Monday, June 27, 2011

Cederberg Aromatic Explorations

By Sophia Shuttleworth - African Aromatics

The Cederberg has always drawn me with an inner call, as if profound mysteries were hidden in its ancient soil. To my delight my dear friend Kimber invited me to come along for a trip to see the San rock paintings. Besides seeing the San rockpaintings, my heart leaped knowing that I will also be able to see Hyraceum in situ as well as the Cederberg’s legendary flora.

For plant lovers the Cederberg is an absolute delight. Most of the Cederberg is a designated Wilderness Area (83,000ha) and is part of the Cape Floral Kingdom which is a World Heritage Site. Many of the plants found in the Cederberg are endemic to the area, occurring nowhere else in South Africa, or indeed in the world. The Cederberg Wilderness is surrounded by conservancies; land owned by farmers but conserved in its natural state, such as the Cederberg conservancy, the Pakhuis conservancy and Nardouwsberg conservancy, so that the whole Cederberg wilderness area is closer to 170,000ha.

The Cederberg fynbos is home to the rooibos tea plant (Aspalathus linearis) and many different types of buchu (Rutaceae). Wild olive trees (Olea europaea subsp. africana), rockwood (or kliphout; Heeria argentea), and rock candlewood (or kliphout; Heeria argentea), and rock candlewood (or kliphout; Maytenus oleoides) form woody thickets on dry slopes and round rocky outcrops.

Plants growing along streambanks include Restionaceaes, the wild almond (or wilde-amandel; Brabejum stellatifolium), the lance-leaved myrtle (or smalbaar; Metrosideros angustifolia), and in the streambed itself grows the palmiet rush (Prionium serratum). On the high plateaus red disas (Disa uniflora) and other orchids occur close to water. The endemic snow protea (or sneeuprotea; Protea cryophila) occurs on the snow-line of some of the high peaks only. (Ref

Among the many other plants which includes many of myfavourute plants are; Taylor’s Thatching Reed (Cannamois taylori), Khakibutton (Crassula columnaris), the Clanwilliam Daisy (Euryops speciossimus), the Paintbrush Lily (Haemanthus coccineus), Fragrant Evening Flower (Hesperantha cucullata), Rocket Pincushion (Leucospermum reflexum), the Magenta Pelargonium (Pelargonium magenteum), Breede River Yellowwood (Podocarpus elongatus), and the Clanwilliam (Cedar Widdringtonia cedarbergensis) as well as numerous Asteraceae and Mesembryanthemaceae, responsible for the world famous Spring display. The Cederberg receives little rain throughout the year but after winter rains, the landscape erupts in colourful glory with vibrant swathes of gousblomme and vygies. The broad spring flower season begins in late July and lasts through September. The flower ‘carpets’ tend to peak during August but flowering fynbos species continue through September into October. (Ref)

The Cederberg is named after the endemic Clanwilliam cedar tree (or sederboom; Widdringtonia cedarbergensis. The spelling of ‘Cederberg’ combines the names of the English (Cedarberg) and Afrikaans (Sederberg) This particular spelling was approved by the National Place Names Commission in 1981. The Clanwilliam cedar grows along cliffs and rocky areas at an altitude of between 1 000 and 1 700 m, and occurs in a patchy distribution over about 250km in the Cederberg. The Clanwilliam cedar tree has fragrant, durable wood, just like the true cedars. The Clanwilliam cedar is now threatened with survival due to several centuries of exploitative harvesting and frequent fires. In former times the whole mountain chain was studded with these trees, but by 1883 nearly all accessible trees of commercial value had been felled. Most of the Clanwilliam cedars today are only about 5-7 m tall, with only a few remaining in protected areas that are up to 20 m tall with a trunk of up to 2 m. In the past apparently they were about double in girth of the few remaining large trees. There is a report of a tree cut down in 1836 having a girth of 36 feet (11 m). It is estimated that they are able to live for up to 400 years. In the old days, only those 200 years or older were selected for felling. (Ref)

It is interesting that it is speculated that the cedars did not evolve in a fire-prone environment, but have had to adapt to one late in their evolutionary life. According to palaeoenvironmental change research using the the pollen preserved in the hyraceum in the Cederberg, the vegetation reconstructed from from the pollen, shows a very gradual decline in the pollen of the Widdringtonia cedarbergensis and that before 8000 yr BP restostioceae, Cyperaceae and succulent Alzoa-Mesembryanthemaceae-types were prominent, but Dodonea and Astreraceae (including Stoebe-type or Elytropappus) pollen was relatively less important. Gradually by 5000 to 4000 yr Bp this situation was reversed. (Ref)

The Clanwilliam cedar was popular for shipbuilding and was used for almost all the woodwork needed by the early settlers in the Clanwilliam area. It was once sold by the wagonload for fence poles. Apparently the cedar posts had not decayed by more than the thickness of a sheet of paper after 30 years in the ground, and were still immovable 100 years later. In 1879 the telegraph line between Piketberg and Calvinia, 289 km apart, was laid on over 7000 cedar poles. (Ref)

The clear, hard gum yielded by the cones and branches was once used medicinally in the form of fumigations in the treatment of gout, rheumatism or oedematous swellings. It was also used for making plasters and as a varnish.

The harvesting of the cedars has been banned for the last 100 years, but with the natural population so reduced, plus the threat of too-frequent fires and an increase in seed predation, the recovery by natural regeneration seemed nearly impossible. To restore the status of the tree, a program was started in 1987 by the Cape Nature conservation by planting out nursery-grown seedlings into its natural habitat in the Cederberg mountains. Since then many thousands of seedlings have been planted out in fire-protected, rocky sites. As a lover of Cedar oils, I do hope that perhaps one day we might even be able to get Widdringtonia cedarbergensis essential oil.

