Phyto-inhalation as an olfactoric experience
Author: Frank Fuchs
Healing through smoke, fragrance and breath.
Vapours from aromatic herbs and woods are important for and in many shamanistic rites and Asian medical treatments. Thus in ayurvedic aromatherapy, in Tibetan, Japanese, and Chinese traditional natural medicine healing plants are burnt on charcoal or lit as joss sticks or fumigating candles. Rooms are saturated with aromatic smokes, sometimes beyond endurance. Many of the healing plants or aromatic herbs are considered holy and are allocated to certain deities. North American Indians as well as tundra tribes of Siberia use special plants even today in sweat tent ceremonies for healing or spiritual reasons.
First common inhaling practices of burnt herbs are attributed to the Hetithians more than 5000 years ago. There are Greek reports of the Scythians, who lived in the region of today‘s Ukraine, that sweat tent ceremonies were held burning plants, especially hemp and it‘s seeds.
The Catholic Church used incense for ages and still today for ritual reasons. Reactions of catholic service visitors tend from problems standing the incense-pregnant air to feeling a thorough and quite agreeable high.
Islands of fragrance in the open air
The idea was proposed by Georg Winter. The town of Singen, Germany, was sponsoring an arts project during a year-long gardening exhibition. Winter‘s contribution, ingeniously simple and unpretentious, was of a potential that attracted research&experience. Georg was at that time a professor of arts at the University Of Zurich, Switzerland. He called his project “Laboratory for emerging image organisation” (bioAGIT). This laboratory was planned to be erected as a specially designed container in the pedestrian shopping zone of Singen. Georg: “The BioAGIT laboratory will point out mass phenomena of display and reception. The ground in Singen will, for this space of time, be raised to a higher power through artistic-like positions. The connection to mass phenomenon’s enchanted, and an overdose might lead to visio-toxic receptions”.
What was this professor intending to do? Simply said, inside the BioAGIT laboratory should exist rooms for cultivation, blooming, and drying, in which hemp and euphrasia plants were grown, brought to blossom, and then were ‘solidified’ (aka dried and pressed) Those herbs and hemp plants were, after ‘solidification’ to be vaporized. Therefore research&experience had to develop an appropriate device; we then called ‘AroMat’. The AroMat is able to vaporize about one pound of plant material within an hour. In Singen it was calibrated to about 50 grams of plants per day, which were used to fumigate the pedestrian zone. Georg Winter: “Cannabis indica (hemp) is a matter of plant we usually do not find in gardening exhibitions, may it be that a potential effect on the visitor s perception seems possible, on account of it‘s containment of specific substances. It is decisive that through the structured conception any impression of the recipient is built primarily by himself. Subjective interpretation of reality transmigrates the effect into fiction”. With this foundation in combination with diligent efforts to convince the authorities, he finally held a permission to grow and solidify hemp. The proper German authority for this permission is the Federal Opium Agency, there is no hemp agency. Georg’s conception was not to inform the relevant paraphernalia press, but only some nationwide German newspapers. This decision was wise enough. We do not know how many queer friends of cannabis would have made a pilgrimage to pinch some plants. So the laboratory experiment went on in quiet. Cuttings of different strains of hemp and euphrasia could bloom in plenty and peace.
The container built of raw wooden panels remained in a ‘virgin’ state, no broken windows, not even sprayer tags (maximum respect for respecting us!!). The everyday occurrences at the BioAGIT laboratory were only pleasant. Depending on wind directions and force, the vapour aromas were noticeable in a circle of 50 metres and more. I met two nice gentlemen who passed by with their grandsons and stopped to let them smell the not to be mistaken fragrance. They explained to me that they were farmers who had been cultivating fibre hemp on their fields for generations until new German government regulations in the sixties. And those granddaddies were full of praise on how easy hemp could be cultivated on most barren ground with great success and very profitable. Their former harvests all went into rope industries. Alumni of a nearby High School again and again could be observed taking a breath, but soon found out (experts?) that the vapours supplied by the AroMat did not do any harm. Its hot-air-flow was calibrated to a level that only the aromas, but not the active substance THC was set free to the open air.
