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December 22, 2008

Have your own business with Lavender's Botanicals

We probably won't play it much around here, where we live it every day, but I happened across a computer game called Lavender's Botanicals.

Expand your all-natural personal care business while helping your community in Lavender’s Botanicals! Travel the world and meet people who will help you find new ingredients, recipes, new production facilities and more!

As your business grows, you’ll have to keep your production facilities stocked with resources while developing new products to keep up with the market and increase sales. If you do well and keep yourself true to your all-natural dream, you’ll earn great rewards!

I downloaded the trial version to check it out. For that, I get 60 minutes of game play before I have to drag out my credit card and spend $20 on the full version.  I can Discover 56 Recipes, Solve more than 90 quests, Visit 17 unique cities, and make over 200 products.

I read through the 22 pages of help screens, lowered the music level, put the game into a window, and played the game for 19 minutes. I managed to make 6 bottles of Lavender Lotion in that time, as well as exploring the home city and talking to the aunt who is the player's mentor.

The game screens are educational in nature, providing information about ingredients and products. The product list, at least at the beginning, is limited, but you have to go searching for ingredients before you can use them.

I would guess this game is aimed at teenagers, and it appears to be an excellent educational tool about running a natural products business.

The game is from uclickgames. Derek Nolen was the Executive Producer and provided the Game Concept.  Mystery Studio was the Developer.

If you're interested in a more complete review, try this review by Marc Saltzman on GameZebo.

Posted by Rob on December 22, 2008 in Book/Movie Reviews, Education, Marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 16, 2008

IFRA Gives Up Supporting More Natural Aromatics: Opoponax & Styrax Next for the Chop

by Tony Burfield December 2008

For a long time, many of us have suspected, rightly or wrongly, that IFRA’s underlying policy agenda is primarily to support synthetic aroma chemicals at the expense of natural aromatic ingredients. This is because synthetics have attractions over natural aromatics for the major aroma industry players, who, after all, financially support the IFRA/RIFM/REXPAN toxicology juggernaut. These perceived advantages include the fact that synthetic aroma chemicals are compositionally non-complex, which infers paybacks for simpler regulatory safety compliance. They are invariably cheaper, they can sometimes be produced in-house, & they and their applications may be patentable. Their composition is constant, and unlike natural aromatic ingredients, their price stability & constancy of supply are variables which are not so subject to the vagaries of the world’s ever-changing climate.

To set the scene further, IFRA have failed recently to properly support the continued use of citrus oils in perfumery in relation to the EU Cosmetic Commissioner’s proposed draconian restrictions arising from possible photo-carcinogenic risks from contained FCF’s, and look equally likely to cave in over SCCP proposals to limit atranol & chloratranol in lichen products (oakmoss, treemoss, cedarmoss etc.). IFRA’s failure to support santolina oil and melissa oil can also be added to the list. This policy of abandoning of ingredients they regard as less important, indicates that IFRA are not supporting the wider interests of the perfumery art, but merely reflecting the narrower business interests of their major sponsors. There is a vacancy to be urgently filled, therefore, for a competent safety organisation with a wider brief.

In a new departure, IFRA’s Information Letter 815 indicates that opoponax (which they claim botanically derives from ‘Commiphora Erythrea var. glabrascens Engler’ – we have reproduced their incorrect botanical formatting) does not have robust enough data to allow application of Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA) methodology, and that there is a need for more ‘up to date’ sensitization data. IFRA claims it cannot support the required studies financially, and without these studies there is a high risk that IFRA will prohibit the material. Similarly for styrax (which they claim, with slightly more botanical accuracy, is obtained from exudations of ‘Liquidambar Styraciflua L. var. macrophylla or Liquidambar Orientalis Mill.’). It is not our fault, however, that IFRA have adopted a policy over sensitiser potency estimation (i.e. the QRA methodology) which it seemingly can’t afford, and which both the SCCP & Cropwatch have widely criticised as being flawed in practice (see Cropwatch Newsletter at http://www.cropwatch.org/newslet13.pdf).

Bear with me whilst we revisit the botany again. Mabberley (1998), Langenham (2003), Gachathi (1997) and others, describe opoponax qualities deriving not only from Commiphora erythraea Engl. var. glabrescrens Engl. growing in Somalia, Kenya, E. Ethiopia, and S. Arabia, but also from other species such C. guidottii (Chiov) from S. Somalia & Ethiopia, which Mabberley, the ANLAP data-base and Cropwatch regard as the primary source of opoponax. Other species used as a source of opoponax include C. kataf (Forssk.) Engl., C. holtiziana Engl. spp. holtziana & C. pseudopaoli JB Gillet. Cropwatch previously briefly reviewed the chemistry of the essential oils from these species at http://www.cropwatch.org/cropwatch11.htm. Let’s also remember that the SCCP Opinion on opoponax oil (Sensitisation only) SCCP/0871/05 adopted 15th March 2005 can be found at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/health/ph_risk/committees/04_sccp/docs/sccp_o_025b.pdf. Here the SCCP committee concluded that “The provided data do indicate that Commiphora Erythraea Glabrescens has an allergenic potential.” Cropwatch, you might remember, declared the SCCP Opinion on opoponax sensitization scientifically invalid on a number of points, not the least that the RIFM evidence cited failed to accurately identify the botanical & geographic origins of opoponax qualities used in the sensitivity protocol testing, and failed to establish the absence of adulteration, and dismissed the remainder of the evidence too flimsy to merit serious consideration.

