When I was a child my mother worked for a boutique in Beverly Hills. On occasion she would travel to Paris for some of her clients, if I was really lucky I went with her, if not she would always bring back wonderful treats. The treats ranged from perfume, cheese, maron glace and cooking herbs.
The cooking herbs were usually Bouquet Garni, which translates as “garnish bouquet” in French. The mix usually contains parsley, thyme and bay leaf. Depending on the region and different makers there may also be basil, burnet, chervil, rosemary, peppercorns, savory and tarragon in the blend.
My favorite herb mix from France is Herbes de Provence which is generally a combination of the following herbs: savory, fennel, basil, thyme, sage, marjoram, oregano and lavender blossoms. When I make it here at home I use: thyme, rosemary, sage, lavender and oregano. I sprinkle it on a chicken for roasting along with fresh garlic and butter. The blend works well for a variety of dishes including grilled vegetables and stews.
The herbs used to make an Herbes de Provence culinary blend are also distilled as essential oils used in aromatherapy and natural perfume. I associate these mostly with aromatherapy because that was my gateway into the healing world of plant medicine.
There’s a few things I’ve learned in life:
always throw salt over your left shoulder,
keep rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for good luck,
and fall in love whenever you can.
~ Alice Hoffman (Practical Magic )
The word lavender comes from the Latin “Lavare” meaning to wash. The herb has a very rich presence in literature and is used widely in medicinal preparations, culinary delights and cosmetic preparations. The essential oil of lavender is derived from the distillation of the flowering tops of Lavandula officinalis, also referred to as Lavandula angustifolia/vera.
The aroma of lavender essential oil is considered herbaceous, fruity and sweet depending on the variety and type of extraction. In many circles it is deemed “floral”, which may or may not be present…again depends on the variety. More appropriate terminology could be an herbaceous floral character. For use in aromatherapy synergies it is considered the universal oil and used extensively in almost all types of dis-ease. Its chemistry is rich in the ester: linalyl acetate the alcohol: linalol and sesquiterpenes.
In perfume lavender essential oil tends to be classified as a top to middle note. Where as the absolute is considered a base note. In perfume we find the lavender note used in Lavender Eau de Colognes and the category of fragrance deemed Fougere, meaning fern in French. Fougere perfumes feature the combination of oakmoss with lavender.
As a botanical and natural perfumer I use Lavender as a bridge note. It is not an essence I use regularly, unless it is for a specific perfume like Vera or a custom perfume. In aromatherapy synergies and blends I use it in almost every single preparation.
Note: This information on Lavender has been gathered from another post here at the journal, if you would like to read more here is the link to satisfy your craving.
Sage, here is the link to the Perfume Illuminated post on Sage.
There are many different varieties of thyme used in aromatherapy and natural perfume. One of my all time favorites is Thyme geraniol, which has a geranium note. In aromatherapy we use thyme mostly in blends for One of my very first aromatherapy blends when I took the live hours class with Jade Shutes was a blend I made for Will Power. It included: Thyme, Elemi and Juniper.
Known as Ocimum basilicum, this hardy and very popular herb is ruled by Mars. The annual produces fragrant leaves and flowers. There are many varieties of Basil essential oil and depending where it is grown will determine differing chemical constituents. Thus, you may have a Basil that is high in linalol or one that has more camphor or methyl chavicol or a combination. The aromatic profile tend to be sweet, herbaceous, spicy and fresh. In aromatherapy it works on several systems of the body, I tend to use it in headache blends as it is a great analgesic, stimulating and clearing to the mind.
The fennel we use in aromatherapy is Foeniculum vulgare P. Mill var. dulce which also goes by the names Fenkel, Wild Fennel and Sweet Fennel.It was the Romans who gave fennel its name Foeniculum from the Latin word Foeniculum meaning hay.1 Fennel essential oil is distilled from the seeds and is most commonly used in blends for digestion, circulation and the endocrine system. One of the keywords associated with this oil is balance.
A few nights ago as I was drooling over pictures of the french country side on Pinterest my daughter asked if we had any Herbes de Provence. The synergy of the question with the visual imagery made me begin contemplating an Herbes de Provence perfume, which in turn inspired today’s Perfume Illuminated contribution.
Thus, my perfume will focus mainly on lavender, thyme, sage with a bit of fennel, basil, oregano and savory. These are all middle notes. For the base I’m thinking woods, cistus, beeswax absolute and olive fruit or leaf. I’m thinking citrus for the top notes, probably citron. We will see where the journey takes us! I definitely don’t want to repeat Vera (thus no oakmoss or very little) and I don’t want to make something that is overly medicinal, although odd and different is okay. Let me know if there are any notes you suggest by leaving a comment here and I will send a sample off the first edition when I’m done if I choose a specific essence you have mentioned that is different from what I have already listed.
From the Silver Palette CookBook: “If fresh herbs are plentiful, use them in bouquets around the house; their dark green or gray leaves are beautiful with flowers. Make an edible centerpiece of such herbs as basil, dill and mint: wash fresh herbs, shake dry, and arrange with salad greens in a bowl of crushed ice.”
1 Jade Shutes, Aromatherapy for Bodyworkers, Pearson/Prentice Hall, New Jersey, Chapter Thirteen, p.297
Top image found via Pinterest with no reference to the creator, other images by or digitally enhanced by Roxana Villa