked me up at the Denver, CO. airport, and we drove to Boulder, where I would stay for a few days. We were driving along and passed by a farm with row after row of Iris in flower in many colors and hues. I had already grown the Iris florentina at my home in San Francisco and was currently aging the root in my desk drawer. But this was a magnificent surprise to see such a lovely field and to be inundated with the astonishing sweet scent of the blooming Iris. I was surprised at the intensity of the odor that wafted into the car off the field; the scent was sublime, with a lush floral odor mixed with the spring breeze and the mountains nearby. Iris flowers are a wonder of nature that is appreciated for their exquisite beauty and fragrance. I believe the farm is still there in the middle of Boulder, called Longs Gardens, and is a great choice for a visit in May. (

 From a copy in my personal library, The Romance of Perfume,  illustrated by George Barbier and written by LeGalliene.

Madame Pompadour is attended to by a lady, powdering her enormous coiffure with Orris root, and on her dressing table are bottles of perfume. From a copy in my personal library, The Romance of Perfume,  illustrated by George Barbier and written by LeGalliene.

ENDANGERED OR NOT~ Some species of Iris are endangered.  The leaves and roots can cause skin irritations and allergies in some people.

Several plants of Iris germanical, that provide the Orris root.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT HABITAT AND GROWTH ~ The color of this species of Iris flower that gives Orris root is white, and in its second year can grow as tall as a person. “The flower petals reach the height of their beauty by the second year, but the roots must age for 2 to 3 years before they reach full maturity when they contain the highest concentration of the desired irone compounds…. It is necessary for the ground where it grows to be carefully weeded and maintained throughout the period. It has been said that whole families assume this task, and when the plant has arrived at maturity, they tend to the long, labor-intensive pulling, cutting, peeling, and drying process.” – David Mark of Renaissance Aromas.

Orris root smells just like  powder

And it cannot get any louder

I love the scent Orris

With Rose is a chorus

Certainly not like clam chowder.

Jeanne Rose home-grown Orris root from 2-year-old plants, and aged in a desk drawer for 3 years.

Planted in 1972, harvested in 1975, and aged in a desk drawer until 1978

PORTION OF PLANT USED IN DISTILLATION, EXTRACTION METHODS, AND YIELD ~ Plant rhizomes, mainly from Morocco, are harvested, peeled, dried, and powdered, and are processed by supercritical carbon dioxide extraction yielding 1- kilo of extract from around 34 kilos of raw material. It is also solvent extracted for an absolute as well as CO2 extracted.

HOME DISTILLING ~ You peel these rhizomes first, that is, if you want peeled white Orris. After you have pulled the roots, washed, and peeled them,  I will chop them coarsely, then let them dry in a warm place, in the shade, on trays.  I used to frame up 2’ X 2’ fiberglass screening and lay the drying Orris root there for a week or so, and then put them into muslin bags and let them mature in a dry place for three years. They have to be protected from rodents and bugs. I have also taken perfectly shaped rhizomes and aged them in my desk drawer so that no creatures could find them and gnaw at them.  After they have dried and the odor has has been obtained, you powder and use or distill.

            If you decide to distill, I recommend soaking/macerating the chopped roots in the distillation waters for 24 hours before beginning the distillation in the same waters, hydro-distillation. It also should be a warm day when you start the soaking and the distillation. When I distill, I have a copper screen in the bottom of the pot that is supported on a short stand. I put the chopped roots on the screen along with the maceration waters. Go low and slow. [go low on heat and slow with the distillation] Don’t be in a hurry when you are distilling, and watch the pot constantly so that it does not overheat.


Benoit Roger says, “Steam can’t be used alone; it is usually hydrodistilled with continuous stirring. The rhizomes must be powdered and soaked overnight in hot water and then distilled for at least one day with cohobation. You must keep the condenser above 50-55 degrees C to allow the orris butter to come out of the condenser or raise the temperature to 60 degrees C periodically. I can’t tell you THE exact ratio of orris/water you need as it depends on the still, heating, agitation, or not, but it should be quite high (1/10 – 1/12, and some say more…) to not burn the plant material. Good luck”.


  • Color – pale ivory
  • Clarity – semi-clear
  • Viscosity – slightly viscous
  • Taste – powder-like  taste, very somewhat bitter
  • Intensity of odor  – 2
  • Tenacity – If used in enough quantity will add some tenacity to the odor – 5
  • Odor Description/ Aroma Assessment ~ The Iris pallida of Italy and China has floral, powder, and green notes; from Serbia and Morocco, it is floral, powder, fatty, and sweet woody; the Iris germanica often has a fruity note. This distinctive soft powdery, violet-like odor is simply luxurious, and with it comes an aura of romance and child-like happiness. Orris root blends well with florals of Champa, Neroli, Rose, and Rose Geranium and green notes of Violet leaf and Galbanum.  
  • This is a fixative note: when added to a perfume, it holds, strengthens, and fixes the odor.


5.Scent Snapshot is part of the Aromatherapy Studies Course,


SOURCES ~  You can obtain the CO2 extract from Get it when you can as this lovely product so useful in perfumery is sometimes very difficult to obtain.

            Use the oil in moderation in your work; sometimes, it is more appropriate to use the herb/plant for its therapeutic properties in a compress, tincture, or powder.

I originally purchased my Iris plants (I. florentina) in 1972 and probably obtained them from Old House Gardens; see I. florentina, I. pallida at ( You may need to order now for fall planting and remember to order now to get some two years in the future.  The true heirloom plants for old-time fragrance are getting harder and harder to find.

This work was sponsored and
supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.

A small bottle of Prima Fleur Orris, Select from Iris pallida.



Although Orris may have been used medicinally at one time, its chief uses now are in perfumery, soap making, and to flavor liquors, from gin to vermouth. The carbon dioxide extracts, CO2, are closer in composition to the scent as it occurs in the botanical plant than those obtained by other techniques.

PROPERTIES AND USES ~ Orris root powder was used as a face or wig powder and mixed with talcum as a body powder.  It is now primarily used as a concrete or CO2 extract in fine perfumery.

……….Diffuse/Diffusion ~ I love this scent, the flower, the aged root, and the Orris Select.  But I admit to never using it in a diffuser as it is one of the more expensive oils, and I think putting it into a diffuser is wasteful.                                                    

……….Emotional/Energetic Use ~ Inhaling the scent of this plant or its oil, by itself or in a floral blend, is a soothing, relaxing way to calm your mind.  It blends well with most florals and woods. The root powdered also has been frequently mentioned ritually as an ingredient in spells, particularly in love magic, protection, and in divination rituals.

CHEMICAL COMPONENTS of Orris root ~ oil of Orris (0.1–0.2%), a yellow-white mass containing myristic acid. The oil of orris is sometimes sold as orris butter. Other components include fat, resin, starch, mucilage, bitter extractive, and a glucoside called iridin or irisin. The root needs to be harvested and aged/cured before processing. “During this curing period, oxidative degradation of iridals to irons occurs (Brenna et al., 2003; Schütz et al., 2011). It is these irones (α‑irone, β‑irone, and γ‑irone) that are at the heart of the distinctive violet-like smell that has made it, along with its natural fixative properties, so popular in perfumery and also to the distiller (Krick et al., 1983)”.4 

Concrete of Iris pallida - Alberta-grown and CO2 extracted shown in a jar and diluted in a bottle.

Concrete of Iris pallida – Alberta-grown and CO2 extracted

PERFUMERY & BLENDS ~ The CO2 is from Serbia and Morocco and blends well with florals of Neroli, Rose, and Prima Fleur’s Malawi Geranium as well as green notes of Violet leaf and Galbanum. The distinctive violet-like odor is the definition of luxury and feels like a romantic indulgence. While the Iris pallida of Italy and China has distinct floral and green notes, the Iris germanica boasts fruitier, richer notes useful in more industries.

            MAKING  A TINCTURE OF ORRIS – Here is a technique I use, and it might be useful to someone:

Place freshly ground powder of aged Orris root, Iris pallida, into a quart-size glass jar with a good-fitting lid. Use about a cup full of Orris. Cover by a scant inch with pure 95% grape spirits, I use As the Orris takes up the alcohol, add more to keep the level at that scant inch. You can use less; just adjust the proportions. Shake vigorously by succussion, every day, as you would for a regular tincture. Store in a quiet, dark, dry place. It takes about 3-6 months for it to be ready. When ready, filter the liquid through a fine grade laboratory type filter paper or an ultra-fine silk cloth and then press the remainder through a tincture press into a new clean 1-pint bottle. Label the bottle. If possible, use the proper laboratory equipment. Let the liquid settle. There may be a fine powder that has settled to the bottom. I will then use this tincture as part of the diluent in a perfume or essential oil blend, and the powder can be kept for a new production of the tincture. 

Some people will dry out the alcohol by pouring the liquid into a shallow glass dish, leaving it open in a safe place away from family and pets. There should be good ventilation. Check it regularly. The alcohol will evaporate, leaving a layer of a butter-like resinous substance that smells very good. Wait until all the alcohol is gone. This will depend on the amount and the surface area of the dish you have used. Use an immaculately clean stainless-steel spatula to scrape the buttery layer off the dish and place it in a separate container. Label and date it. This particular process can be tiring, and, in my opinion, I will always choose the actual tincture.

            TINCTURING PROCESS ~ Septimus Piesse says (page 134, The Art of Perfumery) that the classic perfume tincture for Orris root is 7 lbs. of aged crushed Orris root in 1 gallon of spirits to ‘stand together (be macerated) for one month before the extract is fit to take off.’ “It requires considerable time to drain away, and, to prevent loss, the remainder of the Orris should be placed in the tincture press.”

There is much information in this book as well as in Steffen Arctander’s book, regarding this substance.

BLENDING WITH FORMULA ~  I have used Orris root Total from a wild source of Iris pallida. This wonderful perfume item was grown in Alberta, and CO2 extracted for the aged root’s sweet, soft, floral scent. Delicious.

A perfume formula

            Rose oil with Orris root is a classic scent combination, making a fantastic perfume. Rose Oil is a general tonic and powerful nervous system tonic when inhaled – historically known to be relaxing; the SD oil is used in skin care as a tonic astringent and gentle tonic to the skin. The two items together are quite lovely.

• § •

These two formulas are from my New Age Creations company,

with more in The Herbal Body Book.

Two formulas, one for sachet and one for potpourri using Orris root.

• • •

HERBAL USES OF ORRIS  ROOT ~ The dried root of the Iris florentina, Orris root, was used as a teething item for children. I used it for my second child. It has a pleasant violet smell and a pleasant taste. Then it was deemed allergenic, and one could no longer obtain the carved roots for teething. 

            When I first started my company in 1966, New Age Creations, it was all about my design in clothing for rock ‘n roll stars; in 1969, I switched to herbal products and made a tooth powder of equal proportions of chalk or baking soda and Orris root. This was considered an excellent dentifrice as long ago as 1854.

            In the ‘30s, Orris root was given as a treatment for asthma, and on the other hand, people who have allergies are often sensitive to Orris root. 

            There are some wonderful herbal formulas for Orris root powder in the Jeanne Rose Herbal Body Book; see p. 314 for a sweet body powder.3

#45 Milk Bath (1973) – from New Age Creations

1 lb. dry milk instant nonfat dry)
¼  lb. Oatmeal (meal or powder)
¼  lb. Oatmeal (meal or powder)
1 oz by vol Orris root – powder
1 oz by vol. Orange Peel – powder
1 oz by vol. Almond Meal – powder
½ oz by vol. Comfrey root – powder
Weigh and divide into  8 oz bottles (4 oz by weight)

This slightly brown/tan product is due to the Comfrey root and Almond meal. This milk/oat/Orris bath is healing, soothing, relaxing, and a tonic to the skin. I have a variety of recipes for this wonderful bath, and this is only one of them. Use about ½ cup per bath (or more).