Temperatures in the Cederberg can soar to above 50 degrees C. Thankfully, during our stay the temperature was only in the mid forties and we wondered how the locals survived the heat when the temperatures reached the fifties. Going on the four-kilometre trial to see the Rock Paintings in the heat was tough going. Even though I have never drank so much water in my life, I was still thirsty for days afterwards.The heat however, gave me a good indication of why the Hyraceum in the area is so well preserved and so, rock hard.

Southern Africa has perhaps the richest legacy of Rock Art in the world. It is estimated that there are more than 2 500 Cederberg San paintings. The age of the Cederberg paintings ranges from 8 000 years to 100 or 200 years.

The Cederberg landscape is breath taking with its fantastic rock formations, in the true sense of the word, and reminds one of a “land that time forgot.” The rocks are composed of sandstone and shale formations of the Cape Supergroup. These formations were deposited between 500 and 345 million years ago. Everything about the Cederberg just breathes “ancient.” Being in the Cederberg is like stepping back into our distant past. Some rock formations such as the Bokkeveld Group are rich in marine fossils such as trilobites, brachiopods and crinoids. Curiously when you look closely at the large, flat, rock platforms, you will observe many different kinds of small, succulents (Mesembryanthemaceae) that grow in cracks of the rock slabs which looks remarkably like sea anemones both before they flower and when they flower. One can almost believe that they evolved from ancient seabeds over million of years. The rich floral kingdom of the fynbos has indeed evolved over millions of years to its present day diversity.

The rock formations provide ample shelter for the numerous dassie (hyrax) colonies as it did for the San for thousands of years and much to my excitement, in most of the shelters where we saw rock paintings we also saw hyraceum deposits.

I wondered what it must have been like when the area was still inhabited by numerous San clans. With more than nine rock shelters covered in rock paitings within four-kilometre radius there must have been several families living in close proximity. Just looking at the rocky valley one can imagine the singing and dancing rising from the mists of time. Certainly, a deep spiritual ambience was unmistakenly palpable throughout area and one could not help but approach the now long abandoned shelters with reverence.

Remarkably all that really remains of the paintings are nothing more than stains. The actual pigment had long been washed off by centuries of exposure to the elements. As certain pigments stained the rock better than others, some of the antelope and figures appear incomplete; headless. White, black, yellows, reds, and blues can be seen at some of the better-preserved sites. Most of the paintings were made of blood, gall, egg-white and ochre, using sticks to apply. I was blown away by how remarkably sophisticated the stylized paintings were. It must have taken incredible skill to render with such confident strokes the numerous animal and human figures using only sticks. Where I wondered did they practice their craft, where were their scetch books?

Knowing the San’s ritual use of fragrance, I could not help but wonder whether they perhaps also mixed fragrant compounds with their pigments. Did they perhaps also use Hyraceum so abundantly available everywhere in the area as a fragrance ingredient? Hyraceum certainly has strong “n/om” (San word for potency). I could smell the hyraceum before I spotted it. In the heat heat the whole valley had wafts of the distinctive scent of hyraceum in the air; truly delightful to my nose especially mixed with the fragrances of the fynbos. It is not easy to reach the Hyraceum as the deposits are mostly situated on ledges above steep rock inclines. Most of the rocks are so smooth they feel like polished marble. With a little help from my son, and a bit cautious of what might lurk on the ledges, I managed to get to the hyraceum. What looks like wet hyraceum from a distance is actually resinous smooth and rock hard. The Hyraceum is literally glued to the rock. The only way you could break of any of the Hyraceum would be with a prospector’s hammer and chisel. As the area is a conservancy, I was not there to harvest though, just to observe and smell. I did however, find a few broken off pieces which I could take to compare with the Hyraceum I had from other areas. I have long been curious to see what the scent difference was between Hyraceum from different regions.

I wish I had a lot more time to explore the area, as there was just so much to explore and sniff. All too soon it was time to go home, but I was happy with my samples of Hyraceum to test. Back home, I could sit down to some serious sniffing. Even the raw, untinctured Hyraceum from this area smelled different from other samples I had. It was smoother and had distinctive floral notes and cocoa notes. After tincturing the samples for several months the distinction is even greater. The biggest difference is in the top notes which are honey-like, whereas the other hyraceum samples I tried have hay-like top notes. On the dry down the notes become deep woody/floral/indole with no sharpness. The other Hyraceum samples tend to have more of a dry tobacco/woody notes in the dry down. The base notes of all the samples are alike – distinctively animalistic/woody, although the new samples have sweeter notes in it, with hints of what reminds me of Rooibos. I also experimented, blending it with cocoa, coffee, muhuhu and florals and made blends using the same ingredients but leaving out the Hyraceum. The blends with the Hyraceum just sing as compared to those without it.

I can’t wait to go back to the Cederberg for further exploration and to collect more samples of Hyraceum from other areas to compare.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Defining Natural Perfumery

By Jeanne Rose

Some of my natural perfume
What is ‘Natural (Botanical) Perfumery'?
Natural (Botanical) Perfumery is the use of scent from plant materials for personal fragrance. It really is as simple as that. It is an aromatic art and a fine craft of using the pure, essences of plants extracted from plants, the use of botanical extracts or tinctures  (and for some - natural animal essences) to scent the body. Natural Botanical Perfumery relies solely on plants as their scent source and the scent sources are whole and not isolates. Natural Perfumery refers to making perfume without using synthetic aroma materials. Natural refers to things that you can probably find or do at home  (except Solvent-extraction); such as making tinctures with fragrant materials, doing Enfleurage, distillation with a small still.

