Hungary Water, or 'The Queen of Hungary's Water' to be precise is an aromatic compound which is reputed to have had such a powerful rejuvenating effect on an aged fourteenth century queen, that she was restored to youthful good looks and courted by the King of Poland. As the Queen was over 70, semi-paralysed and suffering from gout, the effect must indeed have been remarkable!

Setting aside the fact that a certain amount of exaggeration has undoubtedly crept into the story over the centuries, the plants used in this brew which included Rosemary and Cedar, could have had a beneficial effect on gout and certain forms of paralysis. Most tall stories have a foundation in truth and this one is no exception. The essential oil of Rosemary does help with gout, and has for many centuries had the reputation of curing paraly­sis, though obviously not those forms of paralysis caused by damage to the spinal cord. It is also a good skin tonic, so some of the supposed rejuvenating effect would have arisen from an improvement in the general appearance.

Modern versions of Hungary Water omit the turpentine that featured in the mediaeval formula, and are used mainly as a refreshing summer perfume or an astringent. Ingredients vary a lot from the original Rosemary, Cedar and Turpentine, but all include Rosemary and Rosewater.

You can make your own quite easily using the following formula:

4 drops of oil of Rosemary
6 drops of oil of Lemon
2 drops of oil of Orange
5 mls triple-strength orange-flower water
5 mls triple strength rosewater
40 mls 90% alcohol

Blend the essential oils, and then stir them into the alcohol (a strong vodka would do well, as it is not possible to buy the ethyl alcohol used by professional perfumiers unless you have a licence to do so). Finally add the rosewater and the orange-flower water and shake very thoroughly. Put the mixture away to mature, but shake it every few days at first, and then once a week for at least two months, or longer if you can bear to wait.

It will make a very refreshing summer toilet water, skin tonic or even a mild deodorant, but please don't be too disappointed if you don't look fifty years younger after using it!

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