Beauty recipe: The Queen of Hungary’s Water (the world’s first cure-all skin tonic!)

You know the best part about travelling? About being a “gypsy” – beauty or otherwise? The friendships you develop with people from across the world. Unshakable, everlasting friendships. Because midnight conversations deep in the lush rainforests of Amazon and bone chilling treks up the fjords of Alaska have a way of forging bonds that withstand geographies and calendars.

And they pay the most beautiful dividends. Like the time Anna Csaszar, my pálinka-drinking-soul-baring-limbs-freezing buddy from Hungary introduced me to her country’s cult Queen of Hungary’s Water. I’ve often seen this beauty tonic in various forms on the shelves, from brands as varied as Omorovicza, Caudalie and Lush. But somehow, despite the “gypsy” antecedents, had never really investigated it. My bad.

Turns out Queen of Hungary’s Water (or Hungary water, as it’s known in short) was the world’s first distillable perfume – predating Eau de Cologne by almost five centuries.

And it wasn’t just a perfume either. Nope! Rather, it was a cure-all beauty tonic, bestowed with near-magical properties: the early recipes advise the user to drink the tonic, rub it on skin, bathe in it and inhale it in order to receive the most benefit. In fact, according to legend, it was so effective at reversing the old queen’s appearance that 25-year-old Grand Duke of Lithuania asked for her hand in marriage when she was 70!

Whether that’s true or not, fact is that the herbal composition of Hungary water is a wonderful astringent for all skin types. It gently tones, tightens pores, soothes itchy or acne-prone skin, normalizes the skin’s pH, smoothens the skin texture and protects it from bacteria and other infections.

The potent blend of volatile oils, flavonoids and phenolic acids, which are antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, also make it a superb hair rinse.

But Hungary water may also be one of the most controversial beauty products in history. Claims about its origins range from the perfume-tonic having been given to Queen Elizabeth of Hungary (1305-1380), either by a monk, a court alchemist, or a band of roaming gypsies.

It’s believed that the recipe for Hungary water remains written by the queen’s own hand, in golden alphabet, in the Imperial Library at Vienna. And that’s what the people of Hungary, who call upon this tonic water for everything from acne and eczema to headaches and indigestion, base this easy home brew upon. Anna gave me my first bottle and since then, I’ve always had one sitting on my side table.

Thankfully, given the number of bottles I go through (it’s addictive in what it does to your skin!) Hungary water is easy to make and you can get the ingredients just about everywhere.

And even if you can’t find everything in this list, just use what you have (except for rosemary – that’s crucial). Also, you can opt for either dry or fresh herbs. Though I’ve found that the fresh ones tend to make the mixture a little more cloudy. Personally, I stick to dry herbs – making sure they are organic, though.

You will need

  • 6 tablespoons lemon balm
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • 4 tablespoons rose petals
  • 3 tablespoons calendula or marigold
  • 3 tablespoons mint
  • 1 tablespoon lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon sage
  • 4 tablespoons chamomile (optional)
  • Cider vinegar to cover (preferably organic)
  • Rose water or witch hazel
  • Essential oil of lavender or rose (optional)

How to make Queen of Hungary’s Water

1. Pour all the herbs into a widemouthed glass jar

2. Add enough vinegar that it rises about two inches above the herbs; close the jar tight and let it sit in a warm or sunny spot for 2-3 weeks

3. Strain out the herbs with a fine mesh – try and get all the bits out as any fragments may turn rancid over time

4. Add either rose water or witch hazel in a ratio of 1:1 to the remaining liquid

5. Add the essential oils, if you so desire

6. Rebottle the mixture and store in a cool, dry place

Have you ever come across the Queen of Hungary’s Water? Tried it? Liked it?

The (many) beauty benefits of lavender: Ultra-easy DIY recipes included!

To me, nothing says summer more than lavender. Just its fragrance is enough to evoke the memories of balmy countryside days, soft purple bushes shimmering against a blue sky, emerald green grass glowing with refreshing dew drops, rolling fields stretching towards the mountains… all of childhood rolled into one pretty package.