• •

HYDROSOL ~ This is another one of those plants that should not be collected to distill.  It takes a long time to start, two years to grow, and another three years to cure/age to develop the scent, so why waste your work throwing it into a pot with lots of water to distill?

HOWEVER, there is a recipe from 1779 for a distilled water, called Angelic Water, of a most agreeable scent, from the Toilet of Flora …

Angelic Water, Put into a large alembic the following ingredients, Benjamin of four ounces; Storax of two ounces; Yellow Sanders an ounce: Cloves two drachms; two or three bits of Florentine Orrice, half the Peel of a Lemon, two Nutmegs, half an ounce of Cinnamon, two quarts of Rose-water, a pint of Orange Flower-Water, and a pint of magisterial Balm-water. Put the whole into an alembic well-luted; distill in a water bath; and what you draw off will prove an exquisite Angelic Water.– “The Toilet of Flora” printed in London in 1779.

PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or even a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components; most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh.

Key Use ~ Orris root Concrète and oil are best used in fine perfumery.

Use the essential oils in moderation. Use the herb tea, juice, or resin when it is more appropriate.
Often, the herbal use is preferred over the distillate, oil, or hydrosol.


A photo of Jeanne Rose collection of concrete, butter, dried roots and CO2 extract.

Jeanne Rose Collection of Orris Concrète and dried rhizome

CONTRAINDICATIONS ~ Web MD states that Orris root may not be used freshly dug and eaten “as it is possibly unsafe to use the fresh plant juice or root. It can cause severe irritation of the mouth, as well as stomach pain, vomiting, and bloody stools.2.


1.Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, 2014 printing, Cambridge University Press.
3.Rose, Jeanne. Herbal Body Book, published by P. 314.

Anonis, Danute Pajaujis: Flower Oils and Floral Compounds in Perfumery, Perfumer and Flavorist. 1993.
Arctander, Steffen. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin
Coombes, Allen J. Dictionary of Plant Names. Timber Press, Oregon, 1985
Piesse, Septimus. The Art of Perfumery. 1867
Rose, Jeanne.  375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.  Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999
Rose, Jeanne.  The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations.  San Francisco, California:
Rose, Jeanne. Herbal Studies Course. Jeanne Rose, California: 1992


Safety Precautions to Remember.
Iris plant


CHAMPA – a profile

Champaca oil, CO2 extracted on a bed of yellow cashmere and black silk scarf.

By Jeanne Rose ~ 2023

CHAMPACA, Magnolia champaca, also seen as M. aurantiaca and Michelia alba, has many common names including all forms of Champa, Shamba, and more.

Family ~ Michelia is one of the most popular flowering trees and the genus is now called Magnolia. It belongs to one of the ancient families of the plant kingdom having existed for 95 million years. This family Magnoliaceae of flowering plants with many species most of which have bisexual flowers.

COUNTRIES OF ORIGINS ~ Champaca tree is native to South Asia, Indochina, and southern China. The CO2-extracted oil comes from India.

ENDANGERED OR NOT ~ The species, Magnolia champaca, is famous for its lush aromatic flower and is included in IUCN red list species as threatened in its geographical distribution range.2 Champaca flowers are often used during festivals as necklaces or hair bands.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT HABITAT AND GROWTH MICHELIA CHAMPACA is a large evergreen tree used as a timber tree.  It is a hardwood with a long straight trunk with a close tapering crown. It is a medium-growing tree, attaining a height of 33 m or more, and can attain a size of 2-4 m around its middle. The bark is light gray and smooth, and the leaves are generally long and wide, shining above, hairless on the other side; the old leaves are yellow. In general, it grows in moist, deep, well-drained, good-quality soil. It grows in deep valleys, and some grow best in foothills In its natural habitat, M. champaca grows in areas where temperatures are up to 47.5°C and annual rainfall is 100 inches or more. It thrives in a damp climate.

An open flower on the champaca tree.

CHAMPACA flowers are usually not distilled, but CO2 extracted ~ It is picked fresh, and then semi-dried and sent to the extraction plant. Extraction of the fresh flowers of Michelia champaca L. with liquid CO2 provides a floral extract with a yield of 1.0 ± 0.04 wt.%. 4

Yield ~ solvent-free supercritical CO2 extraction of flowers  had a higher yield than the essential oil, and in one study the yield of the concrete was 1.5 ± 0.05% vs. essential oil in 0.03% yield.3

CHAMPACA FLOWERS ARE USED ~ for the extraction of the scent by carbon dioxide extraction for an absolute.



  • Color – dark brown with a yellowish cast
  • Clarity – Opaque
  • Viscosity – semi-viscous
  • Intensity of odor – 4
  • Tenacity of odor – 5
  • Taste – bitter

ODOR DESCRIPTION/ AROMA ASSESSMENT ~ The scent is deeply floral and wood with many sub-notes that include hay, leather, and powder.


A scent snapshot of Champaca.

Magnolia champaca, is rare and has a strong perfume, and is used – for example in hair it is worn singly or as a small corsage but rarely as a whole garland, and for bridal beds, it is most often with Jasmine and Roses and in bowls of water to be placed around rooms for colorful decoration and for the perfumed flowers.”


I have Champa that I use as perfume.

It comes from flowers abloom.

In the bedroom, it seems

When my heart is abeam

Champa blooms and then there’s perfume, I assume.



This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals


The extract from the flowers is used in the preparation of perfume. Medicinally, the tree has wide applications; the bark is used to prepare a tonic and as a fever reducer, the leaves to feed silkworms and make tea, the wood cut into boards for tea boxes and furniture, the oil extracted from flowers is used for perfumery, whole plant extracts used to treat coughs and arthritis, and for relieving eye troubles and gout.

Properties and Uses ~ The plant is scientifically stated to exhibit antipyretic, anti-inflammatory,, antioxidant, antimicrobial, cytotoxic, antidiabetic, and analgesicactivities.6

SKINCARE WITH CHAMPA OIL ~  Champa is a somewhat drying oil, useful for normal to oily skin. Mixed with carrier oil and other skin-loving scents and oils, it absorbs quickly into the skin leaving it smooth, hydrated, and silky.

DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION ~ Champa works very well when used in a blend with citrus oils, or with Lavender oil. It will soften the bright scent of the citrus and floral notes, and when diffused is very pleasant in a room, particularly the living room or bedrooms.

EMOTIONAL/ENERGETIC USE ~  “Champa is considered a sacred incense that purifies personal space, clearing out stagnant or negative energy and filling your space with positive vibrations. It is known for its calming powers reducing stress and anxiety. Cleanse, purify, and protect your energy with a blend that includes Champa.

Champa Limerick

Champa is the oil of the day.
It is sweet and reminds you of hay.
When the morning is over
I feel like I’m in Clover
Rolling in Champa until May

CHEMICAL COMPONENTS ~ “M. champaca is famous for the sweet odor of its blossoms. The flower possesses a scent that can be described as a fresh, floral and strong sweet jasmine-like scent. Most of the aromatic compounds encountered have rather strong odors, and especially the esters are regarded as possessing floral notes. Methyl benzoate (heavy-sweet, deep-floral), indole (floral character highly reminiscent of jasmine and orange blossom), and 1,8-cineole (fresh, camphoraceous) are contributing significantly to the fragrance of M. champaca flowers.” 5.

PERFUMERY with Champa ~ The tree flowers were traditionally used to make fragrant hair and massage oils. The vernacular name “Joy perfume tree” comes from this. Many perfumers are using Champaca Absolute as single-note fragrances or in blends for perfumery.

Blends Best with florals, woods, Lavender, and citrus type of odors.



Fun Day Champaca Perfume from 2013

Top Note is composed of
25 drops Grapefruit (pink or white)
15 drops Bergamot

Bridge: 1 drop Cardamom
2 drops Litsea cubeba


Heart Note is composed of
10 drops Neroli
10 drops Ylang-ylang
15 drops Petitgrain
5  drops Champaca.

Bridge Note: Amber or Amber complex


Base Note is composed of
20 drops Champaca
20 drops Vanilla Abs

Make and succuss each note individually and allow it to age for at least a week. Then add your neutral spirits. I prefer neutral grape spirits from 240 drops of neutral grape spirits. Succuss again and age for at least two weeks to let the scents incorporate.  You will now have 33% active perfume ingredients.

CHAMPACA SOLID WAX is left after the absolute is removed making an excellent base for a solid perfume. This floral wax has all the properties for good skin care and it smells delightful. Floral waxes are created as a result of solvent extraction that is used on delicate flowers whose scent would be destroyed by steam distillation. Floral waxes are available to add scent and texture to skincare products as well as the incredible moisturizing capability for the skin. Champaca helps to moisturize, soothe and soften, it is a free radical scavenger, is skin-protective, and is recommended for products to restore the skin to a smoother surface.

Formula for solid perfume using champaca


HYDROSOL ~ I have never had a real bottle of Champaca hydrosol to use.  And thus, do not have any experience with it. There are some who pick the flowers, soak them in water for a few hours to extract some scent, and then hydro/steam-distilled with that extraction water, with low heat and slowly, for the hydrosol.

PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or even a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil, or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh.

HERBAL USES OF  CHAMPA ~ The flowers are used in South Asia for several purposes. In India, they are primarily used for worship at temples, and in the home, and are generally worn in the hair by girls and women for beauty and as a natural perfume. You can float the flowers in bowls of water to scent the room, weave them together in garlands, or as a fragrant decoration for bridal beds.

HISTORICAL/RELIGIOUS USES ~ Michelia champaca is also known as Champa, Yellow Champa, Golden Campa, or Fragrant Champa. It is highly revered by the followers of Hinduism and Buddhism who use Michelia flowers during religious ceremonies. Tibetans believe that the Buddha will find enlightenment under the white flower canopy of the champaca tree.

INTERESTING INFORMATION ~ The extract from the flowers of Michelia (Magnolia) alba is used in the preparation for the famous ‘Joy’ perfume.

            The civet of Sri Lanka, Paradoxurus montanus is said to have a very pleasant odor that is somewhat similar to Champaca flowers. This is unlike other civets that have a urinous odor.

ABSTRACT/SCIENTIFIC DATA from 2008 ~ Results ~ M. champaca was studied and the ethanolic extract exhibited significant antihyperglycemic activity but did not produce hypoglycemia in fasted normal rats. Apart from this extract, the crude aqueous and petroleum ether extracts were found active only at the end of the first hour. Treatment of diabetic rats with ethanolic extract of this plant restored the elevated biochemical parameters significantly … and the activity was found dose-dependent.
Conclusion: This study supports the traditional claim that the ethanolic extract of this plant could be added to traditional preparations for the ailment of various diabetes-associated complications.1

KEY USE ~ This is a fine scent that is useful in perfumery and in your yoga or meditative practice.

§ §

Resources ~

This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals

A single bottle of Champaca scent from India - courtesy of Prima Fleur Botanicals


  1. Jarald E, Joshi S B, Jain D C. Antidiabetic activity of flower buds of Michelia champaca Linn. Indian J Pharmacol [serial online] 2008 [cited 2023 Feb 2];40:256-60
  3. Composition of the concrete, absolute, headspace and essential oil of the flowers of Michelia champaca Linn.
  4. Liquid CO2 extraction of flowers and fractionation of floral concrete of Michelia champaca Linn by Prasant K. Rout, Satyanarayan Naik, Y. Ramachandra Rao.

5.Volatiles from Michelia champaca Flower: Comparative analysis by Simultaneous Distillation-Extraction and Solid Phase Microextraction.  Disnelys Báeza , Diego Moralesa and Jorge A. Pinob.

