Good point Justin. As always with such discussions it is wise to define one's terms.
David, I think that is really the issue with regards to the term "natural" to begin with, isn't it. It's a moving target that can be described in any way one sees fit. Ultimately it's left up to ones personal judgement, with a little help from regulatory bodies who formally define it. In reality, I don't think there is any such thing as natural, everything is natural. There are just things that are more or less bad or good for us and or the environment. I think most people want the word natural to imply that something is good for us but therein lie the problem as I see it because not everything that is indigenous to the earth is healthy or good and not everything that is newly introduced to the earth is bad.
Justin E. Beasley
Good point Justin. As always with such discussions it is wise to define one's terms.
Secondly, and I'm probably not telling you anything being an Oregonian (home of nature lovers), the reason that nature lovers prefer natural substances has little to do with religion. I'm historically a naturals guy, and have never heard or considered that as the argument. Chemistry minded, synthetic perfume people tend to characterize it as a bunch of pathetic "mumbo jumbo" and "religious dogma", and I believe that is unfair, if not a tad insulting to nature lovers. Nature appreciators are not clueless idiots. There is a lot to where they are coming from, and this is the biggest understatement anyone could make.
Mankind and botanicals have developed a complex and intimate set of relationships with one another, over the millenia. These relations tend to be healthy and mutually life affirming, due to the nature of evolution. If there were ten chemicals in corn, it would obviously be safer to eat those ten chemicals, in their natural ratios, than ten random chemicals from a chem lab, in random ratios. These kind of findings would be scientifically verifiable ad infinitum.
Nature has an inherent wisdom, which takes many lifetimes to discover; and humans have an inherent relationship with nature, being part of it. Obviously, ecosystems are meticulously and brilliantly organized, and this is another gross understatement.
Although I agree with the chemistry minded folks here in preferring to use both naturals and synthetics, I still like to recognize the good things about nature, and I am sure that makes me a better perfumer than I'd otherwise be. I think the industry is definitely biased against nature, as that is the whole direction all the financial incentives push it. Look at the price of a drum of cedramber, compared to any essential oil. IFRA is pretty much an anti-nature organization, as allergies are almost exclusively their focus, whereas they systematically neglect the more insidious dangers of synthetic chemicals, since the financial incentives come from giant chemical corporations. People also want to justify their work in an industry that increasingly deemphasizes nature for profit reasons.
I like to appreciate the value of synthetic fragrance materials, no question. But I also like to appreciate the unique value of nature. And a lifetime of books could be written on that topic, to say the least.
It's not primarily the "spirit" that nature lovers value. That spiritual discussion is an interesting diversion and enhancement to life, perhaps, for different reasons.
But rather, what is primarily valued are the patterns and organizational Gestalts nature has evolved over millions of years. These ecologic patterns are not worthless, and should be respected in order to preserve the quality of life humans have forever enjoyed. A whole is greater than the sum of parts, and it is remarkable that people forget this, and then turn around and act as if nature lovers are ignorant on top of that.
I grew to appreciate the chemistry minded position, and am still growing very deliberately in that way. But I hope they can can also see the other side. Both sides have their valid points, in my opinion.
Last edited by DrSmellThis; 21st February 2014 at 09:21 PM.
So beautifully put!
Last edited by JEBeasley; 21st February 2014 at 10:07 PM.
Justin E. Beasley
Like you, I have come out of the other side of it, and have put all of it in perspective. I also have a conventional scientific, academic and intellectual background on top of that, and can hold my own in those circles too.
If I was talking to you privately with a bunch of Oregonians, I'd tilt the discussion differently than speaking generically to an international audience, however. The jaded part disappears for me. I can do that because my conventional intellectual/scientific background allowed me to be skeptical the whole time, which protected me somewhat from the "jading". I never completely bought in to any movement (but did come close). Now I just try to file everything in the place it belongs, so to speak. If I need to defend some new age idea in front of a room full of scientists, I can do that to some extent, if appropriate.
Are there a lot of idiots in the alternative/natural/new age/healing movements? Of course, just like everywhere else. But a lot of it is valid, too. You just have to avoid the idiot version! Ha ha. You have to translate the nugget of rationality out of it for a general audience, which is what I often try to do. Then we grumble among one another about all the BS, which is plentiful.
