Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Rose Harvest and Aromatherapy Bulgaria May 21-28, 2014

rose fest3Most of the rose oil – Rosa damascena produced in the world comes from the Valley of the Roses in Bulgaria. On this unique tour you will enjoy the excitements of the Rose Festival,
take part in the rose harvest, see the rose distillation process and more importantly buy the freshest rose otto oils and related products at anufacturer price.

The superb qualities of Bulgaria’s variety of grapes are also famous to the world. Wine production in Bulgaria goes back to the ancient times and Thracian’s wines are well-known of their delicious tastes. Wine degustation is another highlight of this tour.

Beautiful Bulgaria has a traditional rural heart containing medieval cities and exquisitely preserved towns, providing a window onto a Europe that has all but vanished. Beside roses and wines, you will visit the beautiful medieval city of Plovdiv with its romantic old town and the capital city of Sofia; visit the most magnificent Thracian tombs in Europe; experience an eco-trek walk and the traditional village living.

rose fest2

Day 1 Arrive in Sofia and head onto the village of Kalofer and transfer to Cucovata House. In the evening, hear a talk on “The History of the Rosa Damascena” and enjoy a welcome dinner at the house with traditional home cooked food.
Day 2 Rise early to join the rose harvest in the rose fields.Afterwards, a workshop on Bulgarian oils and in the afternoon you will join a workshop with Nikolay to prepare rose jam and rose syrup. Dinner with live music.
Day 3 Join local guide Nikolay for a full day hike along the Biala Reka eco-path, examining local flowers and herbs on the way with a picnic lunch en route. It is powerful experience to feel frothy river in canyons and see all those waterfalls. There up on mountains is special floora and fauna with flowers, butterflies and birds.  This specialist walk received the Conde Nast Traveller Award for best eco-destination in the world in 2005.Later, visit the men’s monastery and hear a liturgy.
Day 4 Plovdiv -city tour. It is declared an architectural museum reserve with over 150 monuments of culture – houses from the National Revival period. Its magnificent houses are turned into museums, galleries, workshops, restaurants. There are also parlors and studios of painters and wood-carvers. Families from Plovdiv own many of those houses. The most distinguished examples of the Baroque of Plovdiv are the house of Koiumjioglu (now an ethnographical museum), the house of Georgiadi (now the Rennaissance museum of the national struggle), the house of Nedkovich (the municipality), the gallery of the renowned Bulgarian painter Zlatyo Boyajiev, the house of Balabanov (now a gallery of modern painting, as well as a concert hall). UNESCO awarded Plovdiv a gold medal for architecture in 1979.
In the afternoon we visit “Starossel Winery. In Bulgaria there are idealistic conditions for wine cultivation and already wines of Thrace were world famous in ancient times. Near by on a mountain is Sacred Dionysos Temple (it is found year 2000) and it is located near Starossel village. We are in very heart at the feet of wine art.
Day 5 Spend the following morning at the Rose Festival in the nearby village, watching locals
dressed in colourful traditional costumes performing live music and folk dances, and the Rose Queen Parade. In the afternoon, drive to Tarnichene and visit its active rose distillery, the Enio BonchevDistillery, where you will learn first-hand about the painstaking process used for harvesting and producing this precious substance, and the use of rose oil in a variety of products from oils to rose jam and rosewater. In the evening, enjoy dinner back at Cucovata House.
Day 6 Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Thracian Tombs at Kazanluk, which are famous for their unique mural paintings, as well as the newly opened Thracian Tombs of Golamo Kozmitska. In the afternoon, visit the Church of St Nikolay. Near by is in Gomi Dubnik village high on the mountains memorial of Balkan Peninsula war (1877 – 1878). There were also Finnish soldiers championed to free Bulgaria over 500 years occupation Turkish regime. There is still well known song from these times and both Finnish and Bulgarian people know it.
Day 7 Spend the next day in Kalofer, starting with a visit to the traditional laundry. Visit the Women’s monastery, the 200year old mill and the Church of the Archangel Mikhail., before a Farewell Dinner at Cucovata House.
Day 8 Next morning, drive to Sofia for your flight

rose fest1

The cost of the tour  is 720 Euro per person (except flights)
The cost includes:
• The services of a tour leader In Bulgaria the cost includes:
• 7 nights’ accommodation in twin or double-bedded rooms with private facilities at the Cucovata House

The single room supplement is 100 eur.
• Breakfast daily
• Dinner Daily
• Lunches on days 5 and 7
• A full programme of talks (CPD granted by IFPA)
• A full programme of visits as per the itinerary
• Admission fees where applicable
• Full-time National Guide
• All transport on the tour excluding flights
The cost excludes:
• Flights and taxes.
• Meals not mentioned
• All personal extras such as tips, porterage, laundry,
inoculation fees and drinks
• All optional excursions, tours and visits
• Travel insurance

Please note, all itineraries are subject to change
according to local conditions. Due to the nature of the
tour places are limited to 25.

