Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hydrosols and Aromatherapy

This beautiful copper, available from Guild member Staci of Elfin Herb Farm, is a must-have if you craft your own natural beauty (or medicinal)  products.  I recently purchased one and have had time to play with it (and get pretty good at it) and I am absolutely in love.  If you've ever used hydrosols, you know how wonderful they are, and how expensive they can be.  Imagine being able to create your own flower waters with plants you've raised yourself!  It's quite simple to use when you get used to it, and learn some patience and the results are wonderful, even with dried plants.  Of course, fresh is best.

Hydrosols are the newest tool in the aromatherapy world and are generally safer and more gentle to use than essential oils.  There is also less controversy over internal use, especially if you make your own and you know exactly the environment your plants are coming from.  The hydrosol contain more of the water soluble compounds from the plant that aren't present in the essential oil, and you will also get a little a little essential oil from most plants along with the water based distillate.  The copper enhances aroma and flavor and also protects against some microbes.  You do, however need to sterilize any containers the distillate will be stored in or come in contact with.  I clean all of my containers out with pure grain alcohol.  Hydrosols are more stable than an infusion but are still perishable and should be refrigerated and you shouldn't touch the liquid, and should resist the temptation to open the bottle and smell-you don't want to contaminate it.  Depending on what plant you have distilled, your hydrosols will last anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.  If you see any bloom (slimy growths) then it has gone bad and should be thrown out.

There are so many uses for hydrosols that it would be impossible to list them all here, but I will list a few.
-to remove makeup
-as a natural, gentle cleanser
-to replace all or some of the water in lotion or cream recipes
-added to soap bases in foamer bottles
-pillow spray
-body spray
-gentle hand cleanser/sanitizer
-in finger bowls at fancy dinners
-to clean baby's bottom at diaper changes (esp. lavender, chamomiles, calendula)
-to sooth rashes and sunburns
-invigorating or relaxing room spray (depends on the properties of the plant)
-to make personal cleansing wipes
-use as an aftershave lotion
-hot spots on pets (esp calendula)
-on a cotton ball as a compress for for eyes (cucumber, chamomile, calendula, rose)
-spray lemon balm, lavender or chamomiles in the air to calm fussy children
-as a fragrant base water when rebatching soaps
-a natural deodorant spray (witch hazel, rose, patchouli)
-cooling body spray in hot weather (esp peppermint and cucumber)
-anti-fungal foot spray (tea tree, lemongrass, patchouli, witch hazel)
-safe feminine deodorant spray (esp rose)
-use witch hazel compresses/cleansing cloths on your hemorrhoids (no alcohol burn like store bought)
-some hydrosols make great rubs for sore muscles
-try peppermint, lavender, roman or German chamomile rubs or compresses for headaches

These are just a few and the possibilities are endless!