What you want to know about Hydrosols, or, the North Wind and White Pine

"Hydrosols, also known as floral waters, hydroflorates, flower waters or distillates are products from steam distilling plant materials. Hydrosols are like essential oils but in far less of a concentration. (Definition from Mountain Rose Herbs)

Our family has used hydrosols in our home remedy list, for years, they have always been helpful, and sometimes the results have been amazing. Cleaning cuts without the sting, is the most popular idea around here with my little people. Living in a flood plane, near the Susquehanna River, there have been several times we have needed a disinfectant, and hydrosols naturally sanitize because of their steam distilled nature. Rose hydrosol has soothed many sunburns and is also a favorite for a pimply complexion, because of it's astringency. Bug bites are soothed quickly, as well as ruffled spirits, because of the beautiful aroma.

 Probably the most well known use of a hydrosol is in the kitchen. Culinary use is spread across many cultures. A lime or rose hydrosol adds the magical touch to those special recipes.   You can also add a splash to your homemade salve recipes, before you whip them up into a body butter. 

When our houseplants catch anything, spider mites, mold, spritzing them daily with hydrosols, based on antimicrobial plants takes care of the problem for us! We just saved a spider mite infested passionflower with some Lemon Balm (Melissa) hydrosol.

Read more, to learn about the latest hydrosol that we made at Forget me not Farm, or if you like what you've read, head over to our shop page and purchase a small batch hydrosol to add to your own apothecary. We thank you for your purchase! But if you like a story, in the meantime, read on about the North Wind and White Pine...

 Every other Friday is homestead apprentice day. We meet as a small group and study a plant and end the day creating plant based harmony in the apothecary, for our community. The inspiration for our meeting today, was White Pine. A winter storm, the Chinook wind, shook the pines. Branches, were strewn all over our farm. The pine was fresh, beautiful, healthy. As a child wandering the woods daily, I learned not to ignore the gifts from trees. To the connected human, even tree litter is medicine. To the elemental being, it is a blessing.  

We gathered the pine needles and small branches, some of them had some tiny unopened pine cones, I suspect that is where our essential oil came from. Hydrosol is the original Alchemical product that the ancients sought. Today, with the essential oil fad, I rarely even hear about the hydrosol that is twin to the essential oil making. You cannot make one, without the other. I would not call either one a by-product, it seems insulting to two plant medicines that I hold close to my heart. Today we were steam distilling, in a copper alembic still made by hand, in the same way the ancients made them. It traveled all the way from Portugal to our farm last year, at the tail end of the growing season. Expecting only hydrosol, because we were distilling in the heart of the upstate NY winter, the oil that formed was an extra surprise. I had asked Cathy Skipper, who graciously responds to my pesky questions, if it would mess up the still to use this gift of white pine, and all it's pine resins. She thought we had nothing to worry about and she was right. 

The hydrosol that was distilled, was a surprisingly small amount. I have only had plants with much more intracellular plant water, than the white pine tree, in the still up until now.  It made me remember what 7Song said about Sweet Birch, how "it seems to somehow, hold on to it's essential oils". I think it's a tree thing.  

 

 

Jennifer McElwain-Whitmore