Ingrid Kleindienst John interview

What are your roots as an herbalist? What were your beginnings like?

Just when I was a child, I was involved in collecting herbs with my grandmother and my aunt. They told me, which herb I could use. I started to learn about, how to use herbs very easily. In my early twenties, when I became a mother, I was very interested in the healing herbs. And this lasts on.

What brought you to aromatherapy?

I started using essential oils for creating my own perfumes in the 1970s. At this time there were not too many of them to buy.

But the great interest in using essential oils therapeutically came a little bit later, when my first husband had a bad accident and could not taste and smell. At this time I've been working at the Vienna University and got the chance to read some books − all of them in English − my first was one of Robert Tisserand. These books inflamed me for aromatherapy. And some years later, I founded my little own aromatherapy practice. In 2000 I founded my Institute for Aromatherapy.

Do you remember the aha-moments when herbs persuaded you of their healing power?

Yes, I remember! The first time I menstruated, my grandmother gave an herbal tea with yarrow to me to ease the pain in my belly. I could not believe that only one cup of tea could ease the pain, but it works!

You are the owner of the Aromaexerten aromatherapy school where you connect medical herbs and feng shui - what is it they have in common?

It's the way of nature. I believe that feng shui shows us this way very intensively.

At the Aromakonference in Brno you have a lecture on hydrolates. What is your current hydrolate number one and why?

It is always and since long years the hydrosol of the rose I prefer. It has so many practical uses − for babies up to elder people, for skin care and for clinical use.

What are the must-have hydrolates in a household first-aid kit?

There are three to four, I think of:

Rose − for nearly any disease

Lavender − to calm

Neroli − if you have a shock or just a bad day

Peppermint − to cool down

Would you share a proven hydrolate recipe - maybe something for the autumn?

If you catch a cold, this balm might be helpful:

50 ml almond oil

15 ml jojoba oil

10 g bees-wax

6 g shea

60 ml hydrolate (I prefer thyme)

Essential oils:

2 drops angelica archangelic root

4 drops thymus ct. linalool

3 drops citrus lemon

3 drops aniba rosaeodora (rosewood)

How should one choose hydrolates? What is important for you?

You should always choose the hydrolate for what you want to use it. There are so many of them − some will help against sickness, others are better for wellness.

What experience would you pass on someone who is about to buy a distillation unit?

The main thing to think about is the quality of the material and of the manufacture.

If you want a copper still, you should not take the cheapest one, you might be frustrated.

And now for something different − what advice would you give someone without a distiller? What do you think of the "pot distillation" method?

Pot distillation method is a funny experience. It works, if you have the right pot and enough ice to cool it. You will get a nice hydrosol, which you should use as soon as possible.

What advice would you have appreciated before your first distillation?

Try it, use it, and learn by doing!