There are about 200 different varieties of Jasmine flowers. Members of the olive family, these fragrant blossoms are native to tropical and warm temperate regions, of Asia, Africa and Australia. They have migrated into Mediterranean Europe by way of Iran. Jasminum Fluminense, wich is sometimes inaccurately called, “Brazilian Jasmine” and Jasminum dichotomum, or “Gold Coast Jasmine” have become invasive. However, they are encouraged and enjoyed plants in Hawaii and Florida.
Jasmine can be either deciduous or evergreen, and grows in the form of both bushes and vines. The flowers vary in size depending on the species and are usually white or yellow in color, although in rare instances they can have a slightly red hue. The flowers are prized for their delicate fragrance. A curious trait of jasmine flowers is that their fragrance becomes most pronounced at night. The blossoms begin to open between six and eight in the evening as the temperature cools, but remain shut tight durring daylight hours.
Jasmine flowers are a prized tea ingredient. In China the flowers are enjoyed by themselves as a tea and are also used as a base of green tea. The tea and flowers are carefully heated by machines that regulate the humidity and temperature. After several hours the tea begins to absorb the flavor of the jasmine flowers. In high grade jasmine green teas, this process may be repeated up to seven times.
Jasmine is considered an absolute rather than an essential oil due to the method of processing the flowers. The flowers are much too delicate and would be destroyed by the distillation process that produces essential oils. Jasmine oil is produced either through the ancient method of enfleurage or through chemical extraction. The absolute can then be used by itself or added to perfumes and incense.
Jasmine flowers are a symbol of cultural importance throughout many countries. In India the flowers are cultivated in many homes for use in regular worship as well as adornment for the women in the household. It is used in ritual ceremonies such as marriages and festivals. Garlands of jasmine flowers are a common sight among street vendors and around entrances to temples.
The Tunisian revolutions of 1987 and 2011 are both referred to as “Jasmine revolutions” and the flowers were also used as a symbol in the 2011 pro-democracy protests that took place in the People’s Republic of China. In Thailand, jasmine flowers are a symbol of motherhood. Several countries and states consider jasmine to be a national symbol, including Hawaii, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines.
In Southeast Asia jasmine flower tea is used as a soothing eyewash. The leaves and roots are used to treat fevers and burns. In aromatherapy, Jasmine oil is said to have antidepressant and relaxing properties. It can also provide relief for dry or sensitive skin.
Jasmine grows best in warm climates, but will survive in a sunroom or greenhouse. They like rich soil with plenty of ripened compost. They are drought tolerant and like to be watered every third day. The best way to cultivate is by beginning with a cutting from an already established plant.
1.) Bremness, Lesley, “Dorling Kindersley Handbooks: Herbs,” Dorling Kindersley, London, 1994