Therapeutic fragrances that are beautiful and botanic
According to Greek legend, perfume was created when the nymph Oenone shared some of Venus’s beauty secrets with her husband, and he passed them along to Helen of Troy. Since then, people have extracted essences from flowers, berries, barks, leaves, resins and citrus peels, in an attempt to capture nature’s nectars and create signature scents.
Centuries later, many commercial perfume makers have replaced natural essences with
synthetics and harmful chemicals, including phthalates (used to make fragrances last longer), petrochemicals (derived from petroleum) and their by-products, which are linked with an array of serious health problems, including cancer and birth defects. The Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1967 exempts cosmetic and personal care product manufacturers from having to disclose any ingredients used to make their products smell good—as long as “fragrance” is listed on the label.
“What is conventional perfume made of? It’s 90 percent water, then a few chemicals that are killing you,” says Vered Back, founder of Vered Organic Botanicals. After becoming extremely ill with what was eventually diagnosed as Lyme disease, Back healed herself with therapeutic-grade essential oil blends. “I think it’s one of the most amazing ways we have today to heal.”Having a conversation with nature means going back to the source. But ensuring the quality of natural products from different countries can be a difficult task, especially since few perfume creators have the time or money to gallivant across the globe. “I started having really expensive tests done on all of these essences, and a lot of them that were being sold as essential oils came up synthetic,” says Alexandra Balahoutis, who founded Strange Invisible Perfumes, a botanical perfumery, in 2000. “I realized that the only way to really know what you’re getting is to know who you’re getting it from.”
Michael Scholes, founder of Laboratory of Flowers, has over 20 years’ experience in formulating products with high-quality organic essential oils. “I’m making botanical fragrances that have a two-pronged approach: they have a smell, like any perfume, and they have a therapeutic remedy base,” Scholes says. He explains that a natural molecule can’t be replicated: If you shine a polarized light through the same molecule, one synthetic and one natural, they’ll reflect light differently. “The unfortunate side of a synthetic fragrance is that the manufactured scent does not contain the therapeutic properties of their counterpart whole-plant-based essential oils, [therefore] the true power and purpose of aromatherapy is lost,” adds Capi Edgley of OneSelf Organics.
Natural fragrances have a life cycle; they mix with our individual body chemistry and change over time. “Synthetic chemicals are very one-dimensional—they force the body to do something specific,” explains Katie Hess, founder of Lotus Wei, who works with flower essences and essential oils. “Going back to nature and using the whole source, it works with you, it supports you. Nature can teach us something about ourselves. If you’re looking at synthetics, that kind of dialogue dead-ends.”
Intelligent Nutrients, which uses USDA certified organic ingredients in its products, strives to source the purest, cleanest ingredients. “Our whole mission [in] supporting organic farmers is to influence the industry as a whole—to make better choices [about] where our raw materials come from,” says Nicole Rechelbacher, daughter of legendary founder Horst Rechelbacher, who also created Aveda. “Because it’s going to affect our children, and their children. We need to clean up our environment. We need to start today.”
Here are some natural fragrances we love.
Pour le Monde Parfums Envision An exotic blend of lavender, vanilla and citrus—including Brazilian orange, Persian lime, and Floridian grapefruit—with a touch of pink peppercorn. And when you purchase Envision, Pour le Monde donates a minimum of 10 percent to the National MS Society. pourlemondeparfums.com
The Laboratory of Flowers Immunity Therapeutic Perfume This power-packed antiviral and antibacterial blend of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, rosemary and frankincense helps improve immunity. It’s the perfect protector against the inevitable anxiety and stress of the holidays. labofflowers.com
Lotus Wei Radiant Energy Piñon pine has antiviral and immune-boosting properties; clary sage acts as an antiseptic and can help with colds, bronchitis, and sore throats; and yarrow is beneficial for people who travel. Flower essences revitalize your body’s natural energy. lotuswei.com
OneSelf Organics Hawaiian Flower Lei Perfume Transport yourself to Hawaii with a divine blend of flowers found in the traditional lei, including Hawaiian gardenia, frangipani and tuberose, which are harvested by locals who use sustainable farming on the Big Island. oneselforganics.com
Strange Invisible Perfumes Rose With The Broken Neck Thanks to their hydro-distillation process, you’ll reap the full range of aromatherapy benefits in this Reserve Series perfume. Rose is accompanied with notes of Tahitian vanilla, nutmeg and palo santo, a rare “holy wood” sourced from the forest floors of Peru by indigenous tribes. siperfumes.com
Intelligent Nutrients 6 Restore Body and Hair Elixir Take refuge with deep and spicy medicinal oils including ravintsara, oregano, everlasting, patchouli, rosemary, thyme and cinnamon. The scent lifts your spirits while Intellimune seed oil, a powerful blend of organic antioxidants, works to replenish cells. intelligentnutrients.com
Osmia Organics Juniper Fire “Juniper Fire’s aromatherapy effects are grounding, comforting, and provide a sense of safety,” says founder Sarah Villafranco. “The grounding comes from a smoky form of frankincense and from the ever-powerful sandalwood. The soothing effects arise from atlas cedarwood and clove, as well as a healthy dose of juniper, which ties you to nature and memories of freshly chopped firewood.” osmiaorganics.com
Red Flower Guaiac Guaiac, the “tree of life,” is a natural source of healing power. The tree’s resin has a long history in the perfume industry; in native medicine, it is known to treat a host of maladies, from coughs to arthritis. Freshly peeled citrus notes are sure to banish any winter doldrums. redflower.com
Lurk BS 003: Eau de Toilette Calming sandalwood and soothing bergamot get a kick of citrus, which helps with exhaustion and imparts positivity. Black pepper—which can help chase away the flu and colds—adds a hint of spice. lurkmade.com
VERED Organic Botanicals Signature Scent Perfume A base of vanilla, rose absolute, jasmine and orange blossom is blended with patchouli and geranium bourbon to create a perfume that is simultaneously earthy and feminine. veredbotanicals.com