What are hydrosols? (Are they similar to essential oils?)

What are hydrosols

Hydrosols are aromatic waters with therapeutic benefits. Here’s how to use them!

Like essential oils, hydrosols are distilled from aromatic plants.

And like essential oils, hydrosols offer therapeutic benefits for the body, heart and mind.

Although hydrosols have a lot in common with essential oils, they are very different.

In this article, you will learn:

    • What are hydrosols?
    • How to use hydrosols
    • Hydrosol distillation vs essential oil distillation
    • Purity test of a hydrosol
    • What is the shelf life of a hydrosol?
    • 5 hydrosols for skin care, relaxation and more!

What are hydrosols?

Hydrosols are the portion of water in a distillation.

The best way to explain the difference between essential oils and hydrosols is the distillation process.

When an aromatic plant – lavender, for example – is loaded into a still with water, the still is steam heated. The essential oils of the plant are kept in microscopic bags, or glands, on flowers, leaves and twigs. (Other plants contain their essential oils in the roots, wood, seeds or other parts of the plant.)

Steam breaks the bags and releases lavender essential oil.

Most essential oil floats above water.

And the water itself absorbs the water-soluble compounds of lavender … as well as a tiny amount of essential oil. Water is now a hydrosol! (You can also see hydrosols called plant-based distillates, aromatic waters, essential waters or hydrosols.)

From a distillation, we have two products:
essential oil and hydrosol.

Sometimes the hydrosol of a plant smells very similar to its essential oil.

Other times, the hydrosol smells completely different! For example, Myrrh essential oil and Myrrh hydrosol – which can be created during the same distillation – have radically different scents.

Hydrosols tend to be much milder than essential oils because they are not as highly concentrated. They are ideal for sensitive skin, even for babies and children.

How to use hydrosols

Hydrosols can be used alone, sprayed directly on the skin.

They also go well in water-based recipes.

If you have a recipe that requires water, such as a room spray or even a homemade lotion, you can replace the water with a hydrosol for additional therapeutic benefits and a sweeter aroma.

Some hydrosols are perfect natural cleaning agents, such as lemon verbena. They can cool the air, linens, upholstery and carpets and even help keep surfaces clean.

The mixing of essential oils in a hydrosol requires an additional step, since the water-based part of your mixture will not mix with the oil-based part of your mixture. You will need to add a dispersant, such as Solubol, to help keep essential oils distributed through the hydrosol. (About 4 drops of Solubol dispersant per 1 drop of essential oil is a good guideline for mixing.)

Many hydrosols are even drinkable … although they are not all in good taste!

Hydrosol distillation vs essential oil distillation

As I mentioned above, the distillation of an aromatic plant specifically for the hydrosol is somewhat different from the distillation for the essential oil.

Both products are naturally created during distillation, but there are a few variations in the process when we distill specifically for the hydrosol:

    1. Fresh plant material is used to distill the hydrosols.

When the hydrosol is a by-product of the distillation of essential oils, dried plant material is often used. But when the hydrosol itself is the goal, distillation with fresh plant material is ideal, giving us a very dynamic therapeutic hydrosol.

An exception to this is resins. New and old resins can be distilled to create hydrosols and essential oils.

    1. The distillation process is generally longer for hydrosols.

For example: A distillation of lavender essential oil is finished after about 20 to 30 minutes. Most lavender oil therapeutic components take only a very long time to express themselves from the plant.

The distillation process of lavender hydrosol, however, continues for almost an hour.

This gives the water-soluble therapeutic components more time to free themselves from the plant material.

The distillation time also affects the aroma of the hydrosol.

If we continue with the full distillation time, we will get a hydrosol rich in maximum amount of therapeutic components, which means that the aroma can be a little bolder.

If a hydrosol is intended to be used as a perfume, it is distilled for a shorter period. This limits the amount of therapeutic components that pass through and keep the aroma light and sweet!

How do I know when to stop the distillation process?

We are looking for some key indicators that a hydrosol has reached its full therapeutic potential …

Purity test of a hydrosol

Once a hydrosol is finished, it is possible to do a GC / MS test to guarantee its purity.

GC / MS (gas chromatography / mass spectrometry)
is a laboratory test that can be performed on essential oils
to determine which components are present in the oil.

The GC / MS report tells us whether the oil is pure or contains adulterants (like synthetics), and what proportion of each component is present in the oil. Think of a GC / MS report as a “list of ingredients” for an essential oil. (Learn more about GC / MS in this post by Andrea!)

The GC / MS equipment used for essential oils is different from the GC / MS equipment used for hydrosols (which is very expensive to use). The GC / MS test of hydrosols identifies and tests the very small quantity of essential oil present in the hydrosol.

If the GC / MS ratio of a hydrosol indicates that it contains 30% 1,8-cineole, this does not mean that the hydrosol itself is composed of 30% 1,8-cineole.

This means that the small amount of essential oil present in the hydrosol contains 30% 1,8-cineole.

Although this test shows us what the chemical components are in the tiny portion of essential oil in a hydrosol, it doesn’t show us what makes up the serving of water. For this, we generally base ourselves on what the herbalists sought for the vegetable part and the grass.

If you wish to view some GC / MS reports for hydrosols, the Ann Harman Circle H Institute offers free access to the reports.

At the Circle H Institute, Ann shares almost 15 years of studies, analyzes, experiences and research on hydrosols (most of which have been paid for personally and made available to the public).

See Ann’s GC / MS reports here.

The best way to buy pure hydrosols is to buy from aromatherapy companies that practice transparency as much as possible, offering GC / MS reports for their essential oils and ensuring proper production and storage techniques. at each step. I prefer to use hydrosols distilled for themselves and not treated as by-products of another distillation. (You can ask your aromatherapy supplier for their hydrosol production practices.)