Essential Oil Definition: What Are Essential Oils?
Are they Essential?
It is very difficult to describe an essential oil because they are not visible when in the plant. Essential oils are only visible as a liquid when they are released by some means such as distillation, CO2 extraction, or mechanical or a physical process. They are located in the plant, in glandular hairs or cells or scales; oil cells and resin cells; oil or resin canals; and oil reservoirs.
They can be defined “as the scent of the plant in its liquid or vapor form.”
Essential oils are the volatile material in a plant that gives it the specific scent that we associate with the plant. It is the liquid that smells and is released by distillation or expression. Essential oils are not water-soluble and so and are not released into herbal teas or infusions.
“Aromatic plants are those that contain essential oils which are complex mixtures of individual chemical constituents, the precise nature and proportions of which determine its therapeutic and fragrant properties.”—Battaglia.
The International Standard ISO Draft 9235.2, entitled  'Aromatic Natural Raw Materials', clearly defines essential oils as:
     'A product obtained from natural raw material, either by distillation with water or steam, or from the epicarp of citrus fruits by mechanical processing, or by dry distillation. The essential oil is subsequently separated from the aqueous phase by natural separation or by physical means.'

Essential Oils are difficult to define and once defined, difficult to ignore—Jeanne Rose©

Essential Oils are the Scent of a plant in its liquid form©. … Jeanne Rose

 One of the seven sacred oils used in funerary rites is Cedar (Cedrus libani). Used in Natural Botanical Perfumery -most often as a base note.

More Definitions:
          Absolute and concrètes and resinoids are described as follows in The World of Perfume by Fabienne Pavia, 1995.  Solvent extraction takes place in stainless steel vats which are filled with perforated trays covered with plant material stacked one on the other so that the plant material is not crushed. The solvent must be allowed to circulate freely. The solvent is introduced, this strips the plants of their fragrance (sort of like dry-cleaning clothes of their scent). Once the solvent is saturated with fragrance, the solvent is decanted to remove excess moisture and then the material is transferred to a vacuum still where it is partially distilled.  It is evaporated, retrieved and then recycled in various processes, leaving a paste-like mixture, composed of fragrant molecules, waxes and pigments, at the bottom of the machine.  This mixture of such things as seeds, roots, mosses, balsams, gums or resins is called a resinoid; it is called a concrète `when it is obtained from flowers. Resinoids are used as is.  Concrètes are further processed and refined. Floral concrètes are thick and viscous and contain plant waxes and paraffins that are insoluble in alcohol. The waxes are filtered out, and the concrète is washed in alcohol repeatedly to dissolve the fragrant molecules.  It is chilled, the waxes are frozen because they congeal at low temperatures.  The mixture is filtered again to remove all the wax particles.  Finally, the mixture undergoes low pressure distillation and evaporation of the alcohol yields the absolute essence, called simply the absolute.
          Arthur O.  Tucker is a Research Professor at Delaware State University in the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.  He has an intense interest and knowledge in all things aromatic. He has published widely on many herbs and essential oils,  is an acknowledged authority of the Lavenders and is on the editorial board of Economic Botany, Journal of Essential Oil Research, and Herbs for Health, as well as an advisor for many other journals and groups.  Dr. Tucker has just completed a new book, called The Big Book of Herbs, one of the top three herb books selling on Amazon.  The Big Book of Herbs references every statement with a scientific paper in a readable format. 
copper stills
          Distillation is the process of boiling a substance in a closed system. A plant material is heated over or in water until the scent of the plant bursts from the cells, is vaporized as a gas, and then condensed again into fluid by submerging the pipe full of vapors in cold water.  This is condensation. Plants are distilled for their essential oil and hydrosol.
          Dr. Tucker sent me a message regarding distillation. “Gildemeister (1913) has a wonderful history of distillation but no definition per se, but he does say: "Owing to the practice of using alcohol in the preparation of many of these aromatic waters (hydrosols), the oil must frequently have remained in solution wholly or in part.  Thus, e.g. the plants or plant products to be distilled were moistened with wine or aqua vitae before distillation.  Moreover, both alcohol and volatile oil were lost, in part at least, by submitting the plant products to a process known as circulation, a preliminary operation consisting of more or less prolonged digestion...In some instances recourse was again taken to the process of fermentation before distillation which was in vogue during the 15th and 16th centuries.  This was done e.g. with Juniper berries, Wormwood, Sage and other herbs, honey and yeast occasionally being added.  The old practice of previously moistening the plant material with alcohol was also resorted to.  In this manner a larger yield of oil was obtained but it would seem that the dilution of the oil with alcohol was not recognized."  Haagen-Smit in Guenther (1948) says: "In early work, therefore, we find the term "essential oil" or "ethereal oil" defined as the volatile oil obtained by the steam distillation of plants.  With such a definition, it is clearly intended to make a distinction between the fatty oils and the oils which are easily volatile.  Their volatility and plant origin are the characteristic properties of these oils, and it is for this reason more satisfactory to include in our definition volatile plant oils obtained by other means than by direct steam distillation." Arctander (1960) says " An essential oil is a volatile material, derived by a physical process from odorous plant material of a single botanical form and species with which it agrees in name and color."”.....thus, because distillation was involved in the preparation of the "pear essence" it could conceivably be called an essential oil according to the above. ___private communication from Arthur O. Tucker
          Fermented fruits or wine are distilled  for the alcohol that is produced.  This is a closed system and the boiling produces vapours that are captured and condensed into a new liquid within the swan's neck and the condenser called the eau de vie  or grape spirits(*see below). Grape wine eau de vie that is diluted down to 40% and then aged in oak is called cognac or brandy. In the case of the fermented fruit or wine, this vapour is very high in alcohol which is collected, reboiled again, collected at about 60-65% alcohol.
          Eau de vie is an aromatic alcohol distillate of fruit such as grape, pear or apple or other fruit.  Around the world there are some really expert eau de vie distillers. Eau de vie, water of life, the burning water,  is an ancient substance, a high alcoholic beverage that was added to plain water to purify it, that was drunk on its own, that was distilled by ancient cultures, that was more a potent medicinal potion than a leisure drink. It is a substance written about by the ancient alchemists, a classic spirit honored by all. In The Newe Iewell of Health by Conrad Gesner, and dated 1576,  is "the fourth Booke of Dy∫tillations, conteyning many ∫ingular ∫ecrete Remedies" The first chapter is about "Of the distilling of Aqua vitae, or as some name it, burning water, and of the properties of the same."
            It goes on to say... "that the water which is distilled out of wine,  is named by some the water of life, in that it recovers and maintains life, yes and slays old age.  But this may rightly be named the water of death, if it shall not be rightly and Artly prepared."
          In the book Classic Spirits of the World, a Comprehensive Guide by Gordon Brown, dated 1996, it is explained that the Arabs studied distillation and took their techniques with them on military campaigns. They distilled grapes in Sicily to make lamp-fuel and as a disinfectant for wounds. The knowledge of distillation spread. The book, defines eau de vie as grape spirits.  First an organic substance has yeast added and it ferments and turns to alcohol which is collected by distillation.          
          The making of eau de vie is thus simple. It is both Art and Craft with a good bit of Science added. Ripe grapes or fruit are collected and yeast is added. As the fermentation process proceeds, the yeast eats up the sugars and produces alcohol.  When the alcohol is boiled such as in a enclosed copper pot, a still, the alcohol vapourizes.  This vapour is collected and condensed and the alcohol is thus concentrated. When wine which is 8% alcohol is distilled, it is subjected to the heat and boiling in the still, it produces alcohol at 20%; if it is boiled or distilled a second time the alcohol increases in volume and this vapour that is collected, its alcohol strength increases to about 60% by volume. Only the best part of the distillate is collected, that is what comes off during the middle part of the distillation process and you thus you have eau de vie or grape spirits(*see above).  If your organic substance is a fruit such as Pear, that is fermented and then distilled,  the final product is then Pear eau de vie.
          Vapour is the word used in the distillation industry to mean the volatile matter or the gaseous form of the distillate before it cools.
          Vapor is the smoke, fog, mist or steam that is the suspended matter or is floating in the air and disrupts the airs transparency.

