DIY: Make the Queen of Hungary’s Water (an ancient beauty tonic) from common garden herbs
Splash around a little of this home-made herbal ‘water’ for its lovely scent and remedial nature.
Words: Kristina Jensen
Open a vanity in any woman’s bathroom and with very few exceptions (mine is one), you will find a multitude of bottles, soaps, roll-ons, and scents. It’s for the wrinkles, the crows’ feet, something for the flab, the fat and the less fortunate parts of one’s anatomy.
Whether one wishes to get ‘dolled up’ or ‘wind down’, science has the answer – cosmetics – with a price tag attached.
The word ‘cosmetic’ comes from the Greek word ‘kosmeticos’ meaning ‘skilled in adornment’. In turn, this word claims its roots from the goddess Cosmeos whose name means harmony and balance. Cosmeos gave to mortals the gifts of herbs, flowers and simple pleasures to nourish body and soul.
In the days of ancient Greece women used product too. However, the difference was that the tonics and salves they created came primarily from wild-crafted flowers and plants collected directly from nature. Most of these have been used for centuries as beauty and medicinal aids and are still readily available today in most gardens.
One of the first commercially-produced cosmetic products in Europe was the ‘Queen of Hungary’s Water’, a simple but versatile beauty product that you can make yourself. The recipe calls for common herbs and flowers which, when combined with the goodness of apple cider vinegar, makes a brew that was sold as a beauty aid and cure-all by European gypsies, who are said to have first formulated it.
It is an exquisite cosmetic formula, often sold in department stores in fancy bottles for a fancy price but it costs very little to make, especially if you have the herbs growing in your garden. It is said to be an excellent astringent for the face, and the gypsies also proclaimed its use as a mouthwash, hair rinse, headache remedy, aftershave and as a base for a soothing footbath.
The best time for collecting the flowers and leaves for this formula is when the sun has just touched the plants, illuminating the mantle of dew coating them
The Queen of Hungary’s Water is reputed to last forever, provided it is kept in a cool dark place, can be used daily in undiluted form, and apparently has the potential to banish unsightly marks on the face, neck and hands, heal dry skin, assist in the management of dry scalp and prevent halitosis.
Whether it does or it doesn’t, treat yourself to the goodness of these simple and gentle herbs.
The Queen of Hungary’s Water
A small handful of lemon balm leaves
1 cup white wine or apple cider vinegar
1 cup chamomile flowers
1 cup rose petals
Petals of 3 calendula flowers
1 large comfrey leaf
1 piece of lemon peel
1 sprig of rosemary
1 sprig of sage leaves
½ cup witch hazel per cup of liquid
½ cup rose water per cup of liquid
Place the fresh herbs into a wide-mouthed glass jar. Cover with apple cider or white wine vinegar — it should be an inch or two above the herbs (squish herbs down if not). Cover tightly and sit it in a warm dark spot for 2-3 weeks (the hot water cupboard is ideal).
Strain through a clean tea towel or cheesecloth. Add the witch hazel and rose water (available from pharmacies) and a drop or two of essential oil of lavender or rose, then decant into attractive bottles of your choice.
It does not need to be refrigerated and should keep indefinitely in a cool, dark place.