Thanks for the reply! Go Ducks/Beavers/Blazers/Timbers!
Last edited by DrSmellThis; 21st February 2014 at 10:22 PM.
Seems we are getting back into the Naturals vs. Synthetics argument again. For me the argument is spurious , quite unnecessary. In Perfumery there is a place for both, and that should be an end to it.. I have no intention of getting involved in the New Age philosophy (philosophies), nor am I going to start thinking that "Nature" is sentient; I don't believe that for one instant.
To say that men and plants have an equal and mutually beneficial relationship is, at best, naive. Mankind has exploited plants, and animals, for millennia. There is no mutual benefit. But there, I said I wouldn't get involved in that argument; and I have!!
I don't think there was any specific mention of plants being "sentient", merely that plants and humans evolved together in a form of symbiosis. "The Botany of Desire" is an interesting book and documentary, one I think is worth a watch. Corn, tobacco, apples... would they have evolved in the way that they did without human intervention? We don't know.... Would we have evolved they way we did without those things? Who knows... however, I find them interesting questions worth exploring or even considering for a moment because I don't necessarily have any absolute proof against such a theory either.
Last edited by JEBeasley; 22nd February 2014 at 12:37 PM.
Justin E. Beasley
For simplicity's sake, I refer to extracts of flora and fauna as "naturals" and man-made chemicals as "synthetics", but like you I don't take the definitions too seriously. I prefer to use naturals in most cases but I'll make use of synthetics if needs be. I don't think that anyone's view is ever completely correct, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle. It's better to try to find the common ground when possible and work together. However, perhaps sometimes you need to oppose eachother, before you can appreciate that it's better to work together.
Last edited by Pears; 22nd February 2014 at 02:03 PM.
Are aromachems easier to blend, at least for simple accords? With the exception of hedione
and benzyl salicylate, which seem to have huge "non-linear" effects..
(Easier = easier to anticipate, less change in maturation, etc,..)
Justin E. Beasley
Justin, I wasn't talking about your stance in particular. I think that we all find ourselves on one side of the fence at times and forget that the opposite side has equal validity. Sometime you'll read of people, who either through divine intervention, or brain damage, come to see both sides of the fence. I'm also a philosopher but I've come to realise that while we're heavily engaged in thought, we're never at peace. We were born to think but through the conditioning that we received at school, we have become over-thinkers. It can be a real strain. Certain eastern schools of philosophy can help to redress the balance in that regard but so can anything that encourages you to get in the zone, like sports, the arts, etc.
Seems like perfumery is a pretty heady art
chemical became very strong (Paul mentioned something like this).. Could this happen with
mixes which are entirely made of chemicals (I mean, about a dozen chemicals, not 200..)?
Though I guess as a rule, things should be more simple with chemicals..
Can you say that we don't benefit from these plants and that every aspect of that plant that we do benefit from is of our own doing? No, we evolved along with these plants, we do manipulate them because they are useful and provide benefit but the REALLY useful aspects of those plants is NOT of our doing and we do not, as of yet, understand how some parts of these things benefit us. Regardless of how much we have manipulated the plant the fact remains that most of that plant and most of the plants benefit was not of our doing, we did not create the plant, we just manipulated certain aspects of the plant. The plant thrives because we find it useful and manipulate it to be beneficial in certain ways but the plant provides just as much use to us without our manipulations and we have manipulated it because we found it useful. So, perhaps symbiosis was the wrong word to use, maybe I should have said “we have a complex and not well understood relationship with plants, microbes and other animals that comprise our earths system which in turn benefits us in ways that we do not fully understand”…
Science acknowledges that 60-70% of our digestive processes are dependent on beneficial bacteria (my wife learned this in pharmacy school) and yet we do everything we can to eliminate ALL bacteria in our living environment, why? We absolutely do benefit from certain bacteria, this mindset of all bacteria being bad because it’s stinky or ugly, or whatever, is harming us and doing real damage to our health and our environment. Do we benefit from certain bacteria? Yes. Does it benefit from us? Yes. Is this a symbiosis? Yes. Should we manipulate these bacteria? I don’t know but we should be really careful how we do this. Plants benefit from bacteria too and we derive benefit from the plant. Do we understand how this plant/human/bacteria relationship works? Not really… These are complex processes and they are processes that we don’t completely understand yet. A couple of years ago I spoke with a virologist at a cooperative children's center, we had a conversation about beneficial bacteria. He told me that modern science is just now discovering HOW important bacteria are to our living systems, “this is an emerging and growing field of study in industry and academic settings” he tells me. The concept of beneficial bacteria has been touted and promoted, anecdotally, as an important element of human health by the "natural" community for decades (at least) yet we have waged active wars on all bacteria for decades and still do, despite what science is currently saying.
