The huge family of flowers, known as the orchid, has up to 30,000 species and horticulturists have bred over 100,000 varieties of them. Except for Antartica and in the drier deserts on the planet, orchids are found just about everywhere and they have passionately inspired people over many centuries with their beauty.
These striking plants are great for decorating homes and gardens, but also offer therapeutic, cosmetic, and gastronomic delights. Singapore Memories is trying to get to list the therapeutic orchids with cosmetic, perfumery and similar applications.
Orchids in the ancient world
The oldest evidence ever found of orchid pollen dates back to approximately 76 million years ago. This was found on the fossil of a bee trapped in amber, by researchers at Harvard University.
The word orchid comes from the ancient Greek name for it and it literally translates to testicle. This was because the pseudo-bulb at its base resembled these and it was believed that orchids could influence the sex of a baby at reproduction. They used orchids in their food, as aphrodisiacs, medicines and perfumes too.
Not all orchid species have beautiful and fragrant flowers, and some actually bear no flowers at all. The most interesting fact to emerge about orchids is that many species are also therapeutic; something that was also known and recorded by the Ancient Chinese and other Asian nations who also, like the Ancient Greeks also used orchids to treat and pamper themselves.
How a flower inspired a nation?
Singapore continues to be inspired by the orchid and the flower is found on its coins, stamps and inspires creators of jewelry, clothing and souvenirs.
The national flower of Singapore is the Vanda Miss Joaquim, a hybrid orchid whose history remained hidden until just a few years back. However, it was chosen because of its inspiring colors. With its violet-rose petals that reach a fiery orange where they merge to the stem of the bloom, this gorgeous bloom is the only hybrid to ever be declared a national flower.
After close to 35 years of its being the national flower of Singapore, the mystery of the plant’s parentage came to light. The father is the Vanda hookeriana and the mother is the Vanda teres. The lady who bred this marvel was Ashken Hovakimian (1854 - 1899), an Armenian-Singaporean horticulturist that lived in Tanjong Pagar. She was also known as Agnes Joaquim, hence the name of the flower.
Vanda Miss Joaquim reflects the hardiness and resilience of the Singaporean spirit and blooms throughout the year. This made the choice easier for those selecting a national flower in 1981 much easier; a choice that was between 40 blooms, of which 30 were orchids.
The father of Chinese medicine was the Yellow Emperor and he discovered the philosophy known as “qi”. His explored how the body has the power and ability to heal itself and how herbs could assist. With 1,247 orchid species found in China, approximately 300 of these were and are still used in medicine.
The oldest recorded in writing use of orchids in medicines is from 300BC, where the Dendronbium species is characterized as an anti-toxic treatment. Out of the 300 orchids used there, the Tang Dynasty considered the Dendronbium to be one of the nine “fairy herbs” which meant the herbs from paradise.
Dried Dendronbium is still believed to offer benefits to the immune system can help in the treatment of many cancers and can improve eyesight. Other orchids offer relief for coughs and lung problems, rheumatism, diabetes, snake and insect bites, TB, asthma, and as a treatment for injuries and broken bones.
The medicinal properties found in many orchids are still trusted today and are used in many complementary and alternative liquid remedies for the treatment of pain and as a supplement. Natural orchid extracts are also used to cure dry and chapped skin and bleeding sores also benefit.
Salep is the powder which comes from the tuber of the Orchis Mascula and Orchis Militaris and was popular in parts of the Ottoman Empire. Salep flour was used to create ice cream, desserts and beverages but was also known for its medicinal value. When the powder is added to water, it releases a mucus-like substance that helps soothe the digestive system and relieves heartburn, flatulence and indigestion. In children it also relieves diarrhea.
Orchids in the kitchen
Besides the use of the flour from the orchid plants for making salep, the vanilla orchids provide us with classic and much loved ice-cream flavoring, vanilla. The Dendrobia genus of orchids is also used as an ingredient in food and garnishes. In China soup dishes are often cooked with the tuber of the gastrodia alata to help improve memory and the stems and flowers of some dendrobium species are used for healthy beverages. Cymbidium flowers are used for herbal drink preparations.
Besides their use in the perfume industry, the essential oils from orchids are also a wonderful addition to skin preparations to treat all skin types and conditions, including anti-aging solutions.
Since the 1930s, Singapore has been a centre of orchid breeding and the Singapore Botanic Gardens have also played a major role in this. Many hybrids have received international awards and they have inspired the people at Singapore Memories to create perfumes and room fragrances from essential oils of various orchids that have therapeutic benefits to soothe the mind, body and soul.
One just has to walk into a greenhouse filled with these beautiful plants and immediately the heady combination of their various scents will be memorable and inspirational. The bedazzling tones of their colors are offset by the sweet fruity scents exuding from them.
These adaptable plants radiate the aromas needed to attract their pollinators and some produce their aromas at night, while others during the day. The sweeter smelling varieties most often diffuse their smells during the day, but some varieties offer two separate aromas during the course of one day.
The smells of the evening are stronger, more floral and spicy, when compared to the sweet fruity daytime fragrances.
Perfumes and room fragrances from Singapore Memories are the perfect gift from Singapore, evoking the tangible memories of its vibrancy and culture. They are the ideal corporate gift for business partners and associates.