6. Pharmacological basis for the medicinal use of Michelia champaca in gut, airways, and cardiovascular disorders by Fatima Saqib, et all : Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine,  2018, Volume 11, issue 4, pages 292-296.


Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, 2014 printing, Cambridge University Press.

Rose, Jeanne.  375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.  Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999

Rose, Jeanne.  The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations.  San Francisco, California:

Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose & Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1992

Source: Aromatherapy Course – Home & Family


Safety Precautions Table
photo of half-opened flower


Vetivert ~  An ambitious discussion of the grass Vetiver from the rootlets,  of the essential oil Vetivert, and its uses, growth, description, organoleptic qualities, and uses.

photo of a basket made of Vetiver rootlets and a bottle showing the dark color of the oil. Oil courtesy of PrimaFleur Botanicals

A Vetiver basket and Vetivert essential oil


Jeanne Rose

COMMON NAME/LATIN BINOMIAL ~ Vetiver or Vetivert is Chrysopogon zizanioides. Vetiver is the plant, and Vetivert is the plant’s essential oil.

            VETIVER(T) NAME/NAMING INFORMATION ~ Chrysopogon zizanioides (Vetiveria zizanioides) is now under the unique denomination Chrysopogon zizanioides L. Roberty based on a similar analysis of related genera. However, the former term, Vetiveria zizanioides, is still widely used in the current literature.

            “Vetiver belongs to the same part of the grass family as maize, sorghum, sugarcane, and lemongrass. Its old botanic name, Vetiveria zizanioides (Linn) Nash, has had a checkered history—at least 11 other names in 4 different genera have been employed in the past. The generic name comes from “vetiver,” a Tamil word meaning “root that is dug up.” The name zizanioides (often misspelled zizanoides) was first given by the great Swedish taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus in 1771. It means “by the riverside” and reflects that the plant is commonly found along waterways in India.” —

            Family ~  From the grass family Poaceae. The term Poaceae is derived from the Ancient Greek word for fodder.

            Essential Oil Plants of the Grass Family ~ Poaceae (Gramineae)

Chrysopogon zizanioides is commonly known as Vetiver, a bunch grass whose roots are used.

Cymbopogon citratus West Indian Lemongrass;

Cymbopogon flexuosus is East Indian Lemongrass

Cymbopogon martini var. motia is Palmarosa grass,

Cymbopogon martinii var. sofia is Gingergrass

Cymbopogon nardus is Citronella grass.

VETIVER COUNTRIES OF ORIGINS ~ Haiti, Java, Brazil, China, Madagascar, Japan, La Réunion, and India for the Khus variety.

IS VETIVER ENDANGERED? ~ The plant does not seem to be endangered. However, there is fear that consumers will mistakenly order the fertile plant over the internet and introduce it to a place where it may overrun the indigenous plants.

The annual world trade in Vetivert oil is estimated to be approximately 250 tons, with Brazil, China, Haiti, India, Japan, Java, and Reunion being the primary producers. The main consumers are Europe, India, Japan, and the United States.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT HABITAT AND GROWTH ~ There are about 50 species of Chrysopogon, of which only one is used in aromatherapy and that species zizanioides has two main types, a fertile one and a sterile one. This is a perennial grass with very fragrant, long rhizomatous roots, growing to six feet high.

             “It is essential to realize that Vetiver comes in two types—this is a crucial point because only one is suitable for Use worldwide. If the wrong one is planted, it may spread and produce problems for farmers.

            A wild type from North India known as Khus or Vetiver. This is the original undomesticated species. It flowers regularly, sets fertile seeds, and is known as a “colonizer.” Its rooting tends to be shallow, especially in the damp ground it prefers. If loosed on the world, it might become a weed.

            A “domesticated” type from South India. This is the Vetiver that has existed under cultivation for centuries and is widely distributed throughout the tropics. It is probably a man-made selection from the wild type. It is nonflowering, does not seed (or at least is non-spreading), and must be replicated by vegetative propagation. It is the only safe type to use for erosion control.” —

            Vetiver can grow up to (5 ft.) high and form clumps as wide. The stems are tall, and the leaves are long, thin, and relatively rigid. The flowers are brownish-purple. Unlike most grasses, which form horizontally spreading, mat-like root systems, vetiver’s roots grow downward, 7 ft. to 13 ft. in depth.

Its southern cultivar is a densely tufted, perennial grass that is considered sterile outside its natural habitat. It flowers but sets no seeds. It is a lawn grass in the tropics; however, when eaten, the sharp calluses on the lemma, referring to a part of the spikelet of grasses (Poaceae), can pierce an animal’s stomach.       

            Vetiver is the best plant in the world to stop erosion and repair damaged land from erosion. Once permanent Vetiver rows are established, the roots should never be dug up. The aromatic roots have been used since ancient times in India. The fragrant, insect-repelling roots yield oil, which is valuable in the perfume industry. Traditionally, these roots were woven into mats, fans, and fragrant screens, while the tops of the grass were used for thatch, mulch, handicraft, fodder, and animal bedding.

Vetiver plant showing the long roots.

PORTION OF PLANT USED IN DISTILLATION, HOW DISTILLED, EXTRACTION METHODS, AND YIELDS for Vetiver ~ In Haiti, January and February is the high season for picking and distilling the Vetiver roots. The roots of Vetiver are picked, washed, comminuted (chopped), dried, and macerated (soaked) in the distillation water before being steam distilled. 

The quality of the oil depends on the age of the roots and the length of distillation which is from 12-36 hours. Maximum oil content is associated with freshly harvested roots, and the extractable oil decreased with delays in harvest and storage period.

            Yield ~ 0.5%.


  • Color …………………. Depending on the source, it is honey-colored to a caramel brown.
  • Clarity ………………… The lighter the color, the more it is clear, and the darker and semi-opaque.
  • Viscosity ……………. Viscous to very viscous and thick like molasses.
  • Intensity of odor ….4-6 (often the darker the color, the more intense the odor)

The guide to gauge the Intensity of odor ~ On a scale of 1-10, the stronger or more intense the odor, the higher the number. Lemon is low, and Peppermint is about 7-8. Vetivert is often not very intense and softens with Use in a perfume.

      •   Tenacity …………….  This essential oil is very tenacious in any type of blend or perfume.
        Taste ……………………. A burning, bitter, aromatic flavor, a smoky scent that rises the throat.

Various Vetivert Oil

3 bottles of Vetivert, from old-fashioned and fragrant dark color to modern low intensity amber color to a medium hue and scent.

ODOR DESCRIPTION/ AROMA ASSESSMENT ~ In general, the odor of this EO is very distinctive, yet when compared one with another, there are definite differences. The newer samples of Vetivert are lighter in color, and the lighter the color, the less intense and less complex the odor.

As you can see from the above illustration, the color varies from pale yellow to very dark brown. Color is removed from the oil because perfume makers do not like color in their perfume. I prefer the deeply rich, intense scent of the original Vetivert types with the rich dark color for my perfumery classes and personal perfumes.

            Vetivert, when double-distilled, has an earthy, green tenacious character with sweet wood quality. During re-distillation, a small fraction of the constituents is removed, thus removing some of the therapeutic quality, and other Vetivert oils are recommended when therapy is required.

            It has a persistent green-woody note and can be soft, woody-fruity when used with Patchouli, Sandalwood, and Jasmine.

This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.

CHEMICAL COMPONENTS ~  There is great variety in the GC/MS of Vetivert. Still, I have seen Vetiverol up to 50%, Vetivol up to 10%, terpenes like Vetivene up to 20%, and phenols up to 11%, Furfural, and Sesquiterpenes.


GENERAL PROPERTIES of Vetivert Essential Oil

            When applied in a blend or lotion, Vetivert is a fixative in a perfume, a stimulant by application, an antiseptic, tonic, and soothing sedative. It is not taken internally; when inhaled, it is a quieting nerve tonic.

Application  Vetivert is used as a fixative in perfumery. When used in massage oil, it is suitable for circulation. It is used as an ingredient in lotions for aching joints, arthritis, or rheumatism.  It is a circulatory tonic, and it can alleviate some menstrual problems.  Specifically, it is said to promote alleviating cramping. 

            Application/ Skincare –   It is moisturizing and a humectant for dry skin.  So, it is used in skin care on dry, irritated, mature, or aging skin.  Vetivert EO is useful in lotions to assist in skin hydration; if used with Lemon oil, it will help to even out the color of the skin and, when used regularly, will help to reveal a smoother, better-looking complexion. The EO is useful in anti-aging creams and lotions, especially with Frankincense and Rosemary EO.

            Prima Fleur recently wrote in 2022 that “Vetivert (Chrysopogon zizanioides)  ~In skincare, vetiver is a moisturizing humectant for dry irritated (winter) skin and is found in cosmetics, soaps, and natural perfumes as a fixative. ~ And the essential oil derived from the root is the true treasure of this grass. The oil is used –  in massage and aromatherapy, the oil is most often used to help reconnect to earth energy and calm the central nervous system of one who feels “uprooted”

Exfoliation, a recipe for the skin – Exfoliation is like peeling the skin off an onion.  Dead cells are removed with scrubs, masks, or acid peels, revealing the younger, smoother layer of skin beneath. My favorite exfoliants are ground almonds, ground walnuts, ground oats, or a combination of these with hydrosols to hydrate and essential oils to treat. Essential oils such as Roman Chamomile, Sandalwood, Rose, and Vetivert should be gentle.

             I am particularly fond of ¼ cup ground Almonds with enough Roman Chamomile or Rose hydrosol to moisten and a drop of Vetivert. Mix together, apply to a clean moist face, and gently massage in with circular motions. Let it sit while you shower, and then gently rinse it off.

Pain Release Formula – Mix together 20 drops Grapefruit – white, + 10 drops Rosewood + 5 drops Vetivert. Shake vigorously and apply by massage to any painful spots on your body.


3 bottles of Vetivert, from old-fashioned and fragrant dark color to modern low intensity amber color to a medium hue and scent.

PERFUMERY ~ Vetiver grass roots contain essential oil and, used with other tropical odors, is considered a high-class perfume. Copper plate inscriptions have been found that list the perfume (probably as a maceration) as one of the substances used by royalty. Vetivert oil is one of the ingredients in Chanel No. 5. The famous French perfume was introduced in 1921 and is still in production. Vetivert oil is contained in 90% of all western perfumes, and its greatest Use is in modern perfume creations.

Depending on the country where used, this plant, when distilled, is used in perfumery and, if dried, used as potpourri and bug repellent.

Vetivert oil is estimated to be approximately 250 tons per year in world trade.

Vetivert Blends Best with citrus, florals, and woods.  Try it with Atlas Cedar, Oakmoss, or Sandalwood; spicey odors such as Frankincense,  Cinnamon, and Clove; herbal scents such as Clary Sage, Geranium; citrus odors like Grapefruit and Lemon; food odors like Chocolate or Coffee; resins like Galbanum and Elemi; florals such as Jasmine, Lavender, Rose, Ylang-ylang; and other rich, long-lived scents. 

            Blending Tips – Used primarily as a base note to give tenacity and a richly distinctive masculinity.

            Blending with formula ~ When making perfumes, always mix your oils together and then shake them via succussion (succussion – to fling up from below) to create a synergy.  Let them age.  Add more oil if needed.  Age again. Then add the carrier. Alcohol is not usually added to a Chypre-type scent.


Chypre #3 ~ Vetivert Perfume

Top Note – 8 drops Clary Sage flower
Heart Note – 3 drops Cypress berry + 3 drops Grapefruit peel + 2 drops Petitgrain leaf
Base Note – 4 drops Vetivert root + 2 drops Oakmoss
Fixative Note – 1 drop of Labdanum resin

Mix these essential oils together, and let them age for a few weeks. Smell and adjust ingredients if necessary. Dilute with more essential oil or alcohol and age again before using.