Is it prudent to believe that we know enough about the systems of human biology and of the environment, that keeps the human race alive? Do we know enough to change the genetics of our food? Is it smart to destroy natural biodiversity? Is it good to kill all bacteria and supplement those things with man made replacements or take more drugs to counter the health problems that are occurring as a result? Do we really know enough to manipulate our environment in irreversible ways? These questions are difficult and complicated, we would be cavalier, at best, to ignore them or think we have then answered completely. Is there an inherent wisdom in nature? I don’t think there is true “wisdom” in the way that we define wisdom from a human-centric, intellectual, viewpoint but I think there is a lack of wisdom in humans who don’t respect the complex relationship we have with nature and who believe that they know enough to replace our living systems with man made systems entirely. While it has not always been ideal our indigenous biome has provided a working and self sustaining system by which to grow and thrive, to say that this is absolutely NOT a symbiosis or to say that this system is of poor design might be a bit presumptuous from my viewpoint because if we stand back and look at the big picture we don't really know enough to say.
Last edited by JEBeasley; 23rd February 2014 at 11:18 PM.
Justin E. Beasley
Justin, your reply (No. 49) above is unfortunately too long to comment upon in great detail. I agree with some of the points you make, disagree with others.
Having said all that, I didn't say nature was sentinent (in human terms), but appreciate your angle which helps me clarify that. You were nonetheless correct to call me out for being unclear.
"Wisdom" referred to the way the organization of nature appears to humans, as if it was wisdom. In humans, it's consciousness, and literally everything we know is via consciousness. But there are some similarities to consciousness in the rest of nature (even sentinence, in that nature has an ability to self correct, which logically implies something akin to "self" awareness of the necessary data for self correction), but the patterns and "self-oriented behavior" (e.g., self correction) of nature transcends the consciousness of its members (e.g., us), and we do not know the nature of that systematic organization. The "wisdom" of nature has to do at least with adaptveness (and also homeostasis, in the immediate moment, despite larger forces of change), and with the countless interactions of different aspects or elements of nature toward the apparent end of adaptiveness vis a vis its host planet. These phenomena are pretty much beyond dispute as solid science, the countless ways in which the different aspects of nature work together, and any kind of study of ecosystems and biology will cover this. You would have to reject the whole concept of "ecosystems" per se to reject what I'm talking about here. There is no need for me to defend what is common scientific knowledge. But it would not be difficult to go there.
As part of a natural ecosystem, humans naturally do exist in symbiotic relation with other elements of nature. This is true of any two elements of nature, and such is the nature of an ecosystem, which will tend toward continued existence, at least.
For example, we pick fruit from a tree, and by eating the fruit we spread the seeds around the ecosystem enabling the tree to reproduce. As a result of helping the species of tree, we eat better. That is nothing if not symbiosis. Conversely, to the extent we are not symbiotic with nature we will join the ranks of failed species, and be replaced by a more adaptive species, just as biology predicts. If we kill off trees, we will have hell to pay, and the same goes with our oceans and atmosphere.
But we are part of nature, and we originally fit in, in countless ways. This is another long discussion, but we are not different from any other mammal, animal or plant. What would flowers be without bees? We are so much fertilizer, at least. Nature is symbiotic, and there are thousands of examples, which I will start detailing if you should require me to. That is the accepted baseline for our understanding, throughout the natural sciences. We are not different from the rest of nature, or separate from it, despite our (maladaptive) arrogance as humans. Earth Nature will, thankfully, from its survival "perspective", kill us before we kill it (as we're not going to blow up the whole planet), precisely because of its special kind of "wisdom".
