The Key, or More Correctly, the pH - 2 - Hydrosols
One distiller I know, puts a small piece of the plant material into the finished hydrosol and leaves it there for two to three months to "revive" the hydrosol. While energetically this is a nice idea, it raises serious issues concerning contamination.
Say a hydrosol blooms. You will see some evidence of the residue in the bottle. It may be tiny bits of particulate matter, a furry algae-type growth, spiral that looks like frog's legs, wispy ghost like bits-each one seems to develop its own unique pattern of growth. But you can see it. Even if the smell and taste have not changed, you can see this stuff floating around in the bottles. It's a pretty simple and unmistakable clue. But what if the hydrosol is contaminated and just hasn't had time to grow a bloom? It doesn't make it any less contaminated; you just don't have any way to know about it....until now..
A change of more than 0.5 from the initial reading on any given batch is positive indication of bacteria. Testing should be undertaken at least every two months (sixty days), and more frequently if you resell the products. At present I have only my own benchmarks to work with, but within five years I believe hydrosols could come labelled with their pH at the time of distillation, giving everyone involved in their handling a perfect reference point for both contamination testing and therapeutic action.
Now, does it matter? Are they still safe to use if we can't see a bloom/ Difficult questions. I have hydrosols with bloom, just filtered through a paper coffee filter, to see what would happen. Nothing so far. I am fairly sure that friends, colleagues, and maybe even some clients have consumed hydrosols that were contaminated but not blooming. I would certainly never knowingly give anyone a "contaminated" water, but without a bloom, how would we have known, before the pH test?
I am pretty sure that anyone who has worked with hydrosols has consumed "contaminated" but non-blooming waters, probably many times. But what comes out of your tap could be also as bad, depending on where you live. All I know is that I am alive and well and have never been made sick by a hydrosol. However, there can be some unpleasant organisms contaminating hydrosols, and it is obviously much better never to drink or use contaminated products.
What matters most is we now have a simple method for monitoring hydrosols, checking for contamination, and choosing what to do about the knowledge that we have. We also have a way to filter them, as I've mentioned . Testing the pH of hydrosols will monitor more than bacterial contamination; it can also reveal the addition of preservatives like alcohol. Ethyl alcohol is 6.9 pH; as you'll see in the table below, if alcohol is added to a hydrosol to prevent bacterial growth, it will change the pH of the water.
Let's use rock rose as an example, since it has such a low pH to start withy and it is so important in therapeutic care. If you were to conduct a test and find the pH to be 3.6 instead of the normal 2.9 to 3.1, you could assume one of two things; either bacteria are present or alcohol has been added.
|STANDARD pH||5% ETHANOL ADDED||10% ETHANOL||15% ETHANOL|
|2.9 - 3.1||3.2 - 3.3||3.4 - 3.5||3.5 - 3.6|
To determine which is the problem, you could smell or taste a small amount to see if alcohol was detectable. Although at less than 5 percent it's hard to detect alcohol from the odour, if you are sensitive you will usually notice a slight "rush" of alcohol entering the bloodstream if you drink the hydrosol undiluted; whereas, if the problem is bacteria, you will not feel the same alcohol effect.
But do you want to taste a potentially bacteria-carrying hydrosol? Probably not. You can also spray the hydrosol on your skin; if alcohol is present, it will be quite drying, usually leaving a light or white patch on the skin if the alcohol content is over5 to 7 percent, but a lower concentrations there may be no immediately visible effects. In any case, you will know that something is wrong with the hydrosol, and you should either filter it, return it to your retailer, or use it to wash the floor.
The pH will also give a scientific information as to the potential therapeutic applications of the waters. Rose rose, as discussed, is the most acid of all, with a 2.9 to 3.1 pH, so it is highly astringent. It will constrict cells and reduce blood flow, which is why it is used as part of an aromatherapy protocol for fibroids. That is also part of the reason why it reduces wrinkles, since it tightens and tones the pores, reducing visible fine lines.
Rock rose will also slow or stop bleeding by the same astringent action; it can be used on cuts that bleed profusely, like those on the fingers or on animal pads, and it makes a wonderful addition to men's aftershaves. Of course, if the cut is deep, it may require medical attention, but this is what to use first, before you panic.
The essential oil does the same thing, only more powerfully, but at forty dollars or more for 5 milliliters, compared with fifteen dollars for 120 milliliters of hydrosol, it's more likely that you'll have the water on hand. Rock rose has other unique properties that you will find described in chapter 3.
Reference; Hydrosols; The Next Aromatherapy: Suzanne Catty
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