Splash! Cool Off with an Herbal Spritz

Nothing is more refreshing in the heat of summer than aromatic herbal water.

| June/July 1998

Cooling off with herbal and flower waters is a custom that’s centuries old. Victorian women splashed on waters scented with lavender or roses and left these fragrances in the air of any room they passed through. Nowadays, we prefer the light, natural scents that have become popular over the past decade or so. They may be soothing or reviving, depending on the ingredients they contain. My favorites are chock-full of citrus, which awakens something calming and sensual in my soul. They remind me of summer lemonade stands, lemon ices from an Italian market, and fresh orange juice squeezed for a relaxing weekend breakfast.

Unlike perfumes or colognes, these recipes have a very light scent. They produce a quick gust of cooling fragrance that then casually lingers ­without overpowering. All are easy and inexpensive to make.

Each recipe contains grapefruit seed extract, a natural preservative that doesn’t dry the skin or contribute its own fragrance as ethyl alcohol or witch hazel would. It’s available in health-food stores. The other ingredients may be purchased in health-food stores or supermarkets.

I keep my splashes in spray bottles in the refrigerator, which extends their life up to three weeks and makes them feel wonderful on hot skin, especially after hours of working in the garden. When I give splashes as gifts, I attach a note suggesting that they be refrigerated.

Make a Splash

For each splash, crush the dried leaves, combine the ingredients in a glass jar, and let them sit covered at room temperature for two to three days to extract the fragrances. Strain, then transfer the liquid to a storage container. I use tall, shapely glass bottles with labels I’ve made from handmade paper tied to the neck with twine or raffia.

You may adapt any of these recipes as you like or concoct your own, using distilled water and grapefruit seed extract as a base and whatever fragrances most appeal to you. Try rosemary, sage, even balsam fir or pine needles.

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