French Aromatherapy: Hydrosols
I have been so busy with clients at work and creating online classes to share my love of essential oils that I have not had much time to study my aromatherapy certification material let alone blog lately. But today I had an unexpected free day where I was caught up with all my classes and team obligations and my only client on my schedule at work no showed. So I took advantage of this opportunity to pick up where I had left off with my aromatherapy certification course. As I started studying this material I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to share another installment in my French Aromatherapy blog series. Today’s topic: Hydrosols.
What are Hydrosols?
Hydrosols, are the water-soluble components of the plant that is produced during the distillation process. Many essential oil distillers will simply throw out the hydrosol as they are after the essential oil. However, hydrosols have a long history of use in aromatic medicine and are often a better option for certain uses or individuals. Hydrosols are often referred to as “flower waters” yet this name is misleading as not all hydrosols are produced from flowers or even from aromatic plant material. Like essential oils, hydrosols may be produced from the whole plant or individual plant components such as leaves, stems, roots, seeds, flowers or resins. However, unlike essential oils, hydrosols may also be produced using nonaromatic plant material, such as nettles or plantain.
Hydrosols contain many of the same therapeutic properties of essential oils. However, they take much less plant material than essential oils to produce and generally contain less than 1% of the chemical constituents found in essential oils. The other constituents are the hydrophilic compounds not found in the essential oil at all. While hydrosols only contain small quantities of the plant molecules, this does not necessarily mean that they are less effective than essential oils. Sometimes, the more a preparation is diluted the stronger its action may be on the organism. In other words, less is sometimes more!
Uses of Hydrosols
In general, hydrosols can be used in almost anything that essential oils can be used in. They are perhaps best known in the following aromatherapy applications:
- To support the individual’s overall terrain
- For internal use (in water or tea, alone or with other hydrosols – full strength)
- In cream, lotion or gel recipes
- As Facial toners
- In Facial and body cleanser recipes
- In facial exfoliants
- As bath additives
- In clay compresses
- Room spritzers
- As mouth washes and gargles
- For an internal detox
- In hydrotherapy
- In Sitz baths
- For nose washes
- As an addition to baby baths
- Towel baths (for elderly or in hospice)
- For eye rinses and compresses
- In house cleaning products
Since hydrosols are far less concentrated than their essential oil counterparts, they are considered extremely safe and effective with few known side effects. Hydrosols are not mucous membrane irritants like many essential oils, have no known contra-indications and are a safer alternative for long-term treatment protocols. They are considered ideal for babies, children, and pregnant or breasfeeding women. Hydrosols can be used both internally and externally without any significant safety concerns.
For internal use: Add between a tsp and a dessert spoonful to a glass of water or herbal tea at least three times per day. This protocol can be continued for up to 21 days if needed. If longer treatment is desired, take a week off then resume the same protocol listed above.
For creams, lotions, gels and cleansing bases: Choose your hydrosols based on the desired therapeutic properties. Simply replace the water content in your recipe with a hydrosol or combination of desired hydrosols. For cleansing bases, a general rule of thumb is to combine 3 ounces of your base, such as Castile soap, with 1 ounce of hydrosol. You may need to experiment to find the perfect ratio for your cleanser, however.
For clay and other facial exfoliants: Again some experimentation may be warranted but begin by adding 1 tsp or 1 Tbsp of hydrosols to your clay or other exfoliant and blend. You may need to add more to achieve your desired consistency.
With the elderly: Because elderly individuals tend to have thinner, more sensitive skin many essential oils may be too strong when used topically or internally. Hydrosols are an excellent option for helping to provide support for digestive and respiratory systems as well as to support their overall terrain. They may also help promote relaxation and soothe and calm the individual. Safe for internal usage.
With babies and small children: Unlike essential oils, hydrosols are safe for both internal and external use with babies and small children. Hydrosols may be diluted with water, juice or warmed milk (dairy or nut milk). Internal usage of hydrosols can be very effective at helping to support the child’s overall terrain. For children under 3, reduce internal dosage to 1/3 tsp 3x day in water, juice or milk for up to 21 days.
