Aphrodisiac of the Day: Orange Blossom

Orange Blossom by Ayala Moriel
Orange Blossom, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

"When Adar comes in - happiness is increased" (mi'she'nichnas Adar marbin be'simcha).
Adar is the 6th month of the Jewish calendar (or the last... Depending if you start counting from Rosh Hashana or Passover!), and it's when Purim is celebrated. It also has a very close name to the Hebrew name for citrus - Hadar.

And - low and behold - it's also the season for citrus to bloom in the Mediterranean region where I come from. At this time of the year - end of March and all through April - orange flowers and all things citrus permeate the air with their euphoric aroma, making even the gloomiest of souls feel all cheerful and optimistic.

Orange blossoms are a long-known aphrodisiacs, and they are the only flower I've chosen for the series this year, because although they are an exquisite and costly perfume, they are also readily available in their edible version: orange flower water. These are be readily sought at most Middle Eastern, Greek and Persian as well as East Indian grocers, and should be stored in the fridge of every foodie and perfumista and anyone seeking for pure natural beauty. I use these beautiful waters to spritz on my face every night (and also in the morning or during the day when it's really dry - for example: when traveling by air). The fragrance is reviving, soothing and will make you feel 400% better than before applying it... Use it on its own after you cleansed or simply washed your face with water; or before applying your usual hydrating concoctions (I use my own handmade facial elixir of nourishing botanical oils).

All citrus blossoms smell heavenly, but the species used for perfume are from Citrus aurantium - the same tree that provides us with bitter orange peel oil (through expression of the zest), petitgrain bigarade (steam distillation of the leaves, twigs and often also the buds), and Neroli (the steam distilled essential oil of the same flowers). Furthermore, the distillate water (orange flower water) which I have just mentioned are processed with a solvent to produce an unusual product called orange flower water absolute. It's a most resourceful tree, as you can see!

The absolute is floral and citrusy all at once, but richer, sweeter and warmer than the fresh and innocent, honeyed Neroli. It is opulent, intoxicating and considered one of the "white florals" along with tuberose, ylang ylang, jasmine and narcissus.

Orange blossom absolute shares some qualities with jasmine absolute (due to presence of both indole and methyl anthranilate) and is round, soft and slightly tart - in my opinion is very true to the fresh orange blossoms, with some herbaceous and rich, honeyed undertones. It is an extremely versatile essence, and is used in both Oriental and floral compositions for women, where it's luscious, narcotic floral qualities are accentuated; and is also a wonderful floral for masculine scents as well as fresh and dry Eau de Cologne types.

Orange flowers have been traditionally used to scent bridal bouquets, and Neroli perfume was "prescribed" to brides on their white-wedding night to reduce the stress and anxiety before losing their virginity. It's relaxing and stress-relieving qualities are also put into use with children - in the south of France children drink a concoction of steamed milk with honey and orange flower hydrosol to induce a restful sleep.

At another time, neroli was used so often by Italian prostitutes, that the smell became extremely associated with promiscuity (similarly to how White Musk has become in the 80's and 90's)... Thankfully, those days are over and we can enjoy orange blossom's seductive qualities with no negative associations.

There are countless recipes for orange flower water in desserts and beverages. It is widely used in various Middle Eastern pastries (baklava) and spoon desserts (Malabi), not to mention many halva and various East Indian sweets. Another creative way to use orange flower is in fruit salads (try it over strawberries or cantaloupe!) and even in vegetable salad vinigraitte for a refreshing yet surprisingly floral aroma.

Aphrodisiac perfumes containing notable amounts of orange blossom: Amaranthine (Penhalligon's), Bois d'Hiver, Chinatown (Bond No. 9), Fleurs d'Oranger (Serge Lutens), Jean Paul Gautier Classique, Jitterbug (Opus Oils), La Chasse aux Papillon (l'Artisan Parfumeur), For Her (Narciso Rodriguez), Obsession (Calvin Klein), Opium (YSL), Orchid (Aftelier), Parfum Privé (Aftlier), Popy Moreni, Private Collection (Estee Lauder), Razala, Schizm, Silences (Jacomo), Tolu (Ormonde Jayne), Vent Vert (Balmain), Zohar

Aphrodisiac of the Day: Nutmeg

"I had a little nut tree,
Nothing would it bear
But a silver nutmeg,
And a golden pear;
The King of Spain's daughter
Came to visit me,
And all for the sake
Of my little nut tree.