So "wisdom" was indeed a metaphor, but an apt and informative one, in my opinion. Nature has something akin to consciousness; in that it's meticulous organization easily makes sense; and tends toward "making some kind of sense", just like human consciousness; as nature appears to humans. As the study of human consciousness, psychology is literally the study of sense making. But the "sense" of nature, biology teaches us, relates fundamentally to discernable biological law, specifically adaptation.
But it is obviously not literally human consciousness, but its own thing that we cannot know directly, except via its effects. I'm not saying it's personhood, because the sensable organization of nature obviously transcends personhood, which is nonetheless part of it. Whatever it is in nature that transcends and subsumes personal consciousness -- whatever that is, is whatever it is. To pretend to define it, to trace its limits, would be to deny its essential transcendence, which is one of the few things we can say about it. So using metaphor is the best it gets.
We have only begun significantly destroying the environment very, very recently, historically speaking, as of the industrial age. It is an aspect of contemporary Western culture, to a significant extent. Native American culture is quite different, and was very caught up in respecting and maintaining the balance of nature. Many other cultures have been that way as well. Western culture is much more caught up in setting ourselves up as separate from, opposed to, and superior to nature, which is really a philosophical artifact of Western religion.. We are perhaps turning into the maladaptive exception, that proves the adaptation rule of modern Darwinistic biology. Our decisions to milk nature for immediate selfish pleasure and infinite greed are not without negative consequence via nature, and already the world economy (notice the instructive similarity between that word and "eco-system") suffers from diminished natural resources per capita as compared to the historically recent past. To the extent we are kind to nature, it can in turn be kind to us, and nurture us, as it is so amazingly good at, under normal, healthy conditions.
Sorry for the long post, but I had a lot of ground to cover to make the case I had to make.
Last edited by DrSmellThis; 25th February 2014 at 07:23 AM.
Dr S, once again your post is far too long for me to comment on it in any great detail, but I agree with pretty well all of it; although I would possibly use some different terminology.
One point only (well maybe two). Man is the only animal that can control his environment as completely as he does, which is why the same species is found just about everywhere on the planet.
Secondly (I said possibly two!). Man has been "destroying the environment" (I prefer to use the term "Change") ever since the very first humanoid, dug the very first hole in the ground. I agree with you that our rapacious exploitation of the planet will, ultimately damage ourselves, but I do not think of it has destroying the environment; the environment is being changed, it is our environment that is being destroyed. There is a difference.
I wish I could continue this fascinating topic with you and Justin; maybe shorter posts with just a point or two in each.
And there really is no need for the buttering up, although it is most enjoyable.
Apologize for staying on topic, but I was wondering if isomers (such as eugenol and isoeugenol)
can be told apart when doing GC/MS..
Generally speaking yes. You will often see the different isomers of Iso E Super separated in a GC. A GC can be tweaked to achieve a specific separation by varying the stationary and mobile phases and changing the flow rate of the mobile phase or the temperature gradient. Co-eluting peaks (ingredients) can also be detected. So yes but it depends on the conditions of operation of the GC.
Hmm.. I was asking because GC's of the same plants showed 5% of eugenol and no isoeugenol,
and the opposite in another GC..
One possibility is that there is a difference in the plants due to different sources of origin the other is that the component has been misidentified due to instrument or operator error, particularly if they elute very close together. A GC of a complex system such as an essential oil is not an absolute both qualitatively and quantitatively.
I guess I'll try both.
It's weird that given such different compositions of EO's, we can usually identify the plant..
(For cestrum - most GC's of the oils didn't show phenyl acetaldehyde, linalool nor benzyl
acetate, yet some did, and it seems that they're pretty necessary for the scent)..
I think that's because we don't use GC to identify plants. A given genus and species of plant will always produce a variation in composition of odour components. A GC will only give you a piece of the puzzle whether its a GC of a perfume or an essential oil. I don't think it will ever give you a reproducible formula.