Hydrosols are the real
aromatherapy. They can also be considered the homeopathy of
aromatherapy; as herbs are to homeopathy, so are essential oils to
hydrosols. Hydrosols represent the true synergy of herbalism and
aromatherapy, Hydrosols are the pure natural water that is produced
during the distillation process. When plants or flowers are put
into the still or distillation tank, they are subjected to either
boiling water, or steam or both. The steam hits the plant,
softens the scent cells and the essential oil that is contained within
is released as a vapor. This essential oil vapor mixes with the
steam and is only separated again as the steam cools in the condensing
tank. As the steam cools, the essential oil molecules separate
from the steam (now as cooled water) and floats on the water (except
for the very few of them which sink) and the water, now is called the
hydrosol, or sometimes, the hydrolat.
Hydrosols from flowers are called flower waters or flower hydrosols
and hydrosols from herbs are called herbal hydrosols. In
practice they are called as an example, Orange flower water, Geranium
hydrosol, Melissa hydrosol.
is important to remember that the essential oil which is composed
of many different chemical molecules is usually lighter than
water, therefore floating upon it, and that it is not oily or
fatty like a vegetable or animal oil. Essential oils contain
no fatty molecules; however, essential oils can be dissolved in
alcohol. These, the fatty oils or alcohol, are called
These hydrosols are not simply misters, nor are they water to which
droplets of essential oil have been added. They are a separate
and natural product of the distillation process and can be termed 100%
distilled non-alcoholic distillates. They can not be
manufactured synthetically in the laboratory. A hydrosol has to
have been produced during the distillation process, preferably using a
In his book Medical Aromatherapy, Kurt Schnaubelt's book has
commented on hydrosols. "Aromatic hydrosols are the product of
steam distillation process and contain the water soluble, volatile
components of the plant that often gives them a fragrance quite like
the essential oil but not as strong. Their composition is
different from that of the essential oil: richer in water-compatible
components and free of very lipophilic substances such as terpene
hydrocarbons. This means highly tolerable, antiinflammative, and
antiseptic substances are found in aromatic hydrosols."
Hydrosol is the other product of distillation that occurs when plants
are water or steam-distilled to release the fragrance, the essential
oil. The term is a combination of hydro (water) and sol
(solution) - a natural water solution that contains some water-soluble
microdrops of essential oil as well as water-soluble pllant
components. The microdrops of essential oil give the hydrosol
it's scent and taste. The plant components give the hydrosol
it's herbal or floral therapy. Hydrosols are 100% distilled,
used at full strength exactly as they are, straight from the still.
They can also be diluted with water or in tea and used as a
therapeutic drink (1 tablespoon/liter or 1-3).
Aromatic Plant Project
Now that you know why you want them, it is nice to know that these
miracle waters are produced in this country from plants grown right
here. A special project has been initiated in the United States
allowing us to have the finest and freshest products available.
Perhaps more important, this program creates an example, albeit on a
small scale, for society as a whole, of right livelihood, respect for
the environment, increasing the knowledge of therapeutic plants and
sustainable agriculture. The Aromatic Plant Project was
founded in 1990 in the United States to encourage the local growing
and distillation of true essential oil plants for the production of
hydrosols and, in some cases, essential oils.
This project began with a journey into the California wine country.
Armed with a few bottles of different types of Lavender essential oil,
I introduced some wine growers to the variations in quality and scent
in essential oils in the same manner that wine makers discuss the
different fragrances and tastes of wines. As the wine makers
pulled out bottles of wine from different vintages years representing
grapes from different fields and different elevations, I too pulled
out my bottles of Lavender representing different sources and
different distillations. As the fragrances and tastes of the
wines varies with topology, so did the Lavender essential oils.
The grape growers and wine makers understood the concept of terroir
- different elevations, soil types, amount of rainfall, slope changes
- and how these conditions, the topology, can affect the taste and
scent of a wine. They understood that terroir has much the same
effect on essential oil plants.
Initially, they were excited about the possibility of growing a crop
of essential oil plants alongside the valuable wine grapes.
These could be harvested in the off-season, providing additional
income from the sale of hydrosols and essential oils. In
addition, they knew that essential oil plants would discourage insect
and fungal infestations along the roots and leaves of their valuable
wine grapes. Esthetically, the herbs and flowers from the
essential oil plants would provide a visual treat for tourists who
came to visit the vineyards.
It has not been the grape grower and wine maker, however, who has
become the prime grower of essential oil plants for hydrosols.
Rather it has been the owners of small amounts of acreage who saw the
potential of keeping the land out of the hands of developers and who
wished to cultivate and plant it with organically grown plants for the
production of essential oils and hydrosols.
The concept for an association was formed. I began to write
letters to a variety of growers and distillers and then named it
the Association of the Aromatic Plant Project (APP), which is a
nonprofit educational organization. The APP only accepts growers
who use organic growing methods. It provides literature and
lists of growers and distillers to members, consumers and interested
parties, and can be reached by phone at (415) 564-6785. The
growers have been planting particular strains of Lavender (Lavandula
spp.), Pelargoniums (so-called Rose Geranium), Lemon Verbena (Aloysia
triphylla), Lemon Balm (Melissa) and other plants.
Plants are chosen on the basis of lab analysis that when distilled
yield a high quality essential oil and hydrosol whose type and
quantity of chemical components are considered therapeutic.