Her dress was made of crimson,
Jet black was her hair,
She asked me for my nut tree
And my golden pear.
I said, "So fair a princess
Never did I see,
I'll give you all the fruit
From my little nut tree."

This nursery rhyme historically referrs to the visit of the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon (one of the two daughters of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain), who later became Kind Henry the VIII's first wife. Aside from the historical context, the reader gets the sense of the preciousness of the nutmeg spice from this rhyme, and a subtle hint to its aphrodisiac qualities – as if having a tree bearing such a precious (silver!) nut is what got the princess visiting from far away land. And such a tree, bearing two species of fruit is of course not realistic. However, the British has an interesting role in the history of the nutmeg – although they weren’t by any means the first Europeans to discover it.

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) is the fruit of a tropical tree native to the Banda Islands of Indonesia. It is said that birds flying above the nutmeg islands get intoxicated from the fragrance emanating from the trees. And indeed, nutmeg has potent psychoactive properties that should be underestimated, due to its high myristicin content (between 0.2-1.3%). It also contains elemicin and safrole. In mace (the lace that covers the nut itself) the safrole content is even higher, making it less safe to use for children and pregnant women (it is an abortifacient, and was used as such in the 19th century, leading to increased cases of myristicin poisoning). Thankfully, the amounts required to flavour a dish are still safe. But if you’ve ever had the pleasure to have a whole nutmeg in a smoothie (which I did, at one time, when ordering a fresh banana & nutmeg smoothie at Bliss in Vicotria). It had similar effect as a full shot of rum… Not exactly what I was aiming for at high noon!

Nutmeg’s intoxicating effects were put to use in its country of origin, where it was powdered and used as snuff all on its own; and in India it was mixed with betel and other herbs for snuff. In medieval times, the lady of the house would carry a nutmeg and a silver grater and by nightfall, she will prepare a nightcap with steamed milk and grated nutmeg on top. Nutmeg infused brandy was prepared by grinding several nuts and infusing them in brandy for 2 weeks. A few of these drops were added to steam milk for a nightcap or as an aphrodisiac.

The location of the Banda islands was kept secret by the Arab traders, who sold nutmeg to the Venetian aristocracy until 1511, when Afonso de Albuquerque, an admiral and the colonial governor of Portuguese India, has found their location. He was able to take enough nuts with him to sell to Europe, but he was unable to take monopoly over the nutmeg trade – the Dutch were the ones to claim that honour, and had full control over nutmeg and mace until the 17th century. They kept the prices high by burning excess crops in their warehouses in Amsterdam. After two wars with England (the second spanning from 1665-1667), England and the United Provinces of Netherlands signed the Treaty of Breda, in which the Island of Run in Indonesia (the secret source of nutmeg trees) was abandoned by the English, and the Island of Manhattan was given to England, and the name of the city on it – New Amsterdam – was changed to New York. However, the English have captured Bandalontor in 1810 and transferred nutmeg trees to other places (Ceylon, Grenada, Singapore and other colonies) in 1817, thus ruining the Dutch monopoly on nutmeg.

Interestingly enough, a nutmeg butter can also be produced – similar in character to cocoa butter, only with a faint aroma of nutmeg. Many nutmegs, however, have their fatty parts eaten by certain worms that stay away from the potent essential oils. While these nuts may not be appealing visually, they are perfectly fit for oil distillation. Nutmeg butter finds its uses mostly in soap and candle-making.

Due to its shape, closely resembling the human brain, nutmeg was associated with the head,and was used to treat headache and other head and nerve related ailments in Ayurveda, Tibetan medicine as well as European herbalism. Nutmeg is considered comforting to the head and nerves, warming and soothing, relieving anxiety and restlessness. It is used in treating many different ailments in aromatherapy and herbalism, such as arthritis, muscle pain and rheumatism; nausea and indigestion; bacterial infections (it was also used in fumigants – though not with enough success – to suppress the plague); and helps to combat nervous fatigue, frigidity and impotence.

