Hydrosols, Aromatic Waters, Hydrolats, Distillates – What Are They?
You may have started hearing the words Hydrosols, Aromatic Waters, Hydrolats or Distillates lately and wondering what they are.
Basically, these four words refer to the same thing which is the ‘water of distillation’, a beautiful healing and very gentle form of aromatherapy.
I do love the term Aromatic Waters but for me, the word ‘Hydrosol’ is a better name to describe what this product actually is. To explain using the words from the world-renowned herbalist/aromatherapist, Jeanne Rose … “ ‘hydro’ meaning water and ‘sol’ from the word ‘solution’ referring to the water resulting from the distillation process.”
Hydrosols are produced along with essential oils through the process of gentle water or steam distillation of fresh plant material.
In the past, this water has been cast aside as it was only the precious essential oils that were the focus of distillation. Thankfully, we are now fully realising what a mistake this was and how therapeutic and very special this ‘water’ actually is.
Hydrosol is the life force of the plant in its liquid form which is also referred to as cellular water.
Just like essential oils, hydrosols contain therapeutic properties of that particular plant but in a more gentler form. The main chemistry difference is the essential oil contains lipophilic constituents whereas hydrosols are made up of the water-soluble constituents of the plant. Hydrosols are also in a much less concentrated form.
Hydrosols are mild but very effective.
Because they are a lot gentler than essential oils (which are extremely concentrated) this then gives us more options of ways we can use them i.e. topically and internally.
Generally, hydrosols are able to be used neat (undiluted) on your skin (there are exceptions to this when used on babies and very young children).
They can be used undiluted without problems for most topical applications and at times, can be used to replace water in certain treatment preparations. But it is important to remember they differ from water in many ways because of the special therapeutic properties they contain.
If you want to start drinking more water but don’t like the taste, try adding hydrosols. They are a wonderful flavouring agent as well as providing therapeutic benefits. Put 10 ml of your chosen hydrosol in a litre of water or just use one quick spray into a glass of water. Chilled water is best. Try different hydrosols to see which one is your favourite keeping in mind the therapeutic benefits that each hydrosol brings e.g. Rosemary or Peppermint are great in the morning as a ‘pick me up’ or try Lemon Balm or Lemon Verbena in the evening to support relaxation and a good night sleep.
Here are some favourite ways to use hydrosols.
- This is my favourite. In particular, while we have been having such a gorgeous and hot summer. Add 10 ml (1 dessertspoon) of your favourite hydrosol to 1 litre of purified/filtered water. Chill and drink with ice. A refreshing and tasty way to hydrate yourself. Great hydrosols to try are Lemongrass, Peppermint, Lemon Balm and Rosemary.
- After a shower or bath gently mist your favourite hydrosol over your body to hydrate your skin. Lemongrass and Bay Laurel are wonderful body mists in the morning and either Lavender or Lemon Balm are calming to use before bed.
- Rosemary hydrosol is very effective when used as a room spray to aid memory. Its stimulating properties are useful when studying or needing to concentrate at work.
- Needing a boost? Generously mist yourself or your room with Lemongrass hydrosol. The therapeutic properties of Lemongrass help purify the air and will uplift your mood.
- Hydrosols gently sprayed neat are amazing toners for your face, neck, and décolletage. Lavender and Lemon Balm are both very calming, healing and balancing for the skin and can help soothe redness and irritations. Bay Laurel is calming and soothing for men to use after shaving. There are many other choices. The possibilities are endless!
- Soak cosmetic eye pads in Lemon Balm, Chamomile or Lavender hydrosol and place over tired, stressed eyes. Chilling the hydrosol in the fridge first gives it an extra cooling and soothing effect.
- Apply the very healing and soothing Lavender hydrosol as a compress, or gently mist over the area to soothe irritated skin or minor burns. Lavender hydrosol is very cooling to sunburned skin.
- Lavender hydrosol is cleansing and healing when used as a wound wash.
- Mist Lavender, Peppermint or German Chamomile hydrosol to relieve itchy skin.
- Lavender and German Chamomile hydrosol are particularly soothing and healing when used on irritated skin.
- Peppermint hydrosol is especially refreshing and reviving to hot, tired and aching feet at the end of the day. Either spritz around feet and ankles or add up to one cup of hydrosol to a foot bath. Lemongrass hydrosol is also a great choice for this.
- Peppermint hydrosol is mentally stimulating and known as the ‘wake up’ water. Put one spray in a glass of water. Can be used in conjunction with Rosemary hydrosol. A great replacement for coffee!
- Either Lavender or Lemon Balm hydrosol are perfect choices to spritz over bed linen and pillows for a restoring night’s sleep.
(It is important to check the information of each hydrosol to make sure there are no precautions you need to consider).
And the list can go on!
We have been trialing many of these uses at home and to be honest, the list is endless. There are so many amazing and healthful ways hydrosols are beneficial to us. As we play and experiment (it’s a tough life! 😊) we will definitely share any new discoveries with you.
Quiescent Hydrosols – 100% pure, artisan, wildcrafted
Our hydrosols are produced solely for the purpose of creating the hydrosol alone. They are definitely not treated as a by-product of the distillation process. But a special unique product of its own.
We have a beautiful copper alembic still that was handmade in Portugal. The process of plant distillation has remained the same for centuries and we feel honoured to be able to carry on with the very special art of plant distillation.
When we can, the plants we use to produce our hydrosols are taken from our very own aromatic garden. These plants have been planted, nurtured and handpicked with care and are spray-free. We try to follow the moon calendar when we plant and harvest the for distilling and we are very proud to be a part of our hydrosol journey from start to finish.
You can check out our hydrosol range HERE.
The term floral water is sometimes used today, but this usually refers to a mist made from distilled water, essential oils, and an emulsifier. Some ‘floral waters’ available today have been made with synthetic compounds including scents and have no therapeutic effect what-so-ever. In chemistry terms, these may still be called a hydrosol but it is not a true pure hydrosol by aromatherapy standards.
A true hydrosol is a product of distillation of a plant.
It is important to understand this and investigate any hydrosol that you purchase. Please always check the product label. There are some products that call themselves hydrosols that have not been near a still!
Hydrosols contain small quantities of the volatile base essential oils. The essential oils themselves may have contraindications associated with them, but as a hydrosol are completely safe to use without further dilution. However, it is always best to check to see if the hydrosol does have any specific safety considerations.
With lots of thanks to the following references:
– Catty, S. (2001). Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy. Canada: Healing Arts Press
– Harman, A. 2015). Harvest to Hydrosol. Fruitland, WA: IAG Botanics
Photo credit: Tanya Wohler
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Published on January 31, 2018