DIY Historical Cosmetics: Queen of Hungary’s Water
Queen of Hungary’s Water aka Hungary Water has been one of my favourite scents for as long as I’ve been wearing perfume. It’s herbal rather than sweet, with a clean, bright finish. Though no two blends are exactly the same, lemon and rosemary are usually the dominant notes. As I was making this up, the scent of the herbs was almost dizzying. It’s like a herb garden in a jar.
Some sources claim Queen of Hungary’s Water is the first alcohol-based perfume, or at least the first European one, and dates from the beginning of the fourteenth century. It’s also used as a skin tonic, the herbal ingredients effective against acne and eczema, among other issues. In addition, it can be used to bathe the temples to cure a headache. It is for external use only. Do not drink it or take it as a tincture.
Ingredients are important
There are a lot of different recipes for Hungary Water, but be careful. Beware of recipes that use lemon verbena as a main ingredient as the essential oil of that plant has been linked to sun sensitivity, which can increase the likelihood of sunburn. Lemon balm does not have the same problem.
Try to get organic herbs and essential oils if you can. Good quality dried herbs will store in a cool, dry place until it’s time to make another batch.
Layer the herbs in a wide mouth jar. A mason jar is ideal (bigger is better – the herbs swell once the liquid goes in).
2 tablespoons of lemon balm
2 tablespoons of lavender
2 tablespoons of calendula
2 tablespoons of rose petals
2 tablespoons of chamomile
1.5 tablespoons of comfrey
1 tablespoon of sage
1 tablespoon of rosemary
1 tablespoon of peppermint
1 tablespoon of elderflowers
12 drops of helichrysum oil
Top with chopped lemon peel (1/3 of a lemon rind, pith removed)
Cover the herbs with apple cider vinegar, witch hazel, or vodka. Allow for a couple inches of liquid above the herbs. Store for several weeks, shaking a couple of times a day.
As this is my first time making this, I’ve done one each using the vinegar, witch hazel, and vodka to see which turns out best. Please see this blog for the results.
I based this recipe on several existing sources both in books and online, including this one, this one, and this one. I’ll adjust the ingredients as time goes on until I create my own preferred combination. For now, I’m sharing my experiment with you!
Yes, I am a writer of vampiric fiction, but before you get excited, dear reader, the Hungarian noble in question is not Elizabeth Bathory of “bathing in the blood of virgins” fame, nor does this post describe a bracing post-blood tonic or solution for that awful bathtub ring. I suggest a foaming cleanser with plenty of bleach for that.