Besides enhancing the flavors of foods, chemistry can please our sense of smell, too. For thousands of years, people have collected the aromatic oils of plants and seeds in order to make sweet-smelling waters and perfumes. But they had to squeeze a great numbers of to get just a few drops of oil, and scent of the oil did not last very long.
Perfume making is probably one of the oldest forms of chemistry. Perfume makers soon realized that, by adding other ingredients to a plant’s essential oils, not only could less oil be used, but the essential oil’s scent would last longer.
You will need:
* 7 small jars or vials with lids
* Rubbing alcohol
* Popsicle stick
* Cotton swab
* Paper towel
* 1/8 cup sample of each : fragrant rose petals, gardenia blossoms, orange-tree (or lemon-tree) leaves, eucalyptus leaves, pine needles, mint leaves, and whole cloves
* Tape or marking pen for labeling
- Press as many plant and flower samples into 1/8 cup (30 ml) as you can. Place each sample in its own jar.
- Except for the cloves, crush the samples as finely as you can with the Popsicle stick.
- Add 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of rubbing alcohol and continue crushing.
- Add about 10 cloves to one of the jars and then add alcohol.
- Puts lids on all the jars, and allow them to sit on a warm place for about a week.
- After a week, open one of the jars and dip in the cotton swab. Lift the swab towards your face, and fan the air around the moist tip so that the odor reaches your nose.
- Dab the moist tip against the back of your wrist, then allow the spot to dry. Smell it.
- Use the tweezers to remove a sample of the plant material, and let it dry on the paper towel. Smell it.
The moist swab had a strong alcohol scent mixed with the plant scent. After you allowed the liquid to dry on your skin, your skin had only the plant scent and no alcohol odor. The sample of dried plant has little or no scent.
Alcohol dissolves the aromatic oils in plants so that the plant’s oil are removed from the plant tissue, suspended in the alcohol, and preserved. Alcohol also evaporates very quickly when exposed to air. When you placed a sample of homemade perfume on your wrist and exposed it to the air, the alcohol dried quickly, leaving behind only the aromatic oil.
Document each stages of your perfume-making procedure with photograph. Place the actual jars of perfume on your display table, along with some clean cotton swabs so that your perfumes may be sampled. You can also dab a small amount of perfume on separate index cards and label them. Place a sample or picture of each type of plant you’ve used to create your perfumes.
Did You Know?
About hundred years ago, perfume manufacturers used a secret ingredients as a fixative to keep the scent from evaporating too quickly. The ingredient, ambergris, is a waxy liquid that coats the stomachs of sperm whales and protects the whales fro the sharp bones of cuttlefish. Ambergris has the strange property of turning into a solid as soon as it is removed from the whale and exposed to air, and early photographs of whale hunters show them covered with icicles of ambergris as they packed the stuff into pails for transporting. Luckily, no one uses ambergris anymore due to the chemical substitutes, and the needless killing of whales has almost stopped.