Diffuse/Diffusion – Vetivert can be diffused if you mix it with other essential oils, specifically those that are less viscous such as Lavenders or citrus odors. It makes a very warm, grounding odor that helps calm a household.

Emotional/Energetic Use – In folklore, Vetivert oil is used to increase financial abundance. In a more common ritual, inhaling the oil is said to protect the body from negative energies, including physical illness. Vetivert is employed in massage and aromatherapy for its grounding influence to calm the central nervous system.

            Emotional Uses include Inhalation: “The scent is calming and sedating, used for comforting and for people who feel ‘uprooted’ or without stability.  It affects the parathyroid glands” — 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols, p. 147.  It also alleviates stress, tension, and nervous tension.

            Vetivert is also a good grounding oil for those who focus on mental activities to the exclusion of the physical; the herb decoction is added to the bath for an exceptional stress-relieving soak, and the bath waters are inhaled.

Energetic Use includes some mention the use of Vetivert oil in blends for shock due to, for example, an accident, loss of employment, bereavement, separation, or divorce.

Ritual Formula – Send All Evil Away

Make a formula of 20 drops Rosewood + 10 drops Palmarosa + 3 drops Vetivert.

Mix it together and use by inhalation or add to 70 drops (2 ml +) of a carrier oil.

Apply to wrists with intention and inhale.

Critical Use: Oil of Depression and the immune system or Oil of Tranquility.

Small bundles of Vetiver rootlets with a bottle of medium-brown color essential oil of Vetivert.

Vetivert oil ~ courtesy and Prima Fleur

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Vetivert EO Tomato Tales & Jeanne Rose’s experience

I collected the oil of this plant for 30 years from various company lists. I didn’t like the odor, so I kept the oil and let it age on my shelves. This is one of the major essential oils that can age gracefully for many years. I have stock from 1983 and after. I have stock from a company now long gone that had added synthetics. Why this was the case, I do not know, as it is a relatively inexpensive essential oil.

For all these years, I was not that fond of Vetivert essential oil, although I loved the fans and fragrant baskets made with the roots. I tried to like the scent but was not successful using it in perfumes or blends. It took my friend, Marianne Griffeth, of Prima Fleur Botanicals, to teach me to love it via her ability to make successful and fragrant blends using Vetivert. Her combinations were always warm and delicious smelling ~ she talked about it so much that I began to try to use Vetivert oil. I have been getting better and better and am now genuinely loving the scent. I love the deep, dark Vetivert I get from Prima Fleur Botanicals, although I also use the less intense oils I have obtained from others.

Recently, in 2020, I took 1 tablespoon of plain, unscented cleansing cream and added 1 drop of Vetivert oil and massaged my clean face, and then let it sit for a few hours before I washed it off with warm water. This was a pleasant experience, and my face looked dewy and soft.

A basket made of the rootlets of Vetiver.

Vetiver roots made into a basket.

HERBAL USES: Varieties of this plant are grown throughout the tropics and used to thatch roofs or as a terracing plant. The roots of this grass acquire a soft, almost sandalwood-like odor when dried.  If these plants are kept moist and laid about the house, they help to keep bugs and moths out. And these dried roots are one of the best fixatives for dry potpourri as they blend well with the Rose scent. These roots can be used in bath herbs, powdered for sachet, or drunk as a tonic or stimulant tea. — Herbs & Things, Jeanne Rose’s Herbal, p. 112.

            Sometimes the roots are cleaned and used for brushes, window screens (when wetted, they will cool the house as the wind blows through), fans, mats, and baskets, and the chemical constituents of zizanol and epizizanol are insect repellents.

            Potpourris and Sachets are usually made of three main ingredients: (not EO) the main plant for its scent and color, the essential scent, the blender plant scent, and the fixative plant scent, which are usually resins and base notes. Remember that Potpourri ingredients are generally left in whole form so that the form of the plants is still identifiable (with fixative ingredients in powder form), while Sachet ingredients are all comminuted and/or powdered form.

            Scent your basic herbs and resins with their own essential oil and age them before using them in the final construction.

HYDROSOL ~ To date, I have not had the opportunity to try a Vetiver hydrosol.

PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components; most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh.

HISTORICAL USES ~  Historically used in perfumery while the herb is woven or used in mats to fragrance the air.

Interesting Information: One type is called Khus-Khus.  The roots are used to make fragrant fans and screens, which give off a refreshing, clean scent when dampened.  “The roots are interwoven with flower matting, window coverings, etc., giving rooms a fragrance and deterring insects.  The oil is used in chypre (green, earthy) and oriental-type perfumes, soaps, toiletries, etc.  Growing the plant protects against soil erosion” essential aromatherapy, p. 170.     

Photo of plant, flower, and bundled rootlets.

Key Use: Depression and the immune system. Oil of Tranquility.

This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.

• • •

References & Bibliography ~ If you want the references, please comment here with your e-mail address and I will send them to you.

Vetiver being harvested in China



Essential oil OF Spearmint, courtesy of Prima Fleur Botanicals. Fig. 1

SPEARMINT PROFILE this is not Peppermint

By Jeanne Rose

There is a difference between Spearmint and Peppermint, defined by their chemistry, botany, folklore, odor description, and properties. The uses of Spearmint are described.


It is called Spearmint, and it is not Peppermint or Menthol-mint. There are 13 species of the Mentha genus. The ones with the ‘X’ are made by humans by crossing one plant species with another; they are considered sterile and usually do not produce seed. They are duplicated by cloning or by replanting the underground stems. In this post, we will discuss Spearmint.

Mentha aquatica L. – water mint

Mentha arvensis L. – wild mint, field-mint, or Japanese menthol mint

Mentha x piperita – Peppermint [aquatica x spicata]

Mentha spicata L. – spearmint (the mint of the ancients)

Mentha suaveolens Ehrh. – apple mint

Spearmint Common Name/Latin Binomial ~ Spearmint, Mentha spicata. Sometimes known as garden mint, common mint, lamb mint, and mackerel mint, … including Mentha crispa, Mentha crispata, and Mentha viridis.

            Botanical Family ~ Lamiaceae

            Naming Information ~ The genus name comes from Minthe or Menthe, a water nymph in Greek mythology. And from a legend of the beginning of the Earth,  “…When Man came, he saw the plants and remembered some of his past in the wonderful Kingdom, he smelled the wonderful scents, and saw pictures in his Mind. So, whenever man was asked the name of the fragrant plants, he called them mint.” —Kitchen Cosmetics, p. 78

COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN ~ Native to the Mediterranean.

SPEARMINT GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT ~ Spearmint is a very hardy, perennial herb with bright green, fragrant leaves that sets seeds. As it grows, it can quickly exhaust the soil of nutrients and should be replanted regularly via underground or over-ground stems or roots. Many Mints behave in this manner.

                 This species can readily hybridize with other Mentha species to form hybrids. This mint LOOKS different than either Peppermint or Lemon Balm. The green is softer in Spearmint than the bluish Peppermint, and it looks somewhat like Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)  but is not as hairy on the leaves. The smell is eponymously Spearmint, with none of the menthol odor that characterizes Peppermint and little of the lemon scent of Lemon Balm. There are several cultivars.

Two photos showing the difference between Spearmint and Lemon Balm.

Fig. 2

PORTION OF SPEARMINT PLANT USED IN DISTILLATION, HOW DISTILLED, EXTRACTION METHODS & YIELD ~ Spearmint’s over-ground tops and flowers are harvested just prior to its bloom; after blooming, the oil content in the plant decreases. The plants are cut and allowed to dry on the ground for 2 or more days until ‘clover dry,’ that is,  still flexible and NOT brittle. They are taken to the various distilleries, packed into the still, moistened by the steam, sealed in,  and then steam distilled.

            In Egypt, “There are two chemotypes of Spearmint dependent upon where they are grown. One had both good carvone and limonene and a better yield (grown in Siwa Oasis), while the other analyzed from Cairo had less quantity oil but a higher percentage of carvone.”8  

            Yield ~ The over-ground plant is steam distilled. “3,000 lbs. charge requires up to 30-50 minutes and produces over 20 pounds of oil” 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols, p. 142. One acre of Spearmint may yield 35-40 lbs. of oil.5

Spearmint close-up with a budding flower top.

Spearmint & flower – photo by Jeanne RoseFig. 3

            CO2 Extraction – …… Essential oil compositions and attainable yields were nearly the same as those by steam distillation when single pass mode of CO2 … was used for oil recovery…. The flavor and fragrance of the carbon dioxide mint extracts were closest in quality to actual mint plant leaves, compared to mint oils produced by conventional steam distillation.1


            Color:                          Pale, celery-like green; some have a pinkish quality, and some oils are golden yellow

            Clarity:                         Clear

            Viscosity:                    Non-viscous, like water

            Taste:                          Yummy, refreshing, delightful, and delicately spearminty.

            Intensity of Odor:       A fresh 5

            Tenacity in blend:        6

Jeanne Rose enjoying the odor of Spearmint.

Spearmint  oil courtesy of Prima Fleur Fig. 4

            ODOR DESCRIPTION ~ Spearmint and Caraway have the same chemical component of scent, carvone, but a different mirror-image isomer. Spearmint has a fresh, green, and minty odor, while Caraway has a fresh, herbal, and green but spicy odor.

An easy experiment is to mix equal parts of each of these essential oils and then pass the bottle around to students and have them guess what they are smelling. Because they both contain the same molecule, carvone, but a different isomer of it, you will have guesses equally on both sides of the scent, and some people will be totally unable to figure it out. After smelling both, you will be able to isolate and identify the scent of each plant, but when mixed together, it becomes more difficult. This is a wonderful exercise for an aromatherapy class.


CHEMICAL COMPONENTS ~ You will find numerous people and websites stating that Spearmint has menthol. Spearmint does not contain menthol unless it is a specifically bred or a hybrid variety that has been bred specifically for this. Since Spearmint is used to modify the scent and flavor of Peppermint, this may be where the mix-up in the plant began with people. I have only seen one paper out of 25 that listed menthol as a component via GC/MS in Spearmint (Mentha spicata), which was at 1.88% of the total. This paper was confusing and co-listed Peppermint and Spearmint together.

            Spearmint does contain up to 56% l-Carvone, Terpenes, Limonene, Phellandrenes, and, sometimes, Linaloöl and Cineol.

A chart showing the difference in the carvone chemistry of caraway and spearmint.

Carvone chemistry in Caraway and SpearmintFig. 5

            As described above in Spearmint, the main components are carvone for the scent and limonene, myrcene, and others. It is possible to distinguish by taste and odor between the dextro- and laevo-rotatory forms of carvone; dextro-carvone in Caraway seed oil and laevo-rotatory carvone in Spearmint herb oil.


HISTORICAL USES ~ The herb tea has been widely used as a tonic drink almost everywhere it has been introduced.

            The following refers to Spearmint or wild Mint, not Peppermint. In the first century A.D., the naturalist Pliny wrote, “The smell of mint (Spearmint) stirs up the mind and appetite to a greedy desire of food.”3 (Plinie’s Natural History First Century AD. Translated by Philemon Holland.). He recommended binding the head in a crown of mint, which delights the soul and is good for the mind. Pliny, along with Hippocrates and Aristotle, judged it ‘contrary to procreation,’ while the Greeks were of the opposite opinion: forbade their soldiers to eat (Spear)mint because it incites a man to love, diminishing his courage. It was found that the Greeks, not Pliny, have been shown to be correct.

INTERESTING FACTS ~ Spearmint tea is poured after every meal in Egypt. One of the more exciting properties mentioned for Spearmint tea is that that could help treat mild hirsutism (hairiness) in women.10 Drink up to 5 cups/day.10 Maybe this is one of the reasons it is so enjoyed as a tea.