The mood lifting effects of hemp aroma without any psychoactive principles are quite obvious since we made the BioAGIT experience. A lot of people stopped smiling because of the nice smells and read the show cases with information about BioAGIT. Many of them were annoyed reading that ‘killer weed’ was planted and fumigated in the first moment. But Georg Winter‘s information plates and the sweet smell made most of them leave smiling. One lady, at first quite upset about what she called an ‘illegal plantation’ in the end told us, „those plants at least smell better than my balcony flowers“, and left grinning.
Georg Winter keeps on with his convincing conception, like in ‘parallel worlds’, a congress held by the federal Agency for Labour Medicine, which he fumigated with the research&experience equipment. Also he is holding lectures about BioAGIT in several universities. The BioAGIT laboratory itself has meanwhile been purchased by an Italian art‘s collector.
Art exists to surprise senses - Group vaporizing
One AroMat for a start has ended in a series of many. AroMats are leased from research&experience for events, discos, and arts exhibitions. Not only hemp and euphrasia aromas, meanwhile produced for us by a French company (lab tested THC-free) is used for fumigations. Purple sage extracts, often used in aroma-therapy, is one of our favourites because of its mildly stimulating and mood-lifting effects. Our aim is not to produce an obtrusively perfumed atmosphere at a venue, but to create a bettered subconscious (following Winter) surrounding, and a spiritually enlightened room climate. Who ever comes to visit a concert of the ‘Hodschas’, a Greek-Turkish coffeehouse band does not only hear but smell, too. The Hodschas have their specific aroma, mixed from cinnamon and coriander that puts the audience in an appropriate mood.
New dimensions were opened at ‘Liquid Sounds’, a thermal salt water spa. Underwater speakers procreate a beguiling mixture of sensual impressions, when listeners can experience music floating weightless in the warm saltwater. A one-month exhibition ‘sounds, essence, and lights’ (lights: B. Bauer; sounds: ‘Der Spyra’) was visited by hundreds of spa guests, especially because they could intensify their room aroma experience using the AroMed vaporizer at the ‘wellness bar’. Many events inside the huge indoor spa were fumigated in the following years with three AroMats (covering a space of about 100.000 cubic metres) and with different scents, including concerts of well known DJs like MoveD, Mojo Club, and Flash Goerdten, as well as E-music events like ‘Bach Under Water’. The Baroque Bach flavours were mostly roses.
Most intensive and stimulating were performances of a huge ‘odemophone orchestra’. Those odemophones are played with circular breathing (like didgeridoos from Australian aborigines, dords from Celtic Ireland, and fujaras from Japan). Someone who did not attend those concerts cannot imagine how many emotional gates are opened by listening to 100 odemophone players. A faint eucalyptus fragrance intensified the ‘outback’ character of feelings. The 400 something audience, aged between 10 and 80, amalgamated with the musician‘s tunes. The evenings ended most relaxed in the big Liquid Sounds pools with agar wood fragrance.
The Real Monty. Evenings with Howard Marks
Howard himself: “Though you only had this faint smell, the presence of wonderful hemp fragrance did turn everyone open-minded”.
When Howard Marks, well known welsh author of ‘Mr. Nice’ and ‘Dope Stories’ was touring Germany, I told him of aromatic rooms and Islands of Fragrance. His only question: “Can we do it with the real monty, like in Singen?” - sure we could and we did it! research&experience had the honour to fill some of Howard’s British tour venues with ‘jive’ in the word‘s true sense. Britain in December 2002 was not the country where joints were glowing. The first coffee-shop ever, located in Manchester, had just been closed down. The audience, most of them obviously users, did not dare, like at Howard s lectures in Germany to out themselves and turn on. No rolled ones for Howard were passed onstage...Yet there was a nice hemp scent present at his giant gigs - he was on stage for two times an hour and afterwards he answered the audiences´ questions about his life s weedy stories. Of course our efficient THC-free essential oil was used. Still many people were asking and looking for the grow room.
We had another remarkable music experience we had with LOPAZZ, a German newcomer group from the Indie scene that will be heard of a lot in the future...
Reminiscences of aromas might create placebo effects. If we would not have known since long, after the evenings with those fine artists we would be sure of now!
With the additional AromaTop for your AroMed vaporizer you can have your own room fumigation system at home.