August 11, 2012

lilac flower essence

So many people adore lilacs – and for some it’s their favorite flower of all time. Part of the magic is that they only bloom for a short time, so it brings back a specific type of nostalgic time for people … after the freezing cold winter, when the sun comes out, the days are warmer and the excitement about springtime is abound. Lilacs also bloom near Mother’s Day and remind some people of their mothers and grandmothers.

I remember being enchanted by lilac flowers when I was a small child in Minnesota. I think I must’ve been about four years old. Somewhere in a box – in a closet somewhere – there’s an old polaroid photo of me sitting on the ground underneath giant lilac bushes that were bursting with flowers.

When I think of the lilacs from that time – they are the epitome of total abundance – bunches and bunches of exquisitely fragrant flowers. Each little individual flower is like a star and its fragrance is soft and gentle, yet powerful.

Butterflies love lilacs, too! They are the pollinators of lilacs, so anytime you’re around these colorful beauties, the magic and gentle fluttering of butterflies abounds.

Lilacs are native to Asia and Eastern Europe. They were brought to the Americas in the 1600’s. Like many plants that were transported across the big oceans to the Americas, the first Lilacs were planted in botanical gardens. Both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew Lilacs in their personal gardens.

Lilacs are in the broader genus of Oleaceae, which is the olive family. Surprisingly, there are 1,000 different varieties of Lilac bushes and trees! Lilac bushes grow from six to twenty feet tall. Lilac trees in Asia, like the Peking Lilac Tree and the Japanese Lilac Tree, both grow over 30 feet tall.

lilac flower remedy

Our Lilac flower elixir is really special, because it’s even more elusive and precious – growing in the high desert of Santa Fe, New Mexico, at an altitude of over 7000 feet. Originally brought to the area in the 1851, Lilacs now grow wild in Santa Fe. The flowers look the same, but the plant looks different from the Lilac in northern regions of the U.S. Not as tall and bushy – it’s more delicate and seems somehow more fleeting than the lilacs in the north. I never would’ve guessed that Lilacs would grow in the high desert, so when I discovered them on a trip to Santa Fe, I immediately set out to make their essence. Lucky I did, because a year later – due to a drought – they didn’t bloom at all. They grew their rich, glossy green leaves in springtime … but no flowers bloomed. So this essence is a treasure!

Lilacs only bloom for several weeks each year in springtime. Inhaling the deep sweet aroma of Lilac flowers is an ephemeral experience and a cherished treat that’s often linked to precious memories.

I tend to think of lilacs as a deep violet, but lilacs can be white, pink, red, lavender, yellow and blue! Many people believe that the deep purple flower clusters tend to have strongest fragrance, but really it depends on the the species of the particular plant, along with its terroir, the conditions of its environment: moisture, soil conditions, location, climate and weather patterns.

lilac flower essence

white lilac

I have childhood memories of seeing gorgeous vases of lilacs in the house where I lived with my mom in Minneapolis. If you keep them away from direct sunlight and heat, and occasionally mist them, they can last up to a week in a vase.

Though Lilac is a popular fragrance for soaps and lotions, any ‘Lilac scent’ you see on the market is made from artificial fragrances, i.e. petroleum-based chemicals that cause attention deficit in both adults and children and serious reproductive issues in male babies.

{learn more about the dangers of artificial fragrances & the beauty of botanicals here}

It is impossible to extract the natural essential oils from the Lilac flowers in a way that allows for mass production. The flowers are far too delicate.

I know an essential oil distillation artisan in Santa Fe. She gathers flowers and plants from all over the world and distills the essential oils and hydrosols from them in tiny batches. She is as elusive as the lilac, as she’s always off distilling somewhere in Egypt, Hawaii, Thailand or elsewhere. I went to learn from her one weekend. I invited my mom to come to Santa Fe with me to learn first-hand about essential oil distillation, which is totally different from flower remedies. That weekend a small group of us did a piñon pine distillation from needles, wood and resin. During that experience I realized just how complicated and laborious it is to create an essential oil, wow!

After collecting all the plant materials by hand, they must be ‘cooked’ in a huge container all weekend. During some of the waiting time I watched my friend gently extract Lilac essential oils by soaking the flowers in wine. Every couple hours she would strain the flowers from the wine and put in new flowers. This was done many, many times. Obviously the more times you do it, the stronger the fragrance will be. I was intrigued by the process, because it was the same variety of Lilac that I had made a flower essence of during a prior trip to Santa Fe.


