Tell Me About...Hydrosols

Yellow garden roses, photo credit B. RubrechtRose is one of the more popular offerings in hydrosols

Hydrosols seem to be appearing more and more frequently in organic and herbal skincare lines, and for good reason. Though their name sounds slightly clinical, a hydrosol is derived from the process of distilling essential oils. In steam distillation, the essential oil settles while the steam rises and condenses. The steam has a small amount of the essence from the oil--as well as some of the water-soluble parts of the plant from the distillation--when it settles and becomes a liquid again. The trace oil dispersed and suspended in the water that comes from the condensation is the hydrosol.

Alembic Still for DistillationAn illustration of a traditional alembic still

In an oft-quoted portion of her book Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy, Suzanne Catty gives this remarkable description:

I think of hydrosols as holograms of the plant. Hydrosols contain all of the plant in every drop, just like a hologram.”

What better way to enjoy so many benefits of medicinal plants like lavender or chamomile than in a fragrant water with such diverse uses and benefits?

What’s the purpose of a hydrosol?

We’re glad you asked, because hydrosols can be used (with dilution, unlike many essential oils) as a toner for your skin, a refreshing mist with aromatherapy properties, a tonic, an aromatic spray for laundry, and commonly an ingredient in natural skincare products. Hydrosols are delicate enough to use for a baby’s bath but retain potency from medicinal plants that can serve as astringents or antibacterial elements for salves and promote healing in cuts, insect stings and other wounds. 

Where can I buy a good hydrosol?

Small organic producers are an excellent choice when sourcing quality hydrosols. Many hydrosols, sometimes referred to as flower waters or hydrolats (elsewhere in the world) are prepared through inauthentic means, by adding essential oils to distilled water (rather than capturing the by-product from true distillation) or by adding preservatives or additives to help suspend blended or ‘infused’ essential oils in the water. True hydrosols come from high-quality medicinal plants that have undergone steam distillation. Check your sources to understand their hydrosol process.

Spanish Lavender, photo credit B. Rubrecht
Many types of lavender can be found as hydrosols from distillers

Does the Perennial Collective offer any hydrosols?

We do -- right now we have a handcrafted rose geranium hydrosol, distilled by one of our partners, Barefoot Botanicals. It’s lovely, and can be used for many of the described purposes above. Rose geranium hydrosol is also a beautiful way to help repel insects in the heat of the summer. We hope to have more hydrosols available soon, so check back often.

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Bonnie Rubrecht is a writer and illustrator living on the Central Coast of California, and the Content Editor for Tea Leaves Blog.

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