Frangipani – An Intoxicating Seducer

Frangipani (Plumeria alba) is a genus of flowering plants in the Apocynaceae family, containing seven or eight main species of shrubs and trees. They are native to Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean and South America but have been spread by missionaries and early travellers throughout the world’s tropics, especially Hawaii. The name Plumeria can be traced to the seventeenth century French botanist Charles Plumier who travelled to the New World documenting many plant and animal species. The name Frangipani comes from the Italian Marquis Frangipani who created a perfume used to scent gloves which at the time didn’t really smell nice due to the leather they used. After the discovery of the Frangipani flower its perfume reminded people of these gloves and they called them ‘Frangipani Gloves’. The plant was first mentioned in 1522. Other names are Temple tree, Champa (India and Laos), Hawaiian Lei flower, West Indian Jasmine or Egg Flower (Southern China); actually there are more than 300 named varieties of Plumeria.

Some botanicals

Frangipani trees grow only to about 5-6 metres in height and often can become as wide as they are tall. Plumeria rubra or Common Frangipani is native to Mexico, Central America and Venezuela. Flowers of different Frangipani trees come in shades of pink, yellow, white, red, orange and multi-colours. The five petals ‘Fibonacci arrangement’ of the flowers displays such a delicate beauty that one cannot but immediately fall in love with them. Their odour is almost intoxicating, more even so particularly at night. They know what they do… The inebriating fragrance is their seduction trick to lure sphinx moths to pollinate them. The flowers have no nectar, (too bad) and dupe their pollinators. The moths inadvertently pollinate them by transferring pollen from flower to flower in their fruitless search for nectar. Nature has her ways.

Frangipani is related to the Oleander bush. Both are possessing an irritant substance similar also to that of the Euphorbias. Its milky, sticky sap is poisonous to eyes and skin of both humans and animals. The trees are very drought, salt- and fire tolerant but not frost resistant. They may be propagated easily from cuttings of leafless stem tips in spring.

An oil absolute of alluring power

The clusters of Frangipani flowers at the end of terminal branches open over many weeks and months and each day the ground is carpeted with fresh blossoms which are gathered for preparing the first phase of extraction: The ‘concrete’. The South-East Asian solvent extracted concrete is mostly sent to France where it is further processed to produce the ‘absolute.’ It displays sweet, tropical-exotic, floral notes with some fruity, balsam-like side notes, sometimes also with a slightly spicy impression, fresh, invigorating and deeply stimulating. Frangipani absolute is often rich orange or reddish in colour, more or less thick, even butter-like. It is almost exclusively used in the high-end designer perfume industry. The aroma is very alluring and sensuously euphoric possessing reputed aphrodisiac qualities. 

Frangipani has an innate ability to calm, soothe and induce pleasure. It is the perfect fragrance to soften an overheated temperament. Just a little drop under the nose or inhaling direct from a little flacon changes a fiery disposition into sweet resonance and harmony. Sweet and flowery – according to Ayurveda – is one of the three tastes/scents which are good for the fire type (pitta). Pitta-excited moments can happen any time of the day in life, and the beautiful floral absolutes of Aromatherapy like Frangipani, Jasmine, Champaca, Tuberose, Boronia, Aglaia,  etc. are great helpers for this. In balancing and cooling the fire-element they can help prevent major psycho-emotional problems which – if not taken care of – can further develop into ‘physiological’ consequences such as hormonal imbalances, skin rashes, headaches, etc. Ayurveda affirms the calming influence of oils such as Frangipani for people suffering from fear, anxiety, insomnia or tremors.

A hormonal and female helper

Speaking about flower absolutes, I remember a lady lecturer on a congress in Indonesia talking about Jasmine for women to prevent and even treat breast cancer. This is in line with a research in 2005 published in the ‘Fundamentals of Clinical Pharmacology’. In the study rats were exposed to an agent called DMBA – a carcinogen that causes breast cancer – and were given Jasmine. The result was  that, quote:  

“Jasmine has potent chemo-preventive efficacy in experimental mammary carcinogenesis and further studies are warranted to isolate and characterize the bio active principle from Jasmine.”

Another study on breast cancer and Jasmine was done by Professor Eliezer Flescher Sackler at the Faculty of  Medicine at Tel Aviv University. He and his team produced an anti-cancer drug from methyl jasmonate which is one of the major chemical compounds of Jasmine.

