What Are Hydrosols?
In the world of natural health and even conventional medicine, we are all discovering that there are different ways to help our bodies get by.
They can be simple things like eating the right diet and getting the right exercise. They can also be a little more elaborate, like using supplements or seeing medical practitioners that fall outside our regular healthcare systems, such as a naturopath, a hypnotist, or an aromatherapist.
If you do end up seeing an aromatherapist, they may use a product they call herbal distillates or floral waters. These products, often called hydrosols, are specially manufactured waters that not only lock in the aromas but also the claimed healing and therapeutic powers of certain herbs and plants. While not only providing an exciting aromatic experience, they are also claimed to do all sorts of things for the human body, including such things as generalized rejuvenation and making certain symptoms of illness more tolerable.
But while that all sounds great, it’s important to know just what these hydrosols are, how they’re made, and what they can do for you. So here are some answers to common questions surrounding hydrosols.
What are Hydrosols?
While hydrosol is the most common name for these types of products, other common names include hydrolate, herbal water, and essential water. With all the different names, however, they are usually referring to the same thing, especially by professionals: a often discarded by-product of essential oils.
You see, when essential oils are made, the most concentrated formulas are bottled and sold. The less concentrated mixtures, those that still have many of the same amounts of plant essence inside, just in a larger amount of water, were seen as completely useless. This changed a few years ago, when people started seeing that those less-diluted amounts still packed quite a punch, and could be used in all sorts of different situations.
How are Hydrosols Made?
Hydrosols are made using the exact same process as essential oils: steam distillation. The process uses only the power of steam and heat to release the most powerful components locked inside plants. These are often called “botanical extracts” and contain many of the important ingredients we find in all sorts of healthy living items, from supplements to prescription drugs. They exist here, however, in much smaller doses, which makes it a little safer for residential and non-professional use.
Steam distillation starts by placing parts of a plant that are rich in botanical extracts, like leaves or buds, into a steam distillery. The steam distillery is then injected with piping hot steam, which causes the plants to degrade and open up. The steam then mixes with the materials inside the plants, forming hot herbal distillates that then rise to the top of the distillery. Once it reaches the top, the water condenses with the cool roof and runs down a tube into a completely different chamber, where the water is collected.
If essential oils are being made, the layers with the most concentrated amounts of the extracts are skimmed off and the rest is discarded. But if they’re making hydrosols, this essential water is kept and bottled as hydrosol. It contains just as much powerful plant materials as the essential oil, but in a much larger amount of water. The results are plant and floral waters that are mildly antiseptic, astringent, and lightly fragrant, and great for all kinds of personal use.
How can I use Hydrosols?
Hydrosols are used by many different people for all kinds of relief and therapy, including in aromatherapy labs and for use at home or in a business. Here’s a list of some popular ways people use hydrosols everyday:
- Many people add lemongrass hydrosols, or other kinds of herbal water, to their shower, bath or sauna once or twice a week. The aromas are perfect for beating the winter blues.
- A hydrolate, like a balsam fir hydrosol, can be added to a compress for sore, aching joints or muscles.
- A few drops of floral waters, like a rose hydrosol, can make for an extra-stimulating foot bath.
- Hydrosols, like cucumber hydrosols, can be applied directly to the skin as a toner or mixed with facial creams for added effects.
- Hydrosols are more diluted and thus a good alternative for people who are sensitive to aromatherapy. This is called “gentle aromatherapy” and can be useful for treating children. Cedarleaf is a popular choice for this kind of treatment.
Where are Hydrosols Made?
Just like essential oils, hydrosols are made all over the world. Often, the best hydrosols are made near to where the plants have been grown, since freshness is key for getting the best compounds from the plants. But the simple technology makes the distillation process easy almost anywhere, which means you can often buy hydrosols that are locally-sourced or made with products from your area.
Hydrosols are a great new product that’s actually been with us for generations. But up until now, many professionals have discarded these precious materials, not knowing what to do with them. That has since changed, and you can discover many different things that each of these products can help you with, from helping your skin feel refreshed to beating away those seasonal blues. Whatever your use, be sure to find quality products that are right for you.