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The term hydrosol is derived from the Latin words hydro and sol, meaning "water solution." When plant material, such as the roots, barks, flowers, leaves, stems and seeds, is steam distilled to obtain an essential oil, certain chemical constituents of the plant first build up in the water. Only after they reach their maximum solubility in water, do they start to collect in a separate layer on the surface of the water (the essential oil). Many of the water-soluble plant compounds and some of the oil-soluble compounds wind up in the distillation water.
A hydrosol is the pure, distillate water that remains after essential oils are steam distilled from the original plant material. Hydrosols are usually clear and have the appearance and consistency of water. Their aroma is generally, but not always, similar to that of the essential oil, but the aroma is usually much more subtle. Hydrosols contain small amounts of essential oil. They also contain water-soluble components of the plant material that may not be present in the essential oil. The aroma, therefore, may differ somewhat from the plant's essential oil. Some hydrosols do smell surprisingly different from the essential oil.
Hydrosols are also known as hydrolates. Hydrosols are also sometimes incorrectly referred to as floral waters. Floral waters are typically aromatic waters made with the use of fragrance oils (see our Floral Water category, but do not contain the natural therapeutic properties that hydrosols contain. Hydrosols cannot be made by solubilizing essential oils in water.
Hydrosols are gaining importance in aromatherapy because they naturally contain low dilutions of essential oils combined with the botanical's water-soluble compounds not present within the essential oil itself. Hydrosols are generally safer for use in babies and individuals with depressed immune systems.
Use hydrosols in toners, creams, lotions, body sprays, room sprays and in place of water in most formulations. They will impart both fragrance and therapeutic benefits to your products. Hydrosols are also wonderful when used as wetting agents in clay facials. An anti-bacterial preservative should be considered for preserving products that contain hydrosols.
Pure hydrosols are more gentle and thus even more fragile than their essential oil counterparts. They do not have the same concentrated anti-bacterial properties that essential oils possess and are subject to much more rapid degradation. Even when stored in an ideal, sterile environment, the shelf life of hydrosols is limited to 6-24 months, depending on the specific hydrosol. Due to the highly fragile nature of hydrosols, we strongly encourage our customers to use the following guidelines for storing and handling hydrosols:
- Store your hydrosols in dark glass bottles.
- Store hydrosols away from direct sunlight and ideally in a cool, dark location.
- Keep bottle caps tight.
- Keep bottles full by transferring hydrosols to smaller bottles as needed. When a bottle of hydrosol is left only partially full, the oxygen that also lives inside the bottle reacts with the hydrosol and begins to oxidize it. This process can cause the hydrosol to deteriorate more quickly. Oxidization can harm the fragile aromatic and therapeutic consistuents of the hydrosol.
- Don't allow unsterilized items like your fingers, cotton balls or other items to come into direct contact with your hydrosols. Instead, pour off the quantity that you need or measure it into a different container. Then, work from that container, leaving the integrity of your original hydrosol intact.
With the exception of our Witch Hazel Hydrosol, preservatives have not been added to our hydrosols. If desired, you may extend the shelf life of your hydrosols by adding 2% high-proof vodka.
For more in-depth information about hydrosols, we offer the 290 page book Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy written by Suzanne Catty. Suzanne Catty is well known for her knowledge and work with hydrosols. Please see the Bookstore section for pricing information.
We ship our hydrosols in plastic to avoid breakage, but the hydrosols should be transferred to dark glass as soon as possible.
FNWL is pleased to offer certified organic hydrosols. To view detailed information about each of our organic hydrosols, click on the links displayed below.