The essential oil of nutmeg is a clear brown and mobile. The solvent-extracted absolute is a semi-viscous clear brown liquid. Nutmeg essential oil is peppery, a tad campohreous, and also could have a hint of rubbery smokiness to it (that characteristic is present when the oil is fresh, and should disappear after a while). Nutmeg absolute is warm, sweet, balsamic, almost buttery, custard-like (because of the eggnog association), not nearly as camphoreous as the oil, and really quite scrumptious. Both materials are used in perfumery and flavouring. Oriental perfumes benefit from nutmeg’s sensual, warm and sweet fragrance that lends itself so well to florals and is used in carnation compounds (the iso-eugenol being the main characteristic of both carnation and nutmeg).

In flavour, nutmeg is an excellent masking qualities for unpleasant odours from cabbage and meats, and used in sauces, preserves and pickle flavouring. With its rich history in the spice trade, it is no surprise that the nutmeg has become such an integral part in so many cuisines – in Malaysian Penang cuisine; in Arabic and North African spice mixtures such as Baharat (Arabia), Hawaij (Yemen), Ras el Hanout (Morocco) and many East Indian and West Indian spice mixtures and dishes, such as curries, spiced rum and even chai tea blends. It is also used in the relatively milder Japanese curries. In Greek it is called “musky nut” and in Hebrew it is called “muskat” – referring to its sweet and complex aroma. The Dutch used nutmeg and mace in vegetable dishes (Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and green beans), and in most of Europe it’s traditionally paired with potatoes and meet stews, as well as mushroom and spinach and white sauces.

Eggnog Crème Brûlée:

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s "Paris Sweets"

I made this in the holiday season of 2011, and this was the 1st time it worked for me (my first try at a creme brulee was grainy, unfortunately; something you can easily avoid by properly tempering your egg yolks - muster all the patience you got!).
The sweet, warm nutmeg aroma paired with an overdose of liquor (usually one tablespoon is the maximum amount for that size of recipe). It was fantastic, with that boozy feel-good quality of a rum-spiked eggnog. I'm sure that infusing the cream with a whole nutmeg got something to do with it... It has the taste, smell and texture of an aphrodisiac. Delight for all the senses, to be sure.

3 egg yolks
1-1/4 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup + 1 Tbs evaporated or raw cane sugar
1 whole nutmeg, cracked with a side of a chef’s knife
1/2 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise with the seeds scraped
3 Tbs. Rum
3 Tbs. Brandy
Additional evaporated cane sugar for burning

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 200F
Step 2: Dissolve the milk and cream with the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat
Step 3: Infuse the nutmeg and vanilla bean (including scraped seeds, of course!) with the milk, cream and sugar mixture, over medium to low heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. When reaching boiling point, remove from heat and cover with a lid so the liquids get thorouighly infused with the spices.
Step 4: Beat the egg yolks
Step 5: Temper the egg yolks: Add a little bit of the warm liquids to the egg yolks and beat them well. Add some more and beat again. Pour the egg yolks into the entire mixture and stir well with a wire whisk.
Step 6: Add the rum and brandy and stir well.
Step 7: Strain the custard mixture through a sieve or a tea strainer into a large measuring cup or a pitcher. Place 6 small ramekins on a baking sheet. Divide the custard between the ramekins.
Step 8: Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the centres of the custards are set. They should not wiggle much when moved around.
Step 9: Cool at room temperature, and then refrigerate for 3 hours or up to 2 days.
Step 10: Sprinkle with additional sugar, and just before serving, burn the sugar with a small blow torch. Serve immediately, while the burnt sugar is still hot!

Aphrodisiac perfumes containing nutmeg - there are really too many to count, so I'm just skimming through here: Black Angel (Mark Buxton), Comme des Garcons 2 Man, Coriolan (Geurlain), Fête d'Hiver (Ayala Moriel), Grey Vetiver, Noir Epices (Michael Roudnistka for Editions de Parfums), Obsession for Men (Calvin Klein), The Purple Dress (Ayala Moriel), Rivertown Road (Liz Zorn Soivhole), Rocabar (Hermès), Roses et Chocolat (Ayala Moriel), Scarlet Lurkspur (Ineke's Floral Curiosities), Soir de Lune (Sisely) Sounds & Visions (Mark Buxton), Spezie (Lorenzo Violloresi), St. Valentine's (DSH Perfumes), Sushi Imperiale (Bois 1920), Vetiver (Guerlain), Vetiveryo (Diptyque) Vetiver Racinettes (Ayala Moriel), Vitriol d'Oeillet (Serge Lutens)

