Created from aromatic plants, hydrosols are gentle and fragrant botanical waters. True hydrosols are dissolved essential oil particles suspended in a water solution–no longer oil and water but a colloidal suspension of plant oils in water. They are used in cosmetic products like facial sprays and toners, as culinary ingredients, household sprays and cleaners, and for aromatherapy as well as many other uses. Sometimes known as hydrolates, distillates or flower waters (flowers are used and not other botanical parts,) hydrosols are made by steam distilling plants usually as a bi-product of essential oil production.
At our farm, we make our hydrosols in a copper alembic distiller. Handmade in Portugal, the distiller is a large pot that induces steam into fresh lavender or other botanicals. After infusing the plant material, the steam is channeled and then condensed back into a liquid combination of mainly hydrosol with essential oil floating on top. The oil and hydrosol are collected in a glass container and then hand separated for use in body care, aromatherapy and home care.
I’ve made hydrosols from a variety of organically grown plants from my farm including lavender, lemon verbena and roses. I also use wildcrafted materials like Western Red Cedar and, White Fir or Spruce from my treks into nearby forests. Each plant produces a unique hydrosol with specific uses and benefits.
Cosmetic and Body Care, The Lovely Rose
Essential oils or hydrosols made from roses are difficult to find as they are very expensive to make. It takes a large quantity of roses to make a small amount of oil. Rose essential oil is commonly sold mixed with a carrier oil (like jojoba) which makes it more affordable. Jojoba is a good choice because it’s very stable and oxidizes slowly. It’s difficult to find a good quality rose water as it is often cohobated, which means it is run through a distiller numerous times to obtain more oil. Cohobation of the flower water makes it less suitable for therapeutic uses because the hydrosol is heated repeatedly for higher oil production, not for a quality hydrosol. Rose flowers make a wonderful hydrosol when the purpose of the still run is only for rose hydrosol and not for oil.
In aromatherapy, rose oil can be used to uplift the spirit and promote a sense of well being. It’s been used clinically as an antidote to anxiety, PTSD , menstrual cramps, PMS, and as a comfort during menopause. Historically it was known as an antidepressant, strong antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, antibacterial, and antiviral. Recent clinical research in Japan has found that elements in rose oil may be used as a cell rejuvenator and powerful antiseptic. Rose essential oil soothes and heals skin conditions, including cuts and burns.
Rose provides a delicate treatment for any skin type from oily to dry or damaged skin. It is an astringent that will gently tighten skin temporarily while it is healing cell structure, minimizing the fine wrinkles of older skin. It can be used to make a toner that leaves your skin feeling dew-kissed and clean. Cleanse your skin before makeup application or incorporate the toner into your evening skincare regimen.
Here’s a simple recipe for you to try at home:
Rose Facial Toner
Add 4 ounces of organic rose hydrosol to 4 ounces of organic glycerin in a glass bottle and shake before using. Apply to face, neck, hands and arms with organic cotton balls. There is no need to rinse as the rose and glycerine will hydrate and protect your skin.
Uses for Domestic Space
Hyrdosols made from lavender plants are the most versatile for use in the home. While English Lavender is the most therapeutic for relaxation and calming, French Lavender hydrosol works well as room spray, ironing water, and a cleaner and deodorizer for bodies, yoga mats, and other surfaces. Clean mirrors and glass with it. Make an energizing spray for dusty rooms or anywhere that needs a quick clearing. Try ironing your sheets with English lavender hydrosol and drift to sleep with the peaceful, gentle fragrances of organic lavender.
Joy in a Bottle
Hydrosols are wonderful for changing your mood or boosting energy. Keep a bottle of western red cedar or lavender hydrosol in your glove compartment or in your work space. Try lemon verbena to cleanse your living space. Guests love this happy, energizing scent. Rose uplifts the spirits and is romantic and warm so it is a sweet way to inspire love in a home. None of these are overpowering or invasive as they are made from true plant materials as opposed to strong chemicals or fragrance oils.
For true Aromatherapy, hydrosols are becoming more appreciated in treatment as they are exceedingly gentle and can be used when essential oils might be too strong. Qualifications for aromatherapeutic uses are much more stringent than cosmetic or home care uses. Hydrosols for aromatherapy and other health treatments require that the hydrosols are made from plants grown on organic farms or ethically wildcrafted botanicals with pure water. Distillation is often done for longer periods of time and at lower temperatures. After distillation, the hydrosols should be correctly stored (in a cool and dark space or even refrigerated) preferably in sterile glass containers, and they should be used within 6 months of creation, depending on the botanical product. In Europe, hydrosol is required to contain an alcohol preservative which certainly influences its benefits as a therapeutic product. If the hydrosol does not contain a preservative, it can be monitored for appropriate PH levels which vary depending on the botanical to ascertain its suitability for clinical use, according to Suzanne Catty, author of Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy.
Pet Stains and Odors
Hydrosols work well to neutralize animal odors or pet stains. Here’s a simple idea for pet accidents on carpet or other materials. Immediately following the accident, use a fluffy towel and remove all of the moisture from the spot. Next, liberally pour lavender or red cedar hydrosol (white vinegar also works very well) on the spot–tamp with a clean towel until you’ve removed all moisture possible. For larger spots, apply several times using a clean towel each time and tamping out all of the moisture. Then make a mixture of baking soda and a bit of essential oil like lavender or citrus–just a few drops will do.) Sprinkle this onto the damp carpet or fabric very liberally. Use a stiff scrub brush and brush the baking soda mixture directly on the spot making sure you cover the edges between the wet/dry carpet area.You’ll want at least 1/4″ of powder left on the spot. Leave overnight and vacuum the next morning. You can do this several times until no residual evidence remains in the powder when it is dry. This works well for many human spills as well. Experiment on a test patch if you’re not sure your carpet color is stable.
Many of us want to keep a bright, fresh-smelling home. Artificial products don’t compare to the natural aromas of beneficial plants. Aromatherapy is a gentle health modality. Define your domestic spaces with the natural, soothing scents of versatile and sweet smelling hydrosols.
The information provided here is not intended as medical advice or treatment. Please consult your own health care provider.
For more information, check out…
Jeanne Rose, www.jeannerose.net
Kathi Keville, ahaherb.com/kathi-keville/
Julie Chen, M.D., http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-chen-md/aromatherapy_b_3698319.html
Suzanne Catty, Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy