Jasminum sambac – the heavy, exotic and enticing scent of this fabulously voluptuous sprawling scrambler (it is more a climber than a shrub) headily draws my attention in the hot afternoons.
I find myself picking a spray of the white flowers for my desk, another for my bath, another for my fruit salad chilling in the fridge for supper. I have watched it through the winter winds and the frost, and in the pulsating heat, and it is never without flowers.
Jasminum Sambac originates in South East Asia, where it is the beloved Jasmine tea flavouring, and it is this Jasmine that makes the Jasmine flower water that is used to flavour desserts and drinks. The roots are lifted in autumn and dried for medicines, just as they were centuries ago, and the flowers are still used in oils, creams, lotions, pastes and powders today, as they were in the early centuries throughout Asia. Ancient recipes are closely guarded and still used carefully by pharmacists.
The genus Jasminum includes around 200 species of climbers, shrubs and ramblers, and several species have a long history in perfumery as well as medicinal uses. J. sambac has a colourful history and has been used in ceremonies and festivals for centuries. Loved, cherished, respected and used as trade, Sambac oil and powder is still commercially available in Europe today.
Growing Jasminum Sambac
Every now and then you’ll find a plant in a nursery. When you do, snap it up because it is becoming quite rare. Plant it in a deep, compost-filled hole in full sun against a fence or pergola, and patiently and carefully train it up. It forms bushy growth with a mass of large light green leaves. The flowers form in clusters with distinctive calyxes at the ends of the lateral shoots. It thrives with a deep, weekly watering and a barrow of compost twice yearly, and it needs to be carefully trained and lightly shaped.
Using Jasminum Sambac
The flowers are the plant’s main attraction and are used fresh in tins of loose-leafed China tea to impart that exquisite fragrance. Try using three or four fresh flowers in a cup of tea and feel how soothed and calmed you become.
Add the fresh flowers to salads, fruit salads, drinks and desserts, and use them to decorate cakes. The leaves and roots, made into a tea that is sipped slowly, are used medicinally for ear and eye infections. The cooled tea is used as a lotion for skin ailments, and is also taken both hot and cooled to inhibit breast milk production in nursing mothers throughout Asia. To make a tea use one-quarter cup of fresh leaves and flowers to one-cup of boiling water, allow it to stand for five minutes then strain.
My favourite way of using the flowers is to make a bath infusion of one-cup of flowers, one-cup of oats and half a cup of grated fine white soap. Soak everything together in hot water, tied up in a cotton cloth (a man’s handkerchief is perfect). Then use this fragrant bundle to gently massage and wash all over the body to clear away tension, anxiety, stress and worries, and to lift a heavy heart. Lie back in the warm fragrant water and think of the long forgotten Emperors in centuries past who were treated to baths like this when the troubles of their empires rested too heavily upon their shoulders. This is why I love this Jasmine so much!
Article by Margaret Roberts