This Valentine’s Day, enlist the power of scent to help you create a romantic atmosphere. Using fragrant essential oils for romance and seduction is nothing new. In ancient Egypt and Rome, bathing with essential oils was part of the ritual of preparation for lovemaking. Cleopatra, one of the most renowned lovers of all time, is reputed to have scented the sails of her royal barge with rose water to seduce Mark Antony as she sailed to meet him. Today, the perfume industry is a multibillion- dollar business based on the notion that fragrance makes us more attractive to each other.
The Scientific Link of Scent and Sensuality
There’s a logical explanation for scent’s powerful effect on romantic feelings. The olfactory lobe of the brain is part of the limbic system, the same area that produces sexual desires.
In an attempt to prove the effects of odors on sexual arousal, neurologist Alan Hirsch, M.D., and other researchers at the Smell and Taste Treatment Research Foundation in Chicago studied the effects of 30 different scents on the arousal of 31 male volunteers (as measured by penile blood flow). While all of the scents produced some level of arousal, the winner was a combination of lavender and pumpkin pie, which produced a 40 percent increase. Other high-ranking items included orange and the combined scent of black licorice and doughnuts. In a similar experiment with women, Hirsch found that baby powder, as well as a mixture of Good and Plenty licorice candy and cucumber, were the top two sexually stimulating scents. Lavender and pumpkin pie also ranked high with women.
Despite Hirsh’s findings, most people aren’t likely to associate doughnuts or Good and Plenty candy with romance. However, the studies do validate an intriguing link between scent and sexual response. There’s a lot more research to be done, but until then, there’s plenty you can do to infuse your love life with the pleasure of sensual scents.
Set the Stage for Romance
Romance blossoms in a relaxing, beautiful environment. Set aside special time for a romantic interlude with your partner, and schedule it as a date. Send the kids to a friend’s house, turn off the phone, hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door and do whatever else is necessary to give yourself the privacy to focus on each other.
Prior to your date, take a few minutes to create a romantic environment. The setting for romance can be your living room, bedroom or private outdoor patio. Candles, especially pure aromatherapy candles, help set the mood. Scents that have been used for centuries as aphrodisiacs include vanilla, sandalwood and rose. Clary sage, jasmine, neroli, patchouli, vetiver and ylang ylang are other heady, exotic scents associated with sensual pleasures. Most important is to choose scents that you and your partner find appealing.
Aromatherapy scents also can be used in diffusers to infuse the air with fragrance. Many of the aphrodisiac essential oils combine well together: Try a combination of ylang ylang and sandalwood, clary sage and rose, or vanilla and patchouli. If you’re using a candle diffuser, rose or orange blossom water is a fragrant alternative to plain water in the diffuser cup.
Additional romantic touches include fresh flowers, which can be used in creative ways. In Indonesia, ylang ylang flowers are scattered on the bed of newly married couples. Make a trail of flowers for your lover to follow, scatter rose petals on your bed or surround your bed with a garland of flowers.
Plenty of pillows for lounging, sensuous silk or chenille throws for staying cozy and your favorite mood-setting music all help cast a spell of romance.
Taking the time to prepare yourself for romance gives you the opportunity to unwind from the activities of the day and to turn your thoughts to love and sensuality.
A soothing bath is the perfect prelude to your date. Make the water warm enough to be relaxing, but not so hot that it makes you sleepy. Add 3 to 10 drops of essential oil (or a combination of oils) to the bath, along with 1/2 cup of Epsom salts to relax tense muscles and 1 cup of baking soda to soften your skin. Many of the aphrodisiac essential oils are very potent. It takes only about 3 drops of jasmine, patchouli, vetiver or ylang ylang to scent an entire bathtub of water. If you have a large tub, begin your romantic rendezvous by soaking together in the bath. Float a few rose petals in the water, and bathe by candlelight.
Finish your bath by toweling dry and massaging your body with a fragrant aromatherapy body lotion. Add 5 to 10 drops of your favorite essential oil blend to each ounce of unscented body lotion to create your own unique exotic fragrance. You also might consider exchanging an aromatherapy massage with your partner.
