Hydrosols (U.S. and U.K.), also known as hydrolats (Germany) or floral waters have been used for thousands of years for health, cosmetic and culinary uses. They are prepared through the steam or water distillation of plant materials.
Quite often, hydrosols are created during the production of essential oils. Typically the essential oils are harvested out of the hydrosols. However at Suburban Herbalism+ we keep the essentials in our hydrosols, and disperse them through frequent shaking before packaging each batch.
The properties of hydrosol are reflective of each plant’s essential oil profile. For example, Lemon balm essential oil and hydrosols should be useful for the same things.
So why use the hydrosols instead of the essential oils? There are many reasons:
- First and foremost, Dr. Welliver feels that hydrosols are infinitely safer than using straight essential oils. Essential oils can be toxic and or irritating when ingested or used on the skin or mucous membranes. The hydrosols are very rarely toxic or irirtating, especially when prepared from herbaceous plants.
- Hydrosols are much more affordable and sustainable, to the pocketbook and Mother Earth. It is said to take a ton of rose petals to produce a liter of rose oil. No one ever talks about the cost in resources of rose or lemon balm essential oil. Just consider how much water and heat (fuel) must be used in this process!! Certainly the volume of water needed to steam a ton of rose petals must be immense! This is why most rose hydrosols are relatively cheap, there’s a lot of it produced while they siphon off the essential oil! However, our product is a whole hydrosol, we never remove the native essential oil from the hydrosol in the first place! We don’t need a ton of rose petals or thousands of gallons of water or fuel, because or end game is not that little pint of oil
- Welliver has learned from her mentors, her patients, and her study of medical history that the lightest touch, the least intervention needed is the best, (except of course in emergency situations). Why use a nuclear weapon when a kind word will suffice? In the herbal world essential oils are the most highly concentrated plant preparations, making them capable of harm. Hydrosols treat the same conditions but more safely, more gently and by working with, not forcing, the person’s own regulatory mechanisms.
- Water is a magical substance, with unique physical properties. These anomalous physical properties allow life to exist on Earth. Also, the interplay between plant and water allow life to continue on this planet. Dr. Gerald Pollack and others are just beginning to help us elucidate and understand the meaning of all of this. Dr. Welliver feels that the healing power contained within hydrosol, the essence of the marriage of plant and water, is superior to those of essential oils especially in regards to safe doses. The plant water is the medicine!
- For those of you who are familiar with the preparation of homeopathisc medicines, you know that dilution and succussion are the two processes employed to make a homeopathic remedy. In working with the copper alembic still, Dr. Welliver has noted that this is what happens in the production of hydrosols. The plant material is diluted through the steam distillation, and during that process, there is a rhythmic vibration set up in the still as the water boils, and the steam moves through the spiral condensing tube. There is no research regarding this, but Dr. Welliver is very curious about the potential of using hydrosols as low dose homeopathic/energetic medicines. This brings together her three favorite modalities: plants, water and energetic medicine!
What about using hydrosols in place of tinctures? This is a very interesting idea. As we know there are problems using tinctures with some individuals, especially those who can’t tolerate alcohol. Glycerites are put forth as an option but glycerites don’t extract much of the plants healing constituents. Also, glycerin is not necessarily the healthiest or most “natural” substance. Perhaps theis is a place for hydrosols.
Tinctures do pick up some constituents that are not volatilized into hydrosols, and may be most appropriate for some plants and for some individuals depending on your therapeutic goals. It is probably this reason that Paracelsus developed the use of spagyrics, so he could bring all of the elements of the plant together in one preparation. Spagyrics are great medicines, but not Dr. Welliver’s production path. Not yet anyway!
What about teas? Teas are great, but compliance is often low and they don’t keep for long. Hydrosols can last for a couple of months to a year or more depending on how they’re stored (cool temps, away from light). Teas definitely have a place. Often it is the taste of the tea that induces the healing processes to be revived. Teas are probably the best form of prepared herbal medicines, particularly in the compliant individual.