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Friday, July 08, 2011

Perfume Pharma: Or How Fragrant Nerds Calm Down and Get to Sleep

By Marla

I don’t know about you, but some aromatherapy manuals drive me nuts. Take the humble pine needle for example:

Pinus sylvestris: antimicrobial, antineuralgic, antirevolutionary, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispam, antiviral, bactericidal, balsamic, cholagogue, demagogue, deodorant, diuretic, expectorant, insecticide, tonic, toxic, and xenophobic

OK, I added a few things, but did it take you a few seconds to notice? The problem is that most aromatherapy/phytotherapy guides include whatever a plant has been used for over many centuries. But Nerd Girl likes to know what’s up with that plant and current medical research. Out of that extensive list for pine needles, what’s really worked out scientifically? The Germans have been doing a good job investigating particular properties for particular plant preparations, and their doctors routinely prescribe phytotherapy along with the Big Pharma big guns. One plant group that REALLY interests me is Boswellia, the mysterious and legendary frankincense family. And there’s some interesting research on that one.

I was excited to see in May, 2008, Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that frankincense smoke is a psychoactive drug that relieves depression and anxiety in mice. The researchers found that incensole acetate, found in Boswellia species, activates a protein in the mammalian brain called TRPV3, which decreases anxiety and alleviates depression. Now I know why we’re constantly burning the stuff. And why religious authorities like it so much. And I can feel especially happy, spiritually and neurochemically, when I wear frankincense-based perfumes. Like Avignon and Cardinal. And Encens et Lavande. I’m blissing out just thinking about them.

Recently I tried a perfume that has quite a following, Sonoma Scent Studio’s Incense Pure. It’s a proper perfume, not an aromatherapeutic preparation. And it features frankincense and labdanum, another calming resin. I’m not at all surprised that I like to wear it in the evening before going to sleep. And sleep I do! And so does my DH when I wear it. We both feel very cheerful in the morning, too. (Which perfumista said “Sleep is the new sex”?)

I think that nose Laurie Erickson’s onto something, and I emailed the studio to get her to spill the beans on this lovely, possibly psychoactive perfume. Here’s what she wrote:

“Frankincense was calming to me from the first time I smelled it, which was not until adulthood…. Some ingredients took time for me to appreciate, but frankincense was love at first sniff…. A number of people have emailed me to say that Incense Pure is soothing to them and/or makes them feel like they are outside in a forest.” Count me as one of those people. So who else out there likes to activate their TRPV3, and what incense perfume (or actual incense) do you use to do it?

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26 Comments:

Anonymous Monica said...

I'm right with you on this :) Yeah!

2:07 AM EDT  
Anonymous Kym said...

The timing of this piece is spot on. Just today as a swap extra I received Miller et Bertaux's Om. I cannot stop smelling my wrist. Will be going to sleep soon, so now I'll be on the lookout for how fast I fall asleep...

2:25 AM EDT  
OpenID olfactoriastravels.com said...

Wonderful post! I am seriously considering spraying both my kids as well as myself with Incense Pure from now on. And sleep is the new sex!!!

3:22 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, that is why I always wear Encens et Lavande if I have a job interview or a scary meeting!

3:24 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kym,
That Om sounds like something I'll have to try....
-Marla

6:45 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Birgit,
I actually do that and yes, it does calm them down, especially my teenager, who has trouble falling asleep.
-Marla

6:46 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous,
Encens et Lavande is wonderfully calming and grounding, isn't it? I think I remember that Luca Turin spilled a bottle on his couch and then felt very happy in his living room for several weeks!
-Marla

6:47 AM EDT  
Anonymous Bevfred said...

Great, thought provoking review.
Must go sniffing!

8:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Smell the frankincense and be happy, Bevfred!
-M

8:52 AM EDT  
Blogger rosarita said...

Encense et Lavande is calm in a bottle. I also love CdG Kyoto and Etro Messe de Minuit for their calming qualities.

9:25 AM EDT  
Blogger marsha said...

I've never gone into Lutens fragrances much but I guess Encens et Lavande is available only in France or discontinued.

9:36 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rosarita,
Those are good suggestions, I believe they contain quite a bit of frankincense.
-Marla

10:55 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marsha,
It can't be found much anymore, but you can make something similar with your own frankincense eo and/or absolute, and lavender eo or absolute, plus a little clary sage. Blend in perfumer's alcohol. It's great to spritz on before going to bed. Or you can blend them in jojoba or fractionated coconut oil and rub some on your wrists and shoulders before bedtime.
-Marla

10:58 AM EDT  
Blogger Nina Z said...

Very interesting! I'm heavily into "sleep fragrances" and I noticed a few years ago that Oliban by Keiko Mecheri is a great sleep scent for me. And guess what "Oliban" means?

11:03 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nina Z,
Of course, oliban/olibanum is...frankincense! And that is a lovely perfume.
-Marla

12:14 PM EDT  
Anonymous Kit said...

This makes perfect sense to me, as both L'Artisan's Passage d'Enfer and Goutal's Encens Flamboyante are some of my favorite comfort perfumes.

2:48 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kit,
Yes, both of those are loaded with frankincense!
-Marla

3:50 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i find that you can't help but inhale fully when you sniff frankincense essential oil - i think that is one of its calming properties. try it! it's like your body can't stop the reflex. awesome stuff! also cooling, so great in the summer heat. thanks for giving some props to it!

9:15 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous,
Yes, it is cooling as well, I think that's one of the reasons many of us keep our incense favorites in rotation, even during hot weather!
-Marla

8:05 AM EDT  
Anonymous Olivia A. said...

This post was great :-) Late last night, I thought about it as I was thinking about a perfume to wear to bed, and ended up putting on L'Air du Desert Marocain, which hadn't been on my radar at all for the evening, but when I gave it a little whiff, it struck me as very calming & incense-y. I'm not sure if it actually has any frankincense in it, but something about it put me right to sleep last night! Wonderful :-) I'll have to remember to test my frankincense essential oil. Thanks for sharing about this research! :-)

4:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Olivia,
I'm not aware of frankincense in this one, but I do know it has jasmine and labdanum, both known for their calming properties. And of course, it's just gorgeous!
-Marla

4:18 PM EDT  
Blogger smartshopper2 said...

This is so interesting, I'm going to try the Sonoma Scent perfume.
I'm wondering, does anyone have an opinion whether its better to spray or dab this (Incense Pure) scent, or no difference?
Thanks for any tips and for your great blog posts, I love reading them.

~Audrey

2:12 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Audrey,
I dabbed, as it's quite strong, but sprayed judiciously, it would be lovely, too.
-Marla

7:41 PM EDT  
Blogger smartshopper2 said...

Thanks for the tip, Marla! Since I'm new to SSS, I went with the 12 pack sampler set. May as well try a bunch, right? :) Will be stalking the delivery truck next week :)


~Audrey

12:34 AM EDT  
Blogger AbdesSalaam Attar said...

Marla, you should give a look at my aromatherapy free course. You will be surprised how simple it can be and how much you can do with so few essences. Follow the links to Timbuktu to see how powerful it can be. www.profumo.it/aromacourse.doc

4:27 PM EDT  
Blogger AbdesSalaam Attar said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:27 PM EDT  

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