Hydrosols, also known as floral waters and hydrolats, are the by-products of the
steam distillation of essential oils. The hydrosols contain small quantities of
the essential oils themselves, as well as water-soluble components of the plants
that would otherwise be lost in the distillation process.
Hydrosols differ from many of the "face sprays" and "spritzers" available in shops
(which also occasionally call themselves floral waters) which are often a simple
mix of water and essential oil, sometimes with a little food colouring added to
make it too "authentic".
Hydrosols have a very subtle energy, and are therefore a useful addition and complement
to essential oil-based therapy where a gentle approach is desired. Traditionally
hydrosols are most commonly used for skin care, but they are also useful for eye
inflammation and infection, and can be taken internally.
Until recently, the most readily available hydrosols were rose, lavender, chamomile
and neroli (orange flower). But over the last few years more and more possibilities
have been explored, as people realise that if it can be distilled, there can be
Properties And Uses Of Hydrosols
- Chamomile, Roman - soothing; anti-inflammatory; relieves stress;
a compress for migraines; relieves nappy-rash; suitable for sensitive, inflamed
or dry skin; sunburn; excellent for eyes
- Lavender - soothing;
gentle; balancing; antiseptic; suitable for all skin types; eczema; razor-burn;
healing for burnt skin (including sunburn)
- Manuka - cleansing;
anti-fungal; antiseptic mouthwash
- Melissa - hot flashes; a
compress to relieve pain of shingles; suitable for oily skin
- calming; balancing; hydrating; rejuvenating; uplifting; anti-depressant; relieves
stress; mildly astringent; suitable for all skin types
- refreshing; deodorising; cooling; antibacterial; mouthwash; clears sinus congestion;
excellent as a facial and body spray in summer
- Rose - refreshing;
soothing; anti-inflammatory; regenerative; rehydrating; a gargle for sore or inflamed
throats; suitable for sensitive or dry skin; soothes irritated eyes
Rose Geranium - balancing; anti-depressant; hot flashes; suitable for oily
or dry skin
- Rosemary - refreshing; stimulating; razor-burn;
suitable for congested skin
- Tea Tree - stimulating; antiseptic;
athlete's foot; acne
Exploring The Possibilities
Hydrosols are excellent for using within a skin care regime. In addition to being
completely natural, they are gentler than many commercial skin toners. They can
also be combined with sun-dried clays to make natural face masks, enhancing the
properties of the clay. During the long, hot summer days or when travelling, they
can be used as a facial spray to revitalise and hydrate the skin, or to set makeup.
But to limit their use simply to skin care is doing an injustice to these often
overlooked healing tools.
Much like the essential oils themselves, hydrosols can be used in the bath, in compresses,
for facial steaming and as room sprays. And like essential oils, that can be blended
together to create synergies.
Hydrosols can also be added to carrier oils, along with essential oils, to heighten
the essential oils’ therapeutic value. For instance, adding a little lavender hydrosol
to a massage blend containing lavender essential oil will enhance the lavender,
and essentially make the blend "complete" by utilising both the water-soluble and
oil-soluble components of the lavender.
The internal use of hydrosols is still being explored, and should be considered
cautiously. But studies do show that, for example, taking controlled doses of chamomile
hydrosol orally can ease intestinal spasms.
Purchasing And Storage
True hydrosols should be colourless, or at most contain only a light sheen. If you
pick up a bottle of neroli water and it is decidedly orange, put it back down.
Also, remember that not all hydrosols have a pleasant aroma, particularly those
obtained from herbs.
Because hydrosols are all natural, they contain no preservatives and therefore deteriorate
over time. The usual lifespan of a hydrosol is a year, and they are best stored
in the refrigerator.
Editor's Note. Please be careful when applying hydrosols to eyes or broken skin
if there is no preservative as bacterial or fungal contamination is possible.
Sharing Aromatherapy, March 1999