A PIONEER SCENT
By, Roberta C.M. DeCaprio
I have to admit it, I’m a girlie girl . . . always have been and always will be. I love porcelain dolls dressed in delicate lace, the color pink, canopy beds, nail polish, make-up and above all, perfume. Some of my recent favorites are Chanel’s, Number 5, Clinque’s, Aromatic Elixir and Estee Lauder’s, Super Estee. In high school I wore Coty’s, Emeraude, Dana’s, Ambush and Prince Matchabellie’s, Wind Song . . . not to mention Love's, Lemon and Baby Soft, Chantilly Lace and Oh de London. As a throw-back from my hippie days, I also dabbed on a hint of sandalwood oil and different fragrances of musk; as well as my old staple, Patchouli.
My perfume fetish is something I’m proud of, especially when someone takes the time to ask, “What’s that scent you’re wearing?” So, I did a little research on what the pioneer women wore to smell nice, other then a dab of vanilla extract behind the ears. Thanks to the Crunchy Chicken and several sites on Lemon Verbena, this is what I came up with.
Remember Little House on the Prairie and Laura’s fascination with her teacher, Miss Beadle, who wore lemon verbena perfume? If you were a fan of the show, Mr. Edwards gave Laura lemon verbena perfume in two episodes. So, what better thing to learn as a pioneer skill than how to make your own lemon verbena perfume?
What exactly is lemon verbena and where did it come from?
Lemon verbena (or Lemon beebrush, Aloysia triphylla) is a deciduous perennial shrub native to Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. This plant was brought to Europe by the Spanish in the 17th century where it was used widely in perfume in the 18th century.
It grows to a height of 3 to 7 metres and exudes a powerful lemony scent. It prefers full sun, a lot of water, and a light loam soil. It is sensitive to cold, losing leaves at temperatures below 0°C although the wood is hardy to -10°C. Lemon verbena, if covered with some straw, cut down and kept free from very moist conditions, will also withstand up to a -15°C frost and will make new leaves in spring. The light green leaves are lancet-shaped, and its tiny flowers bloom lavender or white in August or September.
Lemon verbena leaves are used to add a lemony flavor to fish and poultry dishes, vegetable marinades, salad dressings, jams, puddings, and beverages. It also is used to make herbal teas and can be used to make a sorbet.
Lemon verbena has medicinal purposes as well. Traditionally, it has been used to treat asthma, fever, colds, flatulence, stomach upset and diarrhea. Today, even though the herb lemon verbena can be used in savory dishes and for medical reasons, it is still a fragrance widely used in perfumes. Lemon verbena has a woodsy scent, which helps add spiciness to many fragrances. And, because of the woodsy smell, lemon verbena in cologne makes a great scent for men as well as women.
If you’re interested in making your own batch of lemon verbena perfume, all you need to start is 100-proof vodka. The vodka, as a carrier for your perfume, is almost completely odorless and evaporates quickly when used on the skin, leaving behind just the fragrance. Combine about 24 drops of lemon verbena essential oil with two teaspoons of distilled water and two teaspoons of vodka. Pour all ingredients into a dark glass bottle and let them steep for at least 48 hours. Shake the bottle occasionally to mix the scent.
In the book, Gone with the Wind, lemon verbena was one of Scarlett O'Hara's mother's favorite scents. During that era, people made lemon verbena lavender perfume using pure essential oils. Lemon verbena lavender perfume makes a great combination since the lavender provides a relaxing scent while lemon verbena is refreshing. Bergamot acts as a refreshing top note. Start with 1/4 cup vodka and add 1/2 teaspoon lemon verbena oil, 5 drops of lavender essential oil and 5 drops of bergamot essential oil. Store and mix as above.
Now, I ask you ladies, who needs Estee Lauder?