The Magnolia is one of my most favorite flowers and it reminds me of my move to Charleston, SC from New Hampshire. On our first visit, while my husband and I were exploring the city, I was in awe of the Magnolia trees. Their large branches and leaves made me curious but what caught my attention the most was the crisp white flowers. Many of the magnolia trees we encountered while exploring downtown had flowers that were out of my reach. This was frustrating since I was so desperate to smell them. Later that evening while dining out, and by out I mean that all the windows of the restaurant were open to the outside, we were lucky enough to have a table right next to nature! Not too long after we arrived a man with two hooks for hands stopped near our table, he was selling Magnolia flowers. I was curious about how a man with hooks for hands was able to pick the large number of flowers he was selling and also excited that I would finally be able to hold and smell one of those beautiful flowers up close and personal. My husband bought me one and I spent the rest of the evening smelling it and admiring its beauty. However, my enjoyment was short lived. I put the flower in water, went to bed, and sadly when I awoke, it was brown. From that day forward I decided to never pick a magnolia flower but to just leave it on the tree so it can live a little bit longer.
As stated in the book Botany Illustrated, the Magnolia family is large with over 200 flowering species. It can be found in eastern North America, Central America, tropical South America, Mexico, West Indies, southern and eastern India, Sri Lanka, Indochina, Malesia, China, Japan, and Korea. Having many primitive characteristics, it is considered to be among the most primitive of flowering plants. Some of these characteristics are the large flower with many petals and sepals and the many stamens that are spirally arranged around a raised axis which has many pistils. The axis resembles a cone-like structure. “Cone-like fossils similar to magnolia receptacles have been discovered in ancient sedimentary strata, indicating that this is a very primitive plant family” (Armstrong, 2001). Stipules that enclose the young bud leaf shed as the flower expands also the bracts that enclose the flower buds shed as the flower opens. The image of the stipules and the bracts shedding to me represents the power of the large beautiful flower opening up to life.
Magnolia is best known for the beautiful flowers that are produced and the sweet luxurious smell that is often used in expensive perfumes. What many people might not know, according to dōTERRA, a well known essential oil company, is that Magnolia has been used in traditional health practices in places like China and Thailand for many years. The essential oil is distilled from fresh petals and due to the difficulty of harvesting the fresh blossoms, Magnolia oil is precious and expensive. According to the book, The Essential Life (2018), Magnolia essence was used in ceremonies to enhance confidence and well-being. The blossoms were harvested at night when considered most fragrant. This book also states that the top properties of Magnolia are: Sedative, relaxant, antidepressant, aphrodisiac, decongestant, stomachic. It can be applied directly to the skin, although you will mostly find it mixed in with carrier oil due to its expensive price tag, or it can be used aromatically by inhalation.
One of the main constituents in Magnolia is Linalool. Linalool is known for its ability to promote calmness and relaxation while at the same time promoting comfort. According to Pubmed, Linalool is recognized as safe. It can be found in a variety of items from foods to carpet and surface treatments. Pubmed states that “Decreased activity, decreased pain sensation, and sedation have been reported in laboratory animals exposed to high levels of Linalool.” With Magnolia being expensive and mostly mixed with a carrier oil, exposure to high levels of Linalool is probably not going to occur during normal use. However, it is always advised to be cautious when using a new product for the first time.
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 many 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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