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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about...the history of perfume.


CURWOOD: Spring is here, on the calendar at least, and as the wave of green surges north, the fragrances of flowers are not far behind. Now, for those who can't wait there's always the local perfumery. The modern art of perfuming dates to the days of the Queen of Sheba, when ancient Egyptians anointed their bodies with cinnamon, honey, and lily petals. Today, commercial perfuming is a competitive, multi-billion-dollar, and highly scientific industry. Essential oils are produced from plants like lavender, sandalwood, and rosemary. Perfume fixatives like musk, ambergris, and civet, traditionally derived from animals, are now made synthetically. Still, interest in natural perfuming and aromatherapy is growing, in part because some people are allergic to synthetic fragrances. In the past year there's been an explosion of scents for even the most obscure olfactory tastes. You can now get alternative perfumes like fig. And for the really adventurous, there's the Smell This label, which markets fragrances like smoke, cake batter, and -- yes -- dirt. The Queen of Sheba, we imagine, would not be impressed. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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