Tag Archives: lemon balm

Adventures In Hydrosol

lemon balm hydrosol

As summer sets in and the ritual of gathering plants begins, I am making hydrosol from garden gathered plants. The lemon balm has gone wild in the beds and this makes a lovely light lemony floral water that can be used externally and internally.

What is a hydrosol?

A true hydrosol or hydrolat is the water composed when the plant material is gently steam distilled to release their unique medicinal therapeutic properties that capture the essence of the live plant.

These aromatic plant water extracts also contain tiny amounts of essential oil, therefore resembles the volatile plant oil but in a far more gentle, ethereal form. This makes them suitable to apply directly on to the skin without dilution.  I don’t add any preservatives as it would lose its therapeutic value. As long as the container is sterile and it is kept in the fridge, the hydrosol can last for over a year, depending on which plant is used.

“For therapeutic use, hydrosols need to be totally natural, with no added components, stabilisers or preservatives”

– International Federation Of Aromatherapists.

The lemon balm is organically grown in my garden and is one of my favourite plants, as its so versatile. The hydrosol has a light lemony scent and is healing and hydrating on the skin. It can be used for rashes, cuts and sores, for eczema and as a face toner. Internally, it is taken for staying calm, and for morning sickness, also known to support ADHA (Hydrosol, the next aromatherapy – Suzanne Catty)

I use a small 2 litres copper rotating alembic which I purchased from copper masters here and did a steam distillation. I chose a copper still because it is the same set up used in medieval times, and there is something beautiful in using the same apparatus and ancient methods. Copper is also a wonderful conducter of heat and has antimicrobial properties, making it ideal for water.

The process is simple but quite enchanting. As the water in the copper pot boils, the steam rises and goes through the plant material, and in to the gooseneck tube. The aromatic plant molecules get swept away with the steam into a coil inside the condenser unit, which is filled with cold water. Once the steam comes in contact with the cold surface of the condensing unit, its converts back into liquid. This creates the hydrosol and a very minuscule amount of essential oil. This is the active therapeutic part of the plant captured in water – pure alchemy!

The lemon balm hydrosol took about an hour to produce, and I managed to fill 2 x 700ml glass jars.

Next, I’m planning to use the rose geranium in my garden to make more hydrosol!

The books I read proir to making hydrosol and would highly recommend are: ‘Hydrosols: The New Aromatherapy – Suzanne Catty and ‘Hydrosol Therapy’ – Lydia Bosson.

A Cooling Summer Tea

I adore the summer season; well I love the thought of summer, especially on a particular icy winters day. I look forward to the sunshine, the seasonal garden fruits and herbs and flowers in full bloom, and the altogether feeling of happiness. However if you are anything like me, when the heat is particularly scorching, you tend to feel lethargic and uncomfortable and try to stay out of the sun.
I have started making ice cold summer teas, which are especially cooling and refreshing on the harshest of days, albeit in the UK there are not many days like these. Nevertheless this is a tea recipe made from Elderflower, Lime, Mint and Lemon Balm. Elderflower is an amazing cooling plant for the summer heat, as well as during a cold, fevers and for the hot flushes of menopause. Lemon Balm, Mint and Lime are also cooling on the body.

The recipe below is not an exact science and does not have to be approximate. You can also use dried ingredients, you just need to halve the quantity of the herbs.

Ingredients:
A handful of elderflower heads
1 or 2 sprigs of lemon balm
1 sprig of mint
A slice of lime
Agave nectar to taste
2 cups of water.

Directions:
Place the Elderflower, Mint, slice of Lime and Lemon Balm in a glass jug and pour over with 2 cups of boiling water. Let this infuse for 20 minutes and then add Agave nectar to taste. Strain and chill to serve.