As many of you know, one of my favorite ways to experience a hydrosol is by tasting it. These distilled herbal waters are powerful plant healers and have applications far beyond skincare. As our hydrosols are all distilled in-house with care and attention, most our hydrosols are edible in moderation. We do not dilute the true hydrosol and we do not add any preservatives. We rely on the signs of daily observation and careful pH testing to ensure the stability of our distillates.
Hydrosols should always be diluted before ingesting. If you are incorporating them into your daily routine, it is important to remember that hydrosols are 20-30x stronger than tea. They have powerful effects on many systems in the body and should be used with care and respect. Depending on the hydrosol, 1-4 tbsp per day is a baseline to start. Some of the hydrosols are more mellow than others, like lemon balm and lemon verbena. Nearly all of the sages are powerful and aromatic, overpowering if you add too much. I try to listen to the plants, let the hydrosols guide me to the proper dose. Sometimes just a few drops is enough. Other times, I am called to use much more. Whatever the reason, this is one of the things I love about using hydrosols in the kitchen. Each one is unique and each one requires attention in the moment. One batch might vary from another, its an invitation to work with the things at hand. Take only what you need. And to give back, both to the plants in homage to their lives and to friends and family who might benefit from a nourishing herbal tonic.
An exciting herbal beverage I’ve been experimenting with is a hydrosol infused shrub. A shrub is a non-alcoholic syrup made with a blend of vinegar, fruits and sweetener. I tend to go light on the sweetener as the fruits are at the peak of their season right now and they tend to provide enough sweetness on their own. I generally add honey or maple syrup instead of refined sugars and incorporate fresh herbs and spices which contribute as both flavor and nourishment. Shrubs are a delicious and healthy way to spice up your summer!
So what makes a hydrosol infused shrub healthy? As many of you know, I am a big fan of vinegar. This incredible, acidic solvent has many medicinal properties for both skin and body. It helps to regulate the body’s acid/alkaline balance and thus, is an excellent digestive tonic. Vinegar also helps to diminish thirst, promote the flow of saliva and soothe restlessness. Topically, vinegar helps to cleanse and tone the skin. Its natural acidic composition makes it an excellent skin care ingredient for burns, acne, rashes, itching and sunburn.
There are many different types of vinegar and for both the Tonic and the hydrosol infused shrubs, we use raw apple cider vinegar. Raw ACV has not been pasteurized and contains several nutritional constituents that are destroyed in the heating/refining process of other vinegars. I also use raw honey or grade A maple syrup as opposed to refined sugars. Both honey and maple syrup have their own medicinal properties making them an excellent choice to replace any sweetener. Add in some fresh herbs, spices and fruits and you’ve got something truly unique to share with friends and family. I enjoy my shrub almost daily between meals. Sometimes I add a hydrosol ice cube for an extra boost! Here are two of my favorite recipes so far. Enjoy!
I. Wash and slice fruits and herbs.
II. Prepare a clean quart jar. Add a heaping cup of sliced fruit and a generous handful of herbs and spices.
III. Use a muddler or the end of a wooden spoon to mash fruit and herbs together. This helps to release all of the yummy fruit juices!
IIII. Add 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey. Fill the rest of the jar with apple cider vinegar. The ratio should be 1:1 fruit to apple cider vinegar.
IIIII. Cap with tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to blend. Leave the jar on the counter for a few days to infuse or store in the refrigerator.
IIIIII. After a few days, up to a week, strain contents and store syrup in a clean jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
To make a spritzer, add 5-6 tbsp of the shrub to sparkling or still water. Add a hydrosol ice cube for an extra kick. You can also add one dropper full of the Tonic for a relaxing beverage. Or try adding one dropper full of the Chaga to boost immunity and vitality. The combinations are endless, don’t be afraid to experiment!
You can pick up herbs at your local farmer’s market or harvest from your own garden. Herbs such as lemon balm and mint are easy to grow and do well as potted plants, give it a try! I encourage you to observe the plants around you. Cultivate the ones you think of, the ones you are fond of. Plants give us medicine in many ways, whether it be the gift of a colorful flower, a fragrant leaf or a delicious tomato. When they receive the care they need, they are able to give something back in return. The never-ending cycle of reciprocity in nature.
Another simple way to enjoy hydrosols daily is by making a hydrosol blend. Last week, I made a blend of hydrosols in a quart jar to add to my water each day. I enjoyed this blend, and a few friends did too. I’ve been working with some feminine aspects, both emotionally and physically and it’s no wonder I chose these hydrosols to work with. The Women’s Way I’ve decided to call it.
3/4 quart spring water (or filtered)
3 TBSP Lemon Verbena
2 TBSP Clary Sage
2 TBSP Tulsi
1 TBSP Spearmint
Add a splash of this blend to your water each morning. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Clary Sage, Salvia sclarea, is hailed as an herb of women, its feminine balancing properties extend from menstruation, birth and menopause. It can be helpful for women in all stages of life. Clary Sage has an effect on several systems in the body including circulatory, endocrine, digestive, muscular and nervous. The hydrosol has an exquisite taste, strong notes of bergamot and rose, complimented by a mild sagey musk. It’s both aromatic and delicious. The herb itself has euphoriant and antidepressant properties making it an excellent tonic for nurturing addiction, withdrawal or heartbreak. This hydrosol is energetic and vibrant, comforting and affirming.
Tulsi, Holy Basil, Ocimum tenuiflorum, one of my favorite skincare herbs that also happens to be an excellent tasting hydrosol. Tulsi is known for it’s soothing properties, both internally and externally. The herb is said to balance the autonomic nervous system and the hydrosol too, has rapid calming effects for both the mind and body. It is a powerful digestive aid and it’s no coincidence Tulsi can calm an upset mind and stomach at the same time.
Lemon Verbena, Lippia citriodora, is a light and tasty hydrosol. I was drawn to it the other day in the garden, it’s flowers blooming in all of their tiny glory. Like the flowers, the taste is subtle, distinctly lemon but not acidic. It is a pleasant beverage warm or cool and makes for an excellent base to teas and tonics. Lemon Verbena is used a mental and physical relaxant in every country that cultivates it. It is an overall body tonic that stimulates the endocrine system, specifically the thyroid and pancreas. Similar to Tulsi, Lemon Verbena has digestive properties and provides support during cold and flu season.
Spearmint, Mentha spicata, is a classic kitchen herb that makes an excellent hydrosol for both skincare and sipping. The flavor is bright and minty, slightly more herbaceous than peppermint but robust in flavor. A little goes a long way with this hydrosol, but even at higher concentrations, the flavor is consistent, not overpowering. Spearmint is another all-star digestive herb, healing to soothe bloating, gas and occasional constipation. It wakes up the intestines and can be useful for a sluggish system. It’s balanced yet bold and energetic.
As I write out each description, I’m putting all of the pieces together. I intuitively chose all of these hydrosols for a reason. They are nourishing both my mind and body on many levels and I’m just now hearing what they have to say. I try to let the plants guide me. To let them give me the gifts of health after I have too, cared for them in the garden.
If you are called to create a hydrosol sipping blend or a hydrosol infused shrub, please share it with me! I’d love to hear how you are exploring the hydrosol world in your kitchen.