But lavender is much more than just a pretty flower. It is also one of the most powerful remedies in the plant world, offering relief for problems as varied as sunburns, acne and dandruff, because of which the ancient Egyptians and Romans treasured the oil extracted from its leaves and flowers.

This amazing spectrum of healing powers is due to lavender’s complex chemical makeup, which is chockfull of antiseptic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory goodness. Even a mere whiff of its fragrance has potent aromatherapy benefits. And this is no subtle, old lady fragrance – it’s a heady scent that rivals bottled perfume.

Through various trips to Grasse and Kashmir, I have reaped the recipes of some gorgeous face masks, scrubs and body butters that help you harness all the beauty and wellness of lavender in its purest form.

Rejuvenating lavender toner

How to: Take a handful of fresh lavender and 100 ml water. Boil the water and then pour in the lavender buds, making sure they are completely submerged. Cover the bowl and leave the brew to steep for a few hours. Then drain the mixture, pour the water into a clean glass bottle and store in the refrigerator. After washing your face in the morning, spray a little bit of the lavender water on a cotton pad and gently wipe your face to instantly refresh the skin.

The science: Lavender boosts circulation, thereby increasing blood flow and ensuring that the skin cells receive adequate nutrition and oxygen. This keeps the cells healthy and boosts their turnover.

Anti-acne lavender remedy

How to: Dab lavender oil onto acne blemishes or skin infections with a cotton swab.

The science: Essential lavender oil is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. These properties allow it to both attack the bacteria causing acne infections and reduce the swelling and redness.

Lavender sunburn soother

How to: Add a few drops of lavender oil to a bowl of cool water. Make a compress and apply it to the sunburn.

The science: Lavender oil is a natural anti-inflammatory, so it helps reduce itching, swelling and redness.

Lavender burn cure

How to: Pour a few drops of lavender oil onto cotton and apply to burns for healing sans scars.

The science: Lavender oil’s burn-healing superpowers are responsible for the birth of modern aromatherapy. In 1928 a French chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé, burned his hand. He accidentally applied lavender oil to it and noticed the burn healed much faster than expected. David then discovered that lavender stimulates new skin cell formation. This reduces scarring and helps burns heal quicker. It also works as a pain reliever, while the antiseptic action helps reduce infection.

Lavender detox sugar scrub

How to: Whisk together ¼ cup each of white and brown sugar, then stir in 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Add 1 teaspoon dried lavender, gently crushing the buds between your fingers. Stir in 1 teaspoon almond or jojoba oil and then add 1 tablespoon honey, mixing until everything is evenly combined and you have a thick paste. Transfer the scrub to a glass jar and store in refrigerator.

The science: Lavender contains powerful antioxidants, which counter the effects of environmental pollution on the skin. Plus, it also helps dispel stress and nerves, both of which make skin appear coarse and lifeless.

Purifying lavender face mask

How to: Add 3-5 drops of pure lavender oil to 1 tablespoon of organic yogurt and apply to your face (avoiding eye area) for 10-15 minutes; rinse with warm water.

The science: Lavender keeps acne-causing bacteria in check, while increasing cellular rejuvenation. This means you will have fewer acne breakouts and infections if you follow this recipe once a week.

Lavender wrinkle buster

How to: Beat an egg white and add 3 drops of lavender oil. Apply to your face for 20 minutes, then rinse well with warm water.

The science: Lavender eases tension, stress and inflammation – all of which are the major contributors to skin aging. Plus, it boosts the circulatory system, thereby increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to skin cells. In fact, one study found that women who have undergone Botox injections recover better after applications with diluted lavender oil.

Lavender mineral bath salts

How to: Mix 1 cup sea salt, 1 cup Epsom salts, 1⁄2 cup baking soda, 1⁄4 cup dried lavender flowers and 5-6 drops lavender essential oil; stir well. Spoon into a clean container with a tight fitting lid. Add 1 cup to your bath as you fill the tub; soak for 15-20 minutes.

