I love to use natural products when it comes to looking after myself, my family and my home. I became fascinated by herbalism and the healing power of plants long time ago, when I was browsing through old family photos and noticed that my great grandmother and her contemporary friends, looked beautiful, happy, fresh and healthy, despite their age and hard working conditions… not to mention – lack of expensive cosmetics and face cream. A long chat with my grandmother revealed that they didn’t even have toothpaste; they used softwood ash for brushing teeth and they never went to the dentist. A bar of olive oil soap was good enough to wash face, hair, body, hands and even laundry. For perfume, there was always the essential oil extracted from plants collected in the morning from the farm. But the best of secrets was the use of the water left behind after extracting essential oil from a plant through a steam distillation process. Hydrosols often referred to as “flower waters were produced by distilling fresh flowers, leaves, fruits, and other plant materials. When you distil a plant, you obtain two end-products: the essential oil, which contains the oil-soluble constituents of the plant, and any condensated water, which contains the water-soluble constituents as well as microscopic droplets of the essential oil. This condensate water is what we call a plant hydrosol. From my grandma’s times, they used this water also known as flower water or hydrosol or hydrolate for various beauty and healthy routines.
Hydrosols and essential oils have similar therapeutic properties. However, hydrosols are much less concentrated. Their scents are much softer and subtler when compared to those of their essential oil counterparts. Due to their high water content, they’re also very gentle and can be applied directly to the skin without any sort of dilution.
Most hydrosols are made by steam distillation. In steam distillation, plant material rich in botanical extracts (leaves, buds, etc.) is placed into a steam distiller. Hot steam then passes through the plant material which causes the plants to open up and release their riches which then mingle up with the steam forming a hot herbal distillate that then rises to the top of the distiller and continues passing through a stainless steel tube immersed in cold water which helps the steam to condense and fall into the collection recipient. This is where the essential oil and water is then collected. The oil, which contains the most concentrated amount of oil-soluble extracts, floats to the top and is skimmed off to be placed into essential oil bottles, while the remaining water is bottled up as a rich plant hydrosol.
So, obviously, I invested in a distiller and started to make my own essential oils and hydrosols. There are so many different plants used to make hydrosols, but here are some of the most common ones you’ll find on my shelves.
- Lavender – This lovely smelling herb makes a wonderful, light-smelling hydrosol. It’s great for cooling and soothing irritated skin (especially from bug bites) and may help improve the appearance of skin that’s been damaged by minor cuts and burns. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, so it’s great for reducing redness. And, of course, its natural aroma is extremely relaxing. It’s suitable for all skin types, from oily to dry.
- Eucalyptus – The refreshing and cooling hydrosol can double as a body spray during summer. When mixed with the peppermint hydrosol, it also doubles as a mouthwash. Problem skin and skin prone to acne can benefit from the regenerating effects of this hydrosol. The hydrosol is also effective when it comes to insect bites and minor injuries. Use the hydrosol as an air freshener or place in a humidifier during flu season. You can also dilute it and use as a mouthwash.
- Lemon Balm hydrosol is mellow and slightly sweet, with a somewhat herbaceous and bitter note. Reminiscent of fresh greenery, this gentle hydrosol is a wonderful ingredient that will lend the supportive properties of lemon balm to DIY lotions and creams. Melissa officinalis leaves are rish in skin loving nutrients..
- Spearmint hydrosol is known to have soothing, cleansing, and carminative effects on the digestive system. Its antispasmodic properties may even help reduce colicky spasms and hiccups. It can also be used to help reduce nausea. Spearmint hydrosol is astringent, making it great for a refreshing skin tonic. It has antimicrobial and analgesic properties which also mean it can help relieve and clean minor cuts and wounds. Try using spearmint hydrosol as a well energizing and stimulating drink. Put 1-2 teaspoons in your water bottle and sip all day. It may even be beneficial as an antidepressant, especially if you mix it with St. Johns Wort. And if you are indeed an avid mint fan, try combining this spearmint hydrosol with our peppermint hydrosol for the ultimate minty experience!
