In 1789, an osmanthus specimen was introduced to the Kew Gardens in England. The specimen was from southern China, but it didn’t survive the cool English climate. The French botanist Jean Marie Delavay re-introduced osmanthus to European gardeners in the mid-19th century.
Sweet osmanthus (Osmanthus fragrans) is a flowering plant native to Asia. It is popular for its attractive flowers and fragrant aroma. Most parts of the sweet osmanthus plant have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, cuisine, and crafts. In this article, we’ll talk about the many uses and benefits of this useful plant.
5 Culinary Uses of Sweet Osmanthus
The tender apricot-scented flowers and leaves of sweet osmanthus are used to infuse flavor and fragrance into food and beverages. Here are some of the culinary applications:
One of the most popular uses for sweet osmanthus is osmanthus tea. The dried flowers are used alone or blended with black or green tea leaves. Osmanthus tea has a fruity aroma, sweet taste, and golden color. It is caffeine-free and consumed hot or cold.
Sweet osmanthus adds its distinct aroma to cakes and pastries. The flowers are sometimes candied or made into a syrup and used to glaze mooncakes and other Chinese desserts.
The flowers are used to scent sweet osmanthus wine, known as gui hua wine. It has a mild floral bouquet and intensely sweet aroma.
The flowers and leaves are used to infuse a floral aroma and flavor into honey, vinegar, and sweets. They are also used as a seasoning for meat and poultry dishes.
The flowers are used to make fragrant jellies and jams. Osmanthus jelly is a traditional dessert in China, enjoyed for its delicate floral flavor. It is often served with green tea.
3 Purposes of Sweet Osmanthus in Traditional Medicine
Scientific research reveals that O. fragrans contains antioxidants. It may also have the potential as an anti-inflammatory and to reduce oxidative stress. In traditional Chinese medicine and apitherapy, sweet osmanthus has many health benefits:
Osmanthus tea is used to treat coughs, soothe sore throats, and clear phlegm. The aroma is believed to open the lungs.
Osmanthus contains antioxidants that may support the immune system and help fight infections.
Calming and Digestive Effect
Sweet osmanthus tea has a calming effect and is used to relieve stress, anxiety, and insomnia. Osmanthus tea can also promote digestion, soothes stomachaches, and relieves diarrhea.
3 Uses of Sweet Osmanthus in Fragrance and Crafts
The delicate apricot-like fragrance of sweet osmanthus flowers has been prized for centuries. The aroma is extracted for perfumes and other uses:
Perfume and Bath Products
Osmanthus absolute and fragrance oil are valued ingredients in perfumes. The aroma is reminiscent of ripe peaches. Sweet osmanthus flowers and extracts are added to soaps, bath salts, and cosmetics for aroma and skincare benefits.
Small muslin sachets are filled with dried flowers and placed in closets, dresser drawers, or luggage to impart a sweet fragrance.
The golden yellow flowers add visual interest and scent to floral displays. They are a traditional Chinese decoration.
3 Functions of Sweet Osmanthus in Landscaping
Beyond its uses, sweet osmanthus is a versatile shrub with many landscape benefits:
Hedges and Screens
Sweet osmanthus makes a durable hedge or privacy screen. Some varieties have yellow-variegated leaves. And its shiny dark green leaves contrast nicely against lighter colored plants. And it draws attention with its fragrant blooms.
Sweet osmanthus tree varieties grow to 35 feet tall. Their dense canopy can provide useful shade in gardens and patios for people.
Osmanthus can thrive in difficult urban conditions including heat, drought, pollution, and poor soil, which is a tough, low-maintenance plant.
From its use in tea and cuisine to perfumes and potpourri, sweet osmanthus has many versatile applications. For centuries, it has been valued for its intense apricot-like fragrance and subtle floral flavor. With shiny evergreen foliage and scented yellow blooms, osmanthus adds year-round beauty and fragrance to gardens. Next time you encounter sweet osmanthus, remember its long history as both a useful and ornamental plant.