Since we are coming up to the wedding months, I thought it would be fun to explore the meanings of flowers and what it might signify when a bride places these flowers in her bouquet. In the olden days, flowers were coded messages as to what young couples felt about each other. Each sprig of flower in the bouquet would symbolize a different feeling or intention and it was through the giving of flowers, young lovers knew exactly what the other was thinking without words. In Shakespearean times, it was well understood what each plant stood for and in Victorian times, this gift of flower giving was an accepted art —an art that we have long lost.
Being an article on aromatherapy, I wanted to take some of the basic essential oils and see what they would have represented in days gone by! For a full list of flower meanings you can google any of the florist sites. Most of the information here was taken from various floral sites, and although I would like to credit one specific site, it appears that they have all copied from each other, so I don’t know the source of the original information. And unfortunately, not many aromatherapy essential oils are placed in bouquet arrangements, so we’ll only look at the ones I could find on the sites.
Basil in aromatherapy is used for headaches, nervous tension, muscular spasms, mental fatigue and poor concentration. In flower language it means hatred.
Bay as an essential oil is used for muscle problems, stagnation, poor circulation, colds and flu, and general fatigue. It’s meaning in wreaths was glory and merit.
Carnation’s therapeutic values are calmative, sedative and soporific. It is used for emotional problems such as stress, despondency, emotional solitude and feelings of neglect. In flower language it is broken down into the colors: Pink = a woman’s love or the symbol for Mother’s Day. Red = my heart aches for you or my heart is breaking. Purple = antipathy or capriciousness. Striped = refusal, white = pure love and innocence. Yellow = disdain and rejection.
Cedarwood is used for cleansing infection out of the body as well as psychic cleansing. It is also good for stress, acidic complaints and for fungal disorders. In a bouquet, the cedar leaf would signify “I live for thee”.
Cinnamon helps infections, coughs and colds, flu, and general aches and pains. But in a flower arrangement, cinnamon denotes love and beauty.
Clove used for warts, tooth and gum problems, also colds, chest complaints, bronchitis and general fatigue. In flower-talk, cloves are dignity and restraint.
Coriander is valuable in aiding digestive disorders, flatulence, mental fatigue and general aches and pains. In a flower arrangement it represents lust.
Fennel works on abdominal pains and cramps, flatulence, digestive disorders, menstrual problems, obesity and cleansing. Fennel signifies strength.
Geranium is used for feminine problems including reproductive disorders, fertility, menopause and cramps, as well as circulatory problems and emotional imbalance. In a posy, geranium means gentility and preference. It is associated with the 4th wedding anniversary.
Ginger works on arthritis, rheumatism, numbness and muscle fatigue; also digestive problems, mental and emotional exhaustion and sexual challenges. It’s meaning in flower-speak is Strength, safe, pleasant, warming, comforting.
Hyacinth essential oil aids in emotional problems. Its sedative properties soothe stress, tension, sorrow and feelings of distress. In vases, Purple hyacinth = “I am sorry, please forgive me” and sorrow. White = Loveliness, “I will pray for you”. Yellow = jealousy. Blue = constancy. Red = playfulness.
Jasmine’s value is of sensuality, being an aphrodisiac. It also eases nervous tension and stress related challenges. Red jasmine = folly and glee. White = sensuality, amiability and cheerfulness. Yellow = grace and modesty.
Juniper is a great diuretic, wonderful for fluid retention, bloating, detoxing and cleansing the liver and blood. Also good for mental exhaustion. In a bouquet it represents protection.
Lavender is one of the cure-alls of essential oils. It is low toxicity, and is an antiseptic, analgesic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic anti-depressant sedative and calmative. In flower language it speaks to constancy, devotion, happiness, success and luck.
Lemon is a general tonic, good for detoxification, obesity, general fatigue and physical exhaustion. Lemon blossoms symbolize faithful love and discretion.
Marjoram essential oil is valuable as a muscle relaxant. It also targets the bronchials and any head congestion, as well as being great for anxiety and tension. In the flower language, giving marjoram spoke to comfort and consolation.
Mint/Peppermint oil has many highly effective healing traits, including antiseptic, antibiotic, carminative, anti-spasmodic and decongestant. It is both soothing and relaxing while being stimulating. In a bouquet it represents virtue, warmth of feeling and protection.
Myrrh works wonders on coughs, catarrh, bronchitis, infections and especially on gum diseases. In olden times it meant gladness.
Orange Blossom/Neroli targets nervous issues and depression. It is calming, good for insomnia and also for feminine issues. Florally it meant “Your purity equals your loveliness”, Innocence and Eternal Love.
Rose oil can be found either as an attar or as an otto. It has been one of the most highly prized flowers throughout history, and representative of many organizations and religions. It is most valuable as an essential oil for infertility, female reproductive problems, anxiety and depression, nervous tension and emotional issues.
In a posy, roses were broken down by color
- Red = true love, passion, respect, prosperity;
- blue = love at first sight, mystery and attaining the impossible;
- white = eternal love, innocence, virtue;
- black = hatred, death of the love or farewell; joy, friendship, decrease of love, jealousy,
- yellow and light pink = grace, desire, passion, joy, energy;
- dark pink = gratitude, thankfulness;
- burgundy = unconscious beauty or beauty within;
- coral or orange = fascination, desire and passion;
- lavender = love at first sight, enchantment;
- red and white together = unity;
- red and yellow together = joy and happiness;
- dark crimson = mourning;
- peach = gratitude, deep appreciation, admiration;
- a single full bloom = I love you, I still love you, new love;
- small rose bud = beauty and youth, innocent heart, confession of love.
Rosemary has its uses for muscular pain, arthritis and rheumatism. It is good for colds, coughs, flu. And is a stimulant so can be used for memory enhancement, overwork, general fatigue, overindulgence, hangovers and headaches. Of course Shakespeare’s Ophelia remarked on rosemary’s qualities and in flower language it represents remembrance, devotion, rebirth and purity, also constancy, fidelity and loyalty.
Sage is good for aches and pains, drying up mucous especially as a gargle, for nervousness and adrenal exhaustion, and restores energy to the body. In flower consciousness it means virtue.
Thyme is an amazing antibiotic and antiseptic oil used to knock out all types of viral infections. Colds, flu, mucous, coughs, bronchitis, all can be helped with sage. It is also good for muscle pain and weakness, physical exhaustion, poor circulation and debility. In floral arrangements it denotes courage and activity as well as thriftiness.
Valerian is an incredibly odiferous oil, often compared to smelly socks. But you can’t find a better sleep agent, carminative and stress reducer. If one can stand the smell, valerian essential oil will knock even the biggest insomniac out for a good night’s sleep! Given in a bouquet, it would represent an accommodation disposition.
There are so many more flowers in the florist’s repertoire that speak to relayed emotions, but because they are not made into essential oils, I haven’t included them. I do encourage you to check them out and consider, the next time you are giving flowers, or even placing them out on your table in a vase, what the underlying message is that you are portraying. Flowers do carry energy and that energy represents emotion. What are you feeling today, maybe a little rosy or minty?