Scented Hair Powder from the 12th Century Trotula Texts


De Ornatu Mulierum (also called the Trotula Minor or Women’s Cosmetics)” is a 12th Century treatise that advises women on how to retain and improve their beauty via its advice and recipes for hygiene, natural beauty products, and remedies.

The treatise has instructions for care of female hair, skin, face, teeth, and reproductive organs.  The remedies call for local ingredients like herbs and animal products as well as imported items like nutmeg and clove. Emphasis on the proper methods of bathing lets us know the true importance of baths to women of the Medieval period. These recipes also show that the Christian women of southern Italy and Sicily were adopting the beauty and medicinal practices of their Muslim counterparts. A main premise of the treatise is that beauty is the sign of a healthy body and harmony with the universe.


Below I have copied a recipe from De Ornatu Mulierum for scented powder and water for the hair. I plan to redact this recipe and will post comments on the results at a later date. If you try this one at home let me know how you liked it 🙂


Recipe 248

But when she combs her hair, let her have this powder. Take some dried roses, clove, nutmeg, watercress, and galangal. Let all these, powdered, be mixed with rose water. With this water let her sprinkle her hair and comb it with a comb dipped in this same water so that [her hair] will smell better. And let her make furrows in her hair and sprinkle on the above-mentioned powder, and it will smell marvelously.





One thought on “Scented Hair Powder from the 12th Century Trotula Texts

  1. This is one of the first medieval cosmetics recipes I ever tried. What I discovered through field tests (I think I’ve had about 75 volunteers at this point) is that this not only makes your hair smell great, it also extends the amount of time you can go between shampoos. Most of my testers could go a minimum of four days without washing their hair. If their hair was long it made braiding easier and also seemed to help with fly-always.

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