Heard of hydrosols? Like many essential oils hydrosols (also called hydrolats) are distilled from plants. Unlike essential oils however, hydrosols -- like the name implies, are the water fraction of the distillation. They can be distilled on their own or as a "by product" of essential oil distillation.
Like essential oils hydrosols offer many wonderful benefits but are much gentler than essential oils and often quite suitable for the very young or those in frail condition for whom essential oils can be too intense. But don't let their gentleness fool you. They are quite powerful despite their delicateness. They can be used on their own or incorporated into skin and body care products. They can also be added to water for therapeutic support or incorporated into recipes.
When choosing hydrosols for their therapeutic benefits you'll want to make sure you are getting a true hydrosol. Not all "floral waters" are truly hydrosols. For example many rose waters intended for cooking contain water and rose flower extract. Others for facial products may contain a multitude of ingredients as in one example:
Water, Alcohol, Althaea Officinalis (Marshmallow) Root Extract, Rosa Gallica (Rose) Flower Extract, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Fragrance (Parfum)*, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Lactic Acid, Polysorbate-20, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Geraniol*, Linalool*, Citronellol*, Eugenol*, Benzyl Benzoate.*
While these products may be lovely as an aromatherapist looking for therapeutic benefits from the hydrosol I need to know I'm getting the real deal.
A true hydrosol is simply the distillate from allowing steam to extract the water-loving components from optimally harvested plant material. Nothing more, nothing less. Some may contain preservatives but I personally choose those without and store and use them carefully. I also look for organic or wildcrated hydrosols and those which are sustainable harvested. Aromatics International and Florihana offer lovely hydrosols and I use and offer AI hydrosols in my products and in my webstore.
Let's look at a few floral hydrosols and their benefits.
Lavender hydrosol: This hydrosol is harvested from lavender flowers but smells quite unlike the essential oil. Remember it contains only the water soluble portion of the lavender. It is amazing for the skin and I've seen rashes yield to a spritz of this almost disappearing before your eyes. This hydrosol is anti-inflammatory, analgesic and cooling. It works great on skin that has seen too much sun or wind. If you make your own emulsified creams adding lavender hydrosol in place of some of the water will add another layer of skin support to your creating. Or you can enjoy its benefits simply by spritzing some on your skin before you moisture to lock in an extra bit of hydration. Hydrosols in general make excellent toners and you'll get the additional mood enhancing and calming benefits of the plant in addition to its skin benefits.
Rose hydrosol: This hydrosol is truly a treat for the skin and emotions. Many of my clients enjoy misting their face with it as a toner or using prior to moisturizer. It smells lovely and is fantastic for the skin in addition to supporting mood, helping to balance hormones, and is said to support decision making. It has mildly antibacterial properties and is considered a tonic to the body. It is wonderful added to a bath or incorporated into creams or lotions. Once you try true rose hydrosol you'll see this simple distillate is head and shoulders above mixtures containing only a splash of hydrosol. Rose/Geranium co-distill is also a lovely hydrosol for skin and body.
German Chamomile hydrosol: One of the few hydrosols that can be used in the eyes German chamomile water is calming and soothing. It has anti-inflammatory properties, supports cell regeneration, is antimicrobial, and sedative. It works wonderfully to soothe minor cuts, scrapes, or burns. It's soothing for young children in a bath or spritzed on the pillow at bedtime. Spray onto cotton pads for soothing itchy or tired eyes. It also supports digestive health. Like other hydrosols this one is wonderful in skin, hair, and body care products.
Elderflower hydrosol: Like the herb this hydrosol supports the immune system and is sometimes used to induce sweating. When a cold is coming on some take a teaspoon or so every hour for up to eight hours and often never succumb. Elderflower is said to support the nervous system and encourage a sense of calm. Given its diuretic tendencies it is often used for swollen joints or to move fluid out and support the kidneys.
Lemon balm hydrosol: Lemon balm is used to make melissa essential oil as well as the hydrosol. The hydrosol has antiviral and immunostimulant properties and is a wonderful tonic for the body. It supports digestion and is calming for skin irritation. It has been suggested for support in children with ADHD.
Now there are many other wonderful floral hydrosols from cornflower to yarrow each with their own benefits and uses -- we just touched on a few. To learn more about hydrosols you may wish to read Suzane Catty's book: Hydrosols, The Next Aromatherapy or Anna Haram's book: Harvest to Hydrosol.
Of course if you have questions about hydrosols, essential oils, or aromatherapy feel free to contact me by email or phone or visit my website. We have some hydrosols available in the webstore and if you don't see one you'd like let me know and I can work on getting it for you.