If you want to hear more please contact Anita at

If you would like to join the Rose Tour in 2014 for your own Bulgarian adventure contact:

Susan Hagan    E-mail:                                                                    Tel: 00359(0)895195318 (Bulgarian Mobile)                                                                       00359 6128263 (Bulgarian Landline)


Frankincense Oil and Boswellic Acid

Frankincense tree_BrangdonJRecently, I was made aware of a report from an analytical testing lab comparing the levels of boswellic acid in frankincense oil samples from two popular resellers of essential oils and aromatherapy products. The report immediately caught my eye for two reasons, first because of my love and experience with analysis of frankincense oils from many different regions, and second because of my curiosity about the relevance of boswellic acid in such a product as a steam distilled essential oil.  The whole notion seemed very curious to me because of what I knew to be true about the structure of boswellic acid.

For those less familiar with this recently popular compound in the health and wellness industry, boswellic acid is an oxygenated triterpene which occurs naturally in frankincense resin in two structural isomeric forms namely alpha and beta with the structures:

boswellic acid

The molecular formula for boswellic acid is C30H48O3 and the two isomers differ only by the position of a methyl group.  What immediately would cause any essential oil chemist to raise his eyebrow upon seeing such a claim of a triterpenoid molecules in a steam distilled essential oil is the fact that these compounds have a very high molecular weight at 456.7 and are non-volatile solids in their pure form, thus one would not expect it possible to be in a steam distilled product.  Typically the largest class of molecules occurring (and rarely so) in essential oils are diterpenoid in nature and the observed threshold weight for components that can be obtained by steam distillation is in the low 300 range.   For example, one of the heaviest components one sees in essential oils is the oxygenated  diterpenoid called sclareol (normally found in clary sage at a fraction of a percent under normal steam distillation conditions), which has the molecular formula C20H36O2, molecular weight of  308.5 and the structure below: 


Given this observed upper weight limit of essential oil components being maxed out in the diterpenoid range, one would predict that finding non-volatile triterpenoid molecules in a steam distilled product would be an incredible finding worthy of substantial attention in literature, however no such reports could be found.  Furthermore, upon closer examination of the lab report making the claims (see report below), one finds that the determination of boswellic acids in the frankincense was determined by HPLC (High Pressure Liquid Chromatography).   HPLC is a method used for the analysis of non-volatile components dissolved in solution because these components will not elute on a column by GC (Gas Chromatography) methods.  Steam distilled essential oils are necessarily composed of volatile organic molecules because it is their volatility that allows them to be distilled in the first place.  For this reason, the chosen method of analysis for steam distilled essential oil components is Gas Chromatography, not Liquid Chromatography, and all known steam distilled essential oil components are detectable by Gas Chromatographic methods.  But our experiments with reference samples of boswellic acid did not detect any trace of said components by GC when attempts were made to analyze dissolved solutions of the pure component, even when the GC run was maxed out at 260 degrees Centigrade and a total run time of 140 minutes (normal GC run times are 30 to 60 minutes).  This is very strong evidence that obtaining boswellic acid in an essential oil by steam distillation would a physical impossibility even at percentages of only a fraction of a percent.  But even if one optimistically hoped it would be possible to get trace amounts of triterpenoids by steam distillation it would certainly be out of the question to hope for any significant concentration.  As shown in the report, the total triterpenoid level (in the form of boswellic acids plus acetyl and keto derivatives) for samples #1 and #2 were shown to be 11.5 and 81.5 grams per milliliter.  This corresponds to 1.15% and 8.15% respectively.   Needless to say that this finding is highly suspect, given the extreme rarity of their smaller cousins, i.e. the oxygenated diterpenoids which have molecular weights that are roughly 150 units smaller.

boswellic acid gc

In summary, if the report claiming high levels of the triterpenoid boswellic acid in steam distilled frankincense oil is analytically accurate, then one would necessarily come to  one of two conclusions:  1. the samples were not really steam or hydro distilled but from an extracted product, or 2. samples were adulterated with boswellic acid from another source. It is my professional opinion as an essential oil chemist that the presence of boswellic acids, despite their potential therapeutic value, are not appropriate markers of quality for pure steam distillate of frankincense resin, in fact, quite the contrary.  Ironically, the MLM rep who was attempting to use the report to make his product look superior only succeeded in making himself look uneducated and his competitor’s oil look to be the more authentic!

As appeared in the IJPHA Winter 2012 Issue (Vol 1, Issue 3)

Written by Dr. Robert Pappas

Image Courtesy of Brangdon J/Flickr

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