The phrase “beer budget, champagne taste” is one that I am very familiar with, and one that could be said to be the canon of my life thus far. Back in my spa-owning days, when I didn’t even earn enough to buy toothpaste regularly, I would still scrimp and save until I could afford a Kate Spade purse. Or an Anthropologie skirt. Or a two-night stay at Calistoga Ranch. Yeah. That financial idiot was me.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone that once I got into Aromatherapy and started falling in love with essential oils, the one that I gravitated to and craved the most was the most expensive of them all: Rose essential oil (Rosa damascena). True Rose oil is not the stuff that scented the hand cream on your grandmother’s nightstand. True Rose oil is heady, complex, and amazingly sensual and sexy. True Rose oil is an aphrodisiac, one that snaps your inner goddess to full attention (yes, I’ve read 50 Shades of Grey, and frankly, am not all that much better off for having done so). True Rose oil is nature’s perfect alchemy of citronellol, geraniol, nerol, farnesol, and 300+ other chemical molecules, some of which we don’t even have a name for. True Rose oil is precious, about $650 per ounce at retail, and every drop of it took 60,000 roses to create.
Rose essential oil can be either steam-distilled or extracted via solvent. Steam distillation is where they use heat to force the rose petals to give up their “essence.” The essential-oil laden steam is then cooled and separated into Rose essential oil (also called Rose “otto” or Rose “attar”) and the Rose “hydrosol” or “hydrolat” (also called Rosewater, which is a wonderful substance to use in making facial toners). Extraction via solvent results in a Rose “absolute” – in the old days, this was done by pressing rose petals into pig lard in a process called “enfleurage.” The lard would “trap” the essential oil, then the essential oil would be extracted by treating the lard with solvent, and the solvent and essential oil together would be bottled and sold as an “absolute.” Nowadays, it makes no economic sense to perform enfleurage anymore, and the solvent (hexane or supercritical CO2) is directly mixed with the rose petals to draw out the oil. (Wikipedia has more info on this, in case you’re interested).
My personal favorite Rose attar comes from my school – the Apothecary Shoppe at the American College of Healthcare Sciences – and I recently shelled out $58.02 plus shipping for 2 ml of the stuff (about 40 drops, or $1.45 a drop). In the past, I’ve lovingly conserved every drop, using it sparingly only in times of extreme need, hoarding it like Tolkien’s Gollum did the One Ring – indeed, in my most mercurial moods, I’ve been known to clutch my vial of Rose oil close to my heart and gleefully and maniacally cackle, “My PRECIOUS!”
I would get out the bottle for a sniff whenever I felt gloomy or depressed, and sometimes even go so far as to put a drop on my tongue for confidence before a big speech or presentation. (Incidentally, true Rose oil should make your tongue go numb, due to its eugenol content – the same analgesic constituent that is in Clove oil). I also like to put 6 drops of Rose essential oil in all my essential oil facial blends that I make for myself and my mother, for its hormone-balancing and anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties.
But having recently read Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt’s book, “The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils,” I decided to try his recommendation to apply essential oils in the middle of a shower. I turned off the water, and while still soaking wet, applied about 20 drops of the precious Rose attar to my skin. (The theory is that because essential oils and water don’t mix, the essential oil would be “pushed into” and more quickly absorbed by the skin while it is wet). Ah! I don’t care if that was true, because I’ve got to tell you – it was a divine experience.
I smelled fantastic and so did my towel and so did my clothes for that matter. Maybe it was the Queen of Flowers at work, or maybe it was just the fact that that particular shower had cost me nearly $30, but for the rest of that day, I found it incredibly easy to be in a state of euphoric, spectacular, and extreme gratitude.