            The oil extracted from Native Spearmint is used in Michigan and is considered highly concentrated. One pound will flavor 135,000 sticks of gum. Chewing gum companies regularly blend Spearmint and Peppermint oils to maintain a consistent and specific flavor. An advantage to growing mint is farmers may store the oil for several years if market prices fall.9



SPEARMINT is an anti-inflammatory, calming, mucolytic, antioxidant, and tonic for the digestive system. When inhaled, it has a wonderful ability to create a feeling of joy and happiness and therefore makes an excellent addition to stress relief blends. It is also packed with antioxidants and is good for digestion has been said to have anti-fungal properties, as well as the properties indicated for all sorts of respiratory problems and chronic bronchitis.4                                        


APPLICATION — The essential oil is used in many body-care products for soothing the skin, treating acne, and relieving skin irritations. This is a beautiful herb to use in any bath herb, and the essential oil can be added to the skin lotion or skincare product. It is so refreshing and healing. The herb and the essential oil are excellent additions to products, blends, and foods. Please read Jeanne Rose Herbal Body Book for great information and formulas.

INGESTION — Digestive ailments. Nausea. Vomiting. Gums. Candies. Dental products.

            •The herb tea is taken for digestive disturbances and is lightly fever-reducing.

            •Chewing gum ~ Of all the flavors incorporated into chewing gum, Spearmint and combination mint flavors have been some of the most popular. Most widely used have been Peppermint and Spearmint, as well as blends of the two in the form of their essential oils. Oil of Spearmint is derived from the distillation of several varieties of this genus. The principal species and varieties are Mentha spicata L. and Mentha verticillata, and Mentha cardiaca. —part of a patent application filed in 1989 and 2020-03-28. Application status is Expired – Lifetime

Spearmint – 1 cup 2x/day women with hirsutism had less free testosterone in the blood. Drink up to 5 cups/day to help this problem. Some say it also increases breast size.

INHALATION — Spearmint can be added to any blend for respiratory ailments and chronic bronchitis. It has a relaxing and happy odor.   When diffusedSpearmint oil can be added to almost any blend where you want the scent of refreshment and joy. Try it. It will make you feel joyous.

EMOTIONAL USES (AP OR IN)— Spearmint is applied to the temples for headaches; it can be inhaled as a memoristic antidepressant, alleviates mental strain and fatigue, and acting as a tonic for the entire system. 

            •Calming Spearmint E.O. is used by inhalation, and blends can include Bergamot, most citrus fruit oils, Cumin, Eucalyptus citriodora, Lavender, Marjoram, Spearmint (calming and joyous), and their comparable hydrosols used as spray mists.

            •Emotional/Energetic Use – Uplifting. Reduces nervous stress and tension. Ylang Ylang Extra with a touch of Spearmint is a delicious scent to inhale for headaches or to soothe your depression. Dilute with a carrier oil or alcohol and put it into a small bottle to carry around and inhale whenever.

            Scott Cunningham, in his book, Magical Aromatherapy, suggests that Spearmint is an element of Air and whose magical influences are Healing, protection, and promoting sleep when inhaled; it helps one with visualization to speed healing;  wrap the fresh sprigs in a bag and inhale the bag as you fall asleep, visualizing that it is wrapping you in protective energy.

Spearmint plant with a bizarre growth pattern in the stem.

Jeanne Rose bizarre growth on Spearmint – Fig. 6


Medicinal uses ~ Herb Spearmint has been used extensively for its medicinal properties for over 3000 years. It can be used internally as a tea, to make poultices or balms, or inhaled to make use of joyful quality. Spearmint’s medicinal properties include stomachic, stimulant, calmative, disinfectant, and nervine. The following afflictions are treated with Spearmint herb and/or essential oil:

            •Colds The Flathead and Kutenai Indian tribes drank native wild mint or Spearmint teas to treat both the coughs and fevers associated with colds.

            •Digestive Ailments –  An overall aid to most digestive disorders, it is especially beneficial in treating flatulence, diarrhea, colic, retching, and vomiting. A poultice of Spearmint leaves over the stomach region also helps to aid in digestive distress. Spearmint tea also helps to promote appetite.

            •Female afflictions-  Spearmint can be used to treat menstrual cramps. In Near Eastern societies, it helps to increase sexual desire, suppressed menstruation, … and helps to relieve the breast of curdled or congested milk via compress. Spearmint tea reduces hirsutism in women.10

             •Heart Ailments – The Blackfeet Indians and other tribes chewed wild Spearmint leaves to treat chest pains and strengthen heart muscles.

            •Nervous System-  All Spearmint teas have a soothing quality and are used to treat nervousness, fatigue, nausea, vertigo, hiccoughs, palpitations, anger, confusion, depression, and mental strain.

            •Rashes – Spearmint oil can be rubbed on poison ivy rash, diaper rash, and athlete’s foot.

            •Toothache   A drop of Spearmint essential oil can be used directly on the source of pain to help alleviate the pain from both cavities and gum disease.



            In the early days of keeping records of all the essential oils I used, I also kept an emotion chart that I used with my students to get their favorite scents for specific emotions. This was in 1972, and I called the chart “Scent & Psyche: Experience Aroma.” I had a paper file of dozens of these charts from all my previous classes and had included the information in a book that I had written called “Aromatherapy – Inhalations for the Mind.” You have never heard of that book, and that is not a surprise as I took the written prototype with me when I  went to New York in 1975 to speak before the “Fragrance Foundation” and lost it along with my suitcase at the airport and all my lecture notes as well on the way to the Plaza Hotel where I would be staying. It was a devastating loss to me not only because I lost my lecture notes but also because it was the only draft of the book that I was delivering to the publisher. This book was once written, was not rewritten but eventually evolved into “The Aromatherapy Book –  Applications & Inhalations.”

            One thing I learned from the collection of these charts is that my American students always said that Spearmint made them happy, that it smelled like their childhood, and that it smelled like chewing gum, but my Asian students thought it smelled like cleaning fluids. Scents have power and cultural differences depending upon where you grew up and where you experienced them.

            Europeans also do not have the same ‘feelings’ about Spearmint as Americans do, even though Spearmint is indigenous to  Europe and Asia and then became naturalized in North America, where it became a favorite.

BLENDING AND PERFUMERY ~ Spearmint has a bright and joyous scent and can perk up any heavy perfume on the floral bouquet. It mixes well with Ylang-Ylang. You just need a bit. Start with 10 drops of Ylang Extra and 1 drop of Spearmint. Smell it. Then add either more of the floral or green herbal scent, depending on what pleases you. Remember that Spearmint contains carvone and not menthol and has an herbaceous and green note.

            Spearmint blends with the herbs such as Basil, Lavender, Marjoram, and Rosemary; it combines with spices such as Black or green Pepper, Ginger; with florals such as Jasmine and  Ylang-Ylang and with many citrus scents like Grapefruit and Lemon. These all can be used as mixtures for room diffusing.

SPEARMINT HYDROSOL is known to have calming, cleansing, and carminative effects on the digestive system when taken as a drink and is used externally as a spray for skin irritations, soothing to the senses, and cooling on the skin. This hydrosol is an excellent skin toner, and when kept in the refrigerator, it makes a wonderful relieving mist during a ‘hot flash.’

            PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or even a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil, or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh.

Hydrosol of Spearmint from Positively Aromatic

Fig.7 Spearmint Hydrosol, courtesy of Positively Aromatic


            •HERBAL TEA of SPEARMINT. As previously stated, science has shown that 2-5 cups per day of Spearmint tea will relieve hairiness and PCOS in women. It is also delicious to drink and is very refreshing.

            •HERBAL BATHS, SHAMPOOS, AND HAIR CONDITIONERS. Customizing your hair, skin, and body care products with herbs is so easy. And Spearmint is ideal for this. I am in love with a mixture of Spearmint and Rosemary herbs in my shampoo and hair conditioner. I just get my favorite shampoo or conditioner and customize it by adding ¼ cup of a strong infusion of these herbs to 1 oz of the product and then proceed to wash or condition as usual. The Herbal Body Book is 400 pages of skincare formulas and recipes using both the herbs and essential oils. It is available from

            •CULINARY USE OF SPEARMINT ~  Spearmint has been used extensively in the preparation of foods throughout the world. Though seldom cooked, mint can be in teas, jellies, candies, and gums. In the Middle East, mint leaves are added to salads, which makes them more flavorful, as well as add high concentrations of vitamins A, C, and carotene. Spearmint sauce is the basic accompaniment to roast lamb and veal and is said to help in the digestion of these meats. [see The Herbal Guide to Food for more uses.]

            Mentha spicata could also be considered an antioxidant source. In fact, Spearmint and Spearmint extracts are often used as preservative agents to delay the oxidative degradation that occurs in food during processing or over time with storage.6

            •Cocktails with Spearmint Include The famous Mint julep”  from Kentucky that you drink in May at the start of the  Kentucky Derby – except maybe, in 2020, when we are all ‘sheltering in place’ because of the COVID-19 Virus. The Kentucky Derby has been run continuously since 1875 and has been only postponed once.

Mint julep cup.

Fig. 8 – the Julep

            •Herb and flower-butters are a delicious and easy way to add flavor to foods. Herb-butters are simply freshly picked herbs that are finely chopped and blended into sweet (unsalted) butter, mixing it thoroughly, and then refrigerated in a glass container so that the flavor and scent permeate the butter. Also, label it so you will remember one from the other. These butters are delicious on vegetables or spread on toast or crackers. They are necessary when having a tea party. They have not been widely used since Victorian times and may have simply dropped out of fashion…
            In most cases, fresh herbs are preferable to dried herbs and flowers. Mashed dried seeds, such as Anise seed, are also used. And margarine will not do; you must use good, sweet butter. Finely chop the fresh herbs or flowers and then mash them into the butter; cream your herbs or flowers into the softened butter with a fork or the back of a wooden spoon. Two tablespoons of herb part for every quarter-pound stick of butter. Add just a touch of Lemon juice or white wine vinegar to bring up the herb’s flavor, and refrigerate overnight to allow full flavor to develop. Spearmint butter is good with meats such as lamb and on cookies and pastries. —The Herbal Guide to Food.

            •Spearmint jelly is really delicious. I used to make it whenever we had lamb for dinner. I have a very simple recipe in my Herbal Guide to Food, p. 216. It only says mint, but I can assure you I was discussing Spearmint. When I wrote this book, I was not as particular as I am now about the name of which mint I was discussing.

KEY USE of SPEARMINT ~ Dentifrice products and as an antidepressant.  

This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.


RESOURCES ~ Many herb stores, nurseries, home product-makers, and skincare companies make and use Spearmint. When you look at the label, make sure the mint they mention is Spearmint, Mentha spicata, for that sweet and joyous herb we all enjoy.

photograph of an old print of Spearmint

Fig. 9 – Spearmint illustration – 1850


REFERENCES used to both Peppermint and Spearmint ~

1 • Supercritical carbon dioxide extraction of peppermint and spearmint

2 Staff of L. H. Bailey Hortorium • Hortus Third • Macmillan Publishing. 1976

3 Plinie’s Natural History First Century AD. Translated by Philemon Holland.

4 The Mint Family – Uses of Mints ~ Mints are not Just for After Dinner By Linda L. Hein; additions by Jeanne Rose

Guenther, Ernest. The Essential Oils. Vol III, p. 679. Krieger Publishing. 1974





10 (there are many articles about hirsutism and Spearmint tea)

Landing, James E. American Essence, A History of Mint in the United States. Kalamazoo Public Museum. 1969

Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999

Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations. San Francisco, California:

Rose, Jeanne. Herbal Guide to Food. 1989.