AUTHOR: Jeanne Rose is the author of 24 books on herbs and aromatherapy, including The Herbal Studies Course in herbal study and two in aromatherapy, The Aromatherapy Course ‑ Home & Family and the Aromatherapy Studies Course for Practitioners.  Jeanne Rose has also authored, 375 Essential Oils & Hydrosols, which is a complete reference book of 375 aromatic plant extracts and hydrosols with phytochemical, clinical and botanical indices. Natural Botanical Perfumery Classes and Seminars are at and all other info at

She is also offering an 8 day course in Natural Botanical Perfumery in San Francisco this August, contact her at for more information!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Natural" is not allways natural.

A widely missused opportunity...

by Alfredo Dupetit-Bernardi, perfumer @

If you make a search for "natural perfume" you will find in Internet thousands of websites promoting "natural" perfumes although most of those perfumes are not 100% natural.
The definition "natural" is still not protected by law in cosmetics and perfumery.
For food ingredients this is forbidden in the meantime!

You will find in promotional descriptions of scented products the misleading mention of natural sources defining olfactive effects that come not from natural stuffs itself in the product but from synthetic ingredients contained in those perfumes or cosmetics. Because the promoters say to believe that these stuffs are identical or similar to natural stuffs they have the right to define their scented products as if they come from nature, making the impression that those products are fully natural.

Why?  This is the only way to push their synthetic cocktails ! They will never tell you a word about one single synthetic ingredient inside. They nave never told a single word about any single synthetic ingredient in none of tousends of perfumes of our past history.... and for sure they used them as we all now know.

When they write about the scent of " Italian iris ", this may be the result of the only use of synthetic irones. When they write about the nice" Indian jasmine" inside, they have in mind really synthetic jasmones! And all this is still today allowed... as a kind of poetry of possible chemical effects (called nicely "semantic" ) in the olfactive mind of the clients who inhale at the end this secret synthetics cocktail mix into their bloodstream!
The mix of stuffs that are hidden behind the INCI´s allowed ingredient called still today "Perfume", " Flavor " or " Fragrance " come into our blood over the skin, the lungs through inhalation while breathing the air surrounding us or smelling it directly from the skin, hair or cloth.

Due to these facts, I believe, it should be unmistakable explained in the INCI what really the source of this secret ingredient mix called "Perfume" or "Fragrance" is: Natural, non fully natural or totally synthetic ?

Why is this so important? Well, nature has tested on earth natural stuffs for million of years on us. We grew up with them for generations and generations. Syntheic scents are on earth since middle of 19 century, also not more than 150 years !
And who tested all over 5000 diferent synthetic scenting cocktails offered today by big scent suppliers declared today still as: INCI: Perfume or INCI: Fragance  ???

Nice semantics. We all are fooled today by those opportunists!

They even may write about the scent of a special kind of rose inside the promoted perfume, only because in the recipe they may have used any synthetics that are similar compounds to that blossom effect in nature... Yes, they can!
This is the sad reality for those who smell and decides to acquire the nice smelling "natural" scent before thinking...

Others , at this point would start searching, if an obligatory INCI is attached to the product, they will start reading, if not found: asking for an INCI-declaration to KNOW at the end what is inside the product. How to be sure?

INCI, the opportunity for decent natural perfumers and cosmetic makers and a tool for decent perfumery bloggers to test their favorite perfumes even before smelling them! Have a look to their INCI before you ask them for a sample or write anything about them! As an end consumer the ultimative tool to find a real natural perfume or cosmetic producer is their INCI-declaration. If they do not use INCI just ask why!