Opoponax oil is a useful material that the perfumery art cannot afford to lose. Freshly dipped on a perfumers strip it is sweet, oily, and balsamic and almost effervescent in character, and is used in oriental accords, and to reinforce opoponax resinoids. It also finds use to freshen top notes in apple accords and to give a sweet lift to chypre fragrances. Whereas opoponax oil is primarily a top-note material, the sweeter, buttery, toffee-like and balsamic opoponax absolute is used in oriental-type fragrances as part of the sweet balsamic base notes. Under the existing IFRA Standard, opoponax extracts and distillates prepared from the gum must not exceed 0.6% concentration in product.

Styrax also, apparently, to be potentially abandoned by IFRA on QRA testing-cost grounds, also has an important place in the art of perfumery and is derived from a number of Liquidambar spp.: Liquidambar styraciflua L. var. macrophylla; L. styraciflua L. var. orientalis; L. styraciflua L. var. integriloba, & L. styraciflua L. var. formosana. Styrax gums have been banned IFRA since 1977; only extracts & distillates are permitted under the existing IFRA Standard, and the final concentration in product must not exceed 0.6%. Styrax resinoid has a complex odour comprising sweet, balsamic & fresh elements and possesses a great deal of lift & radiance. It has been used in perfumery as a fixative in oriental fragrances, and in chypres. It is also useful in constructing hyacinth and leather notes, and for powdery accords, with vanillin, heliotropin etc. As Cropwatch points out in its latest Threatened Species Data-base A-Z listing, styrax qualities used to be heavily used as fragrance ingredients, but IFRA requirements to produce a skin-neutral product have resulted in ingredients with less useful attractive odour characteristics, and so its fragrance ingredient usage has plummeted. So not only has IFRA been instrumental in the decline of styrax usage in perfumery, it is now apparently performing the last rites over a fatally disabled ingredient. Although commercially available from several producing areas, Honduras (‘American’) and Turkish (‘Asian’) styrax from Liquidamber styraciflua & L. orientalis respectively have dominated the market, but the US has always favoured the Honduras material. However with worries that the Liquidamber orientalis forest in the Eastern Mediterranean/Turkey is now greatly reduced through wood-felling and resin extraction (Topal et al. 2008 say the species is facing extinction), Cropwatch can no longer support the use of commodities from this species in perfumery.

The inevitable reduction in availability of Asian styrax as the Turkish forests disappear, will probably result in the increased extraction of other styrax sources. Just as long as they leave the styrax trees alone in the Valley of the Butterflies on the island of Rhodes.…


Gachathi F. N. (1997) “Recent Advances on Classification and Status of Main Gum-Producing Species in the Family Burseraceae” available at http://www.fao.org/documents/show_cdr.asp?url_file=/docrep/X0098e/X0098e01.htm

Langenham J. (2003) Plant Resins: Chemistry, Evolution, Ecology, Ethnobotany Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

Mabberley D.J. (1998) The Plant Book 2nd rev edn. Cambridge Univ. Press.

Topal U., Sassaki M., Goto M. & Otles S. (2008) “Chemical compositions and antioxidant properties of essential oils from nine species of Turkish plants obtained by supercritical carbon dioxide extraction and steam distillation.” International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition 59(7-8), 619-634.

Posted by Tony Burfield on December 16, 2008 in Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Perfumery, Regulatory Issues, Safety/Toxicity | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 15, 2008

Sandalwood – A Critical View of Developments

by Tony Burfield December 2008

Four Santalum (Sandalwood) species are present in the IUCN Red List 2008, including the extinct Santalum fernandezianum. The more familiar Santalum album L. is one of the remaining three, being assessed as Vulnerable in 1998, but a more detailed breakdown of the eco-status of individual Santalum species from various geographical locations, with ancillary notes, is available on the Cropwatch website, in the A-Z Section of the latest update of the Threatened Aromatics Plants data-base, at http://www.cropwatch.org/Threatened Aromatic Species v1.09.pdf

A comprehensive Sandalwood bibliography, together with many abstracts & (often critical) Cropwatch comments, is also available at http://www.cropwatch.org/SandalwoodbibV.pdf. These two resources should help empower potential sandalwood oil buyers to decide for themselves, just how ethical their purchasing intentions might prove to be.

