Magnolia is a huge and rather confusing arena; researching it for the essential oil is like moving through a labyrinth, looking for clues to connect the dots. There are more than 200 different species and it is not easy to discern exactly which is which. Over the years, hybrids, new species and sub-species have been found and created, making it even more confusing. The plant is considered to originate in Central Asia, the Americas and West Indies. In the Himalayas, China and Japan it has a long history of use in traditional medicine. Later it was brought to many other countries and continents to finally be introduced to Europe in the 17th century. Magnolia is believed to be one of the most ancient flowering plants, fossilized specimens have been dated as far back as 95 million years! The tree existed well before the bee and pollination was, and still is to a degree, done by beetles.
The Magnolia was named after the French botanist Pierre Magnol in 1703. The sub genus Michelia was named after the Italian priest and botanist Pietro Antonio Micheli. The names Magnolia & Michelia are important to know as they define different oils.
The most common Magnolia is a tree that grows to about 27 meters high with a greyish bark and dark green leathery leaves. In spring it blooms with large white or purple flowers. The flowers are single and situated at the end of branches. Michelia is smaller and bushier, the flowers, white (Michelia x alba) or orange (Michelia champaca) are clustered among the leaves. The flowers are highly scented and grow in profusion on all Magnolias.
The essential oil of Magnolia comes mainly from China. Michelia x alba (also called “White champaca”, “White Jade Orchid Tree”, “Bai Yu Lau”) and Magnolia fargesii are the main species, from which the flowers are distilled. The flowers are picked at night, when the scent is at its peak and the scent is absolutely divine; light, fruity-floral with sweet buttery undertones and a little sharp edge. There is also an absolute which is deeper and heavier in its scent.
Champaca (Michelia champaca), which is fondly called “Joy Perfume Tree”, is sometimes called magnolia, but it is actually an absolute that is quite different from magnolia both in scent and action, so pay attention to the Latin name.
USES: Magnolia oil has an affinity for the heart on a vibrational level, instilling a sense of beauty and self esteem. It is of great help against anxiety, insecurity and fear. As an aphrodisiac it helps us to release inhibitions and increase sensuality. It brings joy and exultation.
Magnolia x alba/Michelia x alba. Image from Wikipedia
PERSONAL: I use this oil mainly for its vibrational and emotional properties to enhance the feeling of Self. Useful for people who have postural problems creating aches and stiffness due to inner emotional pressure; then I use the oil together with posture correction. It is also helpful for shy, quiet and insecure individuals who make themselves invisible.
As with other expensive floral oils, this oil is enhanced in lower doses, both as a perfume as well as therapeutically. I use only one drop to a full body massage. Too high doses can be cloying and overpowering, creating nausea, almost as if the scent “kills itself”. It is so gorgeous that it can be used on its own as a perfume, you will walk around with a smile, feeling fabulous.