Many already have opted to specify in their INCI on their real natural products, (as if what they offer were food):
"Perfume (100% natural)" so that clients know that inside natural perfumes and organic perfumes, natural cosmetic and organic cosmetic lines, there is only 100% natural stuffs and not a mix of different synthetics with, maybe, some natural stuffs diluted in (for sure) denaturized alcohol!

Those kinds of perfumes with a synthetic part, does not matter how small or big this part is, use on their INCI declaration , if any available (!) only: Perfume

In Islamic countries and in the USA you must be very careful choosing real natural perfumes due to the obligation of denaturize alcoholic products.

The used denaturizing stuff is often: Methyl ester of phtallic acid, a stuff that makes you feel very bad if drunk, many people feel bad also after inhaled...

Every company doing real 100% natural perfumes should do declare with INCI stating the origine of all ingredients like (100% natural ) or: (organic), (wild harvested), etc.
All details about any of the stuffs mentioned at INCI are allowed if they are true and not misleadiang.
If not true this will be punished by law as a fraud (!). That is the main reason why you find so few people doing "natural" perfumery that are not using INCI in their declaration on the product itself and much less in their homepages.

Be careful, ask for " (100% natural) " in the INCI declaration on the products itself if you want to be sure about the origin of all ingredients of a real natural perfume or cosmetic. 

Who can believe, rely, on those companies doing "natural perfumes" or cosmetics but not writing it specifically on their products and/or homepage?

They will instead always talk about the goodness of stuffs they may have inside (or in mind) but about the many synthetics that the makers use they will never loose a word about. How long?
Other way to call real natural non animal containing perfumes may be also:„ all (100% ) botanical perfume " or " botanical vegan perfume " (real natural and animal free).
But, be careful:
Again: the definition: "botanical perfume " (like "natural" ) is not protected by law, and this can be also used for any kind of perfume, even those synthetic containing ones.

To finish the bad news I must also tell that a fully synthetic composed perfume may also be called " vegan perfume " because it does not contain any animal stuffs !

INCI and the possible allergens.

Now to the new INCI and the problems and opportunities that this infringes to the real natural perfumers:
INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) is the international worldwide legal and in the EU obligatory standard for the content declaration of any cosmetic product, included perfumes.

Any company may and should use it worldwide!

The INCI-standard obliges the producer or responsible distributor to write on the product or its leaflet all contained compounds by its scientific or Latin name. Vegetable compounds are named with their Latin name, chemicals are named with their international recognized chemical name, so that anyone in this world may understand what is inside the product.

Thanks to the search engines in Internet now is possible to find the meaning of all these strange names...

It has being done a very good lobby work to block aims of those Europeans who wanted that behind "Perfume" or "Fragrance" it should be declared if it is 100% natural (as for food it is today in the EU) or not.
Today the only obligatory definition for ANY mix of scent stuffs in the INCI is generally: "Perfume", "Flavor" or "Fragrance".
The new (old) allergens that must be declared in the new INCI: The fragrance, pharmacy and chemical industry has demonstrated scientifically that many natural isolated stuffs - normally contained in hundreds of essential oils - and their synthetic copies (so called natural identical)- are potential allergens.

Experts know that all these isolates are never as allergenic as the isolates if found in a complex relationship in their original essential oils as found in nature.

The list of those allergens that must be declared at the INCI now if they are found in a cosmetic product, or perfume, and in different ways depending on the concentration in the products are today (the list may be enhanced soon):

The only one fully synthetic one in the list, not found in nature is: BUTYLPHENYL METHYLPROPIONAL
Isn´t strange that among the thousands of cosmetic ingredients there are today available that quite only natural allergens are discovered in cosmetic ingredients?!
IFRA is trying to forbid the use of hundreds of essential oils in the USA ! Why haven't they done the same allergy tests with thousands of synthetic perfumes stuffs normally used in perfumery? (over 5000 commercially offered stuff mixes today!)  Maybe there is a connection between testers and producers???  Did Clinton inhale?

Alfredo Dupetit-Bernardi

You will see that we do not declare all of those stuffs at our INCIs , but a lot of them, in all of our creations.
For instance oak moos extract (Evernia Prunasti) is found only in oak moos extract. But Geraniol is found in geranium oil, rose, palmarosa, davana, etc. Coumarin is found naturally contained in tonka beans and hew Absolue as well as Steinklee, etc.
Citral in all agrumen oils, Cinnamyl alcohol and Cinnamal, etc. in lot of oils related with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, etc. and so on. With Cinnamom there is another problem as a natural flavor (as with Coumarin) and levels must be respected. We see this development as an attempt to mislead people about the goodness of natural scented cosmetics and perfumes, yes, the goodness of nature. As Paracelsus said: Everything is medicine and poison at the same time. The dose makes the difference!

With enough money anybody can also proof that oxygen or water can be dangerous to your health…

Ask for INCI anytime you search for a real natural perfume or cosmetic. Anything else is not sure enough. Do this also when you surf the web searching for real natural aperfumes and comment here what were your experiences. This could be a funny blogg event!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Single Ingredient Products

by Maggie Mahboubian

How many products consist of a single ingredient? Not many. Check those labels and see how many ingredients you can find stuffed into a 2 oz jar of moisturizer. Now ponder the effectiveness of these ingredients at such low concentrations. Why include so many extracts, oils and “actives” in a moisturizer, for example?

Marketing. Including trendy ingredients allows a company to jump on the bandwagon of the latest fad, like hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, vitamins or botanical extracts to name a few. Many of these ingredients have recommended usage levels, of say between 0.5-3%. Most likely any given product will have the minimum amount crammed in just to satisfy a marketing claim.

Money. It’s expensive to make products with fewer ingredients. A pure argan oil is not as profitable as a serum that includes 20 other fillers, because the main ingredient costs the most. But guess which is more effective? The simpler one, of course. Admittedly, it’s easy to get carried away when formulating a product. You start with a key ingredient and want to add things to support it and make it more effective, but often the opposite happens. It’s harder to exercise restraint when formulating simple and effective products.

