How Hydrosols, Or Flower Waters, Are Used For Healing, Aromatherapy, And Relaxation

This article discusses the role of hydrosols and how they are used in aromatherapy and relaxation as well as their healing properties.

Hydrosols are a secondary byproduct of the steam distillation process used when extracting essential oils from the flowers, stems (bark and resin), leaves, roots, or fruits (skins or entire fruit) of plants with medicinal properties. Hydrosols are sometimes referred to as floral or flower waters. Technically, flower waters are the result of steam distillation of flowers only, whereas a hydrosol refers to both flowering and non-flowering parts of the plant. Unlike essential oils, hydrosols are water based (the result of condensation during steam distillation), containing only water-soluble properties of the plant with trace amounts of essential oils.

Although the term "hydrosol" was coined in 1990, hydrosols such as orange blossom water, rosewater, and witch hazel, have long been used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Orange blossom water (also known as neroli) is distilled from the blossoms of the Seville orange, and is an example of a flower water. Witch hazel, produced through steam distillation of the bark, leaves, and twigs of the plant, is an example of an herbal medicinal water, now referred to as a hydrosol. A word of caution however; commercially prepared witch hazel is not a true hydrosol and may contain additives such as alcohol.

Hydrosols are slightly acidic, but not acidic enough to act as a natural preservative and keep them from spoiling when exposed to heat and light. A true hydrosol does not contain additives such as fragrance, sugar, alcohol or preservatives. A hydrosol should be discarded immediately if it smells bad or develops mold.

How are they used?

Hydrosols have only recently been introduced into the practice of aromatherapy. Aromatherapy works by using essential oils from medicinal plants to stimulate the senses, primarily through the sense of smell, resulting in a physiological and psychological response in a person or animal.

Hydrosols of lavender and chamomile promote relaxation and are beneficial to use in bathwater, sprayed or sprinkled on bed linens, for foot and hand soaks, and for soothing compresses after a long day. Hydrosols of lavender, rose, and rose geranium are excellent for humidifying or vaporizing the air, or in a steam facial. A peppermint hydrosol makes a refreshing to mist for the face, neck, and hair on very hot days or while traveling, especially in airplanes where cabin air is very dry.

The healing properties of hydrosols are often similar to the properties of the essential oils they are a byproduct of. For example, both the essential oil and the hydrosol of clary sage elevate mood. Hydrosols are mild in constitution and are suitable for children, the elderly, the infirm and anyone else who might not be able to tolerate essential oils. Flower waters such as orange blossom water and rosewater, are often used in cooking, especially custard desserts and pastries. They are also mild enough to mix with water to create a refreshing drink.

Hydrosols, unlike essential oils, can be applied directly to the skin before using a face or body moisturizer to soothe, soften and hydrate it. Hydrosols of rose, chamomile, lavender, helichrysum (corn flower), rose geranium, neroli, and witch hazel have astringent, antiseptic, hydrating, and anti-inflammatory properties and are ideal to soothe inflamed skin caused by eczema, insect bites, sunburn, diaper rash, and hives. Witch hazel, rose geranium or neroli have antibacterial properties as well. Compresses soaked in these hydrosols can be applied to minor wounds and bruises to reduce swelling and help heal wounds.

The importance of hydrosols, many of which were previously discarded during the distillation process of essential oils, is just now being discovered. As more research is undertaken, hydrosols are likely to play an important role in aromatherapy, healing and relaxation techniques in the future.

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