You know the best part about travelling? 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 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, had never really investigated it. My bad.
Turns out Queen of Hungary 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.
Benefits of Queen of Hungary Water
The early recipes advise the user to drink the tonic (though I would definitely say that you check with your doctor on that first!), rub it on skin, bathe in it and inhale it in order to receive the most benefit.
In fact, according to legend, Queen of Hungary Water 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.
… and the controversies about its origins
However, Queen of 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.
How to make the Queen of Hungary Water at home (it’s easy!)
Thankfully, given the number of bottles of Queen of Hungary Water 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.
- 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)
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
When I was about 20 I discovered an herbal guide written in the 1940s.
I’ve used so many recipes and cures over the years of marriage and 5 children in 10 years. Queen of Hungary waters was fantastic and still is. My skin, my now several teenagers skin, even assisting with soothing bites (along with a few other helpful herbs).
22 years on from my initial 2ND hand bookshop goldmine – I’m still happy and experimenting with recipes. The original rosemary water was just that though.
So glad to see others experimenting and developing their own recipes for their own needs.
Xoxo to fellow herb lovers.
What was the Folk book from the 1940’s that you bought?
Laurinda Taylor says
Hi I made this a week ago, and it expanded and leaked and when i opened the lid, (very carefully I add) it exploded, is that normal or did i fill the jar too much, I covered the herbs with rose water and witch hazel, and then i added 1/2 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar.
So sorry that happened to you! Firstly, I would say add either witch hazel or rose water. I have personally never tried it with both! And this tends to increase in volume as it ferments, so maybe fill just half the jar? Let me know how it goes.
Laurinda Taylor says
Brilliant thank you so much, I will give it a go again once I’ve used what I’ve got from this batch x
Important to cover the herbs in apple cider vinegar only. Once it has sat for 2-3 weeks you strain it and then add the witch hazel or rose water 1:1 ratio. If you try to use witch hazel or rose water to make a herbal tincture it will just go bad and ferment without extracting the medicinal properties. Hope this helps if you try making it again!
Monika grover says
Hey Anubha! It seems magical! I have heard of this Hungary water for the first time. I am suffering from acne problems and tried so many things that didn’t work. I will now make this Hungary water and hope that it can help me to get rid of acne. This Hungary water is healthy for our skin as it is made for natural ingredients. Thanks a lot for sharing this.
Jason hood says
Hi Anubha, Awesome post! I have made this Hungary water 1 month ago for my wife and she is using it till now. I tried this because she wanted to get rid of wrinkles desperately. The results were amazing, She tried many things before but none of them worked. I will suggest this Hungary water with all my friends. Keep sharing useful posts like this.
Your commentsseem do honest that you convinced me to make it and use it twice daily.
How much more of rosemary did you use ?
It is the rosemary herb that makes it a miracle potion.
Thyme and Rosemary were in the original water. Thanks for you and your wife’s testimonial. I will make it this weekend.
Harriet L Boston
Hi! My skin is very very sensitive. And reacts badly to both apple cider vinegar and rose water. I do love to use cucumber water as a toner. Is it possible to modify the recipe to use only the herbs and cucumber water?
Wendy Gardner says
Vinegar has a pH of around 2-3 which is very acidic, which may explain why with sensitive skin it can be too harsh. Vinegar as a rule is too acidic to be used neat, which is why it’s blended with witch hazel and rosewater. I’d say err on the side of more rosewater in your mixure. You can’t overdo rosewater, in fact I use pure rosewater often on my skin and I’m menopausal with dry skin, and it’s fine. And if you’ev made too much infused vinegar, why not try adding it to your salad dressing??? Get the goodness of the herbs into your body that way?
M Kuti says
If you react to rose water, too, definitely try the cucumber water with the herbs, instead. I think Rosemary is the crucial ingredient as it was in the earliest formulas and is the main constant in the recipes.
Sherri A Morin says
When adding the eo would you also add a preservative?
Anubha, it’s my first time hearing of Hungary water but I’m so glad that I came across this recipe! The potential benefits for our face are amazing but I totally believe that it can do for our skin all that you mentioned because the ingredients are some of the most powerful in their benefits. I also love that I grow most of these ingredients so I’m really going to enjoy making your Queen of Hungary water recipe.
Shawntelle M Moncy says
How much is this supposed to make?