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The Magnolia: A Tale of Awe and Appreciation

Magnoliaceae

The Magnolia: A Tale of Awe and Appreciation

Let me share a story about one of my all-time favorite flowers: the Magnolia. It’s a flower that holds a special place in my heart, largely because of my move from New Hampshire to the charming city of Charleston, SC.

When I first set foot in Charleston, I was immediately struck by the sheer magnificence of the Magnolia trees that lined the streets. These trees are a sight to behold, with their sprawling branches and lush leaves. But what truly captured my attention were the pristine white blossoms that adorned them.

As my husband and I explored the city, I couldn’t help but notice that many of these Magnolia trees had their flowers just out of my reach. This was both intriguing and frustrating because I longed to experience their fragrance up close.

However, fate had an unexpected twist in store for me. That evening, as we dined in a restaurant with open windows that let the outdoors in, we were visited by a remarkable sight: a man with hooks for hands. He was selling Magnolia flowers, and I couldn’t help but wonder how he managed to gather those beautiful blooms.

My curiosity piqued, I was also thrilled at the prospect of finally getting to hold and savor one of these exquisite flowers. My husband kindly bought one for me, and for the remainder of the evening, I indulged in its scent and admired its delicate beauty.

But here’s where the story takes an unexpected turn. When I placed the flower in water and went to bed that night, I awoke to find it had lost its pristine white hue and turned brown. My heart sank at the fleeting nature of its beauty.

From that day forward, I made a personal vow: I would never pluck a Magnolia flower from its tree. Instead, I decided to let them thrive where they belonged, on their branches, for as long as nature intended. The Magnolia, to me, became a symbol of beauty that should be admired in its natural setting, untouched and free.

The Botanical Significance of Magnolias

The Magnolia family, encompassing over 200 flowering species, holds a distinctive place in the botanical world. Its geographical presence spans across eastern North America, Central America, tropical South America, Mexico, the West Indies, southern and eastern India, Sri Lanka, Indochina, Malesia, China, Japan, and Korea, showcasing its adaptability.

What sets Magnolias apart is their primitive nature, harking back to the early days of flowering plants. Notably, their large flowers, adorned with numerous petals and sepals, encircle a central axis teeming with spirally arranged stamens and a profusion of pistils. This central axis bears a striking resemblance to a cone-like structure.

Magnolias also boast a fascinating link to the past. Fossils resembling their distinctive receptacles have been discovered in ancient sedimentary layers, emphasizing their status as one of the most primitive plant families (Armstrong, 2001).

Intriguingly, as Magnolia flowers bloom, they shed stipules that once enclosed young bud leaves and the bracts that covered flower buds. This shedding process symbolizes the transition from bud to blossom, reflecting the essence of nature’s life cycle.

The Versatile Magnolia: From Blooms to Essential Oil

Magnolia is celebrated primarily for its exquisite blossoms and their enchanting fragrance, often incorporated into high-end perfumes. However, its multifaceted utility extends beyond the realm of aesthetics. Traditional health practices in regions like China and Thailand have long embraced Magnolia for its diverse benefits.

Essential oil aficionados are well acquainted with the preciousness of Magnolia oil, derived from the distillation of fresh petals. Harvesting these blossoms can be a challenging endeavor, rendering Magnolia oil both rare and costly. The book “The Essential Life” (2018) illuminates the historical significance of Magnolia essence in ceremonies, where it was employed to boost confidence and overall well-being. Remarkably, these blossoms were plucked during the night when their fragrance was deemed most potent.

According to the same source, Magnolia oil boasts a spectrum of properties, including sedative, relaxant, antidepressant, aphrodisiac, decongestant, and stomachic qualities. While it can be applied directly to the skin, it is often blended with carrier oils due to its premium price tag. Alternatively, it can be enjoyed aromatically through inhalation.

Linalool: The Soothing Essence of Magnolia

At the heart of Magnolia’s essence lies a key component called Linalool. Revered for its remarkable ability to induce feelings of tranquility and relaxation, Linalool is also known for its comforting properties. Importantly, it enjoys a reputation for safety, as affirmed by Pubmed.

Linalool is remarkably versatile, finding its way into various products ranging from foods to treatments for carpets and surfaces. Pubmed notes that in laboratory animals exposed to high concentrations of Linalool, observations include decreased activity, reduced pain sensation, and a sedative effect.

It’s worth emphasizing that Magnolia oil, often blended with carrier oils, is unlikely to expose users to excessively high levels of Linalool during regular use. However, it’s always important to exercise caution when experimenting with a new product, especially for the first time.

Aromas of Nostalgia: The Magnolia’s Timeless Elegance

For many, an aroma will bring a person straight back to a time or place in their memory as if it just happened yesterday. This is the case for me with the Magnolia flower. Before starting this paper, I had no idea that the Magnolia tree was considered to be such a primitive plant. So primitive that the blossoms were pollinated by beetles rather than bees back in ancient times (The Essential Oil Life, 2018, p. 125). I feel fortunate to have this beautiful flower to admire right outside my door and the essential oil with its diverse and numerous benefits to enjoy aromatically and topically. Not knowing that Magnolia was used in ceremonial rituals long ago, I am happy to say that I have been carrying on this tradition. Each night before bed, I apply Magnolia essential oil topically to my chest, taking advantage of the calming properties while also enjoying the beautiful scent.


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References
Armstrong, W.P. (2001) The Magnolia Family (Magnoliaceae): A Primitive Family of Flowering Plants. Retrieved from https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/trmar98c.htm
Glimn-Lacy & Kaufman. (2006) Botany Illustrated: Introduction to Plants, Major Groups, Flowering Plant Families second edition. New York, NY: Springer
Science+Buisness Media, Inc. National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. Linalool, CID=6549, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Linalool (accessed on June 4, 2019)
Uses and Benefits of dōTERRA Magnolia Touch. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.doterra.com/US/en/blog/spotlight-magnolia-touch-oil