Morocco visit in search of Blue Tansy - Plant Therapy Blog

The Plant Therapy website uses cookies for a variety of reasons. By accessing or using the Plant Therapy website you agree to the use of cookies. You can read our cookie policy here.

Your cart is currently empty.

Essential Oils Blog

Morocco visit in search of Blue Tansy

I recently had the opportunity to visit some farms and distilleries in France and Morocco. I took Paul, Plant Therapy’s Vice President, and my 12-year-old daughter, Alexa, with me. In my last blog post I was able to share some photos of our visit to France. When we left France, we headed directly to Morocco (northern Africa).

We saw the following oil producing plants there:

We were mainly in search of two plants- one of which was Blue Tansy. As you may be aware, Blue Tansy has become more scarce over the past couple of years. In fact, the cost has gone from around $70 per kg four years ago, up to thousands of dollars per kg today. There are a number of reasons for this but all of it comes down to supply and demand. Because the plant has only been wild harvested in the past, as opposed to commercially farmed, it is becoming less abundant. We were getting ready to sign a large contract with a distillery in Morocco and I thought it best to pay them a visit before doing so.

We flew into Casablanca early in the morning and our host was waiting for us at the airport. Then, we immediately started driving to where the Blue Tansy plant is growing in the wild. In fact, over the course of the next few days, we drove over 2,000 miles visiting farms, countryside and distilleries.

IMG_3269(Matching shirts!)

I hadn’t done much research on Morocco and was a little surprised to find it to be an Arabic speaking country. Most of the street signs were in Arabic, although some were also in French.

IMG_2946

It was also during Ramadan and since Morocco is 99.9% Muslim, it was a little difficult to find food during the day.

We arrived later in the day and made our first stop at their little distillery. This was much different than the state of the art distilleries in France.

[A note on this- as we travel to visit different distilleries in different countries, it is very interesting to me to see how things are done differently around the world. For the end user, and even many suppliers, they just see the oil come in a bottle. For most, the “history” of the oil is never a thought. But as we work with farms and distilleries, I am intrigued by the levels of sophistication or simplicity that comes with each oil. Some are distilled by state of the art factories from product that is mass produced on large farms. Others are distilled by just one or two people who grew the crops themselves on a small farm, or even just wild harvested the crops by hand and have a homemade still. Neither way is wrong and there are benefits and detriments to each. I really love both of them and love to learn the story of an oil. Often the end result is the same, but the path of progress is vastly different.]

This was a cooperative building. They have a small “test” garden where they are growing miscellaneous crops and testing their efficacy, oil yield, etc. This is done in cooperation with the local school.

IMG_2993

In one part of the building they were drying and separating some flowers for use in tea.

IMG_2997

In another room, they were distilling Blue Tansy that they had recently purchased from the ladies who picked them in the wild.

IMG_2955

Out back they had some homemade greenhouses that they were trying to cultivate some Blue Tansy plants in.

IMG_3013

When they are successful, they will move the small plants out to their farm to produce on a larger scale. They also had a fairly large Blue Tansy plant on site.

IMG_2990

Did you know that the Blue Tansy plant doesn’t actually have any blue color to it? The plant itself has long stems with “hairy” leaves.

IMG_3348

If it grows late into the season it will flower with some small yellow flowers and seeds.

IMG_2986

It is interesting to watch a lighter green plant go into the still and a dark blue oil come out. I find it kind of humorous that almost all of the pictures posted online of the “blue tansy” plant are not of the correct plant. When we have asked a couple of reputable people about the photos they have posted, the response was that they have never actually been to Morocco or seen the Blue Tansy plant. They were just posting a photo they found online. I have never talked with any other essential oil supplier that has actually gone to Morocco to see the plant and see the process.

IMG_3020

We continued our trip going further north into the hills. (They called them mountains, but growing up around the Rocky Mountains, I can’t really call them that.) Along the rural roadways we passed many women who were standing on the sides of the road selling their artisan goat cheese. We also saw people walking with their donkeys (or mules) or working the field with their horses.

IMG_7676

When we stopped, I was fully expecting to see lots of wild Blue Tansy on the hillside. This was not the case. It was more like a small weed here and there. As we walked through the weeds they would point out a plant here or a plant there and say that was it.

