“And frosts are slain and flowers begotten, And in green underwood and cover Blossom by blossom the spring begins.” – Algernon Charles Swinburne
Called Yasmin in Arabic, jasmine’s (Jasminum grandiflorum) familiar and well-loved scent is popular throughout the world. Although the plant’s large, white tubular flowers are a common sight in the southern part of the United States, jasmine is native to Asia, northern India, Pakistan, and northwestern regions of the Himalayas. In this part of the world, it has historically been used to create calming herbal infusions. By the 16th century, jasmine had been introduced to Europe, where it soon became a popular addition in the art of perfume making. The flowers are gathered early in the day, as they produce their strongest scent just before dawn.
In fact, in Indian culture, a poignant and beautiful legend attempts to explain why the flower blooms at night. In the myth, a princess falls hopelessly in love with the sun god Surya-Deva. Unmoved by her beauty, Surya-Deva spurns her affection. Distraught and devastated, the princess takes her own life. In every place that her ashes were scattered, beautiful jasmine flowers grew, but because it was the sun god who had broken the princess’s heart, the flowers refused to open during the day, and would only bloom and release their scent during the night.
Both the plant’s flowers and essential oils are used in botanical medicine. Flower essences made from jasmine blooms are said to enhance mental clarity and stimulate a new interest in spiritual matters. In the realm of aromatherapy, the essential oil is used therapeutically to help release guilt, induce relaxation, relieve depression, and provide an aid in meditation. It has also enjoyed a long historic reputation as an aphrodisiac, and is said to be a plant of love that can positively affect both genders. In India’s folklore traditions, it was used to stop the flow of breast milk when weaning a child by applying freshly crushed flowers directly to the breasts.
Sacrosanct to some populations, this flower is regarded as the holy flower of Kama, the Hindu god of love. In Hindu culture, perfumed garlands of jasmine flowers are joined together and gifted to loved ones and honored guests, and are a common inclusion in bridal bouquets at traditional weddings. The presence of this powerfully scented essence at a wedding ceremony is thought to guarantee eternal love between the bride and groom.
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