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Women and men—of every varying social rank—have used herbs and botanicals to their sensuous advantage for centuries. Whether they’re bathing in rose water, burning incense during a religious rite of passage, or using other aromatic herbs for potions and beauty tonics, flora has played an integral part in our love lives since the beginning of time. What better token to show one’s love than a single red rose? And what better way to attract a mate than the application of perfume? Many have been almost literally intoxicated by certain flowers and herbs, and, to this day, we use them for their almost hypnotic beauty and fragrance.

Herbs of Venus include flowers used as aphrodisiacs and for love magic: asters bloom in the shape of a star, and what could be more mystical? Other enchanted herbs and plants used as medicine to invoke the goddess of love include damiana, black cohosh, mucuna, cacao, mangosteen, shizandra, hibiscus, and blue lotus. It is even believed that Cupid’s arrows were crafted from the desirable wood of a Cypress tree.

Beauty

Perfumes, tonics, toners, and lotions have always been used to lure the opposite sex and, above all, enhance beauty. One of our favorite beauty icons, Lola Montez, was a 19th-century Irish courtesan who posed as a Spanish dancer and became the mistress of King Ludwig. Her “Arts and Secrets of Beauty” is a must-have guide for classic tips on how to be mysterious, gorgeous, and sexy. “Honey water” was a tonic and cleanser used all over Europe and is made from ambergris, bergamot, cloves, and orange blossoms. It is said that, for beautiful hair, there was no better treatment.

Some other favorite flowers that give off heavenly, heady perfume and are used for beauty and love include:

  • Roses (of course) are the classic emblem of love (especially red ones).
  • Jasmine: known for its intensely sweet fragrance, it is a symbol of sensuality and beauty. Because it blooms at night, it is sometimes associated with modesty and other nighttime rituals, which can be very sexy and unassuming.
  • Orange blossoms (when used on the skin as a water distilled from a bitter orange tree) have been used by princesses to scent their bath water, and as a cleanser and toner.
  • Musk (erythranthe moschata) is known for its tiny yellow flowers and is a short-lived perennial.
  • Mint (because freshness, especially when it comes to one’s breath, is essential)
  • Myrrh comes from the bark of the Commiphora tree and is very fragrant.
  • Elder-flower (sambucus): a flowering plant from the elder tree known for its shiny black berries and white frothy blossoms

Perfumes made from roses, ylang-ylang, lavender, patchouli and catnip are also used to attract love and are perfect for Valentine’s Day.

  • Ylang-ylang oil, used in aromatherapy, is known for its aphrodisiacal properties and can soothe tension and anxiety. Sourced from the cananga tree, this tropical plant boasts bright yellow blossoms.
  • Lavender is a tried and true remedy for sleeplessness and aggravation. Its calming, tranquil scent is popular for creating an inviting ambiance, especially when the flowers are dried to fill a sachet or the oil is distilled and used to mist a pillow.
  • Patchouli is known for enhancing one’s mood and is a symbol of peace.
  • Catnip, a member of the mint family, is known for its effect on cats (which makes some more playful).

To learn about the flowers you can purchase this Valentine’s Day (including lots and lots of roses), check out Chelsea Flowers on the website.