Viburnum with vaginal odor
Sometimes very ordinary shrubs or trees have their secret sides. Ancient customs, medicinal uses, magical powers or strange smells. The Viburnums are such a genus of plants that populate our gardens like good ornamental shrubs, but whose flowers give off very different, intriguing scents. Fragrances with a history.
There are varieties with a heavily sweet, tropical scent, others give off a fleeting fresh, almost lemony aroma, and there are also Viburnums that infest our nasal organs with a smelly sulfur scent.
Even more curious was my discovery that some of those smells, from sweet to sour, were associated with the smell of the genitals. And were also called genitalia flower. So flowers that spread a vaginal scent and then flowers from ordinary shrubs such as the Gelderland rose and other Viburnum species.
In a classic 1929 sex education book, The Perfect Marriage of Dr. Th. van de Velde, the standard information book from that time. Also the only book my parents owned that I discovered 50 years ago in the linen closet, hidden deep under a pile of blankets. In that modest book, Van de Velde writes about the clitoral smegma, a soft fat mass that is prepared by the lubricating glands present there. He describes the smell that can change from pleasant to very unpleasant. And … compares the scent to viburnum blossom in his garden. His freshly blossomed blossoms have an odor reminiscent of female genitalia. I always notice that men with apparent predilection smell this blossom …. ??. And he adds that even very inexperienced men like to smell it. As these blossoms get older, he says, their smell changes more and more, finally taking on the very unpleasant rancid-sharp-salty characteristic that us gynecologists all too well known.
Guelder rose in phyto- and homeopathy
Even more remarkable is the fact that the Viburnum in phyto and homeopathy is used to remedy menstrual complaints. A strange form of signature doctrine, you could say, and a literal support for the homeopathic principle that like with like can be cured. ‘Similia similibus curentur’! In the Practical homeopathy of Binet, the remedy is advised against uterine cramps and spastic dysmenorrhea. It calms uterine contractions at the beginning of pregnancy
In the Indian medicine of North America, Viburnum opulus is also called CrampBark and used by the famous Ecclectic Doctors against ‘cramps; spasmodic uterine pain; pain in thighs and back; bearing-down, expulsive pain; neuralgic or spasmodic dysmenorrhea. The Viburnum lantana, Woolly snowball and Viburnum prunifolium Black haw were also used by the Indian women for the same ailments, but also to prevent an abortion. Dr. Phares, introduced the anti-abortion drug ‘prevent abortion, whether habitual or otherwise-whether threatened from accidental cause or criminal drugging. He considered it to completely neutralize the effect of the cotton bark when this is used for the purpose of causing abortion. It was for a long time customary for planters to compel their female slaves “to drink an infusion of black haw daily whilst pregnant to prevent abortion, from taking the cottonroot”
About the smell
Vandevelde also mentions the chemical composition of that vaginal fluid and of … the viburnum blossom ‘it derives its odor from its content of compounds of the fatty acid series, including valeric acid, and especially that of the caprylic acid group.
What that means, the layman will also understand when he knows that such chemical compounds have on the one hand pleasant specific odors (e.g. of pineapple, of some blossoms) but on the other hand are responsible for the stench of rotting cheese and sweaty feet, and that these substances easily decompose, whereby an initially pleasant smell can turn into a very unpleasant one.
We also know that balancing scent between pleasant and unpleasant from the famous valerian root, where the name valeric acid comes from, this fresh root smells quite pleasant but the dried one has a strong musty, sweaty foot-like scent. Pharmacologically, these scents usually also have a calming, antispasmodic and possibly also a hormonal effect.
Ordinary shrubs with secret sides. Isn’t that precisely what makes garden and nature extra attractive?