What are Hydrosols?
Hydrosols are also known as herbal distillates, hydrolates, herbal waters, and essential waters. It is the aqueous portion of steam distillation of plant material.
Similar to the way our favorite alcoholic spirits are created, the bulk material is heated and desirable components are turned to vapor and collected after it is passed through the “swan neck” and cooled in the condenser. This flowchart will help visualize the process.
It should be noted that there are several variables that affect the results of this process.
- The majority of hydrosols are a byproduct of essential oil production. This method creates excessive heat that reduces the therapeutic properties of the plant water.
- Equipment matters. Cheap and foreign hydrosol producers use stainless steel stills. While these stills produce good results for alcohol and essential oils, the herbal distillates have off and sour notes. The copper still helps preserve and binds with impurities to produce superior hydrosols.
- Imposters are a problem, many producers will add essential oil, emulsifier and water together to mimic the expression of a hydrosol but these cocktails often cause their own damage.
To capture the essence of plant material in an aqueous solution hydrosols need to be produced not as a byproduct but for their own sake. This is done by distilling plant material at lower temperatures in copper stills for an extended time to keep all of the nuances intact. The main challenge is cost, without revenue from essential oil consumers will find a noticeable price difference, but will also notice a substantial difference in product quality.
While all hydrosols properties depend on the plant materials they are derived from we feel in the book Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy, Suzanne Catty captures the essence properly in saying “Hydrosols contain all of the plant in every drop, just like a hologram.”
Hydrosols feel amazing on freshly cleaned skin, but that is not their only benefit
- Balance sebum
- Help cellular regeneration
- Soothe inflammation
- Provide micronutrients