Perfume oils are one of the oldest beauty products known to woman.
According to Levey, the world’s first recorded chemist is considered to be a woman named Tapputi, a perfume maker who was mentioned in a cuneiform tablet from the 2nd millennium BC in Mesopotamia. She distilled flowers, oil, and calamus with other aromatics then filtered and put them back in the still several times. The Persian chemist Ibn Sina (also known as Avicenna) introduced the process of extracting oils from flowers by means of distillation, the procedure most commonly used today. He first experimented with the rose. Until his discovery, liquid perfumes were mixtures of oil and crushed herbs or petals, which made a strong blend. Rose water was more delicate, and immediately became popular. The art of perfumery was known in western Europe ever since 1221, evidenced by monks’ recipes of Santa Maria delle Vigne or Santa Maria Novella of Florence, Italy. In the east, the Hungarians produced in 1370 a perfume made of scented oils blended in an alcohol solution at the command of Queen Elizabeth of Hungary, best known as Hungary Water. The art of perfumery prospered in Renaissance Italy, and in the 16th century, Italian refinements were taken to France by Catherine de’ Medici’s personal perfumer, Rene the Florentine (Renato il Fiorentino). His laboratory was connected with her apartments by a secret passageway, so that no formulae could be stolen en route. Thanks to Rene, France quickly became one of the European centers of perfume and cosmetic manufacture. Cultivation of flowers for their perfume essence, which had begun in the 14th century, grew into a major industry in the south of France. From France, perfumery developed into what we know today. To make your own perfume oil (the easiest perfume method):
- Fill a mason jar with fresh* petals from organically grown flowers (I recommend lavender, jasmine, or rose, mixed with a handful of calendula).
- Pour almond, grapeseed, or jojoba oil over the petals in the jar. Make sure the petals are completely covered with your chosen oil.
- Let the jar sit for 12 days in a warm, shaded place.
- Strain the petals from the oil, and add several drops of vitamin E oil to preserve your perfume.
- Use lavishly, applying drops of this aromatic oil to your wrists and neck, or as an after-bath moisturizer for your whole body.
- Pamper yourself. Pour your oil into pretty little bottles, with vintage labels. Give as gifts to share the love.
*For dried petals, see my post on rosewater and vodka based perfume. References:Aftel, Mandy (2004). Essence and Alchemy: A Book of Perfume. Gibbs Smith. pp. 12-19.Levey, Martin (1973). Early Arabic Pharmacology: An Introduction Based on Ancient and Medieval Sources. Brill Archive. pp. 9.