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Therapeutic smells of the Crimean plants
Larysa Brayko, director of the Fiolet Company, in her interview given to Valeriya BONDARENKO, talks about her fascination with flowers, perfumes and her business plans.
The Fiolet Company has its headquarters in the Crimea. The company produces about fifty kinds of “phytoteas” (that is various mixtures of herbs which can be brewed like tea), many kinds of small-sized packets stuffed with aromatic herbs, and sachets. The company is launching the production of over seventy essences, scents and attars, and is planning to produce perfumes.
I was invited to meet Ms Brayko at her house. The first thing that I saw — and smelled — in the yard was a large garden of various flowers and herbs among which I spotted thyme, lavender, sage, mint, poppies, chamomile and cornflower, that is plants with medicinal properties. The air was filled with a wonderful fragrance of flowers and herbs. While we were talking, Ms Brayko picked several plants from the bed, washed them, put them into a jar, and poured boiling water into it. Five minutes later we were sipping Crimean herb tea.
We talked sipping the aromatic tea.
The aroma of this tea is truly heavenly. Where did you learn how to brew tea properly?
I was born in Kazakhstan. In my family, as in many other families in Kazakhstan, there was a sort of a cult of making tea. In fact, drinking tea involved a tea ceremony. When we moved to Ukraine, I was shocked by the way tea was mistreated while it was brewed — everything was done in the wrong way. Tea will give you all it has, only if you treat it properly, with great love.
Did such an attitude to tea run in your family?
Probably. One of my grandmothers was a sort of a witch who knew well the secrets of herbs and of making herb teas with medicinal properties. With my parents at work most of the time, it was she, a woman of ninety something years, who took care of me. She taught me a lot too, but in a spiritual and mental way rather than in the form or recipes and skills. I absorbed what she told me about plants and their secrets. The more I progress in years, the more I appreciate what she taught me.
But in addition to intuition and your grandmother’s stories you must have had an education.
Oh yes, I did. My father, professor Hlushchenko, was a chemist well-known in the sphere of chemistry, he authored many books. He wanted me to be a chemist too and I went to study at the prestigious Chemistry and Engineering Institute where, upon graduation, I continued my studies at the post graduate courses and wrote a dissertation devoted to the influence of organic additives on the quality of high-molecular compounds. Then I went to study at the Department of Psychology of a medical school, and wrote a graduation paper, which was devoted to the influence of Oriental practices on relieving the effects of stress. At one point in my life I realized I wanted to know more about plants with medicinal properties and I studied at specialized courses at the University of Moscow. In fact, I never stop studying — I continue to regularly attend courses that deal with various Oriental medical and physical training practices. And I like travelling — which is also a sort of studying the world. I am particularly attracted by the Oriental countries with their age-old wisdom.
So what was the decisive factor that led you to your present occupation? Intuition? Rational choice?
A bit of everything. You have to listen to your heart and let it lead you. But in the end it must be a purposeful decision. When I look back on my life, I realize I passed through several stages, with each stage being a necessary step in my movement toward my present-day occupation.
What was the decisive step when you began using medicinal herbs in medical treatment?
For some time I worked as a consultant psychologist and it was then that I began to study plant oils and herbs and to use them in therapy for my patients. Gradually, I grew very enthusiastic about this kind of phytotherapy. I carefully noted down the herbs and recipes I used and the effects they had on the patients, and those notes of mine turned out to be very helpful in my future work. After I moved to the Crimea, I joined a medical centre which employed psychologists, massagers, and phytotherapeutists.
I wanted to be sure that the herbs and potions made from them are absolutely safe and have the right sort of therapeutic properties, and that is why I gathered the herbs I needed myself — you have to know the season or even the time of the day when it is best to pick this or that herb. Later I continued to be in full control over the collection of herbs, their storage and use. And then came a time when I felt I had accumulated enough experience to start my own business. Thus my company Aromafiolet was set up.
Was it a difficult start?