Make sure the room is comfortably warm — if you have a fireplace or woodstove, a massage in front of the fire is a luxurious experience. Create a comfortable place for massage with a thick pad or several folded blankets and pillows. Cover the entire massage area with thick, soft towels to keep the massage oil from staining fabrics or carpets.
Choose a favorite massage oil blend, or create your own by combining essential oils with mild, neutral carrier oils, such as almond, apricot, jojoba or grapeseed oil. Add 5 to 10 drops of essential oil (or blend of oils) to each ounce of carrier oil. A convenient alternative to massage oils is a massage bar (see recipe on Page 50), which melts at body temperature and can be smoothed directly onto the skin. Massage bars are simple and fun to make. You’ll need a soap mold, which can be found at any craft store. Heart-shaped molds are a perfect choice for Valentine’s Day.
Aromatherapy Edible Delights
The art of aromatherapy for romance extends to the kitchen, where essential oils can be added to gourmet treats created for pleasure. Be sure to use only pure, organic essential oils, and limit your experimentation to the essential oils suggested here unless you have the guidance of an experienced herbalist or aromatherapist.
Chocolate has been linked to love and romance for more than 1,500 years, dating from ancient Aztec and Mayan civilizations where it was revered as a sacred food with aphrodisiac properties. The Aztec emperor Montezuma is reputed to have imbibed 50 golden goblets filled with a chocolate drink to enhance his sexual stamina prior to retiring with his harem. Although scientists are still unraveling the mysteries surrounding chocolate, they’ve discovered that dark chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a compound that stimulates the release of endorphins in the brain — the same chemicals triggered by feelings of love and passion.
For your love feast, serve a bittersweet chocolate mousse with rose- or orange-scented whipped cream. Or if you prefer an unBiet tin gi chua, vao day coi di option backed by science, serve pumpkin pie with lavender-scented whipped cream!
BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE-ORANGE MOUSSE
Make this recipe one day ahead to give the mousse time to become firm. Use the best quality bittersweet chocolate you can find; Dagoba is an excellent organic dark chocolate bar available in most natural markets. Serve the mousse in pretty goblets with a dollop of orange- or rose-scented whipped cream and shavings of chocolate.
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chounpped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
4 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1 orange
Whisk milk, egg yolks and 1 tablespoon sugar together in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until the mixture slightly thickens and coats the spoon (about 7 minutes). Do not overheat, or you’ll have bits of hard-cooked egg in the mousse.
Remove from heat and immediately add chocolate. Whisk vigorously until the mixture is completely smooth. Add vanilla and orange extracts and mix again. Transfer the mixture into a medium bowl and let cool until lukewarm, stirring occasionally. This takes about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat egg whites and salt in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and beat the egg whites vigorously until stiff peaks form. The lightness of the mousse depends on this step. In two batches, gently fold egg whites into cooled chocolate mixture.
Chocolate has been linked to love and romance for more than 1,500 years, dating from the ancient Aztec and Mayan civilizations.
Spoon the mousse into individual serving goblets. Cover, and refrigerate overnight (or for at least 8 hours). Serve garnished with whipped cream, chocolate shavings and finely grated orange zest.
SCENTED WHIPPED CREAM
Rose, orange, lavender and rose geranium essential oils are all good choices to add to whipped cream. Don’t overdo it — just a drop or two is sufficient.
1/2 pint whipping cream
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 to 2 drops pure essential oil
Whip cream, adding maple syrup and essential oil as the cream starts to thicken.
EXOTIC SPICED CHAI
Cinnamon and other exotic spices have long been regarded as having aphrodisiac properties. The heady aroma and flavor of this chai will warm your body and soul.
3 cups water
3 teaspoons good-quality black tea leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh gingerroot
8 whole dried cardamom pods, crushed
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, broken
Honey or sugar to sweeten
1/2 cup whole milk
Cinnamon powder, for garnish
Simmer water, tea and spices over low heat in a covered pot for 5 minutes. Strain the spiced tea into warm mugs and add sweetener. Meanwhile, heat milk in a small saucepan. Add hot milk to spiced tea and garnish with a sprinkling of powdered cinnamon.
Laurel Vukovic writes and teaches about herbs and natural healing from her home in southern Oregon. She is the author of 1001 Natural Remedies (DK, 2003) and Herbal Healing Secrets for Women (Prentice Hall, 2000).