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Interview with Suzanne Catty By Michelle Ensley

How did you initially get involved with aromatherapy, and what made you start working with essential oils?

I grew up with herbal remedies and treatments at home; my British grandmother had worked with Rudolph Steiner, my mother was German, and a cousin was a homoeopath, so herbs, homoeopathy and natural remedies were everyday life. I had my first acupuncture at 14 after falling off a horse, and it opened my eyes to TCM. I was already in love with giving and receiving massages with friends lining up for back rubs, so I was steeped in holistic health of every kind from a very young age. When I was gifted some essential oils for the first time, of course, the aromas were intoxicating and filled the house, but some of those first ones were from cooking herbs, so I also used them in food preparation as it seemed like the normal thing to do. I lived in England at the time and was a keen gardener and botany student, so I eventually made my way to a local aromatherapy shop, buying every book they had and a few better-quality oils. That’s when my interest in their medicinal uses began and that was 35 years ago!

What inspired you to become involved with hydrosols and to write your book Hydrosols The Next Aromatherapy?

The minute I heard someone talk about hydrosols, I had shivers, a sign I always recognize as a message. Although the speaker only suggested they made nice face sprays, I saw a much different and much larger picture. First of all, if the oils had medicinal properties, there was no way the hydrosols didn't. Being me, I had also immediately tasted the hydrosols being sampled, and it was clear that, if nothing else, these could be used as teas or in cooking much more easily than the oils and at a much lower cost. Last but not least was my interest in preventing any product made from nature from going to waste. Understanding that every distillation produced hundreds, even thousands of litres of hydrosol that were mostly unused was unthinkable to me, and for that reason alone, I would have pursued my research into these incredible distillates. I have always said the plants made me do it.

What is your approach to formulating hydrosols? Are there special projects that you would highlight?

Blending hydrosols is much easier than blending oils. At least it's much harder to make a 'stinker' or unpleasant-smelling blend. When blending hydrosols, we rarely do it just for a beautiful olfactory result but primarily for a therapeutic purpose, whether a topical treatment or an internal one. The key to blending is to have a library in your mind of what the aromatics smell and, in the case of hydrosols, taste like. Some essential oil blending practices like base, middle and top note balance don't exist in the same way with hydrolats, and we must learn an entirely new palette to use in constructing our formulas. Hydrosols are not volatile, and their scent profile doesn't leap out of the bottles; often, we don't really smell them until they are atomized or diluted into a beverage. It requires a different headspace in the blending process.

To learn more about Suzanne Catty, visit

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