IMG_7641

When we rubbed our hands on the plant, the smell was all the proof I needed. It was pungent and obvious. The process for harvesting is that the local people will take their donkey with baskets attached, up into the hills and just pick plant by plant. They will then take their goods down to the roadway at a specified time to meet the distiller’s trucks. They pay them so much per kg of plant material. The competition has become high. There are 3-4 of these distillers competing for the same plants. As the plants become more scarce, the prices go up. It used to be that this plant was growing all over the place, but as the demand increases the availability has gone down.

File_000

 

To distill the Blue Tansy, this company will take 500 kg of fresh plant material and distill it at low heat for approximately 3 hours. This is a no pressure steam distillation. This will yield an average of 400 grams (roughly 14 ounces) of essential oil. They are still refining the process and I expect their yields to go up over the next 2-3 years. Although their batches are fairly small, their quality is excellent. Over the past couple of years, the Blue Tansy on the market has had a chamazulene (the active constituent that gives it the dark blue color) content ranging from roughly 3-8%. This year we have been purchasing Blue Tansy, both conventional and organic, with a chamazulene content above 10% with most batches up into the teens. I am both excited and encouraged by this, and I think you will love the Blue Tansy this year!

While up in the hills, we visited their second distillation site.

IMG_3129

This one is outdoors. They have a hand dug, fresh water well on site.

IMG_3132

They install the distillation equipment during the harvest season and remove it afterward. It is up for around 3 months out of the year.

We continued to the East and stayed at an incredibly beautiful hotel in M’diq. Most of the people who vacation in this area are Moroccans. Because the people do not generally vacation during Ramadan, the hotel was mostly vacant and it was very inexpensive. Due to the long travel days, Alexa was getting burned out and started getting sick.

HKQJ8589

We decided to take a day off and let her relax at the hotel. It was great to relax, swim in the ocean, and play some tennis to recharge.

We then continued on to Marrakech. This is a beautiful city. It was interesting to see lots of donkeys and scooters in use.

IMG_3313

It was not uncommon to see a nicer vehicle in one lane and a donkey and wagon in the next. Also there were many women wearing burqas riding scooters. I was told that is an unusual thing and is generally only seen in Marrakech. It was a fascinating town and I really enjoyed learning about their culture a little bit. We asked lots of questions and our hosts were eager to answer.

IMG_3317

IMG_3320

After traveling many miles out to the countryside we visited some farms.

IMG_3379

I was under the impression that this company had many acres in Blue Tansy planted. That was not the case. They were just starting the commercial operation and only had a few plants planted in test sites.

IMG_3356

Most of the farm land was covered in grain or olive trees. Lots and lots of olive trees. The specific farm we visited has been in their family for over 500 years. It used to be massive but has split with each generation. It is still a decent size at over 350 acres.

IMG_7747

I asked if the women received the same inheritance as the men and he said yes and no. He was very quick to point out that in Morocco women are seen and treated as equals. But their God’s law is that the men get two portions while the women get one. So this man has two sisters. His father split their family farm into two pieces. The two daughters split one half and the son got the other. He said he doesn’t like that, but it is the law so they honor it. It was also interesting to note that if a son inherits land and then dies before his father, the father receives 20% of the land back and 80% is passed on to his wife and kids.

IMG_3385

The barn was made of clay and straw. It takes quite a while to build. They are made into bricks that are 40 cm thick and stacked to make walls.

IMG_3421

IMG_3417

It was built 13 years ago and he said it should be good for another 20 years or so. Because of Ramadan, the workers do not eat or drink during the day. They are working in the heat and easily get fatigued. They will work for a couple of hours then nap in the barn and continue this all day and into the night.

IMG_3430

During harvest they will generally just sleep out on the farm. The water ditches are above ground.  The water is pumped from a lake that is many miles away. There is one main pump and they just open valves to deliver it to the proper location.

IMG_3335

IMG_3336

Although many of the local farmers still use a scythe, this particular farm had a combine for harvesting grain- they will just bag the grain as they harvest and dump the bags in the field for retrieval later.

IMG_3043

IMG_3334

This is different than our Idaho grain operations which will collect the grain in the combine and deliver it in bulk to the grain bins. The grain bags weigh close to 250 lbs and they will just hand load them all onto trucks. He said when they are feeling competitive they will load two at a time- one on each shoulder. So that is almost 500 lbs by hand!

IMG_3338

IMG_3340

We spent the next couple of days in search of the Argan tree fruit. I will post photos and information about that in my next blog post.