What is the shelf life of a hydrosol?

In general, hydrosols have a shelf life of 1 to 2 years.

This assumes that appropriate distillation techniques have been used and that all equipment has been disinfected, including the bottles in which the hydrosol is poured and stored. The bottles should also be sealed and stored in a cool place.

Since hydrosols are aqueous (water-based) products, we want to be extremely safe to disinfect our bottles so that they do not develop bacteria.

If you use a mixed hydrosol (or just pour it from one container to another), make sure you disinfect it well:

  • Use 190 degree alcohol (like Everclear)
  • Combine 70% of your alcohol at 190 degrees and 30% water
  • Use your solution to clean the inside of the bottle and the cap / spritzer
  • Let it air dry (do not touch the bottle with a paper towel or cloth)

Make sure everything that the hydrosol (or the mixture you make with) touches is completely disinfected.

What are hydrosols

5 hydrosols for skin care, relaxation and more

Most aromatic plants give us hydrosol.

If you’re new to hydrosols, here are 5 you can get started with.

German chamomile hydrosol (Matricaria recutita)

The white and yellow flowers of the Matricaria recutita herb produce a fresh, soft, herbal hydrosol that deeply soothes the skin.

Use it for:

      • Calm the heart and mind
      • Soothe irritated skin problems, such as irritation or itching
      • Cooling of red and hot areas of the skin
      • Spritzing directly on small cuts, scrapes and bruises
      • Protect vulnerable skin problems from germs
      • Insect bites (just spray them on the bite!)
      • Eye irritants and comforting irritants

German chamomile hydrosol is one of my favorites when it comes to the eyes.

You can spray it directly on your eyes or make a small compress. Just soak a cotton ball with a hydrosol and gently apply it to your closed eye.

Lavender hydrosol (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lavender hydrosol is distilled from the beautiful purple flowers, leaves and stems of lavender plants. It has a floral, sweet, herbal scent with hints of honey.

Just like lavender essential oil, the hydrosol is incredibly versatile! (However, it is not ideal for use on the eyes.)

Use it for:

      • Calm the heart
      • Release worries and reassure the mind
      • Sleep well
      • Daily skincare routines for a clear and calm complexion
      • Cooling of hot red areas of the skin (like after a long day in the sun)
      • Spritzing directly on small cuts, scrapes and bruises
      • Room spray that fills the air with a welcoming floral aroma
      • Household linen and furnishing fabrics

Lavender hydrosol is particularly gentle and comforting for children and babies. You can spray it directly on their skin! It’s so soothing for itching and red areas.

Lemon verbena hydrosol (Aloysia citrodora)

Distilled from the leaves of the plant, the lemon verbena hydrosol has a fresh, citrus and sweet scent, which makes it perfect as an air freshener!

Use it for:

      • Deep relaxation after a stressful day
      • Sleep well
      • Daily care (it makes a great toner!)
      • Cooling of red and hot areas of the skin
      • Soothe irritated, itchy skin
      • Take care of sore muscles and joints (Make a compress.)
      • Support immunity (especially during the cold season)
      • Household linen and furnishing fabrics
      • Air purifying room spray during the cold and allergic season
      • Natural cleaning

Lemon verbena hydrate purifies and can help reduce the presence of germs, including on the skin (which is why I suggest using it as a toner). This means that it is also at home in natural cleaning blends, such as surface sprays. Or use it as a room spray to cool the air and reduce airborne threats.

Try adding a teaspoon of fresh lemon verbena hydrosol to a glass of water when you want to relax and boost your immunity. Good taste!

Peppermint hydrosol (Mentha × piperita)

The peppermint hydrosol is minty, refreshing and energizing! It is distilled from the green leaves of peppermint and is one of the most sparkling and uplifting hydrosols in the aromatherapy world.

Use it for:

      • Mental clarity and energy
      • Waking up in the morning (or afternoon!)
      • Feel positive at the moment and optimistic for the future
      • Cooling of red and hot areas of the skin
      • Relaxation of tense muscles or cramps
      • Calm his stomach
      • Opening your breath
      • Support immunity
      • Household linen and furnishing fabrics
      • Air purifying room spray during the cold and allergic season
      • Natural cleaning

One of my favorite ways to use peppermint hydrosol is to calm my stomach. Add 1 teaspoon to 8 ounces of water and sip slowly. (It also makes a refreshing and refreshing drink on a hot day!)

Sweet grass hydrosol (Hierochloe odorata)

Sweet Grass hydrosol is a favorite among aromatherapists to purify a space! Its sweet, herbal and vanilla scent is used to remove unwanted energy and inaugurate positive spiritual influences.

Use it for:

      • Grounding and balancing
      • Feel calm and reassured
      • Air fresheners, especially in closets and bathrooms
      • Household linen and furnishing fabrics
      • Natural cleaning

Sweet grass has been popular for centuries among the Amerindian peoples, who traditionally use it for prayers and purification ceremonies. The grass itself is braided and burnt to “stain” an area of ​​cleansing smoke.

Think of the Sweet Grass hydrosol as a “smudge spray”.

Use of each part of the distillate

Hydrosols allow us to use every portion of the distillate – both oil and water-based parts – so that we can receive the full range of therapeutic and curative gifts from a plant.

At Aromahead, we like to get our hydrosols from Aromatics International. They have built a business based on relationships, sustainability and transparency. Here is where you can see their collection of hydrosols.

It is true that hydrosols are not as widely used as essential oils, but this is mainly because they are not as well known.

Once you know them and find a few favorites, you will find dozens of uses in your daily life!

3 hydrosol mixtures


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