For example, in the case of the Lavender species, it has been
determined that a quality Lavandin essential oil contains 40%+
linalool, 22% + of the ester linalyl acetate, little to no camphor;
under 8% cineol and - for California grown Lavenders - up to 8%
borneol. Borneol is accepted in this case in Lavender, because
it is considered to be an immune stimulant. This particular
essential oil is very high in the soothing linalyl acetate, sedating
linalool, and immune - stimulating borneol. In California, a
fine-smelling, soft, and fragrant essential oil is produced with all
these particular qualities from Lavandula x intermedia cv
Grosso, CT linalool/borneol. This special plant is only
available from two select nurseries on the west coast of the United
States. In contrast, Lavender hydrosol made from 'landscape'
Lavenders has cineole (as in Eucalyptus) which is a mucolytic for the
respiratory system and smells like Eucalyptus oil, but does not have
the necessary Lavender qualities of soothing and sedation.
Distillers, the people who distill the plants, of the Aromatic
Plant Project are competent, knowledgeable people who have many
years of training in the production of fine-quality essential oil
plant is produced, then the hydrosol, if perfectly distilled, can be
of high quality as well.
Distillers must choose ahead of time whether to distill for the
hydrosol or the essential oil. Good quality hydrosols are very
slowly, expertly distilled with low heat, where the temperature is
very low, maybe 102 degrees centigrade. The problem, of course,
is that whenever people think about distillation, they're thinking
about essential oils. You have to choose ahead of time whether
you're going to distill for the essential oil or the hydrosol.
When you distill for a hydrosol, you use plants that have just been
harvested. You can get both essential oil and hydrosol of
quality when you are distilling for the hydrosol. You cannot
get quantity of essential oil if you're distilling for the
hydrosol. When you distill for essential oil, you let plants
air-dry for a day or two before distillation, this way more plant
material can be packed into the still, thus resulting in more
essential oil. You cannot get quality of hydrosol if
you're really just distilling for the essential oil, and this is the
reason: distillation for the essential oil starts with air-dried
plants; whereas distillation for the hydrosol starts with freshly
picked plants with their moisture intact. With my personal
distillation equipment, the pot is about 5 feet tall, and about 6 feet
around. It holds up to 5-20 lbs. of plant material, depending on
if it is wet or dry.
When you pick the Lavender or the Lemon Balm or the Lemon Verbena, you
want to dry it for a day or two for the essential oil, because
you want to reduce and compact the volume - you want to put as much
plant material into the pot as possible to reduce the volume and
increase the weight of the plant. In the case of Lemon Verbena
and Lemon Balm, which product only microscopic amounts of essential
oil, we distill only for the hydrosol. For it is only with
cohobation that any essential oil can be produced from these two
plants and this process (cohobation) ruins the hydrosol. The
process of cohobation repeatedly returns the hydrosol to the
distillation chamber to concentrate the essential oil.
In the case of a traditional distillation of Lemon Verbena and Lemon
Balm, the hydrosol itself, has contained with it all the essential oil
of the plant, it's water soluble plant properties and therefore, all
the therapeutic quality. Lemon Verbena and Lemon Balm oil are
potent viricides and can be used as a spray application of the
hydrosol to herpes or genital warts.
The marketers of the Aromatic Plant Project are visionaries who
see the future of aromatherapy, and it is with the hydrosols and the
products made from them, as well as with quality essential oils.
All things considered, however, it is ultimately you - the consumer -
who will determine the value of these products. Your buying
dollar becomes the ultimate endorsement and ensures that this project
can continue. It is our hope that with the education and support
of publications like the Aromatic Thymes, the public will
become thoroughly educated about the usefulness and value of these
products and support their continued production.
Hydrosols - A Multitude of
beauty and pleasure of simply spritzing yourself - face, hair,
body, and clothes - with the gentle fragrance
- Cool a hot flash.
- Soothe a sunburn.
- Soothe a pet's hot spots.
- Clean the air.
- Freshen the bathroom.
- Keep in the entryway to
freshen the air before guests arrive.
- Disinfect your hands.
- Make your own wet wipes -
spray on a tissue or damp cloth and use. Great for you,
your pets, your baby. Good for dirty faces, hands, and
- Use for a healing sitz
- Refresh the air during
travel - car, hotel room, airplane. Cleanse that recycled
- Hydrosols act as
- Add 1 teaspoon in 6 to 8
oz. water - distilled, mineral, or otherwise. Ice cubes
and sweetener optional.
- Add a splash to a glass
of white wine or champagne.
- Spray in the dryer before
adding clothes and then directly on the clothes.
- Spray on clothes during
- Spray on cloth napkins
and tablecloth to refresh the scent already used in the dryer
and while ironing.
- Place bowls of hydrosol
with flowers floating in them in the centerpiece to scent the
- Serve smaller finger
bowls of the same on silver trays at the end of the meal for
guests to clean their hands.
Beauty and skin care
- Spritz on fingernails to
encourage healthy growth of nails.
- Spritz on face to set
- Spritz on hair and
scrunch to refresh and scent hairdo.
- Add to cream and lotion
products to increase their efficacy.
- Add a few cups to the
Note: Fresh hydrosol,
that has been cleanly distilled is pure and free of bacteria.
It should be stored in the refrigerator, used within the year it
is distilled, and thrown out at the next distillation, which will
be when the plants are mature again. Old hydrosol can also
be used in the bath. Put old hydrosols in your room
fountains or anything that circulates water. Fresh, pure
hydrosols do not need preservation, if care is taken during the
distillation. Do not let people run their fingers through
the distillate as it comes from the still. It should be
dripped directly into a sterile container, then sealed and
From "375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols" by Jeanne Rose
Internationally acclaimed author, Jeanne
Rose, has graciously offered her recipes and writings to be used
on the "all natural beauty" web site. Jeanne has been in the
forefront of the movement towards using all natural products for many
years. She is a master herbalist and aromatherapist that has
made a huge impact in the field at large. Please visit Jeanne's
web site (jeannerose.net) to see her many books that she has written, as well as her
products and her special program, the "Aromatic Plant Project".
You may call her at (415) 564-6785.
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