A guest blog by Medical Herbalist, Joseph Nolan
Aromatic Waters, or Hydrosols as they are prosaically termed are, like essential oils, extracts of aromatic herbs, made by distillation and, similarly, have delightful properties. The first is that they are not alcohol extracts, and so the difficulties one sometimes has with tinctures - harsh flavours, burning, liver problems, past addiction and religious objections - are moot. They also smell wonderful, having an ethereal freshness which tinctures and dried herbs lack. And, when used topically, they also tend to be pleasantly astringent and invigorating, making great ingredients in creams.
Rosewater is probably the best known, and it is a wonderful substance, useful at home and in the clinic. Sprayed, it clears and freshens a room, making everyone sigh happily, and it imparts a nice benevolent glow. If you’re going to see the bank manager, this is the one to bring. It’s also perfect for the birth room and nursery and anywhere else that needs the occasional freshening lift. In the kitchen, a splash of rosewater in a fruit salad or dessert of raspberries, strawberries, cherries, or brambles is a beautiful thing. In clinic, I use gently astringent rosewater creams for skin problems in need of toning up, like wet eczema and rashes. It can be used neat on even the most delicate of skin, and makes a useful soothing application for hot inflamed nappy rash. And as a medicine to be ingested, it makes a lovely addition to mixes for anxiety, depression and sleep, and is particularly nice for children, when the harshness of alcohol tinctures may not be desirable.
Other hydrolsols that can be used around the house include Lavender, which is a traditional spray for freshening linens and is a convent way to enjoy the relaxing effects of the essential oil. Elderflower, can also be used for scenting linens and scenting rooms, but is also a traditional remedy for a mottled complexion, forming an important ingredient of many fancy face creams. Orange blossom is another common water, used to flavour some exotic sweets, nice in fruit desserts and salads and forming the base of perfumes and colognes before synthetic scents became the norm.