Starting a new business is never easy. We were not in a hurry to get the best results right from the start — we did everything very thoroughly and not in a hurry. When you deal with medicinal herbs the people who work in your business must possess what could be called the right sort of energy. The core of my business is made up of people who want to do good and who want to achieve harmony with themselves and with the world around them. I am proud of the people who work in my company, I value their efforts. We continue to be growing and we discover new people who bring with them their new spiritual energy.
Was there any special reason you decided to settle down in the Crimea?
I always felt the Crimea to be my spiritual home. I began to feel it when I came to the southern coast of the Crimea for vacations with my parents. My family went to the Crimea quite often and every time I felt a spiritual uplift the moment we crossed into the Crimea.
The Crimea happens to be the cleanest area in Ukraine as far as its ecological situation is concerned. And environmentally the cleanest place in the Crimea is the Baydarska Valley, and it is in that valley that my company is located, and it is there all our herbs are gathered. The valley has unique natural conditions and the energy of that place is of the right kind for medicinal herbs.
How did it feel to move to live in a rural area after living for many years in urban places?
I bought this house as a dacha but gradually I realized it was the place where I want to live permanently. It is less than an hour drive to Yalta, the central resort town of the southern Crimean coast, and the scenery along roads here is gorgeous.
My house is situated in a very quiet place, with excellent fresh air. You can see the mountains in the distance. My son Vanya grew up here, in my house. I always could buy fresh fruit and fresh milk for him. Now he is five, and attends a kindergarten. His teachers say that in his development he is well ahead of other children of his age. Whenever I have free time — which, unfortunately, does not happen too often, we go to the mountains for hikes.
My work requires that I go to Yalta almost every day. Also, I often go on business trips to Kyiv and Moscow. When I have vacations, I usually go to one of the Oriental countries — I always learn a lot of useful things there.
I have discovered that the Crimean air is always full of fragrances.
Very true — in the southern Crimea it smells of the sea and of all kinds of plants. The very smells of the Crimea can heal you — they give you energy and strength. Natural fragrances effect our emotions too. Every smell adds its own specific touch, it carries its own special “information” which is much stronger in effecting your emotions than the written or spoken word, or even music. The smells can relax you, make you feel perky and ready for work, and they can heal you. You enjoy some smells, but can’t stand others, but all of them produce an impression on your emotions.
Incidentally, every person has their own smell, peculiar only for this person, and the same perfume will smell a little different depending on who is wearing it.
May I ask which perfumes do you use?
In most cases, it’s the scents that my company makes. I experimented a lot with smells and essences, and created several scents which I wear depending on my mood, time of the day or on other circumstances. At present, my company is working at the creation of several new perfumes based on natural essential oils.
Can you give advice as to how to choose perfumes that suit you best?
The best guide is your intuition. Ideally, we should wear perfumes with what I call “information” which we lack. The right choice depends on your character, on the way you look at the world, on your ambitions, or just on a whim. Different smells produce different effects. The smell of lavender helps communicability; the smell of lemon or orange gives a tranquil joy. Natural essential oils produce deferent effects on our emotions and our psyche. Essential oils extracted from anise, lavender, marjoram, pomegranate, lemon-balm, chamomile, fennel and sage produce a tranquilizing and soothing effect, and relieve stress or psychological tension. Such plants as basil, cloves, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, lemongrass, citronellal produce an invigorating and restorative effect on the nervous system, improve physical and mental efficiency, and attention is also improved. There are essential oils which are helpful in improving the adaptability of the human organism, in producing stabilizing effects and there are oils which help harmonize the psychic states. Bergamot, cedar, myrtle, juniper, mint, fir, pine, manuka and eucalyptus are helpful in improving the adaptability. Emotions are helped to get stabilized by orange, verbena, jasmine, petitgrain, thyme, thuya, and rose, and hyssop, frankincense, myrrh, and sandalwood.
Is there any place in the Crimea with a smell that you like best?
I call it the smell of Ay-Petri. You feel that smell when you walk on the Ay-Petri plateau on a hot summer day and the light breeze brings the air and smell from the sea which mixes with the smell of wormwood, thyme, sage and mint. The combination of these smells produces a long lasting effect on me… In general, smells help us achieve harmony with the world around us and with ourselves.
Photos have been provided by Slavuta SA