How are Hydrosols Made?

Putting rosemary into the distiller

“Water Solution” is actually the Latin translation of the word, but in aromatherapy, a hydrosol is the molecular melding of the essence of a plant or aromatic substance with the water that is used to distill the essential oils from the plant material. Hydrosols are also known as floral waters or hydroflorates. Flower waters or distillates are produced only from steam-distilling plant materials.

Hydrosols were once considered a byproduct of the distillation process and were often discarded. Things are “a changing though” and now hydrosols are being recognized for their awesome healing properties. And there are many!

When using hydrosols it is important to remember that the hydrosol you are purchasing is distilled with the intention and purpose of extracting the hydrosol. The distillation process must be carefully monitored and the conditions kept sterile. Hydrosols are water-based so the quality of the water used is of utmost importance, as is the botanical. The plant material should be fresh and organic, wild-harvested or unsprayed. Distillation is alchemy at its best!

In addition, the distillation equipment and storage bottles must also be sterilized. Hydrosols contain the water-soluble components of the plant material and are those are not found in the essential oil. Hydrosols are not as stable as essential oils, so the sterilization and purity are absolutely necessary.

The Hydrosol Distillation ProcessMachine for distilling hydrosols and essential oils

  • The pure water is placed in the still
  • The organic, wild-harvested, or unsprayed plant material is placed in the water (hydro-distillation), above the water (steam distillation), or both (combo hydro/steam distillation
  • The water boils, heats the plant material, the secretory sacs break open in the botanical
  • The steam carries the essential oil molecules up and into the condenser
  • In the condenser coils, the steam is cooled back to the water state and out comes the distillate!
  • The distillate is collected in a separatory funnel where the essential oil and the hydrosol are separated.

Difference Between Hydrosols and Essential Oils

So you ask what is the difference then between the hydrosol and the essential oil? Well, essential oils are lipophilic (fat-loving) so the essential oil components are not found in the water part of the distillation. Hydrosols are water and contain the water-soluble components or hydrophilic components (water-loving) of the plant material.  So what is in the hydrosol is not in the oil and what is in the oil is not in the hydrosol. However, they do share similar therapeutic and energetic properties.

The hydrosol will have a faint aroma of the essential oil and should not be overly strong.  If it is then you probably have fragrant water, not a pure hydrosol. If you haven’t given them a try, please do.  Learn how to use some of our favorite hydrosols. And if you have any questions pertaining to hydrosols, please feel free to contact us!