Dilutions for Baths, Compresses and Spritzers/Toners:
Infants to 6 months of age – Add 1 tsp of chosen hydrosol to an infant bathtub or 2 tsp for an adult tub filled to baby depth
Children up to 12 years of age – Add 1 tsp of hydrosol per year of age, up to a maximum of 8 tsp
Adults – Use from 30 to 250 mililiters (or 1 to 8 ounces per tub)
Foot Baths – Add 2-3 Tbsp for foot bath
Compresses – For adults, add 3-5 Tbsp of hydrosols to 1 liter of water at the desired temperature; for children, add 2 to 3 tsp of hydrosols per 1 liter of water
Spritzers/Toners – Use 100% concentration of single hydrosols or a combination of hydrosols
A Brief Overview of a Few Hydrosols and Their Uses
Cistus Hydrosol – has toning properties that are beneficial for skincare and can help tighten the pores, calm occasional acne breakouts and protect against wrinkles. Cistus Hydrosol is also useful in your natural first aid kits as it can help slow bleeding and promote wound healing. For bloody noses, spray Cistus Hydrosol on a cotton ball and insert into the nose to help slow down the bleeding.
Eucalyptus Globulus Hydrosol – a refreshing hydrosol beneficial for oily and acne-prone skin. Eucalyptus Globulus Hydrosol may also help calm red, dry, or irritated eyes when used in a compress for the eyes.
German Chamomile Hydrosol – useful for children and related skin problems as it can help calms and soothe common skin irritations. German Chamomile Hydrosol is commonly used for the eyes and ocular irritations. When used internally, may help to calm digestive problems, such as nervous digestion. In a mist spray, German Chamomile may also help protect against seasonal irritations and calm occasional coughs.
Helichrysum Hydrosol – may help minimize bruising and alleviate minor pain from bumps and bruises, such as trapping a finger in the door. Also useful for ciruclatory support and can be used in a bath or Sitz bath to encourage circulation to the pelvic region and soothe vaginal or anal irritations. Helichrysum Hydrosol has a calming effect that may help sooth burns or sunburns, either alone or used in conjunction with Lavender, Chamomile or Plaintain Hydrosols. Energetically, Helichrysum Hydrosol can have a calming and nurturing effect that can help with emotional turmoil or working through trauma. Simply add to a spray bottle and spritz in the mouth and around the aura from time to time.
Lavender Hydrosol – Just like the essential oil, Lavender Hydrosol is like the Swiss Army Knife of hydrosols because it has so many uses! It is yet another calming hydrosol that can help soothe sunburns or other burns. Lavender Hydrosol may also be used externally in a spray or internally in a glass of water 2-3 times per day to help calm overly excited children or decrease stress and worry in both children and adults. It may help reduce inflammation and calm insect bites or stings. It is also beneficial for oily or acne-prone skin and other skin irritations due to its remarkable ability to help promote healing. In addition, when blended with Clary Sage and Rose Hydrosols, or used alone, Lavender Hydrosol can be a great relief in the bath for menstrual pains or just simply to soothe and nourish the skin for a relaxing bath before bed.
Melissa Hydrosol – known to be calming to the digestive system and can appease indigestion or upset stomachs. Like many hydrosols, Melissa has astringent properties which suits oily skin and can be especially useful for when those monthly acne breakouts pop up. Melissa Hydrosol also has a calming effect which can help promote relaxation, calm anger and rage as well as help promote a restful night’s sleep. Add a soup spoon full of Melissa Hydrosol to your evening herbal tea or in the day to help alleviate stress and sadness.
Peppermint Hydrosol – an excellent general toner which can bring back vitality to tired skin and support circulation. A strong digestive support which can help ease occasional queasiness and travel sickness. Peppermint Hydrosol can also be used alone or in combination with Rosemary Hydrosol as a mouth wash or gargle to help get rid of bad breath. In addition, Peppermint Hydrosol may help ease a pounding head when used alone or in a 50:50 blend with Lavender Hydrosol to create a compress and place on the forehead. Add 2 soup spoons full to hot water and inhale the vapors for 10 minutes a couple times a day to clear a stuffy head and support the respiratory system.