“Other research groups are taking notice. Since Prof. Flescher started publishing papers on jasmonate (most recently in the academic journal Oncogene), six new research groups around the world have initiated research on the subject.”

‘Anti-cancer flower power’,

Absorbing an oil like Jasmine abs. just through olfaction, smelling, inhaling has shown to be an interesting method of treatment. Who knows, there may be other floral absolutes like Frangipani etc. which when absorbed via the sinus region can help balance hormones which then, on their side, influence breast tissue. Fragrance compounds in plants, essential oils, or resins are in many ways vegetal hormone-like substances – and the plants have their own ways to use them in their organism for stimulating cell growth, movement of sap, reproductive action, etc. It is no wonder that we as humans have a strong reactive affinity to smell via the hormonal organs in our brain (for example the hypothalamus and the amygdala) which can trigger multiple echoes in our physiology and set hormonal imbalances back to balance.

A study in Indonesia used Frangipani oil for massage to reduce pain in women before and during childbirth. The test was done at the Pembantu Dauh Puri Health Centre Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. 70 pregnant women in labour were the participants. An experimental research design was used with pre-treatment and post-treatment groups and a control group. The participants in the treatment group were given massages with Frangipani oil on the lower back region. The women in the control group were massaged with virgin coconut oil.  

The result was that “before the massage treatment, most of the respondents experienced severe pain. While receiving massage without aromatherapy, respondents mostly still experienced severe pain. However, after a massage treatment using Frangipani oil (…) most respondents experienced reduced pain. There was a statistically significant effect of massage treatment using Frangipani aromatherapy oil on the childbirth pain intensity…” Using_Frangipani_Aromatherapy_Oil_to_Reduce_the_Childbirth_Pain_Intensity

“Midwives were advised to implement massage using Frangipani aromatherapy oil when providing maternity care to help pregnant women become more comfortable to have normal delivery. Health agencies which provide services to pregnant women can make Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) pain management with massage techniques using aromatherapy Frangipani oil. For future researchers to further examine, it is necessary to compare aromatherapy Frangipani with other aromatherapy in order to improve the midwifery care based on local wisdom.”

And here are the major effects of Frangipani oil derived from research and cultural usage:

  • Analgesic – Reduces pain sensation
  • Anti-inflammatory – Alleviates inflammation
  • Anti-fungal – Prevents fungal growth
  • Anti-microbial – Prevents microorganism growth
  • Anti-bacterial – Inhibits bacterial growth
  • Anti-depressant – Alleviates depression
  • Anti-infectious – Prevents infections
  • Anti-septic – Destroys microbes and prevents their development
  • Anti-spasmodic – Prevents or relieves spasms, convulsions, or contractions
  • Anti-toxic – Neutralizes the toxins
  • Anti-oxidant – Inhibits oxidation
  • Aphrodisiac – Increases sexual desire
  • Astringent – Contracts or tightens tissues
  • Calmative – Sedative, calming agent
  • Cicatrizing – Promotes the formation of scar tissue, thus healing
  • Deodorant – Masks or removes unpleasant smell
  • Emollient – Soothes and softens skin
  • Emmenagogue – Induces or regularises menstruation
  • Soporific – Induces, or tends to induce sleep
  • Spasmolytic – Eases muscle spasm
  • Vulnerary – Heals wounds and sores by external application 

Frangipani – as we have seen – is not a distilled oil but derived from extraction, usually with hexane. It has antioxidant skin refreshing properties and is used in night creams, lotions, preventative preparations and cleansing lotions. Properly diluted it can be used in candle and soap making and be added to massage oil, bath oil, bath salt, shampoos, hair packs, conditioners and shower gels. 

Frangipani can make you feel very comfortable with yourself and give confidence, inner peace and self-awareness. It helps to release tension and is emotionally uplifting.

Let’s conclude with a nice testimonial

“Frangipani essential oil is an incredible source of inner peace, positivity, and self-confidence, and is known for its ability to attract love and lift the spirit. This oil is truly transformative, and I recommend it for anybody that has just suffered a loss, or anyone going through a difficult time. The fragrance of this oil feels like a powerful infusion of love straight from the Higher Realms, and, dear ones, I cannot wait for you to experience this magic for yourself.”

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