Fragrance

Find out more about where fragrances come from and how they are developed.

Our love of fragrance has been documented throughout history in fact the very first fragrance used was incense, discovered by the Mesopotamians about 4,000 years ago. Ancient cultures burned different kinds of resin, gum and wood at their religious ceremonies or soaked the fragrant wood and resin in water and oil, and rubbed their bodies with the liquid. These early perfumes were also used for embalming the dead!

Essential oils
. As varieties of plants became more widely cultivated and the uses for them became more diverse, different parts of plants were harvested for their scents and the practice of extracting essential oils was developed. 
Essential oils were used for perfumes and for healing at different periods in history, and are still in use today. 

Extracting essential oils.

Expression
. The earliest method of extraction was by expression - essential oils are directly collected from the plant materials. Cold pressing is an example of this method, where the plant materials are crushed by machinery. 
Today the expression method is mostly used for citrus fruits. Other methods of expression used primarily for citrus are sponge expression, where a sponge is used to collect the essential oil from the softened rind, and another called "Écuelle à piquer", which is when a device prods the rind of the fruit to release the oil. 

Distillation
. As the refinement of extraction techniques progressed, distillation emerged and is the most commonly used method today. Distillation involves heating plant materials like flowers, leaves, and bark over water. As the water is heated, steam rises and passes through the plant material, carrying with it the fragrance compounds. The vapours are then condensed back to liquid, and left for the essential oil to separate from the watery distillate. The water left behind will still contain some of the fragrance compounds, and is called a "hydrosol". Popular fragrance waters such as rose water and lavender water are actually hydrosols. 

Solvent extraction
. Some plant materials contain too little oil for direct expression, or their fragrance compounds are too delicate to be subjected to the high heat used in steam distillation. For these plants another method of extraction is needed. 
The advantage of solvent extraction is that it produces the highest yield without affecting the quality of the original scent of the raw material, and utilises any raw materials to their fullest. Also, the solvent can be re-used after each extraction, lessening the environmental impact of the process. 
The Solvent extraction process involves submerging the plant materials in a solvent such as ethanol, and letting the solvent dissolve the fragrance compounds of the material, to be collected as essential oils. Recently, advances in technology have led to the use of liquid carbon dioxide as an even more efficient solvent.

Synthetic Fragrances. Extracting natural fragrances can be difficult and expensive and the end product may vary a lot because of differences in harvest and method of extraction, making it difficult to produce consistent results. Also, some natural scents (fruits like apples, strawberries and cherries and flowers like gardenias and hyacinths) are impossible to  capture using natural extraction methods. That's why synthetic fragrances were developed. The introduction of synthetic fragrances allowed a wide range of scents to be developed including those not occurring in nature. For example, Calone, a synthetic compound, was created as an additive to lend a fresh marine scent to perfumes. Being able to control every aspect of the synthesis of the scents also ensured consistency across different batches of production. As more and more industries started depending on fragrance, the demand for synthetic fragrances increased. Synthetic fragrances and flavourings are now employed in a variety of uses and are typically composed of hundreds of different compounds, inluding esters, alcohols, ketones, and terpenes - all of which are derived from petroleum.

Important/common fragrances

Lavender. Lavender has been known for its gentle and soothing fragrance since ancient times. Used by Greeks and Romans in the public baths, the word lavender is derived from the Latin word lavare, or to wash. It has also had a history of use in medicine and cooking, and is widely included in a variety of household products for its subtly sweet scent. Lavender oil is obtained by distillation from the flower spikes of certain species of lavender. Its scent has been reported to have a calming effect, and is used in aromatherapy to aid in relaxation. 

Peppermint. Peppermint has a long tradition of medicinal use, and for flavouring in food and products such as toothpaste. It is known for its fresh, cool scent, due to its high menthol content. Peppermint oil is extracted from the leaves and flowering tops of the plant via steam distillation. It also contains a high concentration of natural pesticides, such as the compound menthone.

Citrus. Citrus fruits are noted for their floral, tangy fragrance. They also have a characteristic sharp flavour, due to their high concentration of citric acid. Citrus oils are the main fragrance oils still extracted using cold pressing (as opposed to more modern methods such as distillation or solvent extraction), since the majority of the scent comes from the oils contained in the rinds of the fruit, making them easily collected when the rind is crushed. Citrus is used in many fragrances for a refreshing, zesty scent.

Eucalyptus. Eucalyptus is characterised by a clean, woody scent. Its oil is often used as a fragrance component in soaps, detergents, lotions and perfumes, and also has natural antiseptic properties. Eucalyptus oil is collected from steam distillation of eucalyptus leaves.

Rose. Rose oils are popular for their strong floral, sweet fragrance, and are one of the most widely used essential oils in perfumery. The varieties used in perfumes are usually extracted using solvent extraction. 

Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants for healing. The oils are usually inhaled to make use of their therapeutic qualities, and they can also ocassionally be massaged into the skin. Essential oils have been used for therapeutic purposes for nearly 6,000 years. The ancient Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used them in cosmetics, perfumes, and drugs. Essential oils were also commonly used for spiritual, therapeutic, hygienic, and ritualistic purposes. More recently, a chemist discovered the healing properties of lavender oil when he applied it to a burn on his hand caused by an explosion in his laboratory. He then started to analyze the chemical properties of essential oils and how they were used to treat burns, skin infections, gangrene, and wounds in soldiers during World War I.This led to the foundation of the practice of aromatherapy. By the 1950s massage therapists, beauticians, nurses, physiotherapists, doctors, and other health care providers began using aromatherapy.

ecostore's policy on fragrance. At ecostore, we prioritise environmental impact and human health when selecting ingredients - and our fragrances are no exception. Wherever possible, we use naturally derived essential oils to fragrance our products. 

Allergens. However, we understand that just because something is natural doesn't mean it is necessarily good for you. We are aware that a small percentage of people may be sensitive to the naturally occurring allergen fractions present in essential oils. Thanks to the abundance of natural fragrances available to us, we are able to choose ones that will have the least allergenic impact. In order to aid people with sensitive skin and allergies who still would like to enjoy our great smelling fragrances, we voluntarily disclose all of the allergens that may be present in each of our fragrances. These can be found at the end of each ingredient list for products containing fragrance.

Fragrance free. Although we take care to formulate our products with fragrances that are suitable for everyone, we know there are some people who are particularly sensitive to fragrance. For those who prefer to avoid fragrance entirely, we've developed a fragrance-free range that we are currently in the process of expanding.

 

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