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L.P.A. Oyen and Nguyen Xuan Dung (Editors), 1999. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 19. Essential-oil plants. (Associate editors: M.H. Boelens, C.C. de Guzman, J.C. Doran, S. Duriyaprapan, Ibrahim bin Jantan, P.C.M. Jansen (botanical aspects), P.A. Leclerq.) Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, the Netherlands. 277 pp. ISBN 90-5782-010-2

Prosea, short for "Plant Resources of South-East Asia", is an international programme focused on South-East Asia. Its purpose is to make available the wealth of dispersed knowledge on plant resources for education, extension, research and industry through a computerised data bank and an illustrated multivolume handbook. A thorough knowledge of plant resources is essential for human life and plays a key role in ecologically balanced land-use systems. Extensive information on the plants growing in the region is needed to enable the plant resources of each country to be used optimally. A large international team of experts is preparing the texts on particular species or genera, which are being published in commodity groups. All taxa are treated in a similar manner with details on uses, botany, ecology, agronomy or silviculture, genetic resources, breeding, prospects and literature.

This volume deals with the plants of South-East Asia that produce essential oil, particularly the ones producing oils used as fragrance material. It complements the Prosea volumes on edible fruits and nuts, medicinal and poisonous plants, spices, and plants producing exudates, which deal with plants that produce essential oils as important by-products.
Fragrance materials play a much more important and varied role in life than is often realised. Incense is burnt in religious ceremonies all over the world. In luxury perfumery, fragrance is used to subtly please the senses of the user and those nearby. Some body care products are equally important as perfumery products (aftershaves, antiperspirants); others have essential oils added to make their use more pleasant (creams, soaps, shampoos, deodorants). Functional perfumery covers a very wide range of products, from soaps and detergents to domestic cleaning products. Although the fragrance materials used in many cosmetics and household products are now largely synthetic, natural essential oils still play a central role in food and luxury perfumery, as the richness of their odour is unrivalled by synthetics and because the use of synthetics in food is subject to stricter government regulations.
Most of the 38 important crops covered in this volume are grown in South-East Asia, but several crops widely grown elsewhere and potentially useful in parts of South-East Asia have been included as well. A further 31 species of minor importance are treated briefly, while 400 species producing essential oils but having another primary use are listed.

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