Aphrodisiac of the Day: Myrrh

"Birth of Adonis" by Picart

"L" is for "Love" - and also labdanum and licorice – a couple of aromatics we can demonstrate affection with. However, labdanum is not easily obtainable and has very little other use besides perfume (not to mention very sticky and frustrating to work with if you are just starting out); and licorice, despite being recently found as the most arousing scent for women (along with, ahum, cucumber...) - technically speaking it is more of a flavour with a strange sweet sensation, whose fragrance is borrowed from star anise and aromatic seeds such as anise and fennel.

Therefore, we'll quickly proceed to the letter "M", where both musk and myrrh assert their aphrodisiac properties over men and women alike. And we'll further narrow down our investigation to that of myrrh, since musk is not legally obtained throughout the world and have become a nearly extinct perfume material.

Myrrh comes from Commiphora myrrha, a desert shrub that grows in North East Africa and South West Asia - in other words the areas surrounding the Red Sea (Yemen, Somalia and Ethiopia). When the bushes’ bark is injured, they produce tear-shaped gum oleoresin which is harvested by the nomads (they also make their own incisions in the bark to produce more resin).

Interestingly, the Greek myth of Myrrha tells the tale of a the young beautiful daughter of the king of Cyprus (his identity is not entirely consistent), who refused all her suitors since she was deeply in love with her father. Devastated with her forbidden love, she decides to take her own life, only to be found by her nurse. In order to save her life, the nurse promised Myrrha to help her pursue and seduce her father, which she did on the next opportunity, keeping Myrrha’s identity in the dark (literally). The affair took place over several days (or months, depending on which version of the myth), until one day the father’s curiousity got the best of him and he hid a lamp in the room in order to reveal her identity. When realizing it was his own daughter he was having an affair with – he drew his sword to kill her. Myrrha fled and ran away, saving her own life, as well as the unborn child she was carrying – her own father’s son. She wondered in the deserts of Ethiopea for nine month, until it was time to give birth. Begging the gods for help they took mercy on her and turned her into a tree, who shortly after split open and with the aid of the goddess of childbirth gave birth to Adonis. The tree's resin are Myrrha's tears, the only remainder of her human form.

Myrrh is steam distilled and also is alcohol extracted to produce a so-called “absolute”. The oil resinifies easily with exposure to air and is a clear, orange-amber colour, and a bitter, rubber like aroma (very much like balloons), that also has strong medicinal connotations as it was used in preparations for soaking dressing for injuries. Wine mixed with myrrh was given as an analgesic, and also to highten one’s consciousness for prayer and meditation. It was given to convicts before their execution. But myrrh's odour profile does not end with the bitter-rubberiness. It reveals diffusive, warm, dry woodsiness and a peculiar sweetness that has depth and sophistication rather than being sugary or balsamic (aka vanilla-like). It is a component in countless perfumes, though its influences are often subtle and it has never asserted it's spot in this family as obviously as some more aggressive materials (i.e.: patchouli or cloves).

There are other related species from the Commiphora genus which yield a fragrant resin (C. gileadensis is the elusive “Balm of Gilead” that is mentioned in the bible – also known as “Balsam of Mecca”, which is native to Southern Arabia and grows wild in the Judea desert of Israel and Palestine. Another notable species is C. guidotti, C. opoponax and C. holtziana - aka Sweet Myrrh or Opoponax, which is a less bitter and medicinal and has more of a musky animalic character with hints of celery/lovage nuances (please note: there is a fair amount of confusion regarding the true identity of opoponax – something that I should dedicate a whole article to).

Myrrh is not an obvious aphrodisiac. It is far better known for its significance in religious rituals as well as it's medicinal applications. Myrrh is the first ancient resin found in Sumer that was used as incense, perfume and medicine. In ancient Egypt, it was burnt in temples at high noon, and is associated with Isis - the lunar goddess of fertility, and the most important feminine archetype in Egyptian mythology. While frankincense was associated with Rah, the sun god, and considered to have a a masculine, or projective energy; myrrh represents female, or receptive, energy. Myrrh is also one of the key elements in Kyphi - the complex Egyptian incense with 16 or more aromatics that is considered to be the most ancient perfume of them all (Kyphi was worn as personal perfume, burnt as incense and ingested for its medicinal and therapeutic qualities).