Perception. Customers may not feel like they’re getting their money’s worth when they buy a simply formulated product. But skincare is not a Las Vegas style buffet! Paring down an ingredient list so that it includes only what is essential is often the best way to go.

Shelf life. Ingredient decks often include a host of materials that help maintain a longer shelf life. Most liquid fats go rancid after six months. Antioxidants must be added to slow down the process of oxidation. There’s no doubt a fresh oil would be better if used within 6 months. But that’s just not feasible in our marketplace. So the customer ends up having to swap ingredient effectiveness for extended product use.

Stability. Preservatives are a necessary evil for emulsions to ensure a product will remain stable for the duration of its shelf life. Preservatives also insure a product won’t grow dangerous pathogens even if a customer is not scrupulously clean. Unfortunately, natural alternatives are not yet foolproof and ignoring a preservative system would be irresponsible as flesh eating staph infections are an all too real likelihood . . .

Here are several single ingredients that I use on a regular basis, even though I can formulate more complex products. For both skin and hair (wow, single ingredients doing double duty), you can’t beat argan oil, virgin coconut oil or sea buckthorn oil. They all moisturize and condition beautifully.

For toning the skin any hydrosol will do, and for facial cleansing pick an organic cold pressed oil. There’s also apple cider vinegar to condition skin and hair by adjusting pH levels. Just make sure it’s diluted before using.

Rice flour mixed with water is an effective skin polisher. Follow up with a raw honey facial mask. Honey offers nourishing as well as anti-microbial benefits.

For an envigorating bath try adding 1 cup of sea salt to your water. It draws out toxins, softens skin and relaxes muscles. Scrub your body with a handful and you’ve just exfoliated.

A single ingredient toothpaste is miswak, also known as peelu. The fibers of the wood expand like mini sponges to gently clean plaque and condition gums. Gargling with plain water also helps reduce bacteria (“thanks” to the chlorine in our municipal water systems), so no need to buy mouthwash.

A single ingredient hair dye is henna.

There are several single note perfumes such as aged patchouli, ylang ylang absolute (which dries down in a complex way), jasmine sambac for its indole or a sweet vetiver. Mix those 4 oils together in various ratios and you will end up with a unique perfume.

A great laundry detergent can be made with soapnuts, especially for people with sensitivities (my husband developed a reaction to our fragrance-free commercial detergent which resulted in a severe asthma attack). They’re actually the dried fruit of the Sapindus mukorossi tree and it’s easy to extract their saponins. Simmer 14 “nuts” in 6 cups of water (use a non-reactive pan) until water is reduced to 2 cups. Allow to sit overnight before squeezing out the liquid through a cloth. Use this liquid in the same ratio as a commercial detergent. Refrigerate unused portion.

Ok, let’s see what other single ingredient products are out there. I haven’t even touched house cleaning products, but I’ll give you a hint: distilled vinegar. There must be many more!

Maggie Mahboubian is an architect who started making her own skincare and natural perfumes as a hobby back in the mid 90's. After her first daughter was born her hobby turned into a passion which she hopes to bring out into the open someday. In the meantime she maintains a blog, Architecture of Perfume, where she writes about the intersection between architecture and perfumery.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Challenge of Natural Cosmetics

written by Ambrosia

Many years ago I was a young idealistic woman with a passion to change the world. I had discovered the joys of using herbs for cooking and medicine, and was slowly changing everything in my house to organic natural and back to Earth everything. And I decided that as a next step,  I would make my own skin cream. I took a recipe for rosewater and glycerin skin lotion from a lovely old Victorian book and made up a delicious, soft, wonderful smelling white cream in my kitchen!
It was such lovely stuff, and made my skin feel so soft and supple, that I decided to make up a whole batch and sell jar of it at the local market.
So I made up a larger batch, and filled it into delightful round jars with cute cork stoppers, and took it down to the local farmers market a few weeks later. As I stacked them carefully on my clother covered card table, I discovered to my horror that the contents of each jar had seperated into a murky whitish goo at the bottom, with a layer of fluid floating on top. And even worse, when I opened the jars, many of the corks were growing a horrible black hairy mold on their undersides!
Dejectedly I threw away the lot (keeping and recycling the glass jars of course) and went back to my collection of historical books and the newly emerging internet to do a bit more research into the subject. Many years later and wiser, I have given up making face creams and instead concentrate on natural perfumes. But I have learnt a hell of a lot about cosmetic ingredients and manufacturing difficulties in the process!
Natural Cosmetics is probably one of the biggest growth areas in the Natural Industry. Everybody and the kitchen sink seems to be trying to get in on the can buy "aromatherapy" shower gels in every supermarket, and there is an ever growing array of "organic" skin creams and potions lining up on the shelves of large department stores. And the Internet has also given birth to a whole new generation of Indie Businesses touting their own home grown "natural" concoctions.
It's a very confusing business. So I thought I'd pull it all apart and take a bit of a closer look at it all today....

To start off with, let's have a look at the conventional cosmetic market's newest "natural" offerings. Lately every time I go to the supermarket, it seems that another company has brought out a "natural"or "organic" addition to their range, custom designed to tempt the likes of me...or so it seems at first glance.

Take for instance, one of the those "aromatherapy" shower gels from aisle 7.... Like most of the products of this kind, it looks pretty at first glance. Packaged in a nice rounded , albeit plastic bottle, it's clear, green in colour and has nice freindly pics of real looking fruit and leaves on the front of it.It even smells sort of citrussy when you open the bottle...but let's have a look at the ingredients on the back: For starters I have problems reading them as they are a) tiny and b) printed green on shiny green...makes you wonder....

