“These hydrosols are not simply misters, nor are they water to which droplets of essential oil have ben added. They are a separate and natural product of the distillation process and can be termed 100% distilled non-alcoholic distillates.” – Jeanne Rose
“Hydrosols, hydrolates, floral or aromatic waters”; all terms used to describe the by-product of distillation when essential oils are extracted from their original plant source. However, the terms mentioned above may not always refer to the same thing.
Although hydrosols have increased in popularity over the last few years, and many online courses are now popping up to learn more about them as interest in aromatherapy has grown, Hydrosols are still relatively less used and not as well known as their popular counter parts. The benefits though are still versatile and self evident, and they deserve to be talked about, especially as they can be a gentler and safer alternative to some essential oils.
So, what exactly are ‘hydrosols’?
As you can see from the diagram above, hydrosols (labelled here as ‘floral waters’ – see below) are created during the process of extracting essential oils from the plant, but they are separated at a different stage. The distillation method can be different depending on the producer, each using their own technique or method of distillation. This method of production determines the overall quality of the hydrosol. Some producers will only distill to create the hydrosol, this is mostly in the case where essential oils cannot be created from the original pant source in sufficient volume.
“We think of distillation as a transformative process that frees the most subtle elements from the plant: it’s essence, its soul. From this perspective, it is perhaps no surprise to see the amazing changes that hydrosols can bring about, both at the psycho-emotional and physical levels.” – Lydia Bosson
What are ‘Floral Waters’?
The term ‘floral waters,’ mentioned above, may not indicate the same product. Floral waters are now sometimes identified as water blended with essential oils; these will not necessarily be as safe to use or have the same therapeutic properties as genuine hydrosols.
The following has been taken from an article by Aromatherapy Supplier, Quinessence…
“You may be surprised to learn that many of the ‘floral waters’ available today have been made with synthetic compounds which have no therapeutic or beautifying qualities. Others are produced by adding essential oils or absolutes to water by using alcohol or some other type of dispersant or solvent. This may appear to be perfectly acceptable, since the finished product contains essential oil and has a pleasant fragrance similar to a natural hydrosol.
However, this type of reconstituted product lacks the wealth of vital healing properties present in a true hydrosol, – remember, many of the plant constituents were dissolved into the water whilst extracting the oil, so they were never present in the essential oil in the first place! Therefore adding an essential oil to water will never create a product with the same range of healing benefits as a true hydrosol…
Of late it has become quite common for these man-made products to be misleadingly referred to as hydrosols or hydrolats by some manufacturers and suppliers, thus making the situation extremely confusing. Be sure to seek reassurances that you are buying a natural, co-product and not a re-constituted counterfeit.
Take care when buying hydrolates produced from sources such as citrus fruits or flowers that are usually extracted by solvents. Since citrus essential oils are cold pressed and not steam distilled, these hydrosols must be specially made and are not at all common. Jasmine ‘hydrosol’ is another example that should be purchased with caution since the oil is almost exclusively extracted by the use of solvents and can not be steam distilled. Always make enquiries before buying hydrosols such as these.”
See the full article here… https://www.quinessence.com/hydrosols
Over the years there has been confusion with the terminology on what hydrosols actually are. Fake hydrosols can be spotted by foaming when they’re shaken, and/or any preservatives and solubilisers that should be listed on the bottles label. Read more about this here… https://formulabotanica.com/how-spot-fake-hydrosol/
As hydrosols are mainly water based, they have a shorter storage life than essential oils. Sellers should indicate on the product label an advised ‘use by’ time period from date of opening. They need to be kept somewhere dark and cool, preferably a fridge, and in a sterilised bottle to stop bacterial growth. If stored correctly, hydrosols may last between six months to up to two or three years. If the hydrosol becomes cloudy, you see any form of growth floating on top of the water, or if the smell changes, discard immediately. If you want to get really technical, you can monitor them with PH testing strips!
The smell of the hydrosol can be quite different to that of an essential oil, but like essential oils, hydrosols can be mixed together to create a unique blend. Be aware that mixing hydrosols could shorten their shelf life further.
In aromatherapy, one of the biggest contradictions for a lot of oils is pregnancy, and only a few oils are suitable for use around children. Certain hydrosols can be used safely around babies during bath time (1-2 tbsp added to the water), or as a spray or wipe for nappy rash. Under the guidance of a qualified professional, they may be suitable for internal use for upset stomach and digestion in cases such as colic or constipation, for soothing teething pain, or for their calming properties. Nursing Mothers can also take advantage of their safe properties without risk of the baby coming into contact with something that may irritate them.
As well as being a gentler and safer option for babies, holistic use of hydrosols for animal therapy is also gaining recognition. They are used in animal care for washing wounds to fight infection and promote healing, for inflammation, relief from joint pain, to deter fleas, insects and ticks, and for their calming affect if an animal is stressed, agitated or afraid. Again, I would stress conducting more research on suitability or contacting someone qualified in this type of therapy before using aromatic products with animals.
The use for hydrosols is diverse. As there is such an interest in the use of essential oils, sustainability has become an issue. Being able to use alternatives with similar therapeutic value is most definitely part of the way towards regaining a balance with nature.
If you want to try working with hydrosols, I would suggest first reading this article from Wendy Robbins at ‘Aroma Web’ to give you some ideas on how they may benefit you: https://www.aromaweb.com/hydrosols/hydrosol-uses.asp
A note on safety
In terms of safety, hydrosols may still contain a small percentage of water soluble essential oil molecules from the distillation process (see image below). For this reason, I am unable to say that if you are sensitised to a chemical constituent in an essential oil, that the hydrosol from the same plant will be safe for you to use. As sensitisation occurs when the body provides defence against an allergen, which is classed as an allergic reaction, I would say there is a probability. This supposition is supported on the basis that if you are allergic to the plant, you may also be allergic to the essential oil, and as the image below indicates, you may encounter the same constituents in the hydrosol that you are allergic to from the oil. I would like to stress here though, that the benefits of hydrosols and essential oils are not identical as they will contain different types of biochemical compounds.
It is worth noting also, that hydrosols are different to herbal infusions, with hydrosols being 30-40% stronger, as they are extracted directly from larger quantities of plant source! So although more gentle than essential oils, which are highly concentrated, they still need to be used with appropriate knowledge and respect.
If you have any questions regarding anything mentioned in this article, or if you would like to know more about safe and appropriate use of hydrosols to enhance your wellbeing, feel free to get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeanne Rose 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols
Lydia Bosson Hydrosol Therapy
Suzanne Catty Hydrosols, The Next Aromatherapy