Chris Jones
Plant Therapy

25 thoughts on “Morocco visit in search of Blue Tansy”

  1. Wow, what an experience, thank you for sharing. Gives a great appreciation for the effort and value of each of your oils!

  2. Wow! Lot of first hand info, I love a good travelogue. Especially with so many photos! I just bought Blue Tansy EO and wanted to find out more about it 🙂
    Are Blue Tansy flowers really looking just like Helichrysum flowers?

  3. Very interesting! Thanks for posting all the pictures and information about the blue tansy plant! Just reading this post makes me really appreciate blue tansy essential oil. I must order myself a bottle and try it out!

  4. I took advantage of the 25 Days of Christmas Blue Tansy deal and, as a researcher, just had to look it up. Finding this was an unexpected surprise! I am relatively new to essential oils and have really enjoyed learning about the processes that bring them to us. Thank you for sharing this part of the journey in such a real and tangible way!

  5. This is so cool! I’m one of those few who wonder about the back story and doubt I’ll ever go there. Thanks a bunch!

    1. You’re so welcome, Kelly! It’s so fun to learn about the business of essential oils — it takes you all over the world!

    1. I spoke to Chris and he said absolutely! We simply ask that you both give us credit as well as link it back to our blog. So glad that you enjoyed it!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your trip with all of us! Very informative and interesting! Even my children were interested and had me read it all to them! It’s so awesome to see the process of where and how we get our cute Lil bottles of EO. I like that you guys share this kind of stuff and actually go to these places and learn about them yourself instead of just buying and selling!

  7. Very informative article. However, the only thought I have is that business goes where money is. It is really a sad state that blue tansy is being cultivated as many other essential oils simply because there is money to be made. Are essential oils beneficial to our health? Of course. As a certified aromatherapist, I have been using e.o. for years. When I started, I knew of few people who used e.o. Now, it seems every one under the sun is talking about e.o. because aromatherapy is becoming “fashionable” except most people have no idea how to use e.o. properly. Sigh.

    1. I agree that so many people are now using essential oils that safety needs to be taught hand in hand. At Plant Therapy we strive to stay ahead of the curve and educate our customers on safe practices. We even sponsor a Facebook group called Safe Essential Oil Recipes, feel free to join us there!

  8. Wow. That is fascinating. I feel spoiled that we jsut buy an oil and it “magically” arrives in our mailbox all ready to go. Thx for sharing this info. 🙂

    1. So glad that you enjoyed the article! We are certainly blessed by the fact that we have access to so many beneficial essential oils that we couldn’t possibly cultivate on our own.

  9. This was so informative. Thank you for sharing your experiences with each of us who follow your PLANT THERAPY web site. It was actually a surprise to me that other essential oil companies have not been as thorough as PT to follow the trail; area, growth and harvesting of the oils. That you do sets you apart from the rest of your competitors. I too like the history you shared. Keep the information coming!!

  10. Thank you so much for allowing us to visit the Country of Morocco with you folks through your blog write up and photos. I love to learn about other countries and the way they do things. I will tell you I grew to appreciate the hard work they do over there to cultivate the plants. Just incredible, a strong and enduring people, 250 pound bags and on a good day 2 bags with a total combine weight of 500 pounds, the heat and fasting, Wow. It was very fascinating to see the work being done and cultivation. Really interesting too that Blue Tansy is not a blue plant. It does not surprise me that no one has ever really bothered to explore the history of the plant. Likely many are just concerned about the bottom dollar, but to lovers of the Blue Tansy and other Essential Oils we are very much interested. I believe to that some just put any photo of the plant, just incredible. The Morrocans are an honest, hardworking people, the land is worked in harsh conditions and the lakes water being pumped in. Can’t we areally appreciate all that effort. In time I do hope they progress to the point they can refine their processes, but for now a better appreciation for their efforts, the scarcity of the plant, and the knowledge we have an oil that is pure is so exciting and I just can’t express the appreciation I have for the glimpse of what wouldn’t be possible without your family including us personally through it all. Thank You.

  11. Thank you for sharing and being so open and transparent. Getting to watch the mint harvest and distillation in Murtaugh, I understand the process and so enjoy seeing your photos.

  12. Once I again I really appreciate learning about the history and process of plant to oil. To me, this is just one of the things that sets Plant Therapy apart from any other company. Thank you so much!

  13. Very informative, thank you for sharing your adventures! The quest for essential oils is indeed real, and makes me appreciate them all the more. Time to order some tansy 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: