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The wondrous Jasmine flower: blooms & curiosities

Updated on May 10, 2010

There is an elegance in the Jasmine which added to its fragrance renders it an object of universal admiration: a delightfully fragrant twining vine, producing one of the most scented flower of the season...the precious jasmine has begun its bloom!
It is a very popular plant in warm climates, where it usually it is evergreen and bears lovely white flowers in the months of May and June; many species of the jasmine have very fragrant flowers, mine surely has and now that it is in full bloom, it attracts many bees and other useful insects: I must say that I understand them, because a single blooming plant can fill the air with a most intoxicating scent. These charming flowers offer also a rich cup to the gay and painted butterfly, which is never seen to greater advantage than when it is sipping the perfumed nectar from the delicate petals of the white jasmine. The English clergyman C. Churchill wrote with admiration of the exquisitely simple flower: "The jasmine, with which the queen of flowers, to charm her God, adorns his favourite bowers; which brides, by the plain hand of neatness drest,- unenvied rival!- wear upon the breast, sweet as the incense of the morn, and chaste as the pure zone which circles Diana's waist".
It is thought that this plant has come, in ancient times, from India to Europe; the Chinese first used the flowers as a flavouring in tea centuries ago, and later in perfumery- all the jasmine grown today have some medicinal or culinary use, the Jasmine officinalis is the best species for the perfume and for medicinal uses. It grows best in temperate climates, where it becomes very lush and very high (mine is two meters high, but I've heard and seen jasmine hedges of 15 meters!). In fact, it grows naturally at Malabar and in several parts of India, yet has been long inured to our climate so as to thrive and flower extremely well in temperate climates. When first introduced into France by some Spanish navigators, about 1560, it was greatly admired for the lightness of its branches and the delicate lustre of its star-like flowers and their lovable smell. It was deemed necessary to place a plant so elegant and apparently tender, in the hot-house. It was tried in the orangery, where it grew marvellously well and, at length, it was exposed in the open ground, where now it grows as freely as in its native soil, braving the most rigorous winters without requiring any care or attention. I left my jasmine outside, for all the winter, under rain or snow without any coverings or protection, and it does not suffer the least pain. When other stronger plants die, it triumphs with its stenght and its delicacy.

Instead of its beauty, it is an easy plant to grow, it is only necessary to follow some little tricks: first, the jasmine prefers sun, but it grows well also in part shade. Secondly, any well-drained, light loam is suitable as long as there is some moisture (don't forget that this shrub comes from warm regions, with great moisture in the soil, such as India and China); it should have but little water at a time, but that should be given often, so that the earth may always be moist. Thirdly, it is very important to prune it to keep it within bounds, otherwise it will create an intricate pattern of vegetation and an impassable hedge; it is also important to cut it back hard after blooming to encourage branching and more bloom; in spring, the decayed branches should be pruned, which will cause them to shoot strong and produce many flowers. This plant should be permitted to grow rude in the summer otherwise there will be no flowers, but, after the summer is past, the luxuriant shoots should be pruned off, and the others must be nailed to the support. All the stems must be anchored to their supports, because I've noticed that, when some stem is left without anchorage, soon it withers and dies. So they should be planted either against some wall, pale or other fence, where the flexible branches may be supported. The flexible branches of this odoriferous shrub may be trained according to our pleasure: it will climb our palisades and weave itself around our trellised arches and cover the dead wall with an evergreen tapestry, and run gaily along our terraces and our walks; in every form, it lavishes upon us an abundant harvest of flowers, which perfume, refresh and purify the air in our groves.

The name of this plant is derived from the Greek and signifies an agreable odour. Others say that the name comes from a medieval latinization of the Persian name for the plant, "yasmin" or "yasamin". Nearly all the European languages have the same name for it: in French is "Jasmin", in Italian "Gelsomino", in Spanish "Jasmin" etc.
Jasmine appeared in the early poetry of Hindu India as the "Moonlight of India"; it was often referred to as a flower of the night because its fragrance permeates the evening air; jasmine is also a symbolic of the moon which is why it is also known as Moon Flower and is said to represent the mysteries of the night. It is a sacred flower to the people living in Asia. The Hindu strung jasmine flowers together to form garlands to present them to their most venerable guests.
A legend in Tuscany said that a noble, in the past, was anxious to be the sole possessor of a plant so charming and so rare, so he strictly charged his gardener not to give a single sprig, or even a flower, to any person. The gardener might have been faithful if he had not loved; but, being attached to a fair damsel, he presented her with a bouquet on her birthday and, to render it more acceptable, ornamented it with a sprig of jasmine. The young maiden, to preserve the freshness of this pretty, unknown flower, placed it in the earth, where it remained green until the return of spring, when it budded forth and was covered with flowers. She had profited by her lover's lessons, and now cultivated her highly prized jasmine with care, for which she was amply repaid by its rapid grow. The poverty of the lovers had been a bar to their union; now, however, she amassed a little fortune by the sale of cuttings from the plant which love had given her, and bestowed it, with her hand, upon the gardener of the heart. In remembrance of this adventure, the young girls, in Italy, always deck themselves, on their wedding-day, with a nosegary of jasmine; there is also a proverb that: "She who is worthy to wear a nosegary of jasmine is as good as a fortune to her husband." Also in Hindu India, the jasmine flowers are often entwined into bridal flowers at the weddings: this custom is said to promise the bridle couple a deep and lasting love for eternity. The fragrant jasmine is indeed the emblem of the Hindu god of love, Kama, as it was one of the symbols of Aphrodite/Astarte, great Goddess of love, in Mediterranean regions in ancient times. It was said that the five petals of the flower represent the five white and scented fingers of the Goddess: wear it in the day of wedding would ensure her protection on the couple and everlasting love.
In the language of flowers, the Jasmine is the emblem of amiability and deep love: throughout history, jasmine has been revered for its aphrodisiac qualities and known as a plant of love with a great influence on both males and females.

Jasmine has many medicinal uses: the jasmine oil is used to lift depression and ease stress and has a calming and soothing effect: just three flowers in a room will impart a marvellous scent, soothing, calming and uplifting. Ancient Indian and Chinese doctors, herbalists and religious sects used jasmine as a sedative to treat a number of ailments and as a muscle relaxant- usually in the form of a tea (so delicious) or added to oil as a massage for stifness and soreness. Later, jasmine infusions were added to the bath to release tension and to oils and creams for dry and sensitive skins. The teas are made by steeping 2 teaspoons of the flowers from a Jasmine plant for every one cup of water used. The usual recommended dosage is one quarter cup, four times a day. Drinking the tea is said to relieve stress and calm frayed nerves. A syrup made up of Jasmine flowers and honey is know to provided relief from coughs and other lung complaints.
In India, the paste of the leaves is applied locally in skin diseases, wounds and ulcers. Leaves are chewed in stomatitis and toothache. Oil prepared out of the leaves is used in earache. The flowers are used in the form of a paste in the diseases of the eye, headhache etc. It is also considered as an antidote in the poisonous cases, besides being used as an astringent, tonic to the heart and bowels. Roots are used in ringworm infections and the juice of the plant is considered useful in chronic sinuses and fistulas.
The flowers of this plant afford, by distillation, an essential oil, which is much estimed in Italy for rubbing paralytic limbs and in the cure of rheumatic pains. Also, a few crushed jasmine flowers rubbed into the temples will ease a tight throbbing headhache.
The only care one must employ while using the jasmine oil, is to avoid it during pregnancy, because it is a uterine stimulant. However, the bruised flowers of the jasmine are strongly recommended as a remedy for arresting milk abscess, or as a galactagogue.
The Chinese tradition also said that the roots of the jasmine are said to be very poisonous: a tincture made from them is said to have very powerful sedative, anesthetic, and vulnerary properties. One inch of the root extracted with wine will produce unconsciousness for one day, two inches for two days and so on...

It is my pleasure to have shared some pictures and informations about this wondrous plant, that I love greatly! I hope the readers will enjoy the article!


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