Rose, Jeanne. Kitchen Cosmetics. 1978. Available from

Rose, Jeanne. The Herbal Body Book. 2000. Available from

Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose & Berkeley, California: 1992.



Spearmint, Caraway, and Thyme

Makes me feel good and feel fine

Two of them are chiral

They go into a mirror spiral

And it is always good as a rhyme. – JeanneRose2011



A small Spearmint illustration

Moderation in All Things.
Be moderate in your use of essential oils as they are just not sustainable for the environment.
Be selective and more moderate in your usage.
Use the herb first as a tea or the infusion. —JeanneRose 2014


Roman Chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile, one of the nine or more blue essential oils from several botanical groups that, when distilled, produce a blue-colored oil. They are all anti-inflammatory and beneficial to skin health. This article discusses only Roman Chamomile.

PHOTO of Roman Chamomile plant and its essential oil
Roman Chamomile – plant & EO

ROMAN CHAMOMILE ~ History, Naming, Uses, Skincare

By Jeanne Rose

NAMING AND BACKGROUND of Roman Chamomile ~ two significant types of Chamomiles are used as herbal home remedies and for their essential oils: Chamaemelum nobile or Anthemis nobilis, also known as Roman or English chamomile, Matricaria chamomilla, also known as German or Hungarian chamomile, they are two of the most widely used medicinal herbs and essential oils worldwide.

_____FAMILY ~ These two close herbal relatives are different plants of the same plant family – Asteraceae [Compositae].

•Both have an aromatic scent and bear small, daisy-like blossoms about one inch in diameter. They have similar but different properties and different chemistry, but many herbalists use them interchangeably in herbal remedies. However, they have some distinct differences, as one is a perennial, while the other is an annual.

’            The one that is often most desired as a fragrant lawn substitute is the perennial double Chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile ‘Flore Pleno’. This is an old selection that has been in use for hundreds of years. It forms a low evergreen mat with ferny leaves and fluffy white flowers in early summer. The flowers can be dried and used for tea or mowed, dried, and used for fragrant potpourri.‘            The one most frequently desired as a fragrant lawn substitute is the perennial double Chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile ‘Flore Pleno.’ This is an old selection that has been in use for hundreds of years. It forms a low evergreen mat with ferny leaves and fluffy white flowers in early summer. The flowers can be dried and used for tea or mowed, dried, and used for fragrant potpourri.

photo of double Roman Chamomile - "flore pleno"
”double Roman Chamomile “flore pleno”

COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN for Roman Chamomile ~ The essential oil is most often obtained from  Italy. At the same time, the herb is grown throughout Europe and in many other areas, including South America and the USA.

ENDANGERED ~ Roman Chamomile is of the least concern. Wikipedia says, “Chamaemelum nobile is listed as least concern, but the plant population in the UK is decreasing significantly by drainage of wet grasslands, decrease in grazing, and the reduction of pasture that was used as arable fields” .15

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT HABITAT AND GROWTH ~ Chamaemelum nobile is a perennial, “has daisy-like white flowers and procumbent stems; the leaves are alternate, bipinnate, finely dissected, and downy to glabrous. The solitary, terminal flowerheads, rising 20–30 cm (8–12 in) above the ground, consist of prominent yellow disk flowers and silver-white ray flowers. The flowering time in the Northern Hemisphere is June and July …. Although the plant is often confused with German chamChamomiletricaria chamomilla), its morphology, properties, and chemical composition are markedly different.” 15

PORTION OF PLANT USED IN EXTRACTION AND YIELDS ~ The flowers are steam or hydrodistilled. The color of the essential oil is vital as one of the constituents of the essential oil contains an azulene named chamazulene and a component called bisabolol.  Bisabolol and chamazulene occur only in the morning and evening collections of the plant, and the plant must be distilled at this time.

_____YIELD ~ The yield of essential oil from Roman chamomile is greatly influenced by the method of drying the flowers. In Iran, the oil content of the shade-dried flowers was the most prominent (1.9% w/w) compared to sun-drying (0.4% w/w) and oven-drying at 40 °C (0.9% w/w).16

Elsewhere yield has been reported at 0.8% to 1.0%.

STORAGE ~ Store the essential oil in the freezer.


ORGANOLEPTICS & CHEMISTRY ~ We call these Chamomile oils ‘blue oils’ because they are blue in color. Yes, essential oils have color. These colors include a pale sky blue such as freshly distilled Roman Chamomile, although it seems to quickly lose that color, and many darker blues as well.

The plant has no azulene, as it is produced during the distillation process. The EO molecule called azulene is a dark blue color. It is composed of two terpenoids; vetivazulene, a derivative of Vetivert, and guaiazulene (also called azulon), mainly from guaiac and chamomile oil. This molecule is also found in some pigments of mushrooms, plants like guaiac wood oil, and marine invertebrates such as jellyfish and corals. Azulenes, although usually shades of blue, can also be green, violet, blue/violet, and red/violet.  It is a brilliant rainbow of color due to its chemical structure. 12

Please Note ~ that the blue chamazulene itself does not occur in the plant but is formed from a sesquiterpene lactone called matricine during the steam distillation process.

”Roman chamomile EO is insoluble in glycerin ““Upon exposure to air and light and on prolonged standing, the light blue color of the oil changes first to green, to yellow, and later to yellow-brown.  This oil presents one of the highest ester values of all essential oils, from 272 to 293.5” World of Aromatherapy, p. 203. Esters are used in skincare.


Odor Profile (snapshot) Roman Chamomile
Odor Profile (snapshot) Roman Chamomile



a symbol for a 'smiling' drop of oil indicating its safety to use
No Worries

A symbol from The Aromatherapy Book by Jeanne Rose – EO can be freely used.

’The main property of any ‘’blue oils’ is as an anti-inflammatory, to control inflammation, usually of the skin, and on some occasions, when taken internally, to control inner inflammation. Shirley Price considered Roman Chamomile the best of all essential oils to use. The main property of any ‘blue oils’ is as an anti-inflammatory, to control inflammation, usually of the skin, and on some occasions, when taken internally, to control internal inflammation. Shirley Price considered Roman Chamomile the best of all essential oils to use.


            APPLICATION ~   The blue oils with the component of azulene are anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antibacterial and are predominantly considered unusual plants and oil for skincare.

The Benefits of Azulene in Chamomile Essential Oil. The use of chamChamomileincreasing as the knowledge of azulene (chamazulene) grows. Azulene is significant in Matricaria chamomilla (Matricaria recutita), and this herb has surpassed even its cousin Roman Chamomile as the essential oil for skincare. Both are powerfully anti-inflammatory.

            SOME FORMULAS

•Rosacea is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that affects the face. Rosacea causes facial redness and produces small, red, pus-filled pustules (bumps). Rosacea worsens with time if left untreated. Add Roman Chamomile in about 5% to any blend used for rosacea.

• Clay-Mask for Delicate, Inflamed Skin …

Make a paste of white clay and water (or flower water).  Add 1 drop of Chamaemelum nobile – Roman chamChamomilepply to clean face and let dry for up to 15 minutes.  Rinse off carefully and spray with hydrosol of Roman Chamomile, Lavender, or any other you might have.

’• Neuritis and neuralgia and a shingles remedy. – Formula of Essential Oils at 8% includes Helichrysum, Rosemary verbenone, Ravensara, and Roman Chamomile. Add 42% of the total in Calophyllum and Calendula infused oil for the balance of the formula at 50%. If possible, make this formula by weight, not volume. Shingles are very painful, a viral condition from old chicken pox stored in your body. I do not believe essential oils can ‘cure’ it, but they can help ease the pain. There is a long article on my website about this. See

• Neuritis and neuralgia and a Shingles remedy. – Formula of Essential Oils at 8% includes Helichrysum, Rosemary verbenone, Ravensara, and Roman Chamomile. Add 42% of the total in Calophyllum and Calendula infused oil for the balance of the formula at 50%. If possible, make this formula by weight, not volume. Shingles are very painful, a viral condition from old chicken pox stored in your body. I do not believe essential oils can ‘cure’ it, but they can help ease the pain. There is a long article on my website about this. See

         A Formula for neuritis. Get a 1-oz bottle, add 30 drops of Roman Chamomile, 20 drops of Rosemary verbenone, and 10 drops of Ravensara. Then fill with carrier oil. I prefer to use a cold-pressed Olive oil that has also been pressed with Lavender flowers [see Sciabica Olive Oil].  Shake vigorously and label and use at will.

INHALATION ~    Any blue oils have many uses in blends and are used via inhalation or in the blends used in inhalers. Roman Chamomile is most easily obtainable and can be used in an inhaler, salt inhaler, or mixed with Eucalyptus radiata and rubbed on the chest for inhalation, and used to relieve breathing.

DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION ~ Use these rare blue oils in moderation. If the herb works, use that first before the essential oil. They can be blended with just about any selection of oil to suit your purposes. I have a favorite at my desk of Eucalyptus smithii + Chamaemelum nobile in a small bottle that I use to inhale periodically when I am working at the computer.

EMOTIONAL/RITUAL/ENERGETIC USES ~ Inhalation of Roman Chamomile may help with nervous tics, asthma, insomnia, headache, depression, and nervousness. It is very useful for hysteria, anger, and child tantrums.

” Many sources list a litany of magical and spiritual traditions for the  Roman Chamomile. These sources list its use in spells for peace, love, tranquility, and purification. Teddy Fearnhamm, an aromatherapy teacher, says,““a cascade of Roman Chamomile and you immediately feel loved.” In ritual, it is used to instill stillness, become spiritually aware, give inner peace, and become emotionally stable. These are all attributes we can use.“ Many sources list a litany of magical and spiritual traditions for the  Roman Chamomile. These sources list its use in spells for peace, love, tranquility, and purification. Teddy Fearnhamm, an aromatherapy teacher, says, “a cascade of Roman Chamomile and you immediately feel loved.” In ritual, it is used to instill stillness, become spiritually aware, give inner peace, and become emotionally stable. These are all attributes we can use.


            Years ago, when my boy was about 8 years old, we were all gathered together around the dining room table, friends and family, having a glass of wine and chatting. I live in the city and up two flights of stairs from the street. The boys, my son, and his friend were on their BMX bikes, riding up and down the length of the 15-foot hall and creating a tremendous cacophony. It was very noisy. I quietly got up, put some Roman Chamomile into a diffuser, aimed the nozzle towards the hall, and diffused this essential oil into the atmosphere. It was only minutes before the noise died off, and quiet reigned in the house. Too quiet, actually. I got up and went into the bedroom, and now the boys were having a great time smoothing Vaseline into their hair and trying to get it to stand up in greasy peaks for that fashionable punk look. My son was laughing and enjoying the mess. Getting that Vaseline out of the hair is another story.

Roman Chamomile essential oil showing its pale yellow color
Roman Chamomile essential oil

BLENDING ~ Chamomile oils can be blended with just about any herb or citrus or wood, or resin. It works well with flowers, bark, and spices. Arctander states that Roman Chamomile is used as a trace additive [and] imparts a warm yet fresh note and a natural depth that is difficult to obtain by other means.

             Roman Chamomile has little chamazulene and thus has gentler anti-inflammatory properties. It also has a higher alcohol content than its cousin, German Chamomile is the better choice for skin conditions and other topical applications. It is used for skin diseases, acne, chilblains (painfully inflamed skin patches from the cold), and all skin irritations; applied as a compress for menstrual problems, neuritis (pins and needles in the limbs), neuralgia (sharp nerve pain), surgical intervention and pain relief, and used in perfumery. I have used it in massage blends for relaxation. Rub a bit on the gums for teething pain.