"water, sodium laureth sulphate, cocamidopropyl betaine, fragrance, sodium chloride, sodium benzoate, cocamide MEA, sodium salycitate, citric acid, terasodium EDTA, polyquaternium-7, poloxamer 124, cymbopogon citratus leaf oil, citrus tangerina (tangerine peel oil), CI47005, CI 42090, CI14700"
whew, what a collection! Reconize any of them? Unless you have half a chemistry degree or are a specilist in the area of cosmetic chemicals, the only ones that will seem familar to you are "water", and "tangerine peel oil"", and possibly the latin name of "cymbopogon citratus leaf ", also known as lemon grass.

Legally, ingredients have to be listed in order of how much of them is in the mix, so that means that there is more water than anything else...then a long list of unknown chemicals of various kinds and then right at the very bottom of the list, two actual natural essential oils. Which means that there can only be a minute amount of essential oil in this so-called "aromatherapy" shower gel.The ingredient I find most interesting is "fragrance", which is much higher up the list in contents percentage. What exactly is this fragance? Obviously not something that the manufacturer actually wants us to know about...
I'm not going to go into detail about whether or no the rest of the ingredients are safe or not, that's not the point. What makes me angry is that the advertising is misleading.

I mean, what in the world makes this an "aromatherapy"? The minute amounts of essential oil? (which aren't even what gives the gel it's "fragrance") or is it the pretty pictures of citrus fruit on the bottle?

A far more positive example is Weleda's "Skin Food".
this is a delightfully citrus scented cream that I discovered when I was living in Germany in my early 20's.
It comes in a metal tube, which is a) much better than plastic in my books and b) a hygenic way to package skin cream in that you aren't constantly dabbing your fingers covered in germs and grime in a pot.
It's got quite a heavy, somewhat greasy consistency, which is quite different' to the lighter skin creams people are used to today...but it sure works!
Let's have a look at the ingredients:
Water (Aqua), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Lanolin, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Alcohol, Beeswax (Cera Flava), Glyceryl INCI: Linoleate, Hydrolyzed Beeswax, Fragrance (Parfum)*, Viola Tricolor Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Cholesterol, Limonene*, Linalool*, Geraniol*, Citral*, Coumarin (* from natural essential oils)
Now THAT listing is a lot clearer and more natural looking isn't it!
The only ingredient I'm unsure of is Glyceryl linoleate...and whether or not the limonene, geraniol etc are isolates or actual essential oils that are used in the "perfume" part. The website lists the actual essential oils used in the "perfume" as lavender and orange essential oil. This is where INCI nomenclature on ingredient labels can be confusing at times, because in Europe, you are by law required to list all these chemical components of essential oils, as the chemical perfume industry organisation IFRA has browbeaten the politicians into believeing they are possibly dangerous "sensitizers"....clear as mud? I'll go into all that more in another article, grin!
Weleda is an interesting company, in that they have been making "natural" products since long before it became fashionable to do so. This particular product has been made to the exact same formular since 1926!

These two are both large companies who can afford to spend lots of money on research, development and advertising.
What is particularly interesting to me are the growing number of Indie manufacturers out there, who work from their own small workshops like me!
The Internet has opened a big world to these,a dn more and commerce is growing fast here...people seem to like the idea of buying from small companies where they can speak directly to the person making the products, and it also allows incredibly knowledgeable people who aren't attached to large businesses with unlimited advertising dollars to share their creations with the wider world!

One of these is "Skye Botanicals" run by Monica Miller of Martha's Vineyard in the USA.
I'm including her "Eye Lift Serum" because it is a great example of a natural version of a more modern and sophisticated kind of skin care product.
It is packaged in a glass dropper bottle, which again keeps the contents clean and uncontaminated by messy fingers, and comes in a handmade paper box, which is one of those nice touches you only find in Indie products.
The serum itself is quite a sophisticated formular:
"organic martha's vineyard herbal extracts of roses (rosa rugosa), lemon balm (melissa officinalis) and red clover flowers (trifolium pratense), cat's claw (unicaria tomentosa), ditilled water (aqua), seaweed extract (algae), pure vegetable glycerine, organic aloe vera, neuropeptides(acetyl hexapeptide-8, hesperidin methyl chalcone, steareth-20 dipeptide-2, palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7), vitamin C ester (ascorbic acid glucoside), hyaluronic acid, a bouquet of premium, steam distilled rose essential oils (rosa damascaena, rosa rugosa, rosa gallica officinalis), grapefruit seed extract (citrus paradisi)"

Monica has a background in herbalism, and it shows in her choice of ingredients. What is also interesting is that she uses both the INCI names and common names for the ingredients, and also explains what the more technical sounding ones actually are. It also has a used by date on the bottom of the box. And the ingredients are well chosen for what it is intended to do as well.

Which makes the whole package a great example of how to do it right!

