Edition 76: Lammas 1 February 2015
blooms into floral water
Similar to essential oils but far less concentrated
HYDROSOLS - also known as floral waters, hydro-florates, flower waters or distillates - are the natural, water by-product from steam distilling plant materials to produce essential oils.
The term is a combination of hydro (water) and sol (solution). These aromatic products contain the water-soluble, volatile components of the plant (micro droplets of essential oil) giving them their characteristic fragrance only much weaker.
Hydrosols from flowers are called flower waters and hydrosols from herbs are called herbal hydrosols. Orange flower water and rose water are the most recognisable hydrosols on the market.
Scent cells in plants burst and volatise in steam
When plants or flowers are put into the still or distillation tank, which is like a large cooker, they are subjected to either boiling water, steam or both.
Essential oil, being the volatile element, is released as vapour when the steam makes contact with the plant and breaks down the walls of the scent cells.
Steam and these volatile plant components mix and are separated again as the steam cools in the condensing tank, where the steam turns to water.
Essential oils have a specific gravity that is lighter than water so they float on top in a separate layer and can then be easily separated in the collecting receiver.
This process produces an essential oil and a hydrosol - our floral water that we are talking about.
Hydrosols cannot be manufactured synthetically in a laboratory
Hydrosols are a separate and natural product of the distillation process and can be termed 100 per cent distilled, non-alcoholic distillates.
A quality example of a hydrosol is definitely not just water to which small amounts of essential oil have been added. A good hydrosol has to have been produced during the distillation process, preferably using a copper condenser.
Hydrosols contain the essence of the plant in every drop, just like essential oils do, but in a much milder form that makes them suitable for all manner of applications where essential oils would be too intense.
Some essential oil remains in the hydrosol without adding any foreign substance that would affect the plant’s vibration and uniqueness.
Ready to go straight from the still
Hydrosols are used at full strength exactly as they are, straight from the still, although they may be diluted further with water.
To produce a top quality hydrosol, sometimes the distiller will choose beforehand whether to distil for the hydrosol or the essential oil; therefore employing a slightly different method of distilling very slowly and carefully with a lower heat, using plants that have just been harvested.
Both the essential oil and hydrosol will be of higher quality if the hydrosol is the reason for distillation, however this will not yield larger quantities of essential oils.
Hydrosols a safer choice for cat care
Interestingly, some holistic veterinarians are having success using hydrosols in feline health care. They are used selectively in acute cases.
Chamomile hydrosol is used in spray bottles in exam rooms to calm anxious, frightened cats.
Instead of using the stronger essential oils, which are too intense for the delicate sensitive feline ecology, hydrosols are used for cleaning and deodorising.
Combinations of rose, lavender and geranium have been spray misted into the air to relax fretful cats.
• HYDROSOLS can be added to water. Place 3-4 tablespoons in a litre of water and taken as therapeutic drink throughout the day. They may also be added to a herbal tea to safely augment its medicinal action. Unlike essential oils, hydrosols are free of very lipophilic substances such as terpene hydrocarbons, which makes their anti-inflammatory and antiseptic constituents a safer option for sensitive human constitutions.
• SPLASH lavender hydrosol under your arms and over hot irritable bodies to cool and refresh, this is especially suitable for hot flushes in menopausal women. This same formula is ideal to help reduce temperature in hot babies, as it works as a safe refrigerant. Rose geranium hydrosol is quite good for women experiencing menstrual difficulty or menopausal problems.
• SPRITZ chamomile hydrosol onto babies skin to soothe irritations and rashes.
• USE floral waters as compresses to cool inflammation, or soothe tired eyes.
• Lavender water is effective for calming children or calming distress in general. Add a few drops of mandarin and lavender essential oils to a lavender water and use as a spray to use on children’s hair as prevention for lice infestation.
• Lemon verbena hydrosol may be taken to treat viral infection or sprayed onto a region where the infection is external.
• Lemon balm hydrosol can be taken internally to help maintain concentration and focus.
