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Research in Botany and Plant Chemistry

1915 • 2020

At different stages in its history, Gattefossé has placed considerable emphasis on the study of botany. Its investment is proof of the company’s intense interest in plants as high-quality, complex raw materials requiring in-depth scientific study so they can be put to good use in industry.


In 1915, La Parfumerie Moderne started to create an herbarium of preserved aromatic plant specimens from across the entire world. La Parfumerie Moderne was a scientific magazine serving the profession as a whole, but also a useful Gattefossé communication tool, and as such, the publication was able to profit from the relationships it enjoyed with directors of botanical gardens in France, the colonies and other foreign countries. The aims of the herbarium were to direct the practices of growers when producing essences and to be in a position, eventually, to carry out industrial tests. The project was substantial.

In 1921, six years after the herbarium initiative first began, La Parfumerie Moderne revealed it had received around 88 different species in the fourth quarter of 1920! Consequently, the business set up a botanical research team to deal with the new work this produced, and the team had representatives in places such as Switzerland, the Congo, Madagascar and India.

Botany was in fact introduced to the company by Jean Gattefossé, René Maurice’s brother. As a young man, in 1920, he was appointed by La Parfumerie Moderne to travel to Morocco to look into the industrial cultivation of indigenous flora. He carried out “botanical prospecting” over 4,300 kilometers of land, and as a result, 724 species from 83 different plant families were harvested!

As always with the Gattefossé family, scientific studies followed the fieldwork and in 1921, these studies gave rise to an article in the Journal of the Botanical Society of Lyon, entitled “Field Trip to Morocco (Aromatic Plants, Perfumery, Botany)”.

Jean Gattefossé


Today, the business researches plant essences from across the world for use in its cosmetic products. Gattefossé’s “per molecule” approach helps determine families of plants that can be used as raw materials following bibliographical studies and recommendations from farmer-suppliers.

The company also studies co-products of the food industry, which generates a lot of green waste. This innovative process means Gattefossé seeks out all potential opportunities! Once a plant has been identified, background research is carried out, looking at the land where the plant grows, cultivation conditions, position in the wider ecosystem, etc. Regulatory issues are also considered early on in the process. For instance, to bring a product to market in China, the plant extracts used must appear in the Inventory of Existing Chemical Ingredients in China (IECIC). Then the “sourcing” process begins. Gattefossé will use “regular” suppliers in countries it already knows, but elsewhere, the company will call upon representatives from its “academic network” who will liaise with potential growers.

When making its selection, Gattefossé prioritizes the preservation of biodiversity, especially when it comes to wild plants.

To this end, the business carries out critical analysis in light of the Nagoya Protocol Regulations of 2014. So, when harvesting horse chestnut flowers in the Monts d’Ardèche park for the manufacture of Gatuline® Link N Lift, suppliers only touch the lower third of the trees to protect the surrounding fauna, especially birds.

The horse chestnut flowers are handpicked in Ardèche, France, for responsible sourcing.

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Research in Botany and Plant Chemistry