Unluckily one of the biggest problems with natural skin care, both commercial and Indie, is that people often seem to add anything natural sounding willy nilly, regardless of whether it's actually going to do the right job or not!
With Indie products the standards also vary hugely. When you buy from a big company, you know that they have at least to some extent invensted in a bit of research into safe ingredients and standards to avoid being sued. Whereas Indie companies can be anything from serious experts who produce great skin serums useing safe, healing ingredients, to total amateurs who mix up stuff from their garden in a kitchen mixer with no idea about sterility or the need to use a decent preservative (see my own story at the beginning of the article, grin!).
There is also a growing industry aimed at the homecrafter. Larger companies that provide the base ingredients and ready made cosmetic bases to which essential oils and herbal extracts can be added. This is probably a good thing too, as it allows people with limited knowledge about the technicalities of making stable creams and such to still make their own cosmetics relatively safely.  Assuming of course that the bases that these semi-commercial bases are actually good quality to start with...But the big problems start when they go the next step and start selling these to the wider world. My personal pet hate is the many etsy shops that offer "Natural" body creams with "strawberry cupcake" scent....they are doing the right thing in as far as the bases they use for their creams are indeed natural (or at least mainly natural, depending on the ingredients used in the base they bought from the larger supplier). But the fragrances they are useing are not. And in still calling their creams "natural", they are useing false advertising in the same way as the "aromatherapy" shower gels from the big manufacturers! And of course you always have the question about what kind of manufacturing processes they they sterilize their jars before filling? How do they clean their work surfaces? Ect etc......
So what's the answer? 
Knowledge of course, it's the only one there ever is. If you want to find safe, healing cosmetics to use, you have to do your homework. Read labels, read books, and ask questions. When you are buying from an Indie company, ask them directly why they use certain ingredients! A good, concientious manufacturer will always be willing to share what they do and why they do it! And you can often tell from the websites themselves! The depth of information offered  on both the websites and the packaging itself is always a good indicator that the manufacturer actually knows what they are doing and is willing to share this with their customers!
The days when "Daddy (and the government) knows Best!" and the larger companies were to be trusted are long gone...if they ever existed...and I personally think it's wonderful that we can pick and choose from such a wide variety of companies and Indie manufacturers nowadays...but at the end of the day it also means that the responsibilty for both buying and making safe, natural cosmetics is on all of us!

And with that I'm going back to my workshop to whip up another batch of my own homegrown herbal "Healing Balm" for my family and day I may even decide to market this one, grin!

Ambrosia is a perfumer and writer from sunny Australia.
She has a bachelors degree in nursing, as well as certificates in Trad. Chinese Accupressure and has spent many years researching the traditional uses of herbs in cosmetics and perfumery all over the world. She also runs the Indie Scent company "Perfume by Nature" and writes for a number of publications, both on and offline.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

An Indie Blog for Indies

Hi, I'm Ambrosia!
An Independent Natural Perfumer from sunny Australia, who runs her own business, "Perfume by Nature"  and writes for a number of other publications, both online and in print
I'm also an opinionated redhead, Eco activist and pragmatic leftwing Hippie Agnostic Science Nerd of long standing.
And I've started this blog as my contribution to the Natural Indie community. To give us a place to be visible to the world, where people who want what we make can find us!
We are in a time of big changes..."Natural" and "Eco" have become fashionable as more and more people around the planet wake up and want to change their lifestyles and use cosmetics and clothing that are kinder to our planet and our bodies....
And Big Business has been quick to jump on the bandwagon...suddenly everything you see seems to be "eco-freindly" or "Aromatherapy"...but is it really?
What is "Natural"? How do you define whether something is really "Eco-Friendly"?

When I look at the actual ingredient listings, too often they are full of the usual indecipherable chemical terms, artificial this, parrafin and silcon oil, esters and parabens...and somewhere right down the bottom there will be a few randomly chosen herbal extracts or essential oils, which are included merely to give the term "natural" some kind of fake legitimacy.

There are of course, a number of organisations which have sprung up to try and bring some kind of regulation into this mess.
You can now pay through the nose to have your goods analysed, tested and stamped "Eco certified" or "organic" by such groups, but the cost of doing this tends to be way out of the league of most smaller independent artisans. And the standards set by these groups vary tremendously, and may not actually guarantee that what you yourself would really define as natural.

There is also a big movement towards handcrafted and Indipendent Artisan goods...people like the idea of getting to know the person who makes the clothes they wear, or being able to find a perfume made by a small Indie perfume house that is different and special and not what all the other women are buying up at the local drug store. And the Internet is enabling this kind of direct trade to flourish again for the first time since small village shops started disappearing.....
Which is a WONDERFUL thing, but also brings with it a whole host of problems.
Since many of these small companies are home based and run by people who are basically self trained, the manufacturing standards can vary tremendously. Which may not matter so much with , say, a hemp dress, but when you are talking face creams, it's a whole different ball game.
What ingredients are safe to use? How do you ensure that your creams don't grow harmful germs and molds? Are they useing safe levels of appropriate essential oils?
Of course the same thing goes for all the big companies, but it needs to be talked about.

And THAT is what I would like to see here, is people talking.
I want to see these Indie Artisans writing about how they define "Natural". Who they are, why they do what they do....telling us about the wonderful handspun organic silk they found and how it inspired them to make that particular sky blue wedding dress....the wonderful clay soap someone else has bought of a collegue that makes their hands as soft as butter.....
I want them to write about what they see as safe manuyfacturing processes, how to keep bench tops really clean in a workshop...what essential oils should be used in an eye cream....
And which shouldn't!

I'd also like to see proper reviews here. Critical ones that highlight the good and the bad sides of products. Ones that actually give useful feedback to the people who made them, and allow readers to get real insights into what they are buying.
There are already many many review sites out there, pretty cheerful places that support and promote indie artists and manufacturers with nice postive product reviews....
What we need is some truthfull ones.

And for this reason there will be no banners on this site. No membership fees, no "pay for links".
People are welcome to include their names, photos and links to their own sites with their posts.In return for them sharing their knowledge, their opinions, their insights with the wider world.

I'd also like to see critical articles, bits and pieces from research and science that teach us all more about everything relating to natural eco and Mother Earth...

So I'm inviting people here as co-authors. Fellow Indie Artisans, Aromatherpists, Eco activists, perfumers, soapers, wool spinners and reviewers.
People as diverse and opinionated as possible. From groups, organisations and guilds to individuals who refuse to join groups and work alone in their isolated workshops.
To share, and talk, and offer at least 3 sides of every story.

Real Strength lies in Diversity. 
And Truth is only to be found in Knowledge.

I've included pages with tabs at the top of the blog where people can find lists of Indie companies that sell natural perfumes, soaps, candles and clothing. And I'm hoping to eventually expand this into a bigger website with places for permanent artices, design and manufacutring guides, links to useful websites and more.....

  May the Sharing begin!