• Spray hydrosols of lavender and chamomile onto your cats and dogs as a less severe method than strong essential oils to keep them flea free and well deodorised.
• Spritz antibacterial hydrosols such as lavender, sandalwood or rosemary onto sensitive, sore areas on animals to promote healing.
• Bacteria doesn’t tend to thrive in the acidic environment of hydrosols (they contain water–loving hydrophilic acids). This also makes them naturally astringent, tending to constrict and contract the skin tissues. This is why hydrosols are highly beneficial in skin care products, providing quality tonic action on the skin. Spray pure orange flower hydrosol, or a pure rose hydrosol onto the face to hydrate, add a dewy freshness or help set makeup. They may be used after cleansing the facial skin as a toner. Hydrosols are great for those women who have such sensitive skins that pure essential oils are not an option.
• Add an anti-viral, antiseptic essential oil blend to a hydrosol base to create a protective room freshener, for use in a sick room or work space to keep it disease-free. The same solution may be of use to spray when travelling by air to prevent air-borne contagion.
• Add naturally uplifting and cleansing essential oils to a sandalwood hydrosol base and spray about your space to clear negative energy and protect you from ill intent from others.
• Add a generous splash of a sweet-smelling hydrosol of choice, geranium or lemon verbena perhaps, to the final rinsing water when doing hand washing of woollens and delicate underwear.
• Make an aromatic mouthwash with 100mL rose water, 200mL distilled water, two teaspoons cider vinegar plus 3-4 drops of either cardamom, aniseed, spearmint, coriander or bergamot. Store in dark glass in a cool dark place and shake well before use.
• Rose or clary sage water may be used internally as a douche, when such proccedures are required.
Essential Oil of the Month:
Niaouli: centuries of disinfecting service
SOMETIMES the discovery of a plant’s properties are made by simply observing how it affects its own micro envrionment.
Take niaouli for example. Australian Aborigines would observe how the falling leaves of the niaouli tree, a type of tea-tree, covered the ground and acted as a strong disinfectant, creating a hale and hearty environment and purifiying water that ran through it.
From this observation they used the leaves to sterilise cuts and prevent infections.
Early explorers also noted that the air was healthy with an absence of malaria in regions where the niaouli tree grew.
Captain Cook gave it its botanical name Melaleuca viridiflora and took it back to Europe from Australia.
Niaouli was historically used in French obstetrics because of its antiseptic properties. The French still sometimes refer to it as ‘Gomenol’; which derives from the fact that it used to be shipped from Gomen in the French East Indies.
As an effective antidote to infection, it was used as beverage in the Middle East. Today, niaouli essential oil is used in pharmaceutical preparations such as gargles; cough lozenges, toothpastes and mouth sprays.
Niaouli oil's key quality lies in its disinfecting properties, to fortify the body against infections. The oil stimulates local circulation and increases white blood cells and antibody activity, warding off infection. For this reason, many natural therapists use niaouli as a complementary treatment with cancer patients. (Those that are not hormone dependent.)
We too can use niaouli at the onset of illness or in any weakened condition to strengthen the body’s immune system. In some hospitals it is used during radiology treatments on the skin to prevent burning during radiation treatments.
Burners and vapourisers: Niaouli decongests the respiratory system, stimulates concentration, clears the head, fighting infections and helps headaches.
Massage and bath oil blends: to fight infections, tone the digestive system and relieve pain.
Blend in a cream or lotion: Sorts out skin infections, inflamed skin problems, such as acne, boils, ulcers, burns, cuts and insect bites. Clears congested or oily skin.
Being such a wonderful antiseptic, niaouli’s key area of action is on the respiratory system, where it can treat problems such as asthma, bronchitis, catarrh, coughs, sinusitis and sore throat conditions such as laryngitis.
It is the 1,8-cineole that makes niaouli useful in coughing up excess mucous. It is most useful to fight infections such as colds, fevers, flu, chest infections, and even in serious cases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, and whooping cough.
