When the moon rises in the hot, humid tropics of Central America, the scent of ecstasy fills the air. It is the fragrance of seduction and sensuality, an enticement to relax and let the heady aroma seep into your very soul. It is the potent allure of the delicate Tuberose flower, opening its tender long petals only at night to bask in the silvery rays of the moonlight and captivate all within its realm.
From this bewitching flower, the universe gifts us with the captivating floral fragrance of tuberose absolute. It is the darling of the perfume world, used in countless perfumes and colognes for decades. Estee Lauder’s granddaughter even created a Private Collection tuberose gardenia perfume in honor of her grandmother.
The Provocative Path of Polianthes Tuberosa
Tuberose enthralls all who have the good fortune of experiencing its beauty and aroma, attracting a wide range of poetic nicknames and honorific titles. It has been called “Night Queen”, “Mistress of the Night”, “King of Fragrance”, “Fragrance Under the Moon” and “Scent of the World”, by some of the cultures who have come to love tuberose’s beguiling scent and bountiful uses. The Chinese say it is a flower as precious as jade. For one famous French perfumer, tuberose is his muse.
While the delightful and winsome flower originated in Central America and southern Mexico, it is found all over the world as culture after culture adopts it as their own. First, it was transported through the Philippines to India. It also found its way to the Languedoc when Spanish conquistadors made their way back to Europe from Central America. It landed in Provence in 1632 via Persian traders. In early 17th-century India, it was named “Hyacinthus indicus tuberosa radice”, or “Indian hyacinth”.
By the time the Italian Renaissance swept through Europe, the sensual and voluptuous qualities of tuberose were infamous. It has always had a reputation as an aphrodisiac, from the Aztec to the Hawaiians. In Renaissance Italy, though, the rapturous nature of tuberose was a cautionary tale. There, unmarried girls were forbidden from walking through gardens planted with tuberose, lest the flower rouse her libidinous thoughts in an area where men could be provoked by the stimulating aroma.
A Complex Aroma
Much of tuberose’s mesmerizing scent is due to its unique complexity. Its layers of scent defy simple description. Perfumer Pierre Benard notes that the flower has distinct aromas of many other flowers. It has the headiness of narcissus and the exotic aroma of frangipani and gardenia with a touch of coconut oil on sun-kissed skin. There’s also a buttery, honeyed note and, perhaps, a touch of gingerbread. However you describe this lush floral scent, you’re just as likely as the rest of us to become enamoured with the aroma.
A Panoply of Uses for Polianthes Tuberosa
- Aphrodisiac. A variety of cultures have used tuberose oil as a heady libido stimulant, and researchers believe there may be some science to this benefit too. It’s believed the oil improves blood circulation, stimulating arousal responses to the aroma.
- Relaxation. Tuberose absolute oil contains a number of chemical components that trigger relaxation responses in the brain and nervous system. A recent study seems to support this theory, showing that tuberose aromatherapy significantly decreased anxiety among a large group of student test-takers.
- Deodorant. The delightful aroma of tuberose is already well documented. You can make your own personal fragrance or room deodorizer by adding a few drops of tuberose absolute to a water-filled spray bottle for a quick refreshment of your space.
- Antiseptic. Tuberose contains eugenol, a phenylpropene known to work as a helpful antiseptic for small cuts and scrapes as well as other areas that can potentially come into contact with infection-causing germs.
- Heart Chakra. Tuberose is an excellent aid in awakening or balancing the heart chakra, arousing love and compassion.
- The ancient Mayans cherished tuberose as the “origin of the gods”, and used it to enhance transcendental work.
Tuberose absolute should never be taken internally. As an aromatherapy and topical application, though, it seems to be generally safe. If your skin is sensitive, always dilute the oil in a carrier oil and test a small patch of skin before using the oil more extensively. The aroma of this oil is strong, so be aware that using large amounts may cause scent-induced headaches and nerve irritation.
- Botanical Name: Polianthes tuberosa
- Common Method of Extraction: Solvent extracted
- Plant Part Typically Used: Flowers
- Colour Deep orange/Golden brown:
- Consistency: Medium
- Perfumery Note: Top
- Strength of Initial Aroma: Strong
- Aromatic Description: Complex, exotic, sweet, floral