Another known use for myrrh in ancient Egypt was in the mummification process - this is what was used to stuff the stomachs of the deceased Pharaohs, along with cassia. Myrrh is mentioned in the New Testament first as a gift to baby Jesus from the three magi; and towards the end of his human life it was brought by the three women at the foot of the cross to ease his suffering (another reference to myrrh’s analgesic properties).

In the Torah, myrrh is one of the key ingredients to prepare the holy incense burnt in the temple as well as the holy anointing oil for all the temple’s tools and altars. However, surprisingly enough, it is in the Jewish holy scripts where myrrh has the most erotic and suggestive connotations – most notably in the Song of Solomon (Song of Songs or Canticles) where it is mentioned seven times:

“A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts” (Song of Solomon 1:13) – a chunk of myrrh would be worn as a pendant in its native desert countries where the water is rare – and as the sweat streams down one’s neck, it will melt some of the resin and give its wearer a cleansing scent. It might also be one of the references that points to Queen of Sheba as the female character in this piece (she also repeatedly refers to herself as dark-skinned).

“I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the bolt” (Song of Solomon, 5:5).

“I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved” (5:1)

“His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh” (5:13).

And there is no more puzzling and elaborate beauty ritual than the one that Queen Esther had to go through to be accepted by King Achasverosh:
"... for so were fulfilled the days of their anointing: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with sweet fragrances..." (Megillat Esther, aka Book of Esther, Chapter II, 12)

Like frankincense, myrrh resin can be easily obtained in many church stores, and you can burn it on charcoal in a most primordial way that will connect you to how this precious perfume was used thousands of years ago.

For seductive applications of myrrh oil, make your own anointing body oil by placing 7 drops of myrrh in 1 tablespoon (1/2oz or 15ml) of cold pressed almond or olive oil. Use for a slow and sensual full-body massage with your lover, proceeding from head to toe.

Aphrodisiac perfumes with a prominent myrrh note: Azuree de Soleil/Bronze Goddess (Estee Lauder), Bois d'Hiver, Champaca (Ormonde Jayne), Dark Season (Neil Morris), Epices d'Hiver (DSH Perfumes), Film Noir, GiGi, Incensi (Lorenzo Villoresi), l'Ether (IUNX), l'Eau Trois (Diptyque), Immortal Mine (Cherry Bomb Killer Perfumes), Incense Pure (Sonoma Scent Studio), Opium and Opium Fleur de Shanghai (YSL), Mahjoun (DSH Perfumes) Parfum de Maroc (Aftelier), Le Parfum d'Ida (Neil Morris), Piper Nigrum (Lorenzo Villoresi), Razala, Sacred (Ava Luxe), Séxual (Michael Germain), Song of Songs, Vintage Gardenia with Cardamom and Myrrh (Jo Malone), Untitled No. 1 (Yosh), to name just a few...

Aphrodisiac from the Forest: Juniper Berries

Juniper Berries by Tranquillium
Juniper Berries, a photo by Tranquillium on Flickr.
The only aphrodisiac I could think of under "H" being Hyssop (which I'm not so familiar with in terms of perfume, or the culinary world and only find one reference to it's use as an aphrodisiac (along with thyme, pepper and ginger). The letter "I" does not seem too promising for the subject either - which is only reasonable, because after all, romance is not about "me, me, me...".

And so we move on to "J", and for this letter, I could have chosen jasmine, but preferred juniper berries instead, because they are a lot more accessible as a spice and not nearly as often discussed in this blog.

Most of us are probably familiar with juniper’s refreshing, woody and peppery aroma through gin. And gin is wonderful indeed - probably one of the most refreshing and interesting alcoholic beverages ever created. But there is more ways to enjoy juniper besides in gin and tonic.

Juniper (Juniperus communis) is a small conifer tree (or a shrub) that is generously widespread across the Northern Hemisphere - throughout Europe, Asia and North America. Its berries are in fact the tree’s cones, which only have 3 or 6 scales which are often fused, concealing this plant’s seeds. They are called berries because of their glossy, dark blue-black appearance. They take as long as 2-3 years to ripen and turn from green colour to blue-black.

