Hydrosols, or hydrolats, are known in the aromatherapy community as flower waters, and they are produced when fresh leaves, fruit, flowers, and other plants are distilled. They have similar properties to essential oils, but they are far less concentrated and have less powerful aromas.
Hydrosols smell quite similar to essential oil from the same plant but usually have slightly greener notes. The greener note comes from the water-soluble constituents that are found in the hydrosol but are absent from the essential oil because of the way that the oil is made.Hydrosols vs. Essential Oils
Hydrosols are made through distillation, and they carry the hydrophilic properties of the plant in a solution form. They also contain microscopic droplets of the essential oil from the plant. The amount of the essential oil found in a hydrosol is very small, around 0.04 percent, although it can vary depending on how water soluble the components of the plant are and how it is distilled.1 Hydrosols often offer similar benefits to essential oils, however.
What Are Hydrosols Used for?
Hydrosols are often used as a substitute for water to create natural fragrances and for lotions, toners, and general skincare products. Unlike essential oils, which can irritate the skin and cause photosensitivity if used undiluted, hydrosols can be sprayed directly onto the skin as a light cologne, perfume, or deodorant.2
They can also be added to bathwater or used in some kinds of diffusers if you want a gentler aroma than you would get from essential oils. Note that hydrosols and floral waters are not the same thing. Make sure that if you are buying hydrosols for aromatherapy use, you are buying genuine hydrosols.
Hydrosols and Health
One interesting and often overlooked use of hydrosols is as a healthy beverage. In Persian culture, it is not uncommon for people to make drinks with certain hydrosols to use as herbal remedies. In fact, traditional Persian medicine would use hydrosols based on wormwood and olive leaf to make drinks that would protect against cardiovascular diseases.3
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Studies show that these traditional remedies do appear to have some therapeutic effects So far, the idea of hydrosol-based beverages has not become commonplace in the West, and it is important to note that the hydrosols sold in the west are not regulated as a food or drink, but it is a promising area that could further open up in the next few years.
Using Hydrosols in Aromatherapy
If you want to use hydrosols in your own aromatherapy practice, then it’s important for you to understand how they differ from carrier oils. As mentioned previously, hydrosols are less concentrated. This means that you can use them without having to dilute them with a carrier oil. It also means that you use must use a greater volume of liquid to receive a therapeutic effect.
Hydrosols are still quite potent and should be used carefully, however. You should not ingest them unless you are doing so under the supervision of someone who is qualified in aromatherapy and hydrosol usage, and you should store and handle them carefully.
Keep them out of reach of children, and be mindful of the fact that though hydrosols are considered safe for topical use, there is always some risk of an allergic reaction. Hydrosols contain similar active ingredients to essential oils at very different ratios, and while the concentrations of the primary aromatic constituents in hydrosols is much lower, the amount of any water-soluble ingredients will be higher and an adverse reaction to those is still possible.4
Most people tolerate hydrosols very well, though, and they can be used in variety of ways:
Use your favorite scented hydrosol diluted a little more in a mister. Close your eyes and lightly spritz your face with the water.
Dilute your favorite hydrosol a little more and then use it as a cooling body spray with a mild fragrance. Some hydrosols also have antibacterial properties, which means that they can be useful for reducing body odor.5
Fight Foot Odor
You can use hydrosols on your feet, particularly the soles, to minimize foot odor. Alternatively, you can even use them in your shoes as an alternative to commercial shoe odor fighters.
Chamomile, lavender, rose, and other essential oils that work to calm anxiety and reduce stress, and the hydrosol equivalents can have similar properties.6 To reap these benefits, you can use hydrosols in a room spray or room diffuser.
Keep in mind, however, that an electronic diffuser will diffuse hydrosols very quickly and that reed diffusers and hydrosols don’t work well together because reed diffusers are designed to work with oils. Other diffusers should work well.
Spray clean laundry with a mild hydrosol mix to keep the clothes smelling fresh.
As you can see, hydrosols have a lot of potential uses. Another benefit of hydrosols is that they are typically more affordable than essential oils. This makes them a great addition to your aromatherapy toolkit and something that it is well worth experimenting with.
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