The shortage of Sandalwood oil East Indian has been caused especially by the ravages of spike disease and to a lesser extent by fire, vandalism, animal damage & by other factors, on the existing Indian Sandalwood forests in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and the ruthless over-exploitation of this declining resource by illegal distillers, smugglers and corrupt officials. Arguably the over-exploitation of Sandalwood only came about because of the persistent market demand for Sandalwood logs for incense, wood carving & furniture making, and the demand for Sandalwood oil itself (which some have estimated at 250 tons/annum), despite warnings of serious depletion from eco-aware groups. A few years back, some aromatherapy profession officials and certain aromatherapy essential oil trading group representatives belittled the threat to Sandalwood (see Cropwatch bibliography), and inferred that if any blame was to be apportioned at all, it should be laid at the door of the major users, the fragrance industry. You will note that even now, within the EU, nationally-run aromatherapy vocational courses still feature Sandalwood oil for study, in spite of representations from Cropwatch to the organisers. The incense trade, of course, have ignored their obligations almost completely, and as far as we can tell, many parts of the conventional perfumery trade have done the same.

Alexandre Choueiri (2008), head of Lancome UK, speaking at the Sandalwood Conference 2008, Kununurra, W. Australia , notes that of 7,000 classified fragrances since the year 1750, 3212 contain sandalwood notes. Drawing on data from Fragrances of the World by Michael Edwards, Choueiri makes the point that of (only) 106 current fragrances now listing Sandalwood, only 36 detail Indian Sandalwood, and of those, only 16 detail Mysore Sandalwood. Of the 36 fragrances marketed by leading fragrance houses, I counted 3 supplied by IFF, 2 by Robertet, 9 by IFF, 4 by Drom, 2 by Takasago & 3 by Firmenich Of these 16 current fragrances allegedly employing Mysore Sandalwood, 4 are supplied by IFF, 2 by Givaudin (Quest), 1 by Firmenich, and 1 by Symrise. So what are we to gather from this? That the use of Sandalwood oil in fragrances is in decline, but that major aroma corporates are still ruthlessly exploiting what remains of the world's Sandalwood reserves? If they are, they are not alone in doing this. Another speaker at the conference, Venkatesha Gowda, who works for the R&D Dept. of Karnataka Soaps & Detergents Ltd., a long-time manufacturer of Sandalwood soap, maintains that in spite of the official figures (14 tons/annum of Sandalwood oil exported from Tamil Nadu during 2007-8), the current (2008) annual production of Sandalwood is actually 3,000 - 4,000 tons and for Sandalwood oil it stands at 120-150 tons, of which 80 tons/annum of Sandalwood oil is consumed by the domestic market. Gowda also remarks that Sandalwood oil is adulterated by polyethylene glycols, African sandalwood oil (Osyris lanceolata), castor oil and coconut oil, and that he has been involved in planting Osyris lanceolata in India (but hopefully not with trees smuggled out of Tanzania!). As a passing comment, a simple solubility test with 70% ethanol can easily be carried out by prospective Sandalwood oil buyers (if you are unaware of the details, contact Cropwatch), which is often a good indicator of the presence of adulterants such as fixed oils. OK, its not rocket science, but sometimes it’s a good on-the-spot resort!

Also of interest, is the fact that the Lush company publicly own up to using 1 ton per annum of New Caledonian Sandalwood oil (see http://www.lush.co.uk/Shop/FeatureDetail.aspx?fdShopFeatureId=6888) and have forwardly contracted to buy TFS Australian sandalwood (Bird 2008), as confirmed by Mark Lincoln of Lush Australasia, speaking at the Kununurra Conference. Cropwatch has reservations about the ecological effects from the abstraction of such large volumes of Sandalwood oil from New Caledonia (bearing in mind that Lush are not the only buyers of the oil from this limited source); & none of the information presented on our various data-bases supports this rate of extraction (see for yourselves!). We remain open to persuasion that this policy can be truly sustainable, according to our strict interpretation of the word, but would only be too happy to review and post up any forwarded evidence to the contrary.

Of course it is well publicised that Australia has ambitions to become a major supplier of oil from Santalum album oil in the future (see the multitude of articles on this subject in the Cropwatch Sandalwood bibliography), and the Kununurra Sandalwood Conference 2008 can primarily be seen as a conference designed by TFS mainly to re-assure investors in Australian Sandalwood plantations. Indeed, the trade magazine Perfumer & Flavorist, once the flagship magazine for the industry, apparently reproduced the conference organiser’s promotional material without critical comment - to us, another sign of the slipping standards of this once-great magazine. Overall, Cropwatch remains skeptical of the ability of the Australian sandalwood machine to supply Sandalwood oils in the volumes estimated, of being an acceptable odour quality, & at a price that the market is prepared to pay, bearing in mind the current economic climate, the downward pressure on aroma ingredient prices, and the easy availability of cheap synthetic sandalwood aroma chemicals.

