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Earliest use of plant fragrance lost in history Perfume (burning plants) may have been first use Egyptians using scented oils at least 5000 years ago Egyptian men would put solid cone of perfume on the head, let it melt

Greeks used various scents for different body parts

mint, marjorum, thyme, etc

Romans scented clothes, houses, bedding and bath oil, as well as their bodies Japanese and Chinese used incense as clocks asian/incense.htm

Traditional methods of extracting essences

Not usually water soluble Macerate (chop) plant parts in hot oil, then extract with alcohol Enfleurage
flowers placed on layer of purified fat or oil they are replaced every couple of weeks yields outstanding scents, very expensive

Popularity of perfume waned in Europe after the fall of the Roman empire, returned with the crusaders Distillation of essential oils Attributed to Avicenna, Arab, late 900s

Distillation of natural fragrances

Plant parts are exposed to steam Volatile oils are carried out in steam Steam is cooled, oil floats and can be skimmed 5-6 tons of roses needed to get one kilo of essential rose oil Fractional distillation allows collection of substances with different volatility

Attars (steam distillates) being prepared in India

Perfumes in 18th century Europe

More flowery as opposed to heavier scents Numerous ways to use perfumes, elaborate containers Vinaigrettes Pommanders go out of style with availability of liquid perfume

Eau de Cologne
Germany, invented an 1709 by an Italian barber Rosemary, orange flower, and bergamot oils distilled in grape spirits Non-greasy Napolean decreed the formula must be public in 1810

Grasse, in Provence, France

Started with tannery perfumes
for scenting gloves?

A local company got a patent on the distillation system 1720s become a local industry Good sources for jasmine, rose, orange Modern perfume industry started here

Perfume odorant types today

purest, soft plant parts are placed in solvent

concretes concentrated in alcohol

extracted like concretes, from plant secretions

direct extraction with ethanol

Distilled essential oils

most common modern methods

Perfume anatomy
Top notes
immediately perceived, highly volatile, bright, often citrus, ginger

Middle notes
a minute to an hour; often rose, lavender

Bottom notes
often animal, resin scents, perhaps vanilla, sandlewood

Types of fragances
Perfume (22% essential oils) Eau de Parfum (15-22%) Eau de Toilette (8-15%) Eau de Cologne (4%)

Business of scents (perfumes)

10-20 billion dollar industry Only a few companies are doing smell R & D They work for two main client groups; household products companies, and perfume companies Lots of secrecy

Mint family Sterile hybrid of two species (L. angustifolia and L. latifolia) most often used today Obtained by steam distillation More than 300 components, linalool important In many mens fragrances (fern note)

Rosa centifolia and damascena Petals extracted with steam or solvents Used in many perfumes, foods

Pelargonium graveolens Oils distilled from leaves and stems Much cheaper than rose, similar fragrance in some types Essence from Reunion island especially fruity Also in drinks, insect repellent

Geraniol and related compounds

Found in a variety of plants Also produced synthetically

Jasminum grandiflorum Volatile solvents now used, used to be enfleurage A ton of flowers to yield a kilo of essence Extremely expensive Wide range of jasmonoid compounds, biosynthesis perhaps similar to prostaglandins Benzyl acetate and related compounds common


Polyanthes tuberosa Amaryllis relative Expensive, low yield to extract, done by enfleurage until relatively recently Many fragrance compounds (eugenols, nerol) also some weird tuberose lactones

Citrus species Flowers, leaves, fruits, even bark all used Distillation or solvents used Wide range of compounds isolated, including linalool

Citrus bergamia Zests from unripe fruits used Harmonious with many other compounds; contains linalool, limonene does not dominate in this as it does in orange oil Coumarins removed from essence (photosensitizing) In Earl Grey tea, as well as perfumes, soaps Eau de Colognes

Iris of Florence
Iris pallida Violet-scented rhizomes (orris root) used to produce a concrete with iron in myristic acid (called a butter) In perfume with heavy, woody notes

Cananga odorata, related plants From SE Asia (?) Annonaceae Very floral scent Several common compounds (eugenols, linalool) also p-Cresyl methyl ether
stinks by itself, but blends well

Shrub in the mint family Pogostemon cablin Distilled dried leaves yield several important fragrances Distinctive strong odor, but also mixes well

Vanilla Native to Mexico, much

now grown in Madagascar More than 200 compounds have been identified Extract used in small amounts in perfumes; its very strong Lots of synthetic vanillin relatives used
Vanillin analogs, some with carnation, cocoa butter overtones


Evernia prunastri A lichen found in much of Europe Some constituents now synthesized

Olibanum (incense tree)

Resin from a Boswellia tree Resinous, woody smell Used in some perfumes (Opium, Jicky)

Various animal products
Ambergis, musk, castoreum, civet synthetics often used now e.g. ambergris compound from sage

Ginger, cardamom, pepper (Piper nigrum), clove Many more

Perfume themes
Floral Chypre (bergamot, jasmine, oakmoss) Aldehydic (most famous is Chanel No.5, described as piquant) Fouger (lavender, coumarin, oakmoss), often in mens products Woody (sandlewood, patchouli, cedar) Oriental (includes vanilla, ambergris)

Synthetic vs natural: what are the issues?

The truth about fragrance oils Each essential oil comes from just one source, a living plant. There are no chemicals involved.

Remember, they are all chemicals! We may actually know more about the synthetic mixtures than the natural ones

Toxicity to people? Allergens? Increasing asthma incidence? Unknown compounds in the mix? Persistence in the environment?
Example: synthetic musk

Synthetic musk
May accumulate in some organisms (e.g. mussels), prevents removal of other toxins