What is a Hydrolate?
When plant or resin material are steam-distilled, hydrodistilled, or even hydro-diffused, water or steam passes through the plant or resin material. As the process comes to completion, the resulting liquid is water with a layer of oil floating on top. If accomplished with the goal of preserving the therapeutic values of both substances, you have two completely different liquids of value remaining once separated. This would be the well known essential oil and the rich water remaining called a hydrosol or more appropriately, a hydrolate or essential water.
Hydrosols are a coproduct of essential oil distillation. They have a maximum of 3-5% of EO from the plant material naturally distributed throughout the hydrosol in solution. “In solution [means] that they are not visible on the surface and do not separate out of the water.” (Caty, 13) In addition, there are completely water soluble components that reflect the essence of the entire herb/resin that are not found in essential oils. These differing components render the therapeutic value and odor of the hydrosol to be somewhat different than essential oils in most instances.
“Hydrolates contain all of the plant in every drop, like a hologram. Here we have the water-soluble components, the essential-oil molecules, the very fluid that was flowing through the plant cells when the plant was collected. It’s all there in a matrix of water that is so much more than water, one of the most recognizable holographic substances in healing.” (Caty, 10)
Also of interest is the intricate nature of these essential waters to be fractal, an order that is so complex and advanced it is almost not possible to be visible through normal observations. But nature is naturally that way. For example, trees with branches going every which way seem to have no order yet are very purposed and orderly in a complex unpatterned method.
“There is significant new research indicating that disease is often heralded by a move toward regularity…synthetic compounds exhibit little or no fractal nature…the complexity of essential oils is what allows them to work when these substances fall short…Hydrosols…are also inherently fractal.” (Caty, 11)
Hydrosols or hydrolate, are not a replacement for the value of essential oils but a part of therapeutic aromatherapy in it’s own right. Often they can be used simultaneously although hydrosols are gentle and complete enough to often be used on their own. Putting Eos in water is NOT the same as a hydrolate. Eos lack the rich water soluble components. (Hydrosols are another form of using the herb/resin the same way we use poultices, infusions, teas, and tincture versions of oils to pull different components from an herb and address a variety of issues.) They are often used to compliment other herbal preparations including essential oils.
Hydrosols are often preferred to treat the young, elderly and those in delicate health because of their mild nature. I am personally highly interested in exploring the usefulness in pregnancy and labor due to their gentle disposition and more complete essence of the herb/resin distilled.
A hydrosol should be (and ours are!)
*One single, botanically specific plant, not GMO
*Certified organic, wildcrafted or biodynamic agriculture
*From chemical free herbs/resin
*Distilled or extracted specifically for therapeutic use- not cohobated (distiller does not pass the water or steam through the material multiple times to extract every ounce of EO and possibly damage the essential waters) & does not use the water over from one distillation to another
*Stored and transported to maintain therapeutic values
Prices suggests these guidelines for use:
*50 ml of appropriate hyrdolate into a bath facilitates relaxation
*Use appropriate hyrdolate on a cotton wool pad as a skin tonic after cleansing (others suggest to spritz on skin and allow to air dry)
*Use appropriate hyrdolate as a mouthwash or gargle
*Put 1 teaspoon appropriate hyrdolate into a tea, fruit juice, fruit salads, morning water, coffee
*Oral use may safely recommended where appropriate up to 3 tsp /day
Also of interest (Price) using the appropriate essential water:
*Liver treatment- 2 tsps before supper or before bed
*Kidney/Bladder treatment-3 tsp between 3-7p
*Lung treatment-6 tsp spread throughout the day in acute cases or 3tsp for chronic cases
*Gargles- may use neat but normally diluted up to 1:10 ration of hydrolate:water
(Resources: “Hydrosols- The Next Aromatherapy” by Suzanne Caty; “ Aromatherapy for Health Professionals” by Shirely Price/Len Price; “Hoilstic Aromatherapy” by Ann Berwick; “Farmacology” by Daphne Miller, MD)