HERBAL USES OF ROMAN CHAMOMILE flowers ~ Roman chamomile flower tea is anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, a bitter tonic tea, carminative tea, digestive tea, emmenagogue tea (lightly promotes menstrual flow), nervine, and it is calming and stomachic. Roman chamomile oil is used as a tea for its internal and external properties, as an antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory, and to relieve gastrointestinal issues.

 Flowers and essential oil are used in skincare formulas as an anti-inflammatory. The EO is inhaled for asthma, used orally, and is best for all uses.

Please Note ~ that the blue chamazulene itself does not occur in the plant but is formed from a sesquiterpene lactone called matricine during the steam distillation process.

So, don’t expect to make herbal remedies with plants that produce blue oils and have a blue-colored product. These plants should be freshly picked in the morning and carefully distilled from the flowering tops, and the hydrosol is immediately frozen (to preserve the light blue color). The essential oil is collected and stored in the freezer to preserve it from oxidation.

KEY USE ~ Use Roman Chamomile and any of the other Blue Oils to relieve inflammation and inhale to relieve asthma.

HYDROSOL ~   Any hydrosols obtained while distilling plants will be acidic in nature and skin-loving for you. In particular, Roman Chamomile produces quite effective hydrosols. The EO is only blue if the plants are picked in the morning ‘when the dew is dry but the sun not yet high‘, and if mature flowers rather than leaves are picked. The hydrosol waters are anti-inflammatory and can be added to any lotion or cream. If you add them when the blue is still in the waters, the essential oil has not quite settled. These products need to be refrigerated.

            Roman Chamomile ~ I adore Roman Chamomile hydrosol. I use it in the bath, as a facial toner, and to spray my sheets for sleeping. Ann Harman found that in testing Roman Chamomile hydrosol, there was 0.0042% of EO in it. The hydrosol comprised 61 components, mainly sorbic acid, trans-pinocarveol, and lesser amounts of ketones, acids, and other components.

single Roman Chamomile flowers & EO
single Roman Chamomile flowers & EO

INTERESTING/SCIENCE/HISTORICAL USES ~ Historically, the Noble Chamomile called the Roman Chamomile, is often a double flower. It was grown interspersed with lawn plants as a ground cover that provided fragrance when being walked upon. Wet laundry, especially sheets, was laid down to dry on this fragrant cover plant, and while drying, they would pick up the sweet apple scent of the plants. In the past, when I could grow large amounts of this plant, I could place my clean, washed cashmere sweaters out to dry, and they would come back to me with the calming scent of chamomile.


This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals



            The blue color is the sesquiterpene AZULENE. All essential oils containing azulene are anti-inflammatory as a property both by inhalation and by application and occur in EO only, not in the plant (matricine).

            **Oxidation changes the chemical composition of the essential oil.  If any of these oils are greenish-black or brown when they should be light blue to deep blue, it indicates oxidation, age, and the existence of free radicals, and they should not be used for therapy.  Furthermore, if the clear-to-yellow oils appear deep yellow to deep brown, they, too, have oxidized and are too old to use therapeutically. 

A chart of most of the blue oils and correct scientific names, common names, symbol  of use, color, scent, chemical component and how used.
© This table is copyrighted 2005  and may not be used without the express permission of  Jeanne Rose Aromatherapy •



”1. Parsons, Pamela.“Chamomile”. The Aromatic““Thymes“. (Spring 1994) 2:2.“1. Parsons, Pamela. “Chamomile”. The Aromatic “Thymes“. (Spring 1994) 2:2.

2. Arctander, Steffen. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin. (Elizabeth, NJ: Steffen Arctander, 1960.)

3. Franchomme, P. and Penoel, Docteur D. L’Aromatherapie Exactement. (Limoges, France: Roger Jollois Editeur, 1990.)

4. Guenther, Ernest, Ph.D. The Essential Oils.  (Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company 1976.) (original edition 1952.) (in VI volumes)

5. Parry, Ernest J. Parry’s Cyclopedia of Perfumery. Philadelphia, PA: P. Blakiston’s Son & Co., 1925.) (in II volumes)

6. Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations.  (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 3rd edition, 1994.) Available from

7. Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. (San Francisco, CA: Jeanne Rose Aromatherapy, 3rd edition, 1994.) Available from

8. Tutin, Heywood, Burges, Moore, Valentine, Walters and Webb, Editors.  Flora Europaea, Vol. 4. (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1976.)

9. Mabberley, D.J. The Plant Book. (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, corrected reprint, 1989.)

”10. Lewis, Walter H.“”Notes on Economic Plants.” Economic Botany. 46(4) pp. 426-430. (1992.)“10. Lewis, Walter H. “Notes on Economic Plants.” Economic Botany. 46(4) pp. 426-430. (1992.)

11. Bailey, L.H., staff of. Hortus Third. (Cornell, New York: Hortorium, Cornell University, 1977.)


”13. The Blue Oils. By Jeanne Rose. Published in““The Aromatic Plant Project” from archives •1994“13. The Blue Oils. By Jeanne Rose. Published in “The Aromatic Plant Project” from archives •1994


15. Wikipedia. Chamaemelum nobile

16. R. Omidbaigi, F. Sefidkon, F. Kazemi. Influence of drying methods on the essential oil content and composition of Roman chamomile. Flavor and Fragrance Journal. 29 March 2004.


Arctander, Steffen. . Perfume and Flavor Materials Chamomilel Origin. (Elizabeth, NJ: Steffen Arctander, 1960.)

Harman, Ann. Harvest to Hydrosol

Mabberley, D.J., Mabberley’s Plant Book, 2008 Third Edition with 2014 updates, Cambridge University Press

Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.

Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations.

Rose, Jeanne. Hydrosols & Aromatic Waters.

Worwood, Susan & Valerie Ann. Aromatherapy.

Safety Precautions.

Moderation in All Things.

Be moderate in using essential oils, as they are not sustainable for the environment.

Be selective and more moderate in your usage.

Use the herb first as tea or the infusion. —JeanneRose 2014

scroll symbol signifies end of article


photo  of Oregano oil and plant
Oregano oil and plant

Synopsis ~ We are discussing the high carvacrol culinary Oregano called ‘Greek or  Italian Oregano’. Many different members of this grouping are called Oregano. To get what you want, know the difference, the correct name, and the uses of each.

OREGANO/MARJORAM – the names of confusion

By Jeanne Rose ~ 10-2022


COMMON NAME/LATIN BINOMIAL ~ OREGANO IS ORIGANUM VULGARE, and it has many varieties and chemotypes. The word Oregano is also used for like-named cousins and even other genera, such as some types of  Marjoram and Thyme.


Many of the Oregano and Marjoram types were in a kit I once made to help people to learn the difference between the Oregano, Thyme, and Marjoram types. Here are some of the most well-known.

_____1. OREGANO OR WILD MARJORAM, Origanum vulgare. This one is simple, not as flavorful or pungent as the Greek Oregano variety called hirtum.

_____2. OREGANO OR GREEK OREGANO, ORIGANUM VULGARE subsp. HIRTUM  and usually CT (chemotype carvacrol), aka O. vulgare heracleoticum. Formerly listed botanically as Origanum heracleoticum, it has a strong herbaceous scent, and the taste burns the mucous membrane from the strongly tasting and scented phenol, carvacrol. The main component is up to 75% carvacrol from the leaves, stems, and flowers. This signature chemical is responsible for the sharp, pungent flavor of the culinary Oregano. [Organoleptically, this particular Oregano is light gold to red in color, clear, non-viscous, with a scent intensity of 6-8, and has an irritating taste].

This variety acts as a disinfectant, preservative, and anti-bacterial; infusions made from Greek Oregano have a wide range of purposes, from a simple cleansing mouthwash to reducing bloat, stomach cramps, and coughs.

            Greek Oregano is a very spicy herb. [Its parent, Origanum vulgare, has little flavor and no taste in culinary preparations and is often commercially grown and offered incorrectly as Greek Oregano. This plant is often also known as Wild Marjoram and is a highly invasive plant with a pink flower.]   Origanum vulgare hirtum is the true Greek Oregano with a very intense bite that can numb the end of your tongue when fresh. Like all culinary Oreganos, the flower of Greek Oregano is white.

_____3. OREGANO, ORIGANUM VULGARE VAR.COMPACTUMis a small compact mound of leaves with an appreciated flavor, white to pinkish flower, and is steam-distilled for its essential oil [pale yellow to gold, clear, non-viscous, 5-8 intensity, depending upon the amount of carvacrol].            

photo of Greek Oregano flowers
Greek Oregano flowers

MARJORAM is in several genera, including Origanum and Thymus

  ____ 4. Marjoram, Origanum majorana [the oil has very little color, clear, non-viscous, 6, herbaceous]

_____ 5. Sweet Marjoram, Origanum majorana [the oil has very little color, clear, non-viscous, 5, herbaceous, even fruity]  …  See

_____ 6. Sweet Marjoram CO2, Origanum majorana, is reddish, with a stronger, more definitive odor.

_____ 7.  Pot Marjoram or Cretan Oregano, Origanum onites. I love this plant for its scent.

_____ 8. Spanish Marjoram, Thymus mastichina. See the entry above. This is also called ‘sweet Marjoram’. This oil is herbaceous (no camphor note) with a sweetness of fruit and some citrus [very little color, clear, non-viscous, the intensity of 4. Components are 50% cineole, camphor  & camphene.   

_____ 9. Spanish Oregano. Thymus capitatus. This oil is vegetative, fungal, herbaceous, and spicey. Also sometimes called Turkish Oregano, which adds to the confusion of these like-named plants and oils. The components are thymol, alpha-amyrin, carvacrol + beta-Caryophyllene. Thymus essential oil inhibits the growth of both Botrytis cinerea and Penicillium italicum. SEM observations also indicated that the mycelia of both fungi were severely injured by applying T. capitatus essential oil. It kills mosquitoes. [SEM = Scanning Electron Microscopy]


THYME called Thymus.

_____ 10. Spanish Oregano and also called Spanish Thyme, Thymus nummularius is called pizza Thyme.

_____ 11. Sweet Thyme, French White Thyme, Thymus vulgaris, also Thyme English Red Thyme has a fruity, green, herbaceous, spicy scent; the oil is very light gold, clear, non-viscous, 4 in intensity.

_____ 12.Thyme Spanish Red Thyme, Thymus vulgaris, has a spicy, herbaceous, green, hot dark red, clear, non-viscous, and strong intensity.                    

_____ 13. Thyme CT Borneol, Thymus satureioides. The scent is green, herbaceous, and woody, and the oil is red, clear, and non-viscous, 6, with a vegetative taste.                    

_____ 14. Thyme CT linalool, Thymus vulgaris CT linalool. The scent is herbaceous (no camphor note) and with floral and fruity notes. The essential oil is steam-distilled from the clover-dried herb, and the herb originates in either Hungary or France. It is produced with minimal pesticides or organically grown. The scent is of the oil strongly sweet-herbaceous, and fresh. Thyme linalool is regulating and a tonic, so useful for mood swings, mental inconsistency, and energy fluctuations and is used like Tea Tree. This oil is versatile, and when used in dilution, it helps to cleanse and disinfect the skin for those prone to frequent or recurring infections.

_____ 15. Thyme CT p-cymene from  [Bosnia & Herzegovina] Thymus vulgaris CT paracymene  

_____ 16. Thyme CT thymol, Thymus vulgaris CT thymol                            

_____ 17. Spain White Serpolet, Wild Thyme, Thymus serpyllum


_____ 18. Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) was one of the herbs listed in the Aztec herbal of 1552, written in the Aztec language Nahuatl. The Nahuatl name for the herb was ahuiyac-xihuitl, which means “fragrant, savory herb.” In one formula, it was included with other herbs and fluid of choice in a hot foot bath to be used “against lassitude.”

a page From the Badianus Manuscript showing Mexican Oregano and a formula for lassitude.
from the Badianus Manuscript – 1552

Traditionally Mexican oregano was used for digestive issues such as colic, indigestion, and flatulence, for motion sickness, for menstrual cramps, to induce menstruation, for earaches and toothaches, and for upper respiratory infections and coughs. It’s also used as a common culinary spice. A common Latin American spice blend, adobo, usually includes oregano. – Bevin Clare

FAMILY ~ Lamiaceae, also called the Mint family, has fragrant and flavorful leaves and flowering tops.