In fact niaouli might be a better and safer option than the higher 1,8 cineole eucalyptus, for particularly sensitive souls and children with stuffy noses, as there is little risk of irritating the respiratory mucous membranes.
Niaouli demonstrates tonic action on the digestive system and is useful against enteritis and dysentery.
It also has shown anti-parasitic action against amoeba and parasites in the blood. Niaouli can also be used for genital herpes and other types of vaginal irritations and disease. It is sometime indicated for cystitis and urinary infection (inflammation of the urethra, and prostate).
Blend niaouli with marjoram and frankincense or juniper to help relieve the pain of rheumatism and neuralgia.
Add ten drops of niaouli to one tablespoon of vegetable oil and massage into the aching area using gentle, circular strokes. If possible put a warm towel, heat pack or compress over the affected area after the massage, to help bring blood to the sore part.
Got a cold and a stuffy nose?
Make a hot lemon and honey drink and lastly add a few drops of niaouli to this very comforting and fortifying remedy
Niaouli aids wound healing by stimulating tissue renewal.
As a disinfectant, it is valuable for washing topical skin problems such as ulcers, acne, boils, burns, cuts and dabbing on insect bites. It is not widely used cosmetically, especially due to its more medicinal smell, however this oil will act as a decongestant on oily skin.
The slightly pungent scent of niaouli oil helps to clear the mind and enhance ordered, logical thinking.
Niaouli oil helps to increase concentration while lifting the spirits.
It is assigned to the sixth chakra Ajna and thus opens up the space in the head to enhance deeper, clearer perception.
It opens the airways and lungs to better harvest life-giving Prana and is thus useful in Pranayama practice, where we practice conscious breath control and observation, increasing the mind’s awareness of thoughts and feelings in the body.
Niaouli clears the head so effectively we are able to look and thus see deeper within ourselves to find our inner guide and use the more discriminating higher mind, or witness consciousness as it is sometimes called.
This does much to distance us from the source of our suffering and maintain our cool in stressful situations.
More Handy Hints
• The hot water and towel trick with a few drops of niaouli will work wonders in decongesting the airways. Inhale through the nose and then through the mouth to coat the inside of the throat and nose.
• If you are sinusy and having trouble breathing, massage neat niaouli directly into the tops of the toes the reflex points for the sinuses.
Botanical name: Melaleuca viridiflora
Family: Myrtaceae (a typical member of the tea tree group).
Common Names: Gomenol, Melaleuca quinquinervia
The Plant: This large evergreen tree is native to Australia, where it grows abundantly; and also is found in New Caledonia and the French Pacific Islands. The tree has bushy foliage with pointed linear leaves that exude a strong scent when crushed. Other distinguishing characteristics are its spikes of sessile yellowish flowers, flexible trunk and spongy bark.
The Oil: Most of the oil is produced in Australia, mainly Tasmania. The essential oil is extracted from the young leaves and twigs by steam distillation. It is usually rectified to remove irritating aldehydes. Its colour varies from colorless to pale yellow and greenish.
Scent: Niaouli essential oil has a slightly sweet, fresh smell with camphoraceous notes that can be quite penetrating. This oil is very similar in smell and nature to cajeput.
Blends well with: Basil, eucalyptus, fennel, juniper, lavender, lemon, lime, coriander orange, pine, rosemary, peppermint, tea tree and thyme
For medicinal blends where you want a sweeter smell than tea tree, but need similar antiseptic properties, niaouli is a good option.
Therapeutic Properties: analgesic, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, bactericidal, balsamic, cicatrisant, vulnerary, decongestant, diaphoretic, expectorant, febrifuge, insecticide, regulator, stimulant and vermifuge (anti-parasitic).
Precautions: Niaouli essential oil is non-toxic and non-sensitizing. Avoid use during pregnancy. Beware of oils subjected to adulterations. Be sure to buy only good quality niaouli oil.