Very soon it will be lavender season in Provence. July is a highly aromatic season when the air is full of the sweet lavender fragrance as the plants are distilled to release the soothing, stress relieving essence of the pure essential oil.
Distillation is the process of releasing the healing oil from the plant. Bundles of cut, sun dried lavender flowers are placed in the still and tightly packed. Steam is introduced, which rises through the flowers and as it ascends it takes with it the volatile aromatic molecules which are present in the lavender flowers.
As the steam enters the condenser it cools turning to liquid and dripping the flower scented water and essential oil into the collecting bottle. The precious essential oil, being lighter, floats on the surface and can be released leaving the fragrant lavender flower water.
Floral waters hydrolat or hydrosol are the result of the distillation process of many flowers and therapeutic herbs. They can be used as skin toners. This is how we get rose water which is hydrating and toning to the skin especially after cleansing.
They contain the soothing properties of the water soluble molecules from the plants which come through as part of the distillation process and will have milder yet similar properties to the essential oil that is being extracted.
Flower waters have been used by many cultures throughout history. The essential oil once distilled will be stored in a cool dark place ready for bottling. It’s uses are plentiful and it is one of the most favoured of essential oils. It may be used for perfume, soap or as a constituent of pre-blended massage oil.
The alchemy of distillation allows this aromatic extract to be called a true essential oil. Not all plants can be distilled in this way. Some more delicate blossoms have their fragrance extracted with solvents which produces an “absolute”.
The Town of Grasse in France was once the fragrance capital of the world. Visiting this region in the summer months allows visitors to witness the distillation process and join in the flower festivals of the region, whilst inhaling the wonder fragrant aromas… all joyful things to keep hold of the next time you have a massage…
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