Juniper is an unusual spice: it’s the one and only truly European spice (native to Europe than then imported from tropical countries). In fact, the highest grade berries that are used for culinary purposes are collected in Macedonia and Albania. Its main culinary use is in rubbing, marinades and sauces for wild game, as well as salmon. It is also traditionally used in sauerkraut and in various cooked cabbage dishes (i.e.: red cabbage with apples).

Juniper has valuable medicinal properties as an antiseptic and anti-bacterial. It was considered a cleansing, purifying plant and was used as such by the ancient Egyptians, who burnt it in their temples, and in Ayurvedic medicine. Juniper is especially powerful in cleansing the urinary tract of cystitis and infections - which might be why it is associated with male sexual health and partly why it’s considered an aphrodisiac. Native Americans used juniper berries as a contraceptive (don’t try that at home!), and to suppress appetite. It might also lower blood sugar and there was some research in its aids in controlling insulin levels in type 2 diabetics – but there are some concerns about it lowering it too much... In aromatherapy, it is used for similar effects as it has been in Europe since medieval times (in the concoctions that preceded gin): cleanse the body of toxins, cellulites, reduce inflammation, treat gout and rheumatism, clear cystitis and the like, and chase away colds and flu.

Gin is a component in several alcoholic beverages. The berries contain dextrose, which can be easily fermented to produce alcohol – a Juniper “brandy” (and in fact, many juniper essential oils are not actually steam distilled, but are a by product of this process). The Dutch and Belgians are known to be the first to create gin, along with other herbs and spices such as coriander, citrus peel and caraway - a concoction that was originally designed as a stomachic aid and to treat colds, gout etc. In this regard gin is not unlike most European liquors (and probably has been around in a different version as early as the 11th century). The name “gin” originates from “jenever” – juniper in Dutch or “genièvre” in French). Gin began as a medicinal concoction to treat stomach ailments, pain relief for lumbago (back pain) and it made its way to England after the 80 year war in the 17th century – the English soldiers discovered that it relaxes them before battle, leading to its title “Dutch courage”. Ironically, what began as a medicine for good health, has become a real problem in London – where gin was cleaner than water, and the entire city was intoxicated beyond belief, and it has become infested with home stills for poor quality gin flavoured liquors (usually highly sweetened to mask the vile aroma of turpentine which was often used in the drink rather than the true juniper berries). A far cry from the elegant and sophisticated London dry gins we can enjoy today. London has absorbed so much gin, to the point that theatre performances had to be cancelled because not only the audience but also the actors were too drunk to carry the shows… That is the historical reason for various regulations and rules that popped up regarding gin in 18th century London (and the various gin classifications and rules).

In skin and body care, juniper oil is used in soaps and aftershave for men because of its beautiful clean fragrance. It is also used in cosmetics to treat acne and oily skin.

But we’ve digressed far from the topic of this article: the aphrodisiac properties of juniper. First, in logical and analytical terms - in aromatherapy, juniper is used for it’s beneficial properties to the nervous system: it reduces anxiety, nervous tension and alleviates stress-related symptoms. It also lowers the blood pressure and reduces anxiety – all good things that can ease a less-confident person into a more relaxed state of mind. It has protective attributions in folklore and myth, and whether the person using it possesses this knowledge – feeling protected and secure certainly can help boost self esteem and other emotions that nourish personal relations and intimacy.

Juniper’s sensual aspect is subtle and not quite as easy to interpret as an aphrodisiac. It has a dry, elegant, spicy aroma that is not nearly as harsh as other coniferous notes, and that’s where its charm lies. The berries bare striking similarity in size and shape to those of allspice; and this is also true to their aroma. There is a peppery, warm yet clean dryness to them, which makes them smell sexy and masculine.

For the foodies among you – you must try at least once in your life the Espionage chocolate bar I've created with CocoaNymph. It has smoked salt and juniper and is like nothing else that ever touched your lips. Juniper berries can also be beautifully incorporated into your own personal mélange of Ras El Hanout.

