Paleobotany research has shown that orchids have been present on earth for at least 65 million years, in fact some fossil finds lead towards the end of the Cretaceous period, but it is to be believed that these flowers are even older.
However, we had to wait the dawn of the various civilizations to learn more about this very important botanical family. In ancient Greece, in the 5th century BC, Teofrasto speaks for the first time about these flowers and, noting that at the base of the roots protruded two reminiscent of the male genitalia bumps, decided to give them the affix “Orchis” (or “testicles”), from which Orchid, whose name has arrived unchanged up the our days. As the centuries passed and with the increasing possibility of knowledge, of visiting the world and its various cultures, humans began to define the orchid in its entirety as a botanical family. An impressive number of species, perhaps the most numerous in the botanical world and spread throughout the planet, from tropical forests to semi-desert regions, from the sea coast to the tundra. Each species has its own exciting characteristics, for both the diversity and beauty of the colors, for both the shape and size, and for the more or less intense scent that emanate.
Nowadays it seems that in the natural state more than 25,000 species have been recorded, distributed all over the globe, most of which are present in the tropical regions, as well as in the temperate ones. Incredibly, some rare species flourish even in polar areas, resisting at very low temperatures and this shows how millions and millions of years of life have allowed some species to adapt even to extreme climatic and environmental conditions.
The Orchid is the flower that most of all has solicited such a richness of emotions and has often been addressed with special festivities and celebrations, thanks to its prominence and its charm.
Obvious, right? After all, from the origins until nowadays, the most precious things for humans are those that have aroused intensified emotions: such as gold, for which rivers of blood have been shed in order to enjoy its possession; or the diamond, simple carbon atoms capable of retaining and reflecting light like no other….One could go on, but among these examples there are also certain flowers and, specifically the Orchid, which has always represented intense beauty emotions, joy, well-being, purity, so not only a magnificent flower, but a precious and meaningful object.
For the Chinese it was the symbol of Spring, that is, of awakening, joy and colors, and of course it was used against infertility, a still in use practice. Not surprisingly, the orchid is the flower that most of all is associated with sexuality. Confucius himself appreciated its virtues, its scent and its beauty.
For some peoples of Oceania and for all the peoples of Polynesia, the Orchid is the symbol of purity and desire for unity, worn mainly by women as a message of virginity and sensuality and therefore used in the most intimate situations and in seduction strategies.
For the Aztecs, the “Vanilla” bean was one of the characteristic ingredients of their so-called sacred drinks, the use of which was allowed only to emperors and priests.
In some Amazonian tribes, villages were built precisely in the presence of orchids: the more different species were present, the more the place was considered sacred and able to eradicate the evil spirits of the forest.
At the Lakota of North America, the removal of the flower from the stem was allowed only to shamans and was used in sacred ritual dances for purifying purposes.
In old Europe, it was especially in the Victorian period that this magnificent flower made our ancestors fall in love, who gave to orchid a symbol of prestige and class, precisely because the plant came from very distant and exotic countries and was considered difficult to grow. For many centuries, however, it had also been considered an aphrodisiac flower and therefore used for the preparation of love potions or potions against infertility.
Another meaning behind the Orchid is sensuality and luxury. Like all exotic and expensive substances, the first use was the aphrodisiac one, in fact the roots of the orchid were crushed and then swallowed, or used for the preparation of special beers. Since then, intense and serious botanical studies began in Europe that have led us to know the flower even at a molecular level. And nowadays it can be said that its very important actives bring countless benefits, not quite the aphrodisiac ones, but if anyone would to believe it……
The chemical composition of Orchid flowers has a high content of mucilages and pigments (anthocians). These substances can be found in all species, but it seems that the richest one is Orchis Mascula, on which we will return later.
In the archaic populations and in the traditional and popular pharmacopeia, the Orchid is used in almost all its botanical parts, for the most disparate uses.
In Asia it’s a habit to cook the berries (fruits) to sooth otitis and other ear ills; In Africa, roots are used as contraceptives and as a remedy for gout and rheumatism.
In China, as easily expected, every part of the plant is used for many ailments, from male infertility to liver disorders, against headaches and hypertension, digestion and respiratory disorders; while in South America it is used as a diuretic and against intestinal bacterial infections.
What stands out in the popular pharmacopeia, is that from the shape of the botanical parts of the plant come out remedies for the anatomical parts, with more or less the same shape: the flower for ear pain, the roots for male infertility, the leaves for stomach and liver, the pseudobulbs for cysts and kidney stones, the sap for the eye dryness and the chopped up leaves as a compress against joint pain. In fact, it is precisely this kind of bond that brings us back to the tight interconnection with Nature: does any natural element have a certain form? All right then, so it serves to remedy any problem present in the same anatomical form. Interesting, isn’t it? On the other hand, in past centuries there were no other possibilities of choice, besides that of connecting our body with Nature itself.
Given its considerable richness of active ingredients, it is established that the botanical species called Orchis Mascula, is the most demanded and used in the cosmetic field. Its mucilages content makes it ideal as a moisturizing and emollient agent due to the large number of hydrogen bonds, thus maintaining water optimal levels of the stratum corneum. The orchid is therefore excellent for moisturizing and emollient cosmetic products, preserves from irritation and is very well indicated in treatments for sensitive skin.
The flowers are also used as antioxidants thanks to the pigments they contain, especially anthocyanins. The anthocyanine, the main pigment, acts as a scavenger against free radicals, responsible for cell and therefore skin deterioration. Ultraviolet radiation, chemicals, personal and environmental stress, as well as all metabolic processes can generate free radicals. It has been widely demonstrated by scientific research that anthocyanins can perform antioxidant activities against free radicals and excellent soothing activities for anti-aging products and for sensitive skin treatments.
Therefore the Orchid is widely indicated in the formulation of antioxidant and soothing cosmetic products. Precisely for this reason, Orchid extract opens the doors of perception and well-being wherever it is used, both for effectively counteracting premature skin aging and for the renewal and vitality of the skin. In fact, thanks to the powerful features of this magnificent flower, it is possible to imagine new ways of making cosmetics, to create wonderful textures while maintaining the exciting feeling of timeless beauty.