The Alchemy of Fragrance
By David Crow, L.Ac.
There are deep and mysterious relationships among the soil, water, sunlight, and
air, and the bodies of plants that absorb and transform these elements. There are
wondrous alchemies in the transmutation of these elements by plants into foods,
medicines, and fragrances.
An aromatic plant creates its fragrance from nutrients of the soil and its symbiotic
microbial ecologies. When we breathe that perfume, we are breathing the breath of
the living soil.
An aromatic plant creates its fragrance from radiant solar energy, in a biorhythm
set in motion by the sun, moon, and stars. When we breathe that perfume, we are
breathing the breath of the celestial heavens.
An aromatic plant creates its fragrance from springs, dew, rains, snowmelt, and
underground streams. When we breathe that perfume, we are breathing the breath
of the living waters.
An aromatic plant creates its fragrance from wind and breezes. When we breathe
that perfume, we are breathing the breath of the sky.
There are deep and mysterious relationships among the movement of the heavens,
the environmental elements, the aromatic molecules created by the plants, and the
atmosphere that is their medium of travel.
There is a deep and mysterious relationship between the atmosphere and the human
There are deep and mysterious relationships among the aromatic molecules
traveling through the atmosphere, the human breath, and the neurochemical
changes that occur as fragrances enter the brain.
There is a deep and mysterious relationship between the neurochemical changes
created by the aromatic molecules in the brain, and the effects these have on
There are deep and mysterious relationships among the movements of
consciousness, the fluctuations of mentation, and the flow of time and space.
Ultimately these are one living mystery, from the movement of the heavens to the
creation of reality by the human mind. Knowing this, we can purify the world.
Putrid, fetid, rancid, noxious, repulsive, and unpleasant odors arise from conditions
of poverty and hunger, war and violence, ignorance and unawareness, lack of
sanitation, and toxic pollution. They are the breath of pathogens, the smell of
epidemics, and the scent of death. They cause unhappiness, agitation, aggression,
and dullness in the human mind.
Fresh, clean, attractive, enjoyable, and pleasant smells arise from conditions of
environmental stewardship and ecological balance, sanitation and cleanliness,
social and spiritual well-being. They are the breath of health and the scent of
vitality. They cause happiness, serenity, compassion, and greater awareness in the
To transform the growing realms of human misery to realms of happiness and
fulfillment of human potential, we must now wisely cooperate to plant gardens
perfumed with beautiful fragrances and living pharmacies of aromatic medicines.
Humanity does not need more weapons. It needs balms of lavender, rose, and
neroli that promote peaceful sleep, reduce stress and tension, calm anxiety and
nervousness, pacify irritation and anger, and free the mind from depression and
The world does not need more disease-causing toxic chemicals and mutated
biological experiments, concocted in secrecy and spread across the globe in
defiance of scientific reason, human sanity, public health, and democratic process.
It needs unguents of frankincense and vetiver that cool fevers and inflammation. It
needs elixirs of osha, rosemary, and ginger that stimulate and strengthen the
immune system, and purifying essences of pine, fir, spruce, and cedar that disinfect
the mucous membranes. It needs salves of helichrysum, chamomile, and champa
that cure skin diseases.
Society does not need more electronic gadgets, microwave-based communication
systems, high-tech entertainment devices, faster computers, and fancier software.
We need to anoint each other with fragrances that promote emotional openness,
quiet the mind, build inner strength, overcome isolation, enhance intimacy, and
support truthful communication. We need noble aphrodisiacs of sandalwood,
jasmine, and lotus that help men transform pathological lust into passionate love,
and help women transform their fear and hatred of men's violence, aggression, and
stupidity into nourishing powerful sensuality.
When peaceful cities are blessed with myriad sweet floral scents, when healthy
forests are filled with balsamic coniferous perfumes, when farms are enveloped in
the earthy aromas of healthy soil and robust crops, when homes are infused with
temple essences that bring joy and tranquility, we will understand why the ancients
taught that plants were gifts from heaven.