Ever heard of a hydrolat? Neither had I until just four months ago. Picture this: I'm in southern Corsica, walking up a dirt trail dotted with intoxicatingly aromatic maquis shrub as the sun sets over the Mediterranean, when I approach a tan, white-haired goddess, who hands me a small, dark vial. I slowly turn the lid, and waves of the same gorgeous fragrances that waft from the surrounding native plants swirl up to my nostrils. I had just been given my first hydrolat of immortelle (helicrhysum italicum).
|A snapshot of the setting|
OK, so the goddess is actually a real woman, but the rest is true. And she happens to be one of my heroes. She is our friend's aunt, who graciously lets my boyfriend and I camp out on her beautiful, sprawling and completely isolated 86.45 acres of terrain on the island's southern coast. And she is my hero not only for this reason, but also because she lives nearly entirely independently. Though somewhere in her 60s, this incredible lady grows her own organic vegetables, bakes her own bread, collects her own honey, is experimenting with grapevines and, as I learned, distills her own hydrolats. Knowing my newfound infatuation with the immortelle flower (this plant thrives only along the Mediterranean and so is rather curious to me), and my problems with poor circulation, she generously decided to send me back to cool, northern France with her hydrolat faite maison. A perfume and a blood vessel booster in one small package.
|The delicate, yellow immortelle flowers blossoming (bottom right).|
It all sounds pretty magical, doesn't it? Well, no, actually. Hydrolats are simply the all-natural byproduct of the distillation process used to produce essential oils. They contain micronized droplets of essential oils suspended in water. Thus, hydrolats aren't any more hocus-pocusy than other tried and true forms of homeopathy.
So, if hydrolats are a "byproduct", why not just stick to essential oils, you may ask? Well, as Lydia Bosson outlines in her book L'HYDROLOTHERAPIE; Therapie des eaux florales (pg. 21-22), there are numerous reasons. To sum them up:
1. No possibility of overdosing with hydrolats. Children, the elderly, and pregnant women may all use them. This is not always the case with essential oils, where use must be limited.
2. Only hydrolats are hydra soluble and so may be combined with water in treatment. They can be ingested with no undesirable side effects.
3. Because hydrolats can be ingested, their energetic and psycho-emotional qualities affect the body more powerfully and rapidly than with essential oils.
4. Hydrolats are produced in greater quantity than essential oils through the distillation process. So when purchased commercially, hyrdrolats are more affordable :)
|Unfortunately, no english version exists yet. (Anyone want to invest in me translating it?)|
Naturally, the botanical nerds that we are, Anthony and I inhaled this book and it's descriptions of the natural virtues of over thirty different plant species. Then we spent what was left of our vacation money on the "flower waters" derived from pine, eucalyptus, thyme, rosemary, peppermint, lavender, sage...and the list goes on. Last month, I was happily spicing up my water bottle with cinnamon bark as a natural stimulant. A couple days ago I caught a really nasty cold, and the remedy was an herbal blend of Scotch pine, hyssop, rosemary and thyme linalol.
You might wonder: "that's all nice and granola, but did these natural cocktails actually help? I truly believe so, and did feel the subtle differences (in addition to the placebo effect). And if nothing else, my water became a whole lot more interesting and enticing to drink. Ain't no harm in that.