- Pine Hydrosol is a wonderful general tonic and an effective immune system stimulant. It is extremely energizing when used as a body spray. Ponderosa pine offers an uplifting yet grounding and settling energy. Great to use in baths, showers, saunas and humidifiers for its respiratory benefits. Use Pine Hydrosol as a facial toner, Anti-inflammatory for muscle, joint and tissue pains, an antifungal for toes and nails, Fantastic air freshener.
- Bay Laurel Leaf hydrosol is steam distilled from the dark green leaves of the Laurus nobilis herb. The herbs used for this hydrosol have been collected from organic and wild Bay Laurel Trees. The bay laurel hydrosol is warming, spicy, emotionally comforting, and tastes delicious. This hydrosol is an immunostimulant and promotes healthy circulation, particularly of the lymphatic system. It makes an excellent general health tonic! Bay laurel hydrosol is valued for boosting the immune system and promoting healthy lymph circulation. It can help move lymphatic congestion and reduce painful lymph node tenderness. It has broad-acting antiseptic properties and can be useful as a gargle for treating mouth or throat infections. Bay laurel hydrosol is also successful at supporting healthy digestion. I use bay laurel hydrosol as a tonic for lymph congestion and tenderness. I put 1-2 teaspoons of bay laurel hydrosol in 8-12 ounces of purified water and drink this tonic once per day for up to 3 weeks. (
General USES for all HYDROSOLS
Because hydrosols are water-based and much less potent than essential oils, they’re easy to blend into therapeutic, cosmetic, culinary, and household recipes. The majority of hydrosols are even gentle enough to use with children (when diluted), older adults with sensitive skin, and pets.
Internal uses: A plant’s hydrophilic compounds are extracted into hydrosols better than into herbal tea. Hydrosols can be used internally, diluted in water ratio of one spoon of hydrosol per cup of water.
Although many hydrosols are safe for all age groups, it’s important to research a hydrosol thoroughly before consuming it internally.
Because hydrosols are 100% water-based, they can easily be stirred into bath water or sitz baths for a therapeutic soak.
You can also dilute one part hydrosol with four parts warm salt water to use as the saline solution in your neti pot or as a gargle if you have a sore throat.
Hydrosols are also a fabulous natural eye rinse
In Everyday Skincare, hydrosols can be used multiple times a day, since they’re super gentle on the skin. Here are a few ways to add a hydrosol to your beauty routine:
- Use it in combination with a face or body oil to help the oil absorb into the skin. Spritz your skin generously with the hydrosol, then apply the oil while your skin is still damp. This process delivers the same benefits as using a cream or a lotion, only without the additional emulsifiers and preservatives.
- Spritz your face 3 to 4 times a day to replenish your skin. This will keep your skin plump, nourished, hydrated, and looking fresh
- Set makeup. Spritz some on after your makeup is all done to help it stay in place. A post-makeup misting will also lend a gorgeous dewy finish to your skin and will help your makeup look more natural.
- Spray some hydrosol on a cotton pad to remove your makeup. You can do this before cleansing your skin or after cleansing to remove any leftover makeup or residue.
- Use it to balance your skin’s pH after cleansing. Most of the water in our homes is neutral or slightly alkaline, whereas the acid mantle of our skin has an optimal pH of 5.5, which is slightly acidic and helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria on the skin. A toner is also slightly acidic and can help restore your skin’s pH after cleansing or rinsing with tap water.
- Use it in place of water when you mix powdered masks for added benefits. This also allows you to customize your mask, using different hydrosols depending on what your skin needs most at any given time.
Cooking with Hydrosols
Simply add a splash of hydrosol to sparkling water, drink up and get cooking. Bay laurel hydrosol can be added by the spoonful to salads, soups, salad creams and stews, as well as basil, thyme and rosemary. Hydrosols can be a liquid spice in the kitchen.
Cleaning with Hydrosols
Many people use essential oils in their homemade cleaning products, but I prefer to use hydrosols because they’re more sustainable and milder. Pine hydrosol works great as a no-rinse surface cleaner and as a non toxic room spray. Lavender hydrosol will freshen up bed linen and help you relax into a deep sleep. Eucalyptus hydrosol is great to spray around you and your home in the cold and flu season. For bathrooms, tiles and sinks, I mix distilled water, herbal hydrosol and a dash of liquid castile soap, spray, gently rub and wipe clean. Works a treat.