What are Hydrosols?


Hydrosols, also known as floral waters, hydroflorates, flower waters or distillates are produced from steam-distilling plant materials. Suzanne Catty, author of Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy suggests the following definition:

"Hydrosols are the condensate water co-produced during the steam- or hydro-distillation of plant material for aromatherapeutic purposes."[Suzanne Catty, Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy (Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2001), 10.]

The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans are all known to have made great use of hydrosols for their healing and aesthetic properties alongside their infusions and unguents. See, hydrosols have similar properties to essential oils but are much less concentrated. The plant matter used in essential oil distillation imparts an incredulously addicting aroma to its remaining water. Now supercharged with deeply active elements from the essence of the plant, this ready-to-use hydrosol offers a misty and therapeutic way to deliver a wide range of soothing skin benefits you’ve come to expect from face and body oils. Some plants are even specifically distilled for the resulting hydrosol instead of the hydrosol being simply a byproduct of the distillation. Unlike their "essential oil added to water" counterparts, true steam-distilled hydrosols contain all the nutritional components that whole plant materials have to offer. Gentle hydrosols are water soluble & can be used directly on the skin without further dilution. Some brands will use hydrosols in place of water when creating natural fragrances, oils, creams, balms, facial toners and other skin care products to bring even higher grades of purity to their prducts. For fun, they can also be added to the bath and even be used on their own as a light cologne or body spray on pulse points if the fragrance is heady enough.

You may be surprised to learn that many of the 'floral waters' available in the cluttered organic market have been made with synthetic compounds which really end up without any therapeutic or beautifying qualities. Some of these variations are produced by adding essential oils or absolutes to water and using alcohol, dispersants or solvents. But, know this – the richest hydrosols are usually a by-product of essential oil production. As such, the highest quality comes from devoted distillers who, with artist-like precision, steam small batches of fresh floral and plant material strictly to produce hydrosols, such as copper stills and processed through certified organic methods. Hydrosols contain all of the essence of the plant in every drop, just like essential oils but in a milder form; making them suitable for all manner of applications where essential oils might be too strong for daily use. In most hydrosols there is less than 5% actual oil.

Take note when buying hydrosols derived from citrus fruits or flowers that are usually extracted by solvents. For example, since citrus essential oils are cold pressed and not steam distilled, these hydrosols must be specially made and are very 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 cannot be steam distilled, and thus captured easily. And, spray liberally, as it's been said that when a bottle containing a floral water or aromatic oil is left only partially full, the oxygen that also lives inside the bottle reacts with the floral water and begins to oxidize it. This process can cause the volatile aromatic components to permanently separate (after this occurs, shaking the bottle does no good). And, like your oils, store hydrosols in cool, dark places as their fragile composition may be damaged by sunlight and UV rays. And, yes, they can even be refrigerated (not frozen!) to prolong their shelf life.

Get your spritz on.