The Origin of Perfume
Did you know where perfume originated from? For as long as man has existed, he (and she) has attempted to disguise his own natural odour with that of perfume, trying to recreate many of the pleasant smells nature has to offer. Man has attempted to add natures scent to his skin, his clothes and the air he breathes.
The term perfume is derived from the Latin words “per” and “fumume” meaning “through” and “smoke” or “through smoke”. This comes from early attempts where oils were extracted from plants and flower and then burnt to produce an aroma, much like incense. This aroma was created through the smoke or “Through Smoke”, hence the term perfume.
Today many products are known as perfume but true perfumes are actually defined as oil extract of the original substance stored in distilled alcohol, water can also be used. The perfume market is a huge market with the United States leading the way with sales in excess of $2 billion with many discount perfumes being available.
The history of perfume can be traced back to Biblical times with the bible recording the Wise Men at the birth of Christ carrying gifts of frankincense and myrrh, both used as a perfume.
The Egyptians made an incense of henna, myrrh, juniper and cinnamon called kyphi. They also soaked woods, gum and resin in water and used the resulting liquid as a body lotion. The Egyptians were also known to perfume their dead.
Perfume became popular in Europe in France during the reign of King Louis XIV. King Louis was so fond of perfume he became known as the perfume King. His courts were filled with oils, petals and fragrances placed in bowls and dispersed around the palace to freshen the air.
Today many of the ingredients of fragrances are natural including grasses, spices, wood, balsams, animal secretions and fruit. Only around 2,000 of the 250 000 species of flowering plants actually produce a natural oil, therefore synthetic substances must be used to recreate certain scents. Many scents are also extracted from animals like musk and castor.
Today we find ourselves in the privileged situation of being able to acquire designer perfumes at the click of a mouse. Let’s not forget the luxury that they are and how lucky we are to have such easy access.