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The Romance of Perfumery

Since ancient times, we have used scent to entice and excite. Eighteenth century's King George III banned perfume as a form of sorcery, after taking note of how women of ill repute used it to seduce men. And modern perfume manufacturers - with scientific evidence backing them up - develop perfumery blends with just such a purpose in mind.

Why are some scents more conducive to romance than say, business pursuits? When you inhale an aroma, it sends a myriad of messages through the olfactory nerve endings to the limbic system of the brain. This system, known as the "old brain" oversees instinctive responses like emotional, sexual and aggressive behaviors. And some scents - like jasmine, vanilla and ylang ylang - may stimulate the release of neurochemicals that trigger sexual response. In addition, our personal preference of seductive scents may be influenced by pheromones, barely visible scent molecules that travel through perspiration. Pheromones, from the Greek pherein "to carry" and hormon "to excite" - play a powerful role in socio-sexual communication.

Naturally, not all pheromones are alike. Because of the acidic nature of a man's sweat, male pheromones have a more musky quality than female ones. Musk and sandalwood scents, in fact, may be romantically enticing to women because they closely resemble the chemical make-up of male pheromones. Perfume manufacturers have sought out rare animal sources - such as civet, musk and ambergris - that mimic erotically charged human scents. Exotic and romantic perfume blends are often created with the essential oils of patchouli, sandalwood, jasmine and ylang ylang. Of course, perfume wearers have other goals in mind too. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans created special blends for seduction, but also for propitiating deities, celebrating holidays, encouraging aggression before battle and inspiring deep contemplation. Today we are still enamored with aroma. And with the help of essential oils, we, like our ancient ancestors, can concoct our own scents to allure, inspire or simply delight.

Blend Your Own Natural Fragrance
A successful perfume is an "aromatic symphony" - a harmonious blend of top, middle and base notes. Top notes are sharp, fleeting scents, those first noticed in a fragrance and the first to fade. Middle notes characterize the fragrance halfway through the drying process - they can be considered the body, or the melody of the blend. And base notes are deep, rich, grounding scents that "fix" the fragrance and prolong it staying power because they evaporate slowly.

When blending a perfume, begin by swirling the essential oils and absolutes together. Then add them to your choice of vegetable-based oil. Jojoba works especially well as a base because it's actually a wax so it won't become rancid and will prolong the life of the perfume. To fragrance hair, clothes and sheets, blend essential oils and absolutes in an atomizer with pure grain alcohol or 100 proof vodka. Or create a delightful, spicy-scented base by adding one stick of cinnamon, one vanilla bean or two tablespoons of spices (cloves, allspice or ginger) to a pint of alcohol. Alcohol-based oils improve as they mature, so prepare them ahead and let the mixtures meld in a dark place for a few weeks before using.

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