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Updated: Dec 15, 2023

Researched and written by Matthew Woodside. All sources are available upon request.

History of the Pomander

The orange pomander is a fragrant and spiced fruit that can be used as décor, incense, or a gift during the fall and winter holidays. These beautiful and fragrant oranges are decorated mostly with clove, but other spices such as cinnamon, star anise and other warm spices can also be included. You may also want to sprinkle ground spice over the finished pomander. The scent of orange, clove and cinnamon has become the signature scent of the fall and winter holidays. However, the origin of the orange pomanders traces back 500 years to Medieval Europe. 


The pomanders, first recorded in Europe in the Middle Ages served as herbal amulets worn around the neck or placed in the home, with the intention of protecting one from the Plague and other Infections.   


The word "pomander" derives from the French “pomme d’ ambre,” meaning "apple of amber"—a reference to the round shape of the object and the occasional addition of ambergris—an aged substance from the bile duct of a sperm whale still used in expensive perfumes.


The spices used to make the orange pomander have been used throughout Asia, Europe and the Middle East as perfumes and fragrances and as spices for cuisines. Ancient herbalists and healers used the oils of orange, clove, cinnamon and nutmeg for protection from virus, bacterium, and other microbes. 


Making your own Pomander

To make your own Pomander at home you will need an orange, a dozen or so whole cloves, a toothpick to serve as a tool to poke into the skin making inserting the clove easier. You may also want a small piece of ribbon to help decorate or to be able to hang on your Christmas tree or above a door.


It is your creative choice how to arrange the pattern of cloves around the orange. If you are going after a geometric look start by placing a clove in the spot where the orange attached to the tree, like the north pole of the Earth. Then place a clove directly on the opposite side, like the South Pole. Now imagine a line passing through those two cloves and place a clove in the middle of that line, at the Equator. Put the fourth directly opposite that one. Now these four cloves help you keep the next ones in an organized symmetrical pattern, like the grid patterns on a map. But it’s your happy little orange and you can make up any pattern you like.


Recently, severial news channels have featured pomanders. You can find their articles and news clips below:



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