Monday, January 28, 2013

Hydrosols and Floral Waters

Solvent Extraction

Preparing Plant Material for Making Essential Oils
 What is a Hydrosol? This term is derived from the Latin words hydro and sol meaning "water solution".  Hydrosols come by many names including floral waters, herbal distillates, hydroflorates all of which are pertaining to the water that is a by-product of creating essential oils.  However the highest quality hydrosols come from artisans distillers who in small batches are steam distilling plant material strictly to produce these aromatic herbal waters. These waters contain all of the therapeutic properties and beneficial components of the plant being distilled only in a more mild form than their counterpart essential oils.

 Depending upon the application and type, essential oils are sometimes too potent, therefore a more mild form is not only desired but a necessary. Hydrosols can not only be used on infants but also people with compromised immune systems.  In most hydrosols the essential oil content is only about 5% of the overall volume.  Besides the aromatic constituents, floral waters contain many more of the plant acids than the pure essential oils, making them great for hydrating dry skin. 

Small Home Distillery
Large Steam Distillery Units

Though Rose and Neroli Hydrosols have been used since time immortal,  many of the other floral waters go down the drain as waste water (even today)  from the distillation process of essential oils. It is only in recent history that these exalted waters have begun being used in the aromatherapy fields and beyond.  We are just beginning to see hydrosols as a co-product instead of a by-product of the essential oil process. 

Due to the highly fragile nature of pure floral hydrosols it is strongly recommended to keep them out of direct sunlight, contained in dark bottles (glass is best) and in a cool place.  The shelf life of these waters varies from 6-24 months depending on which hydrosols are in question.  Even with an ideal, sterile environment they are still very susceptible to degradation through oxidation.  When purchasing floral waters one must be informed some companies are taking distilled water and adding a couple of drops of the desired essential oil and selling these as "floral waters" or "hydrolates".  While true floral waters have many other components of the plant with in, making it a far superior product. 

 Types of Hydrosols:
Corn Flower: great for delicate skin, helps diminish fine lines
Cypress: helps with acne, astringent and detoxifying
Geranium: balancing, acne, bruises, mild burns, eczema,   
              hemorrhoids, deters mosquitoes.
Helichrysum: anti inflammatory
Lavender: calming soothing, anti-inflammatory.
Lemongrass: balancing, calming, very refreshing.
Neroli (orange blossom): anti aging, gentile enough for all skin  
          types, great for uplifting dull oily skin types.
Rosemary: works wonders on oily skin with open pores.
Rose: balancing oil, quite possibly the best skin toner and
          re-hydration for dull, tired skin. 
Witch Hazel: very astringent, anti- inflammatory (strips skin of
            natural oils).
Ylang ylang: another hydrosol for oily skin.

There are as many different hydrosols as there are uses for them.  They can be used in combinations, in preparations, standing alone, for cooking, rinses and a vast array of other options. 

Are you familiar with hydrosols? Do you use them in your day to day practices.  Do you have questions about floral waters? Please leave comments as to your experiences with hydrosols and floral waters.  We would love your input!