The science: Mineral baths and bath salts are perfect for relaxing sore muscles and rejuvenating the body. Lavender, in the meantime, is astringent and cleanses the skin.

Lavender body scrub

How to: Place 1 cup dried lavender flowers, 2 cups whole oatmeal and ½ cup baking soda in a food processor or blender. Grind until you have a smooth, fine powder with the consistency of whole grain flour. Store in a dry, clean container. To use, pour 1/2 cup in your bath as you fill the tub.

The science: Lavender is a relaxant, while oatmeal and baking soda are soothing to dry, sensitive skin.

Lavender body butter

How to: Combine 1⁄4 cup cocoa butter, 2 tablespoons sunflower oil, 1tablespoon coconut oil, 1 tablespoon flax seed oil, 2 tablespoons grated beeswax and 1 teaspoon vitamin E oil; gently heat until melted (in the microwave or on the stove top on low heat). Stir well and add the lavender essential oil, pour into a clean container and allow to cool completely. To use, massage into your skin, especially rough spots such as elbows, heels and knees.

The science: This rich body butter works as a potent salve to heal dry areas, soothe the skin and make it glow-y.

Lavender hair mask

How to: Crush ½ cup lavender florets; add ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar and stir well. Then stir in 1 cup applesauce and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Apply a thick layer of this paste to dry hair, pre-shampoo. Wrap your head with plastic film and cover with a towel. Relax for 8-10 minutes. Rinse well and shampoo as usual.

The science: Lavender has a gentle clarifying action on the scalp, while also helping to normalize sebum (oil) production and restoring a healthy bounce to hair.

Lavender dandruff destroyer

How to: Wet hair with warm water and towel dry. Mix 15 drops of lavender essential oil in 2 tablespoons olive or almond oil. Microwave for about 10 seconds or until it feels warm. Massage the oil into your scalp, pop on a shower cap, let set for an hour, then shampoo out.

The science: Lavender oil rejuvenates the follicles, thereby encouraging hair growth. It also kills lice and dandruff; regular use can improve your hair texture.

Lavender relaxing remedy

How to: Put a handful of dried lavender in a vase on your nightstand – or use a diffuser with lavender oil.

The science: Breathing in the smell of lavender lowers heart rate and blood pressure, putting you in a relaxed state.

Lavender sleep spray

How to: Combine ½ cup distilled water, 1 teaspoon witch hazel and 5-6 drops lavender essential oil; pour into a clean spray bottle. Spritz onto clean skin or fresh linens before going to sleep. Lavender tea can also be helpful.

The science: The scent of lavender increases alpha waves in the area of the brain responsible for relaxation. Besides this, it also shortens the length of time taken to fall asleep and helps ease you into deep, REM sleep faster.

Lavender bloat buster

How to: Sprinkle dried culinary-grade lavender on Greek yogurt.

The science: Bloating and poor digestion are usually the consequence of “bad” bacteria. The polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) in lavender help reduce these bad bacteria, while increasing digestive capability and allowing food to pass through easily.

Ever used lavender in a beauty remedy? What’s YOUR secret lavender recipe?

Coriander: My skin’s new BFF (you may know it as cilantro!)

I have grown up with the sweet, spicy and herbaceous aroma of fresh coriander (also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley) wafting through the house at mealtimes. I know it’s great for lowering cholesterol and treating digestive issues, when taken internally.

However, it wasn’t till I was reading the label on Sunday Riley’s Juno Transformative Body Lipid Serum that it really struck me how this ancient spice is taking over the beauty world. Seriously, look around and you will see that it’s everywhere! Complexion perfecting masks, smoothing body oils, sleekifying shampoos, woody perfumes… coriander forms an integral part of all labels.

And there is a good reason behind it all. Plenty of good reasons.

Coriander, it turns out, is brimming with free radical destroying antioxidants, complexion-friendly minerals and skin boosting vitamin C. It’s also a potent anti-bacterial, antiseptic, anti-fungal, disinfectant, detoxifier and anti-inflammatory. Plus, it soothes and cools the skin. Time then to figure out what wonders this super-herb can work when used in a beauty recipe right at home. Quite a lot, it seems.