Sage Hydrosol – unlike the essential oil of Salvia officinalis that needs to be used carefully and sparingly, Sage Hydrosol is very well tolerated by individuals. It is a powerful antioxidant that effectively combats free radicals, and helps regenerate the skin and fight against wrinkles. It is known to harmonize, purify and helps protect the skin and scalp, bringing vitality back to lifeless hair and may help regulates excessive secretions such as sebum and perspiration. Sage Hydrosol also helps provide hormone support, especially for premenopausal women. Like Peppermint Hydrosol, Sage Hydrosol also makes an excellent general mouthwash and supports oral health. Energetically, Sage Hydrosol is considered to be opening and may help one confront fears and support meditation practices.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris ct linalool) Hydrosol – Be aware of different chemotypes of Thyme as they do not contain the same quantities of each molecule and therefore have different usages. Thyme Hydrosol is considered to be stimulating to the nervous system and is often used in herbal teas, diluted in water or in inhalations for respiratory irritations. It is also helpful in calming intestinal inflammations and may help support the urinary tract and a healthy vaginal flora.
Witch Hazel Hydrosol – best known for its astringent properties and is often recommended for sensitive skin and those who have a tendency to suffer from rashes. Witch Hazel is a very gentle hydrosol and suitable for all skin types, especially mature skin due to its antioxidant effect. May also help support the circulatory system.
Plaintain Hydrosol – any of the three common plaintains: Plantago media, Plantago major, and Plantago lanceolata can be used – although Jade Shutes prefers the Plantago lanceolata variety, Plaintain Hydrosol is useful for calming insect bites, stings, blisters and other skin irritations or as a facewash for acne-prone skin. It is also effective as an eyewash for ocular irritations and can be mixed with Cornflower, Greater Celandine, German Chamomile and Sweet Clover Hydrosols for those who suffer from chronic weakness and sensitivity of the eyes. When taken internally, Plaintain Hydrosol may be beneficial in supporting the respiratory and digestive systems. Can also be used in conjunction with Plaintain tea and tincture for seasonal relief and to create a protective barrier against pollen.
Nettle Hydrosol – provides a grounding effect to help manage stress and helps the individual pace themselves in order to push forward and carry on. Nettle Hydrosol may also be helpful to nourish and fortify the hair, bringing a shine to dull or lifeless hair. When used on the skin, it can help tone and regulate sebum and is an excellent choice for acne and skin related issues.
Where to get Hydrosols
Unfortunately, Young Living does not carry hydrosols at this time, although I hear rumors through the grapevine that some of them are used for hydrotherapy and in organic farming practices on the Young Living farms. I hope that one day they will realize that there is a market for high quality, therapeutic grade hydrosols for aromatherapy students, practitioners and members who are interested in living a more natural lifestyle. While I have never used and cannot endorse the essential oils from the following companies (you guys know I only trust Young Living due to their Seed to Seal guarantee!) these are the companies that Jade Shutes and Cathy Skipper recommend:
Stillpoint Aromatics – a small, boutique essential oil company based out of Arizona that distills their own oils and hydrosols. They have relationships with organic and ethical farmers around the world and promise quality, therapeutic grade products.
Inshanti – another small, boutique essential oil company founded by a spa owner in Pennsylvania who wanted to create her own pure synergies and blends. She studied aromatherapy at another reputable school, Aromahead Institute, and has expanded her selection of essential oils to include hydrosols over the years.
Mountain Rose Herbs – A larger company but one I respect and trust. Before discovering Young Living I used Mountain Rose Herb’s essential oils and I’ve also used many of their butters, waxes, carrier oils, herbs, salts and spices over the years. They promise an extensive selection of organic products and I’ve always been really pleased with the products I’ve ordered.
So there you have it. The latest installment of my French Aromatherapy blog series that follows along my journey while I study for my certification in French Aromatic Medicine. Hopefully I’ll be able to give more attention to my studies and get back to writing more consistently in the near future. Just in case you missed them, here are the links to my other French Aromatherapy blog installments:
* Source: Jade Shutes and Cathy Skipper’s Hydrosol course material in the School for Aromatic Studies French Aromatherapy Certification program www.aromaticstudies.com
Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I am an aromatherapy student but I am not a medical doctor. Products and techniques mentioned here are to help support your specific areas of concern and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. Consult with the health authorities of your choice for treatment.