The Tudor Society

How medieval and Tudor people tried to protect themselves from the plague

This week's Claire Chats talk has been inspired by the precautions that many of us are taking at the moment to protect ourselves against Covid-19, coronavirus.

We're using social distancing, quarantine and face masks, but how did medieval and Tudor people try and protect themselves from illnesses like the plague and sweating sickness? Find out in this today's Claire Chats talk:


Orange Pomander Recipe

You can make a very simple pomander to hang in a room or wardrobe by studding an orange with cloves and rolling it in spices. Here is a simple recipe:


• 1 orange
• Cloves (about 25g)
• Ribbon
• Masking tape
• Cinnamon (can use orris root powder too but it is a common allergenic)
• Pins
• Greaseproof paper
• A cocktail stick
• Paper bag or tissue paper


Knead the orange gently in your hands to soften the skin.
Apply the tape onto the orange so that the orange is divided into 4 equal parts.
Use the cocktail stick to pierce the skin of the orange and poke the cloves in – space them slightly apart as the orange will shrink as it dries.
Sprinkle the cinnamon (and the orris root if using) onto the greaseproof paper and roll the orange in the spice.
Place the orange in the paper bag or wrap in tissue paper and leave in a warm place, like an airing cupboard, for a few weeks until the orange is hard and dry.
Remove the tape and replace with the ribbon, tying a decorative bow.
Hang in your wardrobe or place in a room and enjoy the fragrance.

Recipes for Pomanders to Go in Pomander Cases

If you have a metal pomander case, you may want to make yourself a lozenge/table or ball of some kind, so here are some ideas:
Rose Petals
Simply fill your pomander case with rose petals sprinkled with rose oil.

Pomander Ball
Take 3 drams of labdanum, one dram of wood Aloes, 2 and 1/2 drams of ambergris; a dram and a half of nutmeg and of storax calamite. Confect all together with Rose-water, and make a ball” – posted by Roberta at

Nostradamus Pomander Lozenges
In 1552, Nostradamus published instructions for making pomander lozenges or aromatic balls. Here are the ingredients he used:
• Labdanum gum ‘as obtained from goats beards and sheeps bellies in the fortunate lands of Arabia
• Gum Storax
• Benzoin
• Rose troches
• Violet root powder (i.e. orris root)
• Musk
• Amber (Ambergris)
• Rose petals
(from – thanks, Kirsten!)

Scented Beeswax Ornaments

• 1 lb Beeswax
• Essential Oils–1/2 oz (15ml)
• Molds (can use candy molds or beeswax molds)
• Ribbon for hanging
Melt beeswax in a double boiler or in the microwave, on low heat. Spray molds with vegetable oil, cut the ribbon or cord, make a loop and dip ends in wax. Stir essential oils into melted wax and pour into molds (a small funnel helps) Add the waxed ribbon to the top of each mold. Let them set at room temperature. When hardened enough to pull away from the sides of the molds, they can be removed and decorated with sprigs, spices, lace or beads. Store in a cool place. (Recipe By Deborah Sexton from

Pomander Beads

I found a great recipe for pomander beads from the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum. You can download their PDF at

Other Recipes

Original recipes from 1573 and 1609 can be found at The Painted Face website along with a great adapted pomander recipe -

Recommended Further Reading

There are 2 comments Go To Comment

  1. R

    When I go to the hairdressers tomorrow shall I wear a plague mask? I too would love one.😂😂😂😂

  2. L

    Being a doctor, I had fantasies about wearing a beak mask on Halloween, but it was just a fantasy…We don’t have Renaissance fairs any more with the COVID-19 outbreak, or I’d have worn a beak mask to the next one.
    This is why I like going on the Tudor Society site- it takes me away from the grim present. The past was grim, but I see how people coped and enjoyed life too.

Leave a Reply

How medieval and Tudor people tried to protect themselves from the plague