Nostalgia and Vetiver

Nostalgia and Vetiver

Isn't this an incredible illustration? It's of Tapputi-Belatekallim, considered to be the world's first recorded chemist - not first female chemist - but first chemist. She was a perfume maker for the Royal Palace in Babylonian Mesopotamia around 1200 BCE. Her perfumes weren't just for cosmetic purposes - they were used for their medicinal value. They were also used for religious purposes. Using a chemical apparatus, Tapputi worked with flowers, plants, and oils to create these ointments. Sounds like aromatherapy to me.


Speaking of the past... I am a bit stuck in the past. I often get nostalgic. And honestly, that isn't good. Anything that takes us away from the now, takes away from our contentment and happiness. I truly believe that. Nostalgia, for me, isn't just about thinking of the good old days, it's about dwelling on some aspect of my life that I feel was fulfilled then but isn't fulfilled now. And, dwelling on the past, rather than going within and discovering what needs cultivating is disempowering. Our personal power is in learning about what we are going through now - the embodied now.


That being said, I wanted to see if there's an essential oil to help with nostalgia. There are essential oils to help with letting go of the past, but these aren't really nostalgia. They are about letting go of the wounds of the past, like Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha), clearing negative energy from the past, like Sweet Birch (Betula lenta) or bringing forth past-life memories, like French Basil (Ocimum basilicum).


According to the Dr. Bach and his remedies, the essence of Honeysuckle (Lonicera caprifolium) is for those "who live much in the past, perhaps a time of great happiness, or memories of a lost friend, or ambitions which have not come true. They do not expect further happiness such as they have had." That's going a little too far for me, but I do relate to thinking of memories with friends that I have lost touch with (and for one in particular, unable to get in touch with because she has passed.) And, to times when I was younger and life seemed to have more promise. (Life has promise now - just a different kind of promise than that of a teenager!) Nostalgia (and homesickness) are Honeysuckle states.


So what would be an essential oil to move past "the good ol' days"? The first option, and obvious choice, would be Honeysuckle itself, but 1) I don't have it and 2) it is hard to get because the yield is so low.


Another option would be to find an essential oil that is chemically similar to Honeysuckle. The top four chemical compounds found in Honeysuckle essential oil are: patchouli alcohol (29.3%), 6‐acetyl‐1,1,2,4,4,7‐hexamethyltetralin (20.6%), alpha‐bulnesene (16.5%), and alpha‐caryophyllene (12.1%). OK, the first compound I recognize as patchoulol and the only essential oils that I know of that contain patchoulol is Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) at around 33% and Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi) at 3%. The second - I don't even know... The third I recognize as a-bulnesene and the essential oils that contain that are Patchouli at 16% and Basil (Ocimum Basilicum) at 2%. And the fourth, which is now called a-humunene, is found in a few oils, but none at 12%. There really isn't an essential oil that is readily available chemically comparable to Honeysuckle.


But when I step back and meditate on what nostalgia is - it's longing for another time, it's longing for another place. It's feeling disconnected from the present. What is homesickness? It is feeling uprooted from one's home - the home-isn't-here feeling. And what provides connection? What grounds? Roots.


I decided I would look for a root oil, and I landed on Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides). Vetiver is known as a sensual oil, but I'm diffusing it now, and it is definitely grounding and nurturing. Vetiver contains around 50% Sesquiterpenes and 20% Sesquiterpenols which makes it very relaxing and grounding. I find myself extraordinarily at peace. I came across this quote about Vetiver and thought it was apropos:

Tenacious, with a sense of belonging and grounding. Its personality is one of renewal, ripeness, and maturity, excellent For all those who have ‘lost touch’ with something.

Illustration credit to the enormously talented artist @helene.baum. This is from the book series "Forgotten Women" by @miss_zing at @octopus_books_.

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