by, 25th October 2009 at 02:19 AM (1851 Views)
My hip’s been hurting for months, so I made myself a comfort spray to use at bedtime. The problem with hip pain (at least mine) is that there’s no comfortable sleep position. I was dreading going to bed at night. So I mixed up a spray bottle with lavender, frankincense, oud, lots of vanilla and vodka for a carrier. It’s not magic – I never expected it would be. It doesn’t put me to sleep or keep me asleep. But it is an interesting smell experience at bedtime, when I spray some on my pillow and some more on my left forearm, where it will cross my face as I lie on my left side. Doing the same thing every night has been educational. I’ve discovered that some nights I experience the lavender-frankincense-oud top note as a new note with its own character. Some nights I experience it as an astringent lavender. And some nights I just smell vanilla. When the top note is gone the vanilla lasts and lasts. When I change positions I catch a whiff of it. Some nights I detect a little lingering lavender but mostly I can’t tell that the vanilla is doing anything to make the top notes last longer. There’s pleasure in all this, and at least a small distraction.
I should back up and say that my five months of hip pain hasn’t been caused by any deficiencies in my doctors. As far as I can tell, the 3 physician’s assistants, 5 orthopedists, 2 radiologists and 2 chiropractors I’ve seen are all intelligent, well-trained and conscientious. But medical science isn’t as advanced as we all wish. X-rays show moderate arthritis in both my right hip and lower back. Some people with moderate arthritis have pain and some people have no pain. If we knew the science of why, maybe I wouldn’t be scheduled for hip replacement. But we don’t know how to turn off the pain. The four non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that I’ve taken have not kept the pain from getting slowly worse. Unfortunately, the only way to tell whether the pain I feel in my hip comes from the hip joint or from a pinched nerve in my back is to assume it’s one place, try to treat that place, then go on to the next most likely place if the treatment doesn’t work. Naturally I put off full hip replacement until last.
As I said, I don’t want to bash my doctors. But I’ve learned that diagnosis isn’t much like House, Grey’s Anatomy, ER, Doctor Kildare or Ben Casey. I haven’t concluded that American doctors are worse than those in other countries. I think they all share the same knowledge base. But I don’t think they’re better either. We just think they are because we have such great TV doctors.
Now back to my comfort spray. I wasn’t trying to make a real perfume or cologne. There are really no heart notes. I didn’t even want to stay standing long enough to experiment much with ingredients or proportions. I picked what I picked because I was comfortable with all the ingredients. But I was also not making anything close to something I love. I’m aware that people often wind up associating a scent with a bad experience and never being able to enjoy it again. See Hebe’s Corrupted memories. But the lavender, frankincense and oud combination made a top note that’s really not like anything else I know. And it’s really short-lived. Mostly I smell vanilla. And I figure I have been smelling vanilla long enough, in enough contexts, it’s probably safe.
A couple of months ago a friend at work said he found a web site saying vanilla is the most universally popular smell in the world. I couldn’t find the site at the time and I couldn’t find it when I tried again this morning.
The Social Sciences Research Center’s web site has a section called The Smell Report. The only section devoted to a single smell is Vanilla. It leads with the curious statement, “In the early 1990s, perfume makers began to introduce vanilla as a significant note in their fragrances.” Guerlain was already using the synthetic version of vanilla in Jicky, launched in 1889. I decided these social scientists were talking about gourmands and not about vanilla base notes. I kept reading and found that:
“In experiments where an odour universally regarded as ‘pleasant’ is required, vanillin has been a standard choice for decades…
“Cancer patients undergoing Magnetic Resonance Imaging – a diagnostic procedure known to be stressful – reported a massive 63% less anxiety when heliotropin (a vanilla fragrance) was administered during the procedure…
“…vanilla fragrance reduced the startle-reflex in both humans and animals. The animal results indicate that the calming effects of vanilla may be due to some more essential property of the fragrance than the ‘positive childhood associations’ usually invoked to explain its universal popularity with humans.”
One aromatherapy site includes among vanilla essential oil’s properties, “ a known sensual aphrodisiac… very comforting and relaxing. It can be used to fend off a multitude of maladies from an anxiety attack to a headache.” Aura Cacia lists vanilla’s aromatherapy benefits as, “calming, comforting, balancing.” Eden Botanicals says vanilla bourbon is, “Soothing to the emotions.” I’m not exactly a believer in aromatherapy, but as far as I can tell, smelling something I know and like could provide all these benefits.
I’m also very used to vanilla as the last lingering pleasure at the end of the dry down of most tobacco fragrances, many Orientals, and even some florals. Sometimes vanilla is interesting by its absence. For example, Ineke’s latest eau de Parfum, Field Notes from Paris, is described as a “woody oriental.” The notes list includes tobacco flower and leaf, coriander seed, patchouli, and tonka bean. Vanilla is also listed but I don’t smell it, so it’s an unusual oriental. It’s also a distinctly different tobacco. It’s not at all like the burnt tobacco of an ash tray. But without the sweetness of vanilla, it doesn’t remind me of pipe tobacco. Rather, I smell the tobacco and coriander as kind of a new note that’s still somehow like tobacco. It’s an interesting effect. And the duration on me seems better than any of Ineke’s first five fragrances. I’ll probably wear it. But not until I have my new hip. For now I’ll stay with the comfort of vanilla, mixed with just the few other things I added for interest.
Disclosure: I just received a sample of Field Notes from Paris. I’m not sure it’s a freebie, since I previously bought the sample set of the first 5 fragrances. Months ago I received free samples from Czech & Speake and didn’t write any reviews of them. Call me slow, but I thought the idea was that I might like some of them enough to buy full bottles. But now that the FTC has begun to codify the obligations of bloggers, I realize that I have been shirking mine. I promise to do better in the future. Especially if any of you have rental property in Hawaii. By March I’ll be through rehabilitation and good to go.
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