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Saturday, 6 November 2010

Water Water Everywhere...


Knowledge about hydrosols and flower waters is overshadowed by that of essential oils, yet their contribution to our skincare cabinet should not be underestimated. A hydrosol or flower water is simply the water extracted from the plant or flower during steam distillation to produce the essential oil. The water smells quite strongly of the plant - sometimes more so than the essential oil.
The chemical make up of the flower water is often remarkably different from the essential oil and the therapy value is not always the same as the oil either. Sometimes it could be argued that the therapy value of the water is more.
"Since the chemical make up of the human body is quite definitely a large percentage of water it is often felt that there is a resonance within the body to using an appropriate water for healing purposes."
The French use flower and plant waters and tinctures internally for health and well being - a practice that used to be common in western medicine over a hundred years ago but which has fallen out of favour in preference to more synthetic chemical-based medicines.
Yet it is obvious to everyone the difference in the quality of water that you use, not only for drinking, but bathing and washing your hair, has on your appearance. Some areas of the world are famed specifically for their water. It is often the first thing we notice when travelling to another area, the water will taste different, feel softer or harsher from what we are used to back home.

The art of bathing has been lost in many western cultures and this is a shame. Immersing your entire body in water is very therapeutic and as part of a holistic approach to curing illness called phytotherapy. Here we are not so much intent on curing illness as in maintaining health... the health of your skin. And I would very much recommend the regular use of hydrosols as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Hydrosols or flower waters can be bought from most essential oil suppliers. You can find Rose water in the supermarket but you will usually find that it contains a preservative of some kind... it's your choice  whether you want to use this or not, the preservative is considered safe for inclusion in food but it's a personal choice.

The range of hydrosols available in the UK is quite limited in comparason to the amount of essential oils but in other countries such as France hydrosols are much more common, and taken internally for health benefits too.

Types of Flower Water suitable for use as a Toner

Chamaemelum nobile - Roman ChamomileRoman chamomile is the number one choice for use with children and babycare. It can even be used straight from birth - which I do not advise for essential oils or soap (even if natural) or any other preparatory products whether you have made them yourself or bought them. Achamomile hydrosol sprinkled into baby's first bath water is a wonderful welcome to the world. But I digress... as a toner it is great for calming rashes, for sufferers of acne, rosacea, heat rashes or general redness of the skin.
Do not use it undiluted if you have a tendency to very dry skin or for wind burns - due to it's acidity it can exacerbate these conditions - however you could dilute it with spring water.

Citrus aurantium var.amara - Neroli/Orange Blossom
This flower water is perfect for a combination of oily and sensitive skins. Can be useful for acne sufferers or combined with rhassoul mud for a perfect teenage face mask.  Since it is very astringent Do not use on very dry or mature skins unless you dilute it with spring water or lavender or rose flower water.

Hamamelis virginiana - Witch Hazel
Do not be tempted by the witch hazel sold in the chemists shop... these are usually laced with alcohol and are extremely drying to the skin. The real witch hazel is amazing stuff, and not so harsh. It reduces swellings, itching, rashes and scaling of the skin. It is very good for soothing excema and psoriasis and will heal cracked or blistered skin. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory.  Witch hazel is very good for mature and dry skins and is considered one of the most useful waters in the fight against signs of aging.

Lavendula angustifolia - Lavender
Good for all skintypes and gentle enough to be used undiluted. Use it with damaged or fragile skin and can be used alone as a light cleanser. Reduces inflammation associated with shaving if sprayed onto the skin both before and after the shave. Can be used with children and I find it a perfect re-fresher for long plane journeys as well as quick first aid for bites or stings.

Melaleuca alternifolia - Tea Tree
Tea Tree hydrosols are antiseptic, anti-fungal and antibacterial. It's a great weapon to have in the first aid box for cleansing wounds (always dilute it), scrapes and fungal problems such as athletes foot or fungal nail disease. It has been suggested that it could be used for acne but I consider it to be too harsh, however if you have a tendency to infected pimples then you could dilute it with spring water - everyone is different and if lavender water is not strong enough for your needs then tea tree may well do the job.

Mentha piperita - Peppermint
Peppermint water is very refreshing and stimulating to use. It is also very useful for inflamed acne or helping to keep the scalp free of lice (but not a sure-fire cure). It is also effective for calming allergic reactions and sunburn. It was often used in France to enhance the bustline... (? oh those French!!) simply spritz regularly (apparently).

Rosa damascena - Rose
Good to use for any skin type, and smells wonderful - provided you find a good supplier. Especially good for mature or dry skin types as it is a humectant, attracting moisture to the skin. Only mildly astringent. Is very good added to face masks for mature or dry skin. I would suggest that you don't confuse the hydrosol with the rose water available in the supermarket... the two are very different.

There should be hydrosols for every essential oil, however it is very unlikely that you will find them. The therapeutic effects of the hydrosol are not always the same as those attributed to the essential oil. If you are interested in hydrosols or flower waters and phytotherapy then I can recommend the book Hydrosols The Next Aromatherapy by Suzanne Catty

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