We enjoy the versatility, safeness and the great potential of hydrosols on physical, emotional and energetic registers. Also, a little bit of plant goes a long way. The ecological impact of distilling for hydrosols is nothing compared to that of essential oils. One kilo (about 2 pounds) of fine lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) will give a liter (about 2 quarts) of beautiful hydrosol, whereas 600 kg (about 1200 pounds) is needed for one liter (2 quarts) of essential oil.
For a long time, hydrosols were swept under the carpet. A long-forgotten plant medicine from the past, they were considered as the useless, discardabale part of an essential oil distillation. Today they are coming back into their rightful place. Interest in hydrosols is growing daily in many domains: Health, culinary, agriculture and cosmetics. The fact that, with a small investement, we can be autonomous in the production of hydrosols makes these plant medicines even more appealing.
So, what is a hydrosol? During steam distillation of aromatic plant materials, two products are produced: essential oils and aromatic water. The aromatic water is known in French as a hydrolat and in English as a hydrosol.
During the distillation process, water is heated into steam which is directed through plant matter. The steam condenses when it comes into contact with the cold sides of the serpentine coil in the condenser. The water then separates from the essential oil. In most cases the essential oil is less dense than the water and floats above it.
This aromatic water contains hydrophilic (water-soluble) aromatic molecules from the plant matter, some of which may not be present in the essential oil. The water also contains a fraction of the lipophilic (oil-soluble) aromatic molecules that are present in the essential oil, often between 0.025% and 0.1%, which is approximately equivalent to 10 drops of essential oil per liter of water, although it can sometimes be more. These minute quantities of aromatic constituents in the hydrosol present interesting biological and pharmacological actions.
From an energetic point of view, hydrosols, like essential oils, contain the informational energy of the plant. They are made from earth, fire, water and air. Their energetic vibration is unique to the plant from which they are extracted. Hydrosols have a dominance of the water element. Water is vital to all life on earth. It is purifying. It is thought to transmit information through what we can call the memory of water.
A hydrosol’s actions can be partially explained by the biochemistry of its constituents. Beyond the biochemical actions, there is another layer of experience. People who distill and use hydrosols often talk not about their chemical properties but of a deeper, less tangible, powerful aspect that is more difficult to measure, quantify and explain. However, with a bit of practice, it can be easy to feel.
Hydrosols give easy access to the plants’ intrinsic vibration, the rhythm with which they pulse. For example, nettle hydrosol has a deep, very grounded, slow pulsation, echoing the proteins and nutritious aspect of the plant. In contrast, plantain has a high, fast, peripheral vibration, which seems to create a protective veil around the physical body, wwhich may explain its usefulness for allergies.
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