What is a Hydrosol?
Hydrosols are the most underrated and overlooked tools in aromatherapy. Gentle and versatile, I'll reach for them before essential oils. Hydrosols are the water product created by plant distillation. They are also known as distillates, floral waters and hydrolates. They retain many of the same therapeutic values as the plant they are distilled from (the water soluble constituents), and all of the fragrance. Some say they have a more complex aroma, making them ideal for body care preparations and sprays. Because of the concentrated nature of essential oils, a distillation will yield a substantial amount more of hydrosol than essential oil.
The gentle nature of the distillate makes this an ideal alternative to essential oils for usage on children, pregnant women, pets and sensitive areas like our face. In fact they're so gentle that you can apply a drop of Chamomile Hydrosol to the gums of a teething baby, or a spoonful of Peppermint Hydrosol to a bottle of water to ease car sickness, where as these would not be appropriate treatments for their essential oil counterpart. There are very few safety issues with Hydrosols, and especially not with common Hydrosols.
So how do we use hydrosols in our magical practice? Being as they are gentle, safe and non-staining, hydrosols are ideal for using in green witchery when connecting to specific plant spirits, offering to forest deities, using as an energetic splace cleanser, or adding to rituals and spell ingredients. You can add a small amount of hydrosol to your Kitchen Witchery creations, substituting some of the water for these offerings. Especially in the case of herbaceous plants like Rose, Lavender and Rosemary. Add them to ritual baths and sprays, moon water, their potential is seemingly endless.
Always remember that each plant has its practical purpose, and it's esoteric purpose. For example, practically we would use Damiana (Tunera diffusa) for deep relaxation due to the chemical constituents naturally available in the plant, via smoking, tea, or tincture. Esoterically, we know Damiana is ruled by Mercury, with a heavy Venusian (Venus) influence. Both Venus and Mercury have Earth and Air attributes, making their astrological counterparts Taurus (Earth + Venus), Gemini (Air + Mercury), Virgo (Earth + Mercury), and Libra (Air + Venus). Using the aforementioned Damiana Hydrosol on the day of Mercury (Wednesday) or the day of Venus (Friday), or when the moon is in Taurus, Gemini, Virgo or Libra can make it's intended purpose all the more potent.
How do you integrate hydrosols into your practical everyday life? Here are some examples:
- Toner and Makeup Remover
- Body and Linen Spray
- Nausea and Car Sickness
- Eczema and Skin Conditions
- Compress for Aches and Pains
- Children and Animals
- Diluted for Water Flavouring
- Teething Pain
- Relief for burns and bites
Storage and Shelf Life
Hydrosols are at risk for bacteria growth due to their water content and lack of preservatives. Storage becomes important to their shelf life, as improper storage can speed up deterioration and bacteria blooms. We store all of our hydrosols in a fridge, but you can store them in cool room temperature. The most important thing about their storage is avoiding temperature fluctuations, just keep them at a stable temperature and you should get a minimum of 6 months shelf life, but this can be extended to 12 months or more. Additionally, just like essential oils the air space in the bottle is important as well. The less air space you keep, the less chance of contamination.
How do you know if your hydrosol has gone bad? You will see white or discoloured blobs floating around in the hydrosol, these are similar looking to an algae bloom in water. Once you see this, discard your hydrosol immediately. We store and package all of our hydrosols in clear amber containers to make it easier to see any potential blooms.
Hydrosol vs. Commercial Floral Water
It is very common today to see 'Floral Water' on labels in topical cosmetic and skin care products. This can be very confusing as both a commercial floral water and a hydrosol are both commonly labeled 'Floral Water'. So, what's the difference? A hydrosol, as mentioned above, is a steam distilled plant essence, the mercury of the plant. A commercial floral water is distilled water, with a small mixture (usually less than 1%) of essential oil or absolute and a PEG based solubilizer, like Polysorbate. You can generally tell by taste, but where it is already in a product, the only true way to know is to ask the company you are planning on buying from. I'll be honest, I've come across many makers that aren't aware of a difference, so trust your supplier and the company you are supporting, trust in both their aptitude and knowledge, and trust in their honesty.