Cropwatch is persuaded that with proper policies & investments, some Sandalwood sources can be made truly sustainable, and we believe this may well the case in Vanuatu. However, taking pure Sandalwood oil East Indian as a benchmark, the odour profiles of Sandalwood oils from other geographical locations and/or other species are usually different in character, and lack fine notes, and may be over-sweet (as with East African Sandalwood oil) or predominantly woody-camphoraceous (as with Chinese Sandalwood oil), or just plain lacking in impact & character (as with Indonesian Sandalwood oil). From here, the future looks difficult for Sandalwood.

(All references can be located in the 68 pp. Sandalwood bibliography mentioned above).

Posted by Tony Burfield on December 15, 2008 in Conservation, Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Oil Crops | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Aromaconnection Nominated for Best Fragrance Blog

We've been nominated (along with a bunch of other blogs) for Best Perfume Blog for 2008, sponsored by Fragrantica, a new Perfume and Cologne magazine. If you're inclined to vote for us (or vote for some of the other nominated blogs) you can click on the logo in the upper right corner of the screen to go to the nomination page. Voting extends through December 22, which is coming up soon! We've also added Fragrantica to our Site Links.

Posted by Rob on December 15, 2008 in Perfumery, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 04, 2008

Aromatics in Print

This is a new series that will review aromatics information found in the print media. When possible a web link will be provided. Items that have broader information available may stimulate a full blog post as a followup.

  • Plants and People: Society for Economic Botany Newsletter, Volume 22, Fall 2008 announced a meeting held in Vietnam November 1-4, 2008: Cultivated Agarwood in Vietnam: A Guided Field Tour of Successful Agarwood Production in the Mekong Delta.  The seminar was organized by Seven Mountain Co. and presenters were Robert Blanchette, University of Minnesota, and Henry Heuveling van Beek.  For more information about Cultivated Agarwood (Aquilaria crassna) see this link. Plants and People is posted online in PDF format. We've blogged about agarwood in Vietnam earlier.
  • This issue also included (p 15) a list of "Recent Publications on Medicinal Plants from India."
  • The Herb Companion (January 2009) reviews the book: The Unlikely Lavender Queen by Jeannie Ralston, which is available at amazon.com.
  • Herb Companion also has a short piece on home distillation of "Herbal Waters" and suggests that the distillation process destroys the antioxidant properties of the herbs distilled. They cite an article from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 55:8436-8443, "Antioxidant Activity and Phenolic Composition of Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia Emeric ex Loiseleur) Waste (Abstract available but they still charge for the article).
  • Herb Companion discusses and links to the new International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP) which, in my understanding, is still a work in progress. They also link to a newly formed Fairwild Foundation which will have responsibility for final implementation and the quality of the standard.
  • The December issue of perfumer&flavorist leads off with and editorial: "Everyone's a Critic: Are Fragrance Bloggers and Critics Good for the Industry?" Jeb Gleason-Allured, the Editor concludes that "yes, fragrance criticism and bloggers are ultimately good for the industry. A lively and devoted discourse is the lifeblood of any art form, and fragrance has for too long been ignored. . ."
  • In the same issue of p&f, there are a number of articles addressing the subject of naturals in the Fragrance industry: "(Not) Lost in Translation", p. 41; a sidebar on p. 42 on "the Challenge of Organics and Natural Material Sourcing"; "Defining 'Natural'" [a discussion of the Natural Products Association's Seal] on pp 44-46; "Natural Stories: Ylang-ylang" pp 47-51. There is also a review of a recent talk by New York Times scent critic Chandler Burr on "The Future of Naturals in Perfumery", p. 20. The editorial direction of P&F seems to be moving in the direction of accepting and using Natural products, probably under the Editorship of the (relatively) young Jeb Gleason-Allured, and Natural Products Editor Brian Lawrence.
  • The November 2008 issue of the AARP Bulletin has a piece in its Health Section (p. 26) entitled "The Scent of Roses for Rosy Dreams." It references a study done in Germany in which researchers administered the scent of roses, rotten eggs, or an unscented control to 15 women after they entered REM sleep. When awakened one minute later, they reported their dreams. The rose resulted in dreams with a positive emotional tone, while the rotten eggs produced the opposite. A more detailed report on the study is online in Health News.

Posted by Rob on December 4, 2008 in Aromatics in Print, Book/Movie Reviews, Oil Crops, Perfumery, Research, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack