Then how serene! When in your favourite room,
Gales from your jasmines soothe the evening gloom.
In The Sentiment of Flowers by Robert Tyas, Jasmine is described as the flower that seems to have been “created to express the quality of amiability”. Tyas continues, “There is so much of grace and ease in their manners, that they adapt themselves to every situation, accommodate themselves to all tastes, and infuse cheerfulness into every company”. The tender elegance of this flower has enchanted the inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent for far longer. The literature of ancient India repeatedly mentions Jasmine.
In the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, women adorn their hair and bodies with strands of Jasmine and its delightful fragrance is admired. On monuments and sculptures created by the Chalukya (543 CE-753 CE) and Pallava (275 CE-897 CE) dynasties, intricate designs of Jasmine flowers can be seen adorning the bodies of men and women alike.
There are approximately 200 varieties of Jasmine. Each flower has its own characteristic colour, ranging from pale white to yellowish white to pink and blue. Different legends and myths are associated with different flowers. However, the most interesting variety of Jasmine is probably Raat ki Rani (Queen of the Night). As the name suggests, the flower of this plant blooms only at night for a few hours, usually at the beginning and end of the Summer season. Its small white flowers release a sweet, powerful fragrance that enchants with its potency. Raat ki Rani’s penchant for blooming at night is the reason Jasmine has also been described as “moonlight of the grove” and “moonbeams in the garden”. In a popular folklore Raat ki Rani is personified as a woman with a broken heart. It is the Sun God who is believed to have broken her heart. Which is the reason why she blooms, releasing her enchanting fragrance, only in his absence.
But Jasmine’s fragrance does more than just enchant.
The Charaka Samhita, a 2000-year-old Ayurvedic treatise, refers to Jasmine as Jati and prescribes its fragrance and essential oil to calm the mind and body and to treat various ailments such as migraine, insomnia and certain skin infections.
In a popular folklore Raat ki Rani is personified as a woman with a broken heart. It is the Sun God who is believed to have broken her heart. Which is the reason why she blooms, releasing her enchanting fragrance, only in his absence.
These benefits of Jasmine also make it an integral part of Aromatherapy, a form of therapy that uses natural, aromatic essential oils to improve the physical and mental wellbeing. In The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, Valerie Ann Worwood explains how, in order to extract Jasmine essential oil, each flower is hand-picked on the day that it blooms before the sun becomes too hot. Around 4 million hand-picked Jasmine blossoms are used to produce 1.1 pounds (0.49 kg) of Jasmine essential oil, making it one of the most expensive essential oils.
A recent clinical study has found that inhaling the scent of Jasmine essential oil significantly reduced the agitation in the minds of participants diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder. According to the study, the fragrance of Jasmine nourishes the olfactory system of the body. It is through the olfactory system that a fragrance and its benefits are experienced by the body. Another 2010 study suggested that the impact of Jasmine’s fragrance on our mind and body is similar to that of Valium, an anti-anxiety medicine.
What is most interesting, yet fairly unknown, about the scent of Jasmine is that it also works as an aphrodisiac. In fact, Jasmine finds a mention in the Kamasutra. Here Mallika (Jasmine Sambac) and Jati (Jasmine Grandiflorum) are the two types of Jasmine whose fragrance and qualities are seen as enticing. The Charaka Samhita also mentions the fragrance of Jasmine as a source of sexual exhilaration.
Not surprisingly, today, 83% of all women’s perfumes and 33% of all men’s perfumes contain a trace of Jasmine. The most famous of which are Gucci’s Bloom, Demeter’s Jasmine, BVLGARI’s Jasmin Noir Eau de Parfum and Jacques Guerlain’s Shalimar, among others.
In the Indian subcontinent Jasmine is integral to many rituals and customs. Garlands of Jasmine are used to adorn houses on special occasions. In South India Jasmine flowers are an intrinsic part of wedding ceremonies, signifying purity and prosperity. And for many women strings of fresh Jasmine flowers continue to be the ideal way of adorning their hair and body.
Including the scent of Jasmine in our everyday life has a calming effect in addition to delighting our senses. Adding a Jasmine plant to our garden or household can be a significant change. Looking at fresh Jasmine blooms and inhaling their fragrance every morning can help us begin our day on a refreshing note. Simply sipping on a cup of Jasmine tea during the day can help relax our body and mind. It is on us to decide how we bring in the beauty, grace and enchantment of Jasmine into our lives. But it seems to be very worth our while to do so.