I sell a lot of orris root powder for potpourri making
But why? Orris root powder is the dried powdered root of the flower iris pallida (sweet iris), and is used in potpourri making to prolong the fragrance.
Orris root powder is a fixative
Traditional potpourri is made by adding essential oils to dried flowers and herbs, and sealing them in a jar together for a few weeks to let the fragrance develop. Unfortunately, most essential oils are volatile, which means they are likely to evaporate over the space of a few hours or days, leaving the potpourri with no fragrance. A fixative is any material which prevents this rapid evaporation. A fixative absorbs the oil and keeps it in the potpourri. Orris root powder is one material that does this, but there are many others. Suitable fixative may be particular tree resins, flowers, roots, leaves or seeds as well as less volatile essential oils. Here are some you could try:
- Gum benzoin, myrrh and frankincense
- Cinnamon powder and sticks
- Cloves and nutmeg
- Cumin, coriander and angelica seeds
- Vanilla pods
- Chamomile flowers
- Geranium roots
- Leaves of cistus and lemon verbena
- Oils of sandalwood, cedarwood, patchouli and ylang ylang
The list goes on, but many of these items will be available in your kitchen or garden or aromatherapy box, without the need for a shopping trip.
Try using a different potpourri making method
I’ve already written quite a detailed article about potpourri making, so I won’t repeat it here. But personally I find potpourri dusted in powder slightly unattractive and there are ways round it, so here are three alternatives:
- If you would like to use a traditional method, choose a fixative from the list above that is not in powder form.
- If you are open to modern methods, try making potpourri using modern home fragrance oils. Just use fragrance oil instead of essential oil in your chosen recipe and omit the fixative and waiting time. Just leave in a sealed container for a couple of hours to permeate before displaying. Modern fragrance oils are very realistic, but you may lose any aromatherapy effects of the potpourri.
- Display your dried petals and herbs in a bowl and drip on a little essential oil whenever you feel like it. This way, you keep any aromatherapy benefits of the essential oils, but with none of the waiting time or dust. However, the fragrance achieved will not be as complex as the one obtained using the traditional method.
[Avoid contact of fragrance oils and essential oils with the skin as well as polished, painted and synthetic surfaces and textiles, and keep out of reach of children and pets.]