The Dangers of Jasmine Absolute



Do not. I repeat: DO NOT decide that you are in love with jasmine and you absolutely must dab a concentrated form of it on your wrist. Heed a worst case scenario warning from a girl who’s been there and done that. This is a terrible, terrible idea.

My jasmine story starts on a cold, rainy Oregon winter day with a potted pink jasmine plant I received from my husband.

Be a little more specific, you say. This is Oregon, the temperate rainforest, aromatherapeutic spray bottle of the United States. You could be talking about any day November through the present, right?

Okay, it was Valentine’s Day, and because I have the most wonderful, fantabulous husband in the world, a man who knows that gifts for me are also gifts for him, he got me the most delicate, stunning, blooming pink jasmine plant for Valentine’s Day. For weeks afterward, it sat there in our living room, just being gorgeous and fragrant and sending out the most intoxicating scent. I could be doing dishes just a few feet away and I would catch the scent, fleeting, as he had breathed the smallest breath on my cheek.

My husband gives great gifts, but this might have been the most romantic in our 13-year history.

I didn’t, until now, have much of a personal history with jasmine. My grandmother grew some in the retirement village she shared with my grandfather in Venice, FL and I have a few memories of picking up its scent while running sandal-clad through fire ant-infested St. Augustine grass. More recently, I had picked some blooms off a blooming jasmine bush recently at the Evergreen Aviation Museum here in my hometown when on an afternoon outing with my two sons.

But now, I had one, a real memory of jasmine, so when I got to the part in Mandy Aftel’s Workbook I for home perfumers where you are tasked with learning about jasmine by smelling it deeply and profoundly, I was ready for some major transformation.

This, after all, is the true joy of the perfumer, isn’t it? Harnessing a deeply pleasurable, sensual and evocative experience and expressing memory through a scent you can access whenever you want. Part of what draws me to perfume is this aspect, how so completely selfish it is.

The jasmine absolute I was working with was sourced from Liberty Naturals essential oils. It is a costly, solvent-extraced absolute in Egypt, an ounce of which costs about $153.  Jasmine is processed as an absolute because the flowers are much too delicate to be pressed as an essential oil. Some say it has a sedative property, but I experience something slightly different.

After experiencing jasmine absolute first on a fragrance strip, I got it in my head that a better idea to really understand it might be to dabble a little bit on my wrist and wear it around to see how the scent changes over time. That was my first mistake. Jasmine is so concentrated and powerful as an absolutel that it is far too heady to wear by itself. Better to dilute it in a perfume, with another oil, or in a solid perfume.

At first, I was mesmerized by myself — I walked around the house like I was floating. I rushed to see my visiting mother-in-law, stuck my wrist in her face to smell it. I shared it with my friend Lea. I caught my own scent trail as I walked through the house. I practically glided through the world. Then, I got in the car. The weather hadn’t yet settled into a mood — it had drizzled all morning and now, as I sat on McMinnville’s Third Street waiting to pick up my mother-in-law from the bookstore, it began to hail.

All of a sudden, the scent was so strong I was practically coughing. Sickening, blooming flower. I couldn’t breathe. I opened both windows to let in some air.

Better to be pelted in the face with hail than be wearing too much of any scent.

Time to lay off the jasmine for a while. Even a flower knows how much is too much.