Black Spruce Hydrosol or Black Spruce Hydrolat which is the correct term? The French use the word hydrolat to describe the product of distillation, while the English have always referred to this product as a hydrosol. Purists suggest that as the term hydrosol is applied to a wide range of products it is actually too generic a term to use and they suggest that we should instead use the French word Hydrolat. Whether I use the term hydrolat or hydrosol, when I am referring to their use within an aromatherapy practice and protocol, I am specifically referring to the waters that are the by-product of the steam or hydro-steam distillation process.
Plant Description: Black spruce is a slow growing evergreen tree. It grows to a height of around 9 meters and has a conical shape. It is native to Canada and is found in numerous regions in Quebec. The tree has dense clusters which prevents sunlight reaching the ground. This results in a thick moss layer forming over a humid, dark and deep soil. Picea is from the root word pix meaning pitch or something that produces pitch and mariana means ‘of Maryland’.
History/Folklore: With its relatively soft fiber, paper pulp is one of the main products produced from this tree. It has also been used traditionally to prepare spruce beer enjoyed from the time of the French colonies.
Black Spruce has been extensively used by Native Americans in many different ways. For instance, the balsam was used as a chewing gum and the gum as caulking or glue. Both the inner bark and young shoots were used for food and it was included in ointments, salves and lotions for many skin problems such as boils, burns, skin inflammations, sores and wounds. For instance, Cree people use a decoction of the cones for diarrhea and a balm from the resin to treat severe burns. The Montagnais use it in an infusion for sore throats.
Aroma and Taste: Suzanne Catty describes this as having a head note reminiscent of air in a winter forest; cool, dry and redolent with complex evergreen odors and frost. This is taken over by a wet, slightly musty resin aroma that is both similar and different to the aroma of the oil and the tree. The taste has a dry, sawdust edge to it, like chewing on a branch or twig. There is also a distinctly minty resin taste.
Stability and Shelf Life: Very Stable.
pH: 4.2 – 4.4
Black Spruce hydrosol has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant, calming, stimulating and tonic properties.
Jeanne Rose says that this hydrosol is soothing and cleansing and recommends using it in baths or compresses for skin care, for pain and itching. Particularly good for male skin care. She also says using it in steam inhalations or nasal lavage can be particularly helpful for the respiratory system.
On a mental level she recommends using it as being very helpful for stress.
Suzanne Catty recommends using this hydrosol in the bath or a compress for pain and inflammation. She suggests that this is the number one choice for supporting the adrenal glands and dealing with high stress. Black Spruce makes a stimulating and restorative body spray, as well as a good aftershave spray.
I personally find that by their very nature, hydrosols are particularly helpful when used energetically. I like to include them in misters and sprays and find that they can make a subtle and effective difference.
In Dr. Berkowsky’s Spiritual PhytoEssencing, Black Spruce has the Theme of Feeling as if everything is coming apart at the seams. There is also a strong theme of Needing to break free from oppression. When faced with situations where this underlying feeling shows up, adding Black Spruce which is so nurturing, can help foster feelings of being grounded and anchored in the world.
You can view other posts written on individual hydrosols here.
Another general article on Floral Waters/Hydrosols/Hydrolats.
Reference Steffen Arctander, Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin, 1960 Berkowsky’s Synthesis Materia Medica/Spiritualis of Essential Oils ©1998-2018 Joseph Ben Hil-Meyer Research, Inc. Suzanne Catty, Hydrosols, The Next Aromatherapy, Healing Arts Press, 2001 Ernst Guenther, The Essential Oil, Vol V, 1948 reprinted 1972 Ann Harman, Harvest to Hydrosol, IAG Botanics LLC dba botanicals, 2015 Beverley Hawkins, Essential Oils and Carriers, Aromatherapy 101, Aromatherapy 201, Aromatherapy 301, 1999-2018 Bettina Malle & Helge Schmickl, The Essential Oil Maker’s Handbook, Spikehorn Press, 2012, 2015 Len and Shirley Price, Understanding Hydrolats Churchill Livingstone, 2004 Jeanne Rose, 374 Essential Oils and Hydrosols, Frog Ltd, 1999