COUNTRIES OF ORIGINS ~ Oregano, called Turkish, Greek, or Italian Oregano, is native to the hills of the Mediterranean countries and western Asia and has naturalized in many parts of Mexico and the United States.


HARVEST LOCATION ~ Prima Fleur carries Origanum compactum, organically grown in France.

ENDANGERED OR NOT ~ “Wild Oregano is a perennial plant of the Lamiaceae family and is native to the Mediterranean Basin; it grows naturally only in southern Spain and northern Morocco, where it can be found on rocky hillsides.  Due to overharvesting, the species is severely endangered in its native regions” and habitat. ‑‑ Biolandes, an essential oil and perfumery company.

            Origanum compactum L. (Lamiaceae) is one of the most important medicinal species in terms of ethnobotany in Morocco. It is considered a very threatened species as it is heavily exploited. Its domestication remains the most efficient way to safeguard it for future generations.7


GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT HABITAT AND GROWTH ~ The true culinary Oregano, aka Greek or Italian Oregano, Origanum vulgaris hirtum is a woody perennial flowering herb, with white flowers, vigorous and very hardy, with hairy foliage. Other types of Oregano with less intense flavor have pink flowers and are not so hairy.

close-up photo of hairy leaves of Greek Oregano, variety hirtum.
hairy leaves of Greek Oregano, variety hirtum.

Greek Oregano is a very spicy herb. The parent, Origanum vulgare, has little flavor and is a culinary zero but is often grown commercially and incorrectly offered as Greek Oregano. This plant is also often known as Wild Marjoram and is an extremely invasive plant with a pink flower.   Origanum vulgaris hirtum is the true Greek Oregano with a flavor so intense it numbs the end of your tongue when fresh. Like all culinary Oreganos, the flower of Greek Oregano is white and with an “excellent reputation for flavor and pungency, as well as medicinal uses, strong, archetypal oregano flavor (Greek kaliteri: the best).”1

a photo of Origanum vulgare var compactum flowers
Origanum vulgare var compactum flowers

The Oregano used in aromatherapy, body care, and in diffusers is usually Origanum vulgare var compactum. It is grown in France and Morocco, where it is called Zaatar, and it is used as an aromatic medicinal plant. This is a compact, bushy perennial that forms a low mound (10 inches wide by six inches high) of soft leaves and attractive sprays of white to pinkish-white flowers. It grows well in full sun in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils. These tasty leaves love heat and are drought-tolerant. It does not do well in areas of high humidity. Cut back in the spring to encourage new growth. Apparently, the leaves are toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.

[Oregano is not safe for cats, (dogs, or horses), according to the ASPCA. This herb, unlike basil, sage, and thyme, should not be administered to cats orally or topically. It doesn’t matter if the plant is fresh or dried; it’s toxic. Phenols and terpenoids are poisonous essential oils for cats found in oregano.3]


~  There is a solvent-extracted absolute and a CO2 produced scent from the leaves. The leaves are usually either steam-distilled or solvent extracted.  The steam-distillate is the usual product.

            YIELD of Steam Distillate ~ is 1.2%

Essential oils showing color of oil with Oregano compactum with dark yellow oil.
Essential oils showing the color of oil


Sensory qualities of 3 essential oil of genus Origanum
Sensory qualities of 3 essential oil of genus Origanum


For this purpose, a wide evaluation of the existing variability all over the Moroccan territory was tested. The essential oils of 527 individual plants belonging to 88 populations collected from the whole distribution area of the species in Morocco were analyzed by GC/MS. The dominant constituents were carvacrol (0 – 96.3%), thymol (0 – 80.7%), p-cymene (0.2 – 58.6%), γ-terpinene (0 – 35.2%), carvacryl methyl ether (0 – 36.2%), and α-terpineol (0 – 25.8%).4

            As you can see, there is a significant chemistry variation in this native environment.





            Environmental factors, the terroir, plays a huge role in the chemistry of Oregano. Within varieties on various islands, chemistry can change significantly. Temperature, humidity, soil type, day length, climate, altitude, amount of available water, etc. The chemical composition also depends on the season and vegetative period of the plant.These all make up the terroir.

a complex chart showing many types of Oregano, Thyme, and Marjoram, chemistry, what their sensory characteristics are, and uses.

All rights reserved 2007. No part of this article may be used without the prior permission of Jeanne Rose©

Let us start out with the fact all plants called Oregano are in the Origanum genus and that most plants called Marjoram are either in the Thymus or Origanum genus.  In the past, Marjoram used to have its own genus. Now Oregano is the genus, and Marjoram or Sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana) is only one variety or species of over fifty types of the genus Oregano. Pot marjoram (Origanum onites) is another species, but even this causes confusion, sometimes being called Cretan Oregano because of its place of origin. In Spain, there is Thymus nummularius, and in Mexico, there are Lippia graveolens (see photo above of page from Badianus manuscript); both are sold as Oregano and used in place of Oregano. One last example of how it all is jumbled: Origanum vulgare, or what is taken for common Oregano, is also known as wild Marjoram or Thyme.

Yes, it is confusing, and in this group of plants, it is very helpful to also know the place of origin and the chemotype as well as the scientific name.

            Both Marjoram and Oregano are steam inhalants to clear the sinuses and relieve laryngitis. “The combination of carvacrol and cymene in this oil results in an increased antibacterial effect on the growth and a synergistic effect on the viability of Listeria. There is monocytogenes in low concentrations. It can be used to preserve foods or cosmetics. … “Know the Latin binomial – to be assured”2

For more information on the uses of the Marjoram/Oregano/Thyme essential oil and Hydrosols,

see 375 Essential Oils & Hydrosols by Jeanne Rose.


Oregano has been used for a long time by the Moroccan population for medicinal properties and food preparation purposes. This application is not wide because of its bitterness, despite the pleasant odor. The taste is very intense, quite unpleasant, and intensely bitter, so its culinary application is limited to the region of origin, such as Morocco, where It is mainly used as a culinary condiment and primarily employed in popular medicine for the treatment of ailments such as dysentery, colitis, bronco-pulmonary issues, gastric acidity, and gastrointestinal diseases. O. compactum is also used as a preservative for the melted butter item called (smen).6  Smen is salted aged and fermented butter that is made in Morocco.

APPLICATION/ SKINCARE ~ I only use the high carvacrol-containing Oregano oil for the skin in a preservative formula for lotions and creams. Here, it is in a low enough percentage that it will not cause irritation.

For the full article, please refer to

Preserve Formula

The following formula should be used at 1.5%, that is, 1.5 ml to a 4 oz. jar:  
Too much Cinnamon? – Reduce the amount
     2 ml  Oregano CT carvacrol
     2 ml  Palmarosa with geraniol
     1.5 ml  Cinnamon leaf
     2 ml Thyme [50%  paracymene and 50% Thymus vulgaris with thymol] 
A formula to preserve cosmetics

DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION for Oregano ~ I strongly suggest that you do not diffuse this high carvacrol oil into your home. Save it for its strong medicinal properties.


EMOTIONAL/ENERGETIC USE ~ Saturday, October 1, was a special day for me. The previous Tuesday, I had been introduced to a new bottle of sparkling wine/champagne that was delicious and new to my tastebuds, and it came from a winery in my state called Lichen Estate. This champagne (it’s California, so it is really sparkling wine) stunned me with its deliciousness. I tried it first at Waterbar in San Francisco.  I came home and got on the phone and called Lichen Estate, and had an informative discussion with Doug, the owner. This call initiated a long conversation about this and that and an order from me to obtain some of their delicious wine. It arrived in record time, and I invited a journalist from the S.F. Chronicle, Tony Bravo, to share a bottle with me. I chilled the 2013 Cuvée. When he arrived on Saturday, we had to mask up as I had just inhaled and dropped some of the Oregano oil with high carvacrol all over me and the house. This essential oil filled my house with its odor and my nose with pungency, and the intensity of the carvacrol made me slightly delirious.  I started to speak very loudly and laughed rather insanely.  The champagne? Well, I had chilled the Cuvée, and we decided to taste it in different types of Riedel glassware and plain wine glasses and pulled out six to taste from.  We also closed ourselves into the kitchen, which speaks well for not having an open floor plan, as the Oregano scent was exuberantly manifesting itself in the rest of the house.  The champagne had a pleasing and attractive odor and a fine and delicious taste. But both together? It was like drinking champagne in a pizza oven.

            Emotionally –  the wine was delicious, and when we finished the bottle, the scent in the house was calmer and more of the culinary plant odor rather than the intensity of the essential oil. I felt happy, and the scent was very homely, as if I was back in the home of my Italian godmother and eating some of her delicious homemade pasta.


HYDROSOL & another Oregano Tomato Tale ~ I have had the opportunity to distill Oregano, and not knowing the extreme variability of this plant at the time, I was amazed at the dark red hydrosol that was obtained.  This was in Grand Rapids, MI, in 2009 with my Distillation class at the home of Linda Beyer. This hydrosol was intensely pungent, tasting and smelling.  I took an 8 oz. bottle home with me and used it over the next few years as a cold and flu preventative and a therapeutic treatment. Of course, it has to be diluted with water or juice, about 1 teaspoon of hydrosol per glass of liquid or juice; this dilution is best to soften the pungency of the Oregano hydrosol.  This would be taken 4-6 daily at 4-hour intervals while awake.  It certainly worked very well, indeed.

two hydrosols of Oregano

PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be distilled explicitly for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers precisely distill a product using fresh plant material.

CULINARY USE of Oregano ~ Oregano is used in cooking to flavor soups and sauces, pizza, meatballs, and many other foods. Cultivars traded as Italian, Sicilian, etc., are often a hardy sweet marjoram hybrid (O. majorana or O. majoricum), and the southern strongly Adriatic, O. v. subsp. hirtum and sweet marjoram (O. majorana). They have a reputation for sweet and spicy tones with slight bitterness and are prized for their flavor and compatibility with various recipes and sauces.5


HISTORICAL USES ~ Use of Greek oregano dates back to ancient Greece, where it was said that it was created by the love goddess Aphrodite, who grew it in her garden atop Mount Olympus as a symbol of joy. It was commonly planted around homes to ward off evil spirits.

            Despite the heavy association of Oregano with Italy, Oregano likely originated in Greece. Ancient Greeks used to let their cattle graze on fields of Oregano in the belief that it produced tastier meat. Even the name Oregano comes from the Greek, meaning “joy of the mountain.”

KEY USE ~ The oil of Disinfection.



  2. Aromatherapy Course – Home & Family
  3. Wikipedia
  4. Origanum compactum Benth: A Review on Phytochemistry and Pharmacological Properties • Abdelhakim Bouyahya1,etc.• Biochemistry-Immunology Laboratory, Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences, Mohammed V University, Rabat, Morocco
  5. Wikipedia,
  6. 5. Med. Aromat. Plants, Vol 5, Issue 4, 1000252
  7.  Chemical Polymorphism of Origanum compactum Grown in All Natural Habitats in Morocco, Kaoutar Aboukhalid, etc.•


Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, 2014 printing, Cambridge University Press.

Rose, Jeanne.  375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.  Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999

Rose, Jeanne.  The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations.  San Francisco, California:

Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose & Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1992

This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.



Precautions to remember for all plants and their parts.
Cowboy boot growing Oregano
Cowboy boot Organo