WITCH HAZEL WATER
Witch Hazel is a herb of Saturn. Come to us through the herbal traditions of Native Americans, the white settlers simply transferred some of the herbal lore associated with the European witch hazel (English Elm) onto this completely unrelated species. However, Witch hazel has plenty of magical qualities of its own. Its growing habit alone, flowering in the autumn after the leaves have fallen, is highly unusual. Native Americans used this herb for purification in their sweatlodges and numerous medical applications. Its excellent astringent and soothing properties have also found their way into many cosmetic preparations.
Most fragrant flower waters, also known as Hydrosols, or Hydrolats are a by-product of essential oil production, though some are produced for their own inherent healing virtues. In the steam distillation process water is used to extract the volatile, essential oils. As the water heats up and passes as steam through the chamber that holds the plant material, it forms fleeting bonds with the volatile oils and carries them off down through the cooling coils where the water condenses and the two elements are separated once again. The oils form a layer on the top of the collecting cylinder while the water can be drained from the bottom. Some of the volatile parts however, remain bonded with the distilled water, which in the process takes on their fragrance and some of their therapeutic properties. Thus, flower waters are as ‘old’ and established as essential oils themselves. Some have long played an important role, particularly in the world of cosmetics, others are also used for culinary purposes. With the recent revival of interest in essential oils and aromatherapy a renewed curiosity in hydrosols is also emerging.
The use of flower waters in cosmetic preparations is well established, but new applications are emerging all the time. Some flower waters are gaining popularity as natural insect repellents or pest control in organic agriculture, while others are used for their inherent remedial qualities. Flower waters have excellent skin toning and healing qualities. They can replace spring water in home-made cosmetics recipes such as creams, lotions, face masks or in hair care products.
In many parts of the world flower waters have also long played an important role in spiritual practices and ceremonies. They are often used to cleanse the physical and meta-physical ceremonial space, to bless and 'purify' the auras of participants, and to consecrate magical tools. Gods and spirits delight in sweet fragrances and flower waters are often used as an offering to the presiding deities.