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The Mystical Power of Scent

Before synthetics turned perfume into a purely “beauty” item like lipstick or hairspray, it existed at a crossroads between alchemy, mysticism, wellness, traditional healing, and even witchcraft. That crossroads is wildly intriguing to all of us here at goop: Just as a real, whole food—an apple, say, instead of an apple-flavored Jolly Rancher—has an utterly different effect on the body than its synthetic counterpart, real scents have real effect. The impact of the botanical essences and oils that make up a natural, non-synthetic fragrance goes far beyond memory (though scent obviously has enormous powers in that department) into healing realms like homeopathy and Ayurveda—the ones that are best understood are often the most ancient.

In creating the first-ever goop Fragrance, GP and perfumer Douglas Little focused on blending the most evocative, beautiful scent that they could. “Douglas and I started with these long conversations about perfume, what I’ve loved over the years, what I was hoping to create—and he sort of played detective, figuring out which elements I really responded to, what words he could translate into scent,” GP explains. From ideas as diverse as “sexy coziness,” “a dark forest in Yugoslavia,” and “the floorboards in an old European church,” a singular fragrance began to emerge. The process evolved, and botanical essences were infused into organic sugarcane alcohol; as the final scent came together, the benefits of that unique combination of essences began to emerge.

“It’s kind of amazing the way the perfume goes past simply nontoxic into actual homeopathic, Ayurvedic, and even mystical benefits,” says GP. “And those mystical/spiritual/emotional effects are incredibly fun to learn about.”

At the core of edition 01, winter are sacred resins, Little explains: “Elements like the frankincense and the benzoin have been regarded as important and spiritual by religious traditions from Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism to a number of American Indian religions,” he says. “We used a lot of those elements in 01, so it’s very cleansing and clearing, almost like a liquid smudge stick.” Frankincense, for instance, is deeply purifying and widely used to clear the energy within sacred spaces; it’s also calming, wound-healing, and thought to drive away fevers, coughs, and colds. Benzoin (from tree bark) has been used for centuries to heighten spirituality and ease depression; in homeopathy, it’s used in treating liver and digestive issues.

Another major note in 01, rock-rose-shrub (labdanum), is also a resin. “It’s a very sensual note, with amber and a balsamic sweetness,” says Little. “We used it to give the fragrance a sense of warmth and comfort, and for a sort of haunting quality—a memorableness.” In traditional healing, it’s a calming element, used when the soul has stepped out of its comfort zone, to bring it back to inner peace. In homeopathy, it treats fear, anxiety, nightmares, and panic.

In healing traditions, cypress root—also a key element—has been used to help lift depression, while cypress stem oil has been thought to alleviate the loss of friends, loved ones, or the end of a relationship. Patchouli leaf sharpens the mind and arouses sexual energy (vanilla and clove are also aphrodisiac); juniper eradicates negative astral influences. Each of the twelve ingredients affects people in myriad ways (we collected our favorite qualities for each here). “The smell itself has effects, but so does putting it on your skin,” says Little. “The responses these essences elicit are as raw and wild as their scents.”

Whether or not wearing a pure, botanically-derived, synthetic-free scent really eliminates negative astral influences from your life and staves off a winter’s worth of colds, the process of going wild—and seriously old-school—with fragrance entangles us in the mystery and alchemy of an ancient, sexy, human tradition, one with the potential to heal and inspire. Of course, we wear it because it smells incredible—spicy, deeply luxurious, and strikingly original. But we love exploring its more mysterious, esoteric side, too: “It’s just so goop,” as GP says.

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