Oct. 12, 2022

Hydrosols & Essential Oils

Hydrosols & Essential Oils

Dive with me into hydrosols and essential oils.  In this episode, we discuss the two products of steam distillation and talk about considerations when choosing to work with them.


Join me for the Hydrosol Distilling Workshop on October 16th.


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Hydrosols & Essential Oils


Did you know that hydrosols and essential oils are created during the same process? When a plant undergoes steam distillation, certain compounds are released and carried by the steam. That steam is condensed back to water and collected in a different vessel. At that point, the water soluble compounds stay suspended in the resulting water.

The fat soluble compounds become essential oil, and separate from the water solution.

Then the essential oil can be siphoned off to create two distinct products, essential oil and hydrosol. Or in my case, I don't separate the essential oil because by volume the yield is so small. So then the resulting hydrosol in my process actually contains the essential oil as well.

I'm oversimplifying a bit in my description here. There's a lot of science that goes into understanding the chemical compounds that are making up the essential oils and the hydrosols, but that is. Outside of the scope of this podcast. Though, I love it all, and if it's your thing, let's geek out together, but still we're gonna move on to kind of bigger picture here.

So hydrosols can be sprayed on the body, into the energy field, and onto different objects. They can also be taken internally and added to drinks and. Super versatile. I really like to use hydrosols in energy medicine in terms of chemical constituents of the plant contained in the hydrosol, there are more than in a flower essence and less than in a tea.

During the distillation process, there is a point when the water is boiling and the steam is rising through the plant material and you can feel the energy building. For me, I can feel that energy rising in my body kind of matching the process that's happening in the distillation, and then the plant releases that first bit of essential oil.

The quality of the air in the room changes and you can't help but feel touched by that plant's essence. The hydrosol starts pouring out and it's as if you've just witnessed magic. The whole process is so dreamy. Where the hydrosol is a light and gentle preparation, the essential oil packs a really powerful punch.

Some say that essential oils are the life force of the plants. The volatile oils of the plant are the main source of aroma. Essential oils are going to be the most fragrant plant preparation. For better or for worse. I've studied and practiced aromatherapy for around 15 years. This is powerful medicine, both for the physical body and for the emotional body.

With aromatics, so by the way, when I say aromatics, aromatherapy, volatile oils, I'm talking about the parts of the plants that smell. Again, good, bad, ugly, doesn't matter. But our brains do something different with smell. When we engage our sense of smell, we access the limbic system. This is really cool because we can actually scoot right on past the thinking mind and enter deep into the part of us that is responsible for processing emotions, behaviors, and memories.

The limbic system regulates the autonomic nervous system, so it influences pulse, blood pressure, response to pain, sexual satisfaction, and the list goes on. Shout out to the hypothalamus. Okay. Okay, I see this taking a left turn into a mini anatomy course. I see it. I'm circling back to my point now. I promise.

So it's beginning to sound like essential oils are the way to go, right? I mean, who wouldn't want direct access to the limbic system? And they're so easy to use since you can diffuse them into the air, apply them to the body. In some cases, take them internally and the dosage is so small. Just a few drops here and there.

Now, dear listener, here is where things get tricky. So hear me out. Firstly, yes, essential oils are wonderful forms of plant medicine, and for me personally, aromatherapy is a big part of my wellness plan. HOWEVER, essential oils are not a magic pill. They are very, very potent. Think of it this way, if a flower essence is a whisper, an essential oil is a sonic boom. And just like with everything else, it is important to be discerning.

I want to acknowledge what I said in a previous episode about the most effective medicine being the one you will actually take. For a lot of people, essential oils are their first choice because they are readily available and due to the absolute moment they are having right now, there is a lot of information about them that is easily accessible.

I stand by my statement. I am thankful for all the ways that plant medicine is being made available to the masses. Here it comes. You ready? But, I want to say a few words of caution about oversimplifying aromatherapy and relying too heavily on essential oils.

Number one, essential oils take a tremendous amount of resources to create. In some cases, hundreds of pounds of plant material are needed. In order to make a milliliter of essential oil. We've got to be more aware of what goes into making all of the products we consume.

Then we can decide for ourselves what is the best in each circumstance. And I want to remind you that plants containing essential oils will carry those essential oils with them in other preparations.

