Neroli: Sweet Sunlight
By David Crow, L.Ac.
Neroli is the fragrance of orange trees blossoming under the Moroccan and Tunisian sun. It is the fragrance that greets farmers as they begin another spring day of harvesting, gently plucking the tiny golden gems that shine from inside green citrus foliage. Many factors will influence the quality of the neroli oil: each blossom must be plucked when it is just starting to open; the buds must be gathered only on warm sunny days; the flowers cannot be bruised; leaflets and petioles must not be mixed in. By the end of the day, the clothing and weather-aged hands of the dark-skinned harvesters will be saturated with an intoxicating aroma desired by queens and empresses, sheiks and maharajas.
Neroli is a fragrance that has been known and loved for centuries throughout the Mediterranean region. Generation after generation of skilled distillers have slowly extracted the neroli oil from the tender flowers, creating one of the world’s finest and most sought after perfumes. Every spring, the delectable fragrance of Citrus aurantium blossoms rises inside wood-fired stills in North Africa’s temperate mountains; it is an aroma that will bring joy to all, especially those who have the pleasure of savoring the first few drops that appear in the collecting beaker. Hundreds of pounds of the precious floral treasure, a small mountain of botanical gold, will yield only a tiny vial of exquisite oil. Those engaged in this unique alchemical art know that a special satisfaction is found in producing high quality natural products with healing powers: the happiness of making others happy.
Bees find the fragrance of neroli irresistible. Busily climbing into each sunburst world, they delight in the labor of gathering its essence and transforming it into ambrosial orange blossom honey. Lovers are also rapturously attracted to the sensuous nectar secreted by the yoni-like mandalas of silken petals and the aphrodisiacal euphoria it produces when worn by ones beloved. Neroli was the cheerful fragrance sprinkled in the bedchambers of Arabian princesses of old, and the scent that wafted from scarves of European noble ladies. To this day, it excites and inspires the master perfumers of the great fragrance houses, who use its delicious sweetness in their expensive aromatic creations.
Neroli is a medicine that the soul craves when besieged by stress, anxiety, worry, and depression. Like scented liquid sunlight, the yellow drops of citrus joy uplift the mind from gloomy moods, rescue the heart from realms of sadness and grief, and strengthen the spirit of those enduring unending hardships. Inhaling a few drops of neroli essential oil from the palms has a fortifying effect on the brain and nervous system, while simultaneously pacifying the irritation of sensory over-stimulation. The effects of neroli on emotional well-being can be compared to the nourishing, soothing, and revitalizing effects of Mediterranean sunshine. For those who cannot escape their troubles and flee to a Greek isle or an Italian villa, enveloping oneself in neroli’s blessed aura is the next best thing. Widespread use of neroli could end the daily aggravations caused by the rat race of modern society, especially if used for aromatherapy in cars: scientific research has confirmed that inhaling the oil has an immediate sedative effect on over-caffeinated hyperactive mice.
For some fortunate elders, neroli is the fragrance of childhood in southern California. Only a few short years ago citrus orchards stretched from Santa Barbara to San Diego and from the coast eastward to the edge of the high desert. Every spring the land was awash with neroli’s intoxicating aroma. What were our city planners thinking when they cut down the beautiful cooling trees that give such refreshing fruit and replaced their exotic enchanting perfume with the hot hydrocarbon exhaust of freeways?
Neroli is both the fragrance of paradise lost and the fragrance of hope for the future. Just as we pulled out the green orchards to make room for cars, someday soon we will need to invite the trees back into our communities. When that time comes, as a result of intelligence, wisdom, and foresight, cities will become gardens and urban forests filled with an abundance of nutritious foods and healing herbs. Families will once again wake to the sweet scent of orange blossoms carried on the morning breeze, and neroli’s exotic perfume will be freely available to all.