Hydrasols: A Unique Part of Aromatherapy
What exactly is a hydrosol?
The word hydrosol is a chemistry term that means "water solution". In aromatherapy hydrosols are also known as hydrolates, hydrolats, floral waters and plant waters. They are made from all types of plant materials, roots, barks, wood, flowers, needles, fruits and leaves. They contain all of the plant in every drop, the water-soluable components, essential oil molecules, the very fluid that was flowing through the plant cells when the plant was harvested. It's all there in the solution that is so much more than water.
What makes the hydrosol left over from the distillation process so desirable?
The potential of essential oils to irritate skin and tissues they come into direct contact with is well known. They must be properly diluted in a carrier oil for safe use. Hydrosols avoid these problems because the constituents are dissolved and there is no oil to irritate tissue. Even though hydrosols have been around as long as distillation has, their use in aromatherapy is relatively new.
When deciding on a hydrosol, there are criteria important to look for. The product you choose should be:
- Made from one single, botanically specific plant
- Certified Organic
- Sustainably Harvested
- Distilled or extracted for therapeutic use
- Stored and shipped properly to maintain it's properties
Can hyrosols be adulterated?
Yes they can. We all have heard about the adulteration of essential oils. But aduterating water? Sounds a little strange doesn't it. Water is the most obvious adulterant used. Diluting a hydrosol with plain or distilled water dilutes its effectiveness and drastically shortens its life span. Alcohol is another common adulterant. It is undetectable by smell if its concentration is low enough.
Alcohol is mainly added as a preservative, increasing the hydrosol's shelf life by killing bacteria and organisms that may be present. The disadvantage to this is that it renders the hydrosol useless for cosmetic purposes since true hydrosols are alcohol-free options for skin care.
Have you ever considered making your own hydrosols? Home distillation kits are available and offer fun and experience of the process. However, it should be noted that some plant material may contain so little oil that making a good, therapeutic hydrosol may not be possible. The best hydrosols are made when essential oil is also produced in the distillation process.
There are different size stills and the size of your still will determine which plant materials are usable. Plants like chamomile, rose and angelica require a large still and large quantities plant products to produce usable amounts.
If you attempt a distillation and you are not getting oil, there are a couple of reasons.
One, the oil is not being adequately extracted from the plant or is being lost during the process. Modifying your still, steam source or distillation parameters may be a remedy.
Two, the oil is in solution in the hydrolate. When this happens many home distillers will cohobate (pour the distilled waters back over the plant material) the waters. If you want your hydrosol to have the maximum therapeutic value, you should not cohobate, however you will lose oil yield as a result. The is never much oil in a solution so depending on how important or how much you want oil from the distillation will help you decide.
How are hydrosols used?
You can do whatever makes you happy with hydrosols. They are used for health and pleasure. You can play around and see how you like to use them best. They can be consumed, bathed in, washing hair, used in diffusers, mixed in drinks, used on pets, fed to plants, spritzed on your face and more. The best thing about hydrosols is that they are not expensive.
Try a little experiment. Put some lavender hydrosol in a bath with children. Let them play in it, wash them with it. It's good clean fun and they will sleep like babies afterward.
So go crazy and do whatever inspires you and let the living waters of hydrolates improve your life.
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