The Sexiest Gin & Tonic Ever
2oz Gabriel Boudier’s Saffron Gin
3oz Blood Orange or Vanilla Bean Dry Soda
Slice of blood orange, for garnish

Use juniper berry oil in a relaxing, purifying bath blend with oils such as frankincense, cardamom, green cognac and ginger. In a diffuser in the bedroom, you may place a drop each of juniper, cypress and clary sage to create a clean, fresh atmosphere and clear the space for new love.

“Gin & Tonic” Silly yet Sensual Bath or Massage Blend
1 drop green cognac absolute
2 drops juniper essential oil*
2 drops lime essential oil
Add to a bath or to 1oz almond oil for a fun-tastik massage.

Please note: Essential oils are highly potent materials so use with care! Juniper oil is counter indicated for pregnant women, children under 12, as well as individuals suffering from kidney disease or cancer. This may also be true for cooking with the berries, so check with your health practitioner before indulging in a juniper overdose!

Additional reading:

Interesting info about using juniper berries in cooking

History of gin

Culinary uses for gin

Perfumes containing a respectable proportion of juniper berry are mostly masculine, as it adds a woody, elegant note that is clean and dry - to the point that it almost gives perfumes a masculine character by default: Bon Zai, Bois d'Hiver, Coriolan (Guerlain), l'Herbe Rouge, Ormonde Man (Ormonde Jayne), Polo (Ralph Lauren), Rebellius, Sombre Negra (Yosh), Terre de Bois (Miller Harris) and too many others to keep count of...

Sexy Ginger

Naked Ginger by Ayala Moriel
Naked Ginger, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is the rhizome of a tropical plant, related to cardamom (as we mentioned earlier), only that it is the rhizomes, not the fruit or seed that is used – in herbal medicine, aromatherapy, as a culinary spice, and in perfume. Native to Southeast Asia, and cultiaved in tropical countries throughout the world - across Africa, the West Indies, Caribbeans, etc.

In Hawaii, the hoola dancers use the fragrant ginger flowers (or "lilies") in their leis along with plumeria, tuberose and gardenia. In aromatherapy, ginger is considered a nerve tonic, especially effective for nervous exhaustion and fatigue, and - similarly to its used in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda - it is used to aid digestion and to fight colds, flu and other "moist and cold" respiratory and gustatory conditions.

Ginger Dry by Ayala Moriel
Ginger Dry, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

The dry roots can be cooked in soups, stews, chai teas and ground for herbal preparations, including some over-the-counter drugs against nausea. In countries where the root cannot be grown - it is mostly the dried rhizomes that were used, as a spice. Throughout North Africa and Arabia, dried and powdered ginger roots found their way to many spice blends such as Hawaij (Yemen), Baharat (Arabia) and Ras el Hanout (Morocco). The Druze in Lebanon, Syria and Israel/Palestine enjoy a warming drink throughout the winter made of dried ginger roots and a hulnejan root, that is believed to protect the body against colds and flu.

However, in European and Western cuisine, the dry roots (usually ground) are more widely used - for practical and historic reason: ginger is not native to those countries, and was introduced to them as a spice, imported from far away tropical countries aboard ships. Therefore - most of these cuisines have used the dried ginger root in spice mixes for breads, bread puddings, cookies, etc. - gingerbread and pumpkin spice being the two most popular and widely recognizable forms of ginger. And only later, as the cuisines of those countries became more versatile and open to the use of spice (with influences from North Africa, India, etc.) - they've also incoporated dried ginger roots in soups, stews and so-called "curry" blends from pre-ground (and usually un-roasted) spices.

The fresh root is better for chai, in my opinion (the dry one having a more musky, peculiar, and somewhat unpleasant after-note), and is used in countless Chinese, East Indian and South East Asian cuisines.

Ginger is good for indigestion, and is wonderful thing to add to bean stews to prevent discomforting gases that are often associated with this excellent-otherwise plant-based source of protein. It's used in countless Indian curries, including Rajam Chawal (beans and rice). Fresh ginger is easily incorporated in any stir-fry and in present in countless Chinese, Korean and Japanese stir-fries, soups, stews and dumplings. And of course - the slices of ginger are pickled in rice vinegar as an acidic accompaniment to sushi and sashimi. Fresh grated ginger - as well as its close relative, the galangal root - are an essential component in Southeast Asian curry pastes along with lemongrass and other citrusy components (kaffir lime leaf and zest, for example) - giving Thai and Malaysian curries their distinct freshness and balanced flavour.