Another artisanal way to extract the precious fragrant oils from the Lilac flowers is the age-old perfumery method called enfleurage. This involves placing the delicate flowers into trays of fat. In the old perfumery days in France, animal fat was used.

Lilacs don’t grow where I live in the desert, but I have made aromatic pomades of jasmine and chocolate flowers (Berlandiera lyrata) with the enfleurage method using solid coconut oil. You place the flowers face down in the fat and let the fat extract their delicate oils. Then after one day, you remove the flowers, add more fresh flowers and repeat numerous times until the flower balm has the desired intensity of scent.

You can do the same with Lilac flowers and put the scented pomade in a jar for applying to your skin. Or you can soak the infused balm in alcohol for three months, allowing the alcohol to slowly extract the delicate Lilac essential oils from the buttery goodness. You can now understand why it’s literally impossible to find Lilac essential oil because a kilo created from this enfleurage method would typically cost over $100,000.

lilac flower essence

So, the only way enjoy to Lilac perfume is by making it yourself! Here’s another method if you have Lilacs in your backyard, as you’ll need many flowers over several weeks:

Cut fresh blossoms in the morning and place into 95% alcohol (190 proof). The alcohol will extract the aroma and the color from the flowers. When there is no more color in the flowers, remove them and add a fresh batch. Repeat this process throughout the entire Lilac season. Keep your final Lilac perfume in the refrigerator to retain the fragrance and color.

To make your perfume even more transformative, before cutting the blossoms, stand in front of the tree. Feel a sense of gratitude for this beautiful plant and connect with the plant. Oftentimes, tears will spring to your eyes when you truly experience deep gratitude.

Ask permission to cut the flowers. If you perceive a ‘yes’ (very likely it will be yes), request the plant to teach you its wisdom through the process of making the perfume. Ask the plant to show your eyes which flowers to cut, and thank the plant for offering its wisdom. You can also make an offering to the plant, such as sprinkling a little water at the base of the bush, or burning some herbs or herbal incense.


As you continue the process of collecting new flowers, connect with the plant each time you cut the flowers. This will enhance its positive effect in your life and each time you use the perfume, you’ll remember how connected to nature you are and how supported you are.

Another way to enjoy Lilacs is by using them in the kitchen:

Lilac flowers are edible! You can put them on cakes and in salads. Just make sure that you use Lilacs that have not been sprayed with pesticides.

Create a Lilac-infused sweetener by placing lilac blossoms in a jar of organic cane sugar. Pull each little individual flower from its green sepal and mix 1/2 cup of Lilac blossoms with one cup of organic cane sugar in a glass jar. If the sugar clumps up due to moisture, you can blend the flower-infused sugar in a food processor or high- speed blender. Lilac sugar will last for approximately one year (sugar is known for its preservative abilities).

I share all of these methods, because no matter what sophisticated distillation and extraction technologies we invent, plants and flowers like the Lilac dance to another tune. They teach us a valuable lesson. We just can’t have everything we want.


Lilac flowers come and go in a blink, especially in this modern world – a few weeks fly by us in an instant. And the Lilac fragrance is elusive – only allowing itself to be captured with mindful tending and a several-day process, slowing us down to the rhythm of Mother Nature. Lilacs teach us patience, which is another word for ‘being at peace with the way things are’.

Though the flower is extremely delicate, the Lilac plant is extremely hardy; some varieties can survive temperatures down to -60oF. The wood is extremely dense, and has been used to create musical instruments and knives.

And their longevity is impressive: Lilac bushes can live for hundreds of years! I think of the Lilac plant as having tremendous strength and fortitude, with flowers that teach us how to accept the impermanence of life. And not surprisingly, this is wisdom that the Lilac Flower Elixir imparts: Lilac helps us transform attachments to people, places and outcomes. It gives us a taste of non-attachment which is very freeing. It helps us be more flexible, while letting go of rigid ideas and the desire to control outcomes.

Experience the magic of Lilac!

Lilac Elixir

{Magnifies} sense of freedom, non-attachment, going with the flow, accepting things they way they are; flexibility and open-mindedness to seeing new opportunities available when attachments are released; ability to embrace change and open to broader perspectives; enhanced ability to rejoice in others’ happiness and accept others as they are without wanting to change them.

{Dissolves} attachment, neediness, feeling like there’s only one way, rigid ideas or control, feeling like we’re incomplete without a certain person, place or condition; wishing for things to be a different way, our way, or wishing for things to change.

Love + flower petals,





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