Flowers and Herbs for Pomanders
The pomander is a general term for any container that holds fragrant blossoms, herbs, spices, oils and resins. The term includes any aromatic plant or material intended to impart scent. Hence a clutch of lavender tied with string and hung in a room would satisfy the definition. Traditionally the pomander was a cloth bag that was worn on the person as a form of perfume to hide unpleasant odors, or to protect one from evil spirits, and disease. They were worn as an accessory at social gatherings and even today serve as decorative additions at weddings.
Pomanders have developed into all shapes and sizes and the containers might be made of gold, silver and expensive china. Nowadays it is generally around the home that we seek to have pleasurable aromas. Typically we might create different aromas for individual rooms using pomander cushions, door stops, scatter bags, and vases; we may place these in bedding, wardrobes or as ornamental features.
Replenish in the autumn
Every Autumn I refill ten or more decorative china pomanders with an individual herb or blossom and place them about the house. Apart from creating a pleasant ambiance in each room, these little receptacles can be held to the nose for an uplifting intake of aromatherapy. It can make housework an enjoyable experience with each room rewarding you for your attention. One of the advantages in using refillable china shapes is that if after a few weeks the fragrance begins to fade; it is easy to add a few drops of essential oil in order to replenish it.
Listed below are my favorite fillers and some information about the health benefits from the unique chemical compounds they contain
Lemon balm “Melissa officinalis”
This delicate leaved plant is also known as balm mint and like other mints is spreading and invasive and best grown in pots or in restricted spaces. The leaves are aromatic and if rubbed between the fingers impart a strong scent of sweet lemon. It is used to flavor fruits, salads, cordials, ice-cream, herbal tea, and is included in many fish recipes.
I keep my lemon balm pomander in the kitchen, and it helps to eliminate cooking odors. It is lovely to walk into the kitchen in the morning and be met with the zest of lemon. Both the dried flowers and the essential oil are economic to produce, and are therefore not expensive to purchase. It is said that lemon balm tea is good for the digestion, a natural detox, calms the nervous system, and sharpens brain activity. The chemical compounds continue to be investigated as possibly beneficial in the treatment of Dementia.
Common Wormwood: Artemisia Absinthium
The Common Wormwood
This plant produces a powerful pungent odor that stimulates the nasal receptors. Known as Artemisia absinthium or common wormwood, it contains the compound thujone which is used in the manufacture of perfume. Growing wild in Europe in areas with arid soil, it is favored as a silvery foliage perennial border plant in gardens. Due to its bitter taste it is used to flavor the alcoholic spirit drink absinthe as well as vermouths and as a medicine in specialized elixirs. Wormwood can be purchased as a dried leaf or as a plant from most garden centers.
Jasmine is a shrub that produces highly fragrant flowers which are used as a beverage and in perfumery. Generally the delicate flowers open at night and are hand-picked for drying, a labor intensive and expensive method. This is also true in the extraction of the essential oil whereby huge quantities of flowers are required. Jasmine aroma is said to be a natural sedative. The flowers are worn in garlands at wedding ceremonies mostly in India and Indonesia where it is the national flower as it is in Pakistan and the Philippines. This tradition has spread to the Western hemisphere where the dried and fresh flowers have become popular.
Southernwood: Artemisia Abrotanum known as Lads Love
This plant has a similar aroma to the common wormwood, but is sweeter and spicier. Known as Artemisia abrotanum or Lads Love and Southernwood, it grows across Europe preferring dry sunny conditions, and is grown as a standalone garden plant. Traditionally, fronds of the plant were hung in doorways, windows and with clothes in wardrobes to deter insects’ flies and moths from entering. The leaves are also used in beverages and meat dishes. Historically, considered a masculine scent, men would pin sprigs of the “Lads Love” onto their shirts to indicate they were seeking romance. Viewed as an aphrodisiac young men would also add this herb to a lady's bouquet.
Eucalyptus is an evergreen tree from which the leaves provide the essential oil. The aroma is best described as exhilarating. It reminds me of the scent of sweet heather (Erica) mixed with bruised pine needles. The oil is used in vapor rubs, cough medicines and decongestants, as well as perfumes, and soap.
Dried scented rose petals
Roses come in all shapes size and colors, but not all have scent. The picture above of the “Alec’s Red” is a hybrid rose variety that is highly fragrant.
Roses are grown primarily for display and for the cut flowers provided by florists. The essential oil is used in perfumes. It requires between two and three thousand roses to produce one gram of oil which puts it beyond most people’s budget. Imagine all that fragrance packed into a few drops of oil. Hence all we need are the rose petals to enjoy their wonderful scent. Rose petals are edible and are used to flavor drinks, desserts, and decorate food. Traditionally the petals are thrown as confetti at weddings. The aroma is said to relief stress and anxiety. I keep a pomander of dried rose petals on my bedside table.
Lavender is much more than meets the eye
A herbalist once told me that if you have a garden of lavender and chamomile you have a living medicine chest that will care for your mind and body. Chamomile is not suitable for pomanders, but I recommend it in other applications for your general well-being. Lavender is known for its heady sweet aroma and I believe that only frankincense can equal this humble gift of nature. It likes a sunny position and is grown as a garden scented plant, commercially as a Bee blossom for honey production and for the extraction of its highly aromatic oil which is used in perfumes and cosmetics. The flowers are also used in bakery, confectionery, and herbal infusions. Lavender essential oil contains a number of complex components that aids its use as an insect repellent, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory. The aroma is said to relax and alleviate stress and anxiety, and aid the onset of sleep.
Hops “Humulus Lupulus”
Hops are the seed cones of the female flower of hops. They are grown primarily for the production of beer to which they add the “bite” to the flavor. Hops are known to have soporific qualities and are also used to reduce anxiety. Dried hops are often sold ready packed into sleep cushions and are often mixed with lavender. I annually buy a large bag and empty the contents into a colorful cushion cover and hang it on a bedroom wall.
Ylang-ylang “Cananga odorata”
This evergreen tropical tree produces highly aromatic flowers from which the essential oil is extracted. I describe the scent as exotic; and from the Yum-Yum tree. Traditionally the dried flowers are strewn upon sheets and bedding. It is used in perfumery, and said to lower blood pressure as well as being an aphrodisiac. I keep this pomander in the top drawer and bring it out for special occasions
The following video gives tips on creating potpourri suitable for pomanders using many of the above flowers and herbs
I hope my favorite scented fillers have inspired you to try them either individually or to create your own potpourri.
© 2014 Colleen Swan