Essential Oil of the Month May 2022: Champaca

Our Essential Oil of the month for May 2022 is Champaca (Magnolia champaca), the most expensive oil at Cathy’s Attars!

Having spent most of my adult life in France, where their deep knowledge and use of oils is restricted mainly to those they can produce themselves, I had never heard of Champaca before I smelled it in India. Florian of course had, due to his predilection for exotic fragrances. 

I remember him being so excited when he smelled it. He was too shy to ask for a sample due to the price of this magical being. When we returned to the States and were deciding on our first order, he decided he would just HAVE to add a little champaca. So that is how it started, how we began to live with this huge and powerful scent in our lives. Apparently, our word ‘shampoo’ is a derivative of the hindu word ‘champo’, which is at the root of the word champaca and means to massage. This is because champaca was traditionally used in India to make fragrant oils that were used to massage the head. 

So who is Champaca? Champaca is a tree in the magnolia family, one of the oldest flowering botanical families, native to India and South-east Asia and known for its large, creamy-colored, waxy, star-shaped, fragrant flowers out of which the absolute is made. It is an absolute, because the fragrance of these exotic flowers get completely lost with the heat of steam distillation.  

Other names you may see this beautiful tree called are: Joy perfume tree, and golden champa. Considered extremely sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists, these beautiful flowers with their long-lasting scent have been dedicated to the Gods since time immemorial. The oldest form of Buddhism believed champaca is the tree to help achieve enlightenment. In Tibetan Buddhism, they believed that the next Buddha would find enlightenment under the flower canopy of the champaca tree. Have you noticed the flowers floating in bowls of water in Buddhist temples?

The Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth and prosperity who symbolizes purity, fertility and beauty and shows humans how to transcend material wealth for spiritual growth was given champaca flowers by Kama, the Lord of love in honor of her beauty. She put the flowers in her hair and the flowers became a symbol of the Goddess. 

The aroma is very deep, penetrating and intense. It wafts through the night filling the immediate vicinity and beyond. Imagine walking through a grove of these beautiful trees at night to be hit with a subtle, intoxicating, mysterious floral aroma emanating from these three tiered star-like flowers reflecting the moon. No wonder the Gods were offered this sacred fragrance!

The effects of the Champaca’s aroma stimulates and soothes simultaneously. It stimulates our aliveness, our sensuality and embodied magnificence, while helping us to calm and relax so we can enjoy our earthly existence to its fullest. It oozes love, which is why I believe it was used to symbolize love – the love of the Gods, the love between lovers and above all universal love. It can be helpful to smell Champaca when you want to add a drop of love into your work as a practitioner, or during a difficult conversation with a partner. On the other end of the scale from embodiment, it also helps us to contact the more subtle aspects of what it is to be human, our intuition and inner knowing. It brings clarity to our ability to listen to and honor this part of ourselves while still being able to feel its euphoric, uplifting signature. 

We use Champaca in the work of AromaGnosis because of the way it touches, strengthens and brings awareness to all aspects of the psyche (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual bodies). So although this is one of the most expense and precious fragrant oils on the planet, it is also a tremendous being to have in the tool box bringing great balance and subtle awareness to all parts of the Self.