Perhaps I became a herbalist because I grew up in a household where herbs, spices, and home-made perfumes and flower waters played a major role in Christmas celebrations. My Great-Grandmother, Grandmother and Great Aunts were all English ladies of the Victorian era. During this time people were encouraged to make holiday gifts rather than buying them ready-made. As a child, I particularly liked the day when these women gathered together to make gifts of potpourri and water-based perfumes and room sprays for Christmas giving. This usually happened around the fourth Sunday before Christmas. These are super simple to make, and the perfumes are lighter and more delicately scented than store-bought scents.
Here are a few recipes reminiscent of the 1880s for you to try:
Eau de Portugal: You’ll need 100% pure essential oils of sweet orange, bergamot, and benzoin that are environmentally friendly and not tested animals; 1 tbsp of Vodka and 150ml of pure spring water; a clean glass jar with a lid and paper coffee filters. Dissolve the oils in the Vodka, add to the water in the jar, shake to combine and seal. Store in a cool place away from heat and light for about four weeks, then filter into pretty glass bottles and add your own handwritten label.
Flower waters: These are really easy to make and good for all types of skin. Simply add 10-30 drops each of your choice of essential oil (or a blend of such as 10 drops each of lavender, rosemary, and petitgrain) to 150ml of pure water in a clean glass jar with a lid. A splash of pure witch hazel will help blend the scents. Store in a cool place away from heat and light for about four weeks. These delicately scented waters can be used to perfume, freshen and hydrate the skin.
Spritz spray: Add 4 drops of clove, 7 drops of sandalwood, and 7 drops of Mandarin essential oils to 177 ml (¾ cup) of water and 1 tbsp of pure clear vanilla in a spray bottle. Shake well and let oils blend for 24 hours before use as a refreshing room spray.
Traditional potpourri blend: Mix together 25 g mixed colour dried rose petals; 12 g dried verbena leaves; 6 g dried lavender flowers; 6 g dried mint leaves; ½ tbsp dried orris root powder (a fixative); half a nutmeg grated; 20-25 drops rose essential oil; 20-25 drops lavender essential oil; some decorative small rosebuds. Put into a clean sealed container, place in a dark area and leave to mature for about 4 weeks. Package into clear bags with decorative accents for gift-giving.