So if they are dried for teas, you will have a bit of that aromatherapy aspect with your tea. When they're infused into carrier oils so that you can use those on the body, there will be that bit of aromatherapy as well. What you're having though, is a more dilute product that is still very powerful and can be so healing that is actually a more efficient, let's say, use of the plant material. But sometimes we just need an essential oil, and that's okay.

Again, we're making decisions for ourselves, using the information that's out there and our values and our needs.

Okay, so number two in my list of cautions. Because of the huge amount of resources and effort it takes to make some essential oils, they are very expensive. There are many cases where in order to cut costs, people will substitute synthetic oils or will dilute essential oils with either other plant oils or with synthetic ingredients.

This is not okay, and honestly, it's really hard to know once you have a finished product. My answer to this is to know your farmer. Just like it's important to know where your food comes from, it is important to know where your medicine comes from. I spoke on this a little bit in the Flower Essence episode, and it is important enough to repeat here.

Plants respond to how they are treated. The quality of the finished medicine is absolutely influenced by growing conditions, harvesting process, and the actual making of the medicine. I'm talking about the use of chemicals and the energy with which the plants are approached. All of it matters. I'm not going to tell you where to get your essential oils because I'm holding space for the fact that our values may differ here.

I'm also in complete understanding that different people have different access, and within that there will be a choice that's right for you, and I want to empower you to make the right choice for you. Personally, I get my oils from young living. I've grappled with that choice in recent years because I'm concerned with several aspects of their business.

I don't like the full court press to get people endlessly consuming their products for every reason possible. I also don't like the amount of waste they create with packaging and shipping materials. I do like that they control the medicine making process from the time the plants are put into the ground to the time the essential oils are bottled.

I like that they use organic and biodynamic growing practices. I like that, the group I'm involved with through Young Living is led by a really knowledgeable and wonderful teacher. And honestly, I like that I can easily order what I need and have it show up at my door. So in my effort to be an imperfect conscious consumer, I cut way back on my use of essential oils because for me, I have access to all these other forms of medicine that in a lot of cases are more appropriate solutions for my concerns.

I have access. I'm understanding that that is a wonderful position to be in and that not everyone is in that position. I also choose to make small batch hydrosols in which I don't separate the essential oils. As a result, I have an effective way to stretch every drop of essential oil I produce while also utilizing the powerful medicine of the hydrosol that in most cases of commercial production just becomes waste. And with my business, when I produce these products, I am thinking about eco-friendly packaging and sustainable processes. I am controlling to the best of my ability, the waste that comes with shipping materials and all of these other incidentals.

That's really important to me and I love being able to provide medicines for people who care about that and also people who maybe just want to have the connection to the small batch creator.

And finally, I give myself grace for not making the very most sustainable choices because I understand that this idea of sustainable also includes what I can carry on with, right? I have to make small adjustments and stay at it with my attempts to reduce my footprint so that I can keep going. And my hope is that by sharing this long and somewhat drawn out semi rant, that we can start to normalize making decisions based on our values with the understanding that those decisions will look different for different people.

I am not here to shame you about the sustainability of your medicine.

I am here to help you become aware and to empower you to make mindful choices that are best for you. When we make mindful choices that are in alignment with our values, we change the world. So, okay, hold on a sec. Let me climb down off my soapbox here and let's recap. Hydrosols and essential oils are created by the process of steam distillation.

They are both wonderful preparations to have in your medicine cabinet. It is super important to make mindful choices when using these preparations. The hydrosols that I create for ReSourced Apothecary are made with love and respect. Steam distillation is such a cool process, and I'm really looking forward to sharing that process with everyone who attends the upcoming Hydrosol workshop with me.

Something special happens when you become a part of the medicine making process. I don't really know how to describe it, but I can feel it. I'm excited for you to get to feel it too.

Most importantly of all, may you be empowered to get a feel for which medicines are right for you. May you feel empowered to learn from all the information that's around you and take in the knowledge and wisdom that are being shared all over and still know that when you listen to your body, really listen. It will tell you what you need, and along with guidance from experienced practitioners. Wisdom that you are able to take in from your community and those around you who you trust you can be in charge of your healing.