CorianderSkin smoothing coriander face mask

  • Toss 1/2 cup of oatmeal, 1/4 cup of milk, 1/4 cup of chopped cucumber and 1 handful of fresh coriander into a food processor or blender
  • Blend for about a minute, till the mixture starts looking smooth; spoon it out into a glass bowl
  • Apply this mixture on your face and let it sit for 20 minutes or until hardened; then rinse

Good riddance to bad acne coriander treatment

  • Add 1 teaspoon each of lemongrass, coriander and chamomile to a pan
  • Add 1 cup boiling water and let it cool for an hour
  • Pour the herbs and water in a blender and blend on high till it seems like a paste
  • Apply this paste to cleansed skin for 20 minutes, then wash with warm water. End with a final splash of cold water

Refreshing rice & coriander face mask

  • Combine a handful of fresh coriander (leaves and stems), 2 tablespoons plain yogurt and 2 tablespoons aloe vera gel in a blender or food processor
  • Pulse until fully blended
  • Combine the mixture with 1 tablespoon coconut milk powder, 1 tablespoon rice powder and 2 tablespoons white kaolin clay
  • Apply the mask to clean skin, and allow to dry for 20 minutes; rinse and follow with your moisturizer

Fresh cilantro in a wicker basket, vintage wooden background, seCoriander & egg white face lift

  • Toss a handful of fresh, rinsed coriander leaves, 2 egg whites and 1/2 cup uncooked oats into a food processor
  • Blend till everything is well mixed and reaches a thick, paste-like consistency
  • Apply this paste to freshly cleansed face; let is sit for 10-15 minutes or until it hardens, then rinse off

Blackhead-busting coriander spot treatment

  • Mix 1 teaspoon each of coriander juice and lime juice
  • Apply on affected areas; leave for at least an hour, then wash off with warm water

Banish those moles coriander salve

  • Grind coriander seeds into a pulp using a mortar & pestle or food processor
  • Apply the pulp to your mole; cover with a bandage and leave for approximately an hour
  • Wash off with a gentle cleanser and moisturize as usual. You should start to see the mole lighten after 10 days. This treatment is safe to use daily and leave longer than one hour, if desired

Getting lippy coriander balm

  • Prepare a mixture of 2 teaspoons of coriander juice and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • Apply this all over the lips and leave overnight. Wash off next morning and repeat the same for a few days to reveal smooth pink lips

coriander beauty benefits 3Icky itches coriander paste

  • Make a paste of coriander seeds with a little bit of water and a teaspoon of honey
  • Apply this paste over the itchy skin for instant relief

Healing coriander body oil

  • Soak 1 tablespoon powdered coriander seeds in 1 cup of sunflower, almond or olive oil; let infuse for a week
  • Apply this oil all over your body at night, especially concentrating on areas that have been sunburnt, wounded or scarred; repeat daily

Stop the hair loss coriander oil

  • Add 1 tablespoon powdered coriander seeds to your hair oil and let them infuse for a week
  • Use this infused oil to massage your scalp at least twice a week. This will prevent further hair fall and help stimulate the roots for growth of new hair

Coriander detox remedy

  • Boil 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds in half a litre of water and add a teaspoon of sugar or honey
  • Drink the mixture when it is still warm; repeat thrice a day

My top 10: Coriander-based beauty products

If you prefer off-the-shelf beauty products to DIY home recipes, these are the ones that top the charts!

coriander-beauty-products

Fresh Coriander Lavender Petit Soap

Aesop Coriander Seed Body Cleanser

Crabtree & Evelyn Citron Ultra-Moisturising Hand Therapy

Sunday Riley Juno Body Transformative Body Lipid Serum

Jo Loves Green Orange & Coriander Perfume

Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate

C.O Bigelow Village Perfumer Hand Wash Lime & Coriander

Malin + Goetz Cilantro Conditioner

Coco By Chanel Perfume

Neal’s Yard Remedies Lemon & Coriander Deodorant 

Have you ever tried a coriander-based beauty product or treatment? What was your experience?