Although for culinary and medicinal use both the dry and the fresh roots are used almost interchangeably, as far as aroma goes – there is quite a big difference between dry and fresh ginger: Fresh ginger oil smells Sharp, peppery, root-like, citrusy-fresh, earthy, woody, dry, a tad floral, grassy. Ginger oil from the dry roots smells rather unpleasant in my opinion - rather sharp, grassy, and even a little oily. However, ginger CO2 from the dry root smells candied, spicy, warm, sweet, overtones with hints of fresh-citrusy, tangy character, resembling closely the sensation when enjoying crystallized or candied stem ginger. Tart, sweet, warm and refreshing are a few of the adjectives that come to mind when experiencing a high quality ginger essence.

As an aphrodisiac, ginger works like most other warming spices – increase circulation and create a warm fuzzy feeling when smelled, inhaled or enjoyed in beverages and delicious foods. Ginger is also one of the main ingredients in pumpkin pie spice - which a famous study found that men found the scent to be most arousing. But most importantly - ginger tones the nervous system and dissolves nervous exhaustion and fatigue, neither is particularly sexy or appealing... In her book "The Fragrant Mind", world renown aromatherapist Valerie Ann Worwood recommends it against sexual anxieties, and recounts the oil's personality as very sexual and confident.

Using ginger in a menu for an aphrodisiac dinner would be a great idea – and also will help ease digestion, so that it does not get in the way of other things later on…It imparts a unique fresh and subtly pungent flavour to masalas, stir fries and curries. The fresh ginger root can be incorporated into beverages - cool or warm. warm ones, such as the classic chai tea or hulnejan I mentioned above, or more innovative concoctions such as Aftelier's Rose Ginger oolong, and my own Zangvil tea. Or cool ones - such as your own aphrodisiac "ginger ale" with fresh ginger juice, some honey or raw sugar and sparkling water and a slice of lemon, or add some ginger juice to a white wine like the Romans did. Ginger juice is quite a revitalizing beverage as long as it's balanced with less pungent fruit or vegetables - try juicing it with carrot, pineapple, orange - or any combination of these four that strikes your fancy!

Ginger Fresh by Ayala Moriel
Ginger Fresh, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

And of course - we can't forget about dessert! Besides the usual suspects (pumpkin pie, ginger snaps, candied ginger and ginger-spiked chocolate truffles or bars) - there are also more unusual ones to discover that I would have never dreamed of myself! When I saw Steamed Milk with Ginger on the menu of Sun Sui Wah (one of Vancouver’s finest Dim Sum restaurants), it sounded peculiar – as it sounded more like title of a a hot beverage in a coffee shop. When I finally mustered the courage to order it, I discovered that in fact it’s more like a pudding – and further research into the matter (when looking for a recipe) revealed that it is actually a Ginger Milk Curd - an unusual hot dessert that takes advantage of a chemical reaction between hot milk's proteins and fresh ginger juice, forming it immediately into squiggly, slippery pudding. I strongly urge you to try this at home – it is quite the delicacy, and there are even YouTube tutorials to guide you step by step!

For a sensual aphrodisiac massage with ginger, try this:

1Tbs light (aka unroasted) sesame oil

1 drop ginger essential oil or CO2

2 drops jasmine absolute

3 drops frankincense essential oil

You can may also use this blend to condition and perfume your hair.

For a revitalizing room scent, place in the diffuser one drop of each ginger, jasmine and lemongrass. You may also use this combination for a scented bath, to overcome fatigue - one of the worst mood killers after stress.

And of course - there are some perfumes that were already prepared and ready for you to revel in before you embark on your seductive adventures. Here are a few suggestions for aphrodisiac perfumes with a noticeable ginger note: Bois des Îles (Chanel), Camille (JoAnne Bassett), Classique (Jean Paul Gaultier), Cognac (Aftelier), Eau de Reglisse (Caron), Ginger Ciao (Yosh), Ginger Essence (Origins), L’Herbe Rouge, Lys Méditerranée, Orcas, Réglisse Noire (1000Flowers), Sahar (The Scented Djin), Tilda Swinton Like This (Etat Libre d’Orange), Zangvil.

  • Page 1 of 2
  • Page 1 of 2
Back to the top