When aromatherapy was in its nascent stages (as a science of healing in ancient civilizations), floral waters were in vogue. The Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans were known to have used hydrosols extensively for their healing and aesthetic properties. Since essential oils were produced only by the methods of solvent extraction, the Middle Ages paid little attention to essential oils and revered the hydrosols more. With the advent of the science of essential oils and aromatherapy, the floral waters suffered a backlash again. Only in the early 20th century, the aromatic pendulum shifted and hydrosols came to be recognized for their therapeutic properties.
What are hydrosols? Hydrosols are derived from the terms “hydro” (meaning water) and “sol” (meaning solution). These are left-over waters that remain in the extraction container after the steam-distillation of a plant. Hydrosols or hydrolates or hydrolats, by whatever terms the waters be called, they mean the same. These condensate waters contain everything that was in the plant and are often more aromatic than even the essential oils. When essential oils are produced using steam distillation, not all the healing and aromatic principles of the plant are captured. But the waters contain the condensate of whatever the plant had when it was alive and growing.
It is wrong to call hydrosols as floral waters as such waters are not just extracted from the flowers. They are extracted from almost everything – herbs, needles, roots, woods, plants, barks, seeds etc. Hydrosols retain the healing properties of plants or herbs in their most pristine form. Even essential oils may contain a residue of solvents in them, with hydrosols you need not have any such worry. They are always pure and 100% natural.
Healing Hydrosols: Hydrosols were not used in the Middle Ages owing to problems with logistics of transportation. Since their healing properties were too less known, people preferred using the smart and neatly-packed essential oils (which work by drops) to the heavy waters of hydrosols. But the 20th century saw hydrosols in a new light and started using it in aromatherapy and general, day-to-day use. Hydrosols are affected by weather changes, climate and soil conditions as a plant’s internal chemistry changes with respect to everything in its environment. So, if you find difference between hydrosols of a same plant, don’t blame it on the manufacturer, but the country and region in which the plants were grown.
Hydrosols are versatile healing waters. They can be used in a multitude of ways – from personal care and general hygiene to skin and hair care. Below are a few uses of hydrosols:
1. Skin care: Use hydrosols of rose, orange blossom (neroli) and lavender to hydrate skin and cool dry or sensitive skin conditions. Sun-burns can be soothed and cured by these hydrosols.
2. Dark circles: Nothing works miraculously on dark circles like chamomile hydrosols. Just place two cotton wool pads soaked in chamomile waters on your eyes regularly around for 10 minutes and see your dark circles disappear.
3. Body coolant: Peppermint is the ultimate body coolant on sultry summers. They do not just hydrate you, but also offer a calm effect.
4. Washing/Laundry: Use a few drops of rose or neroli waters in the final rinse water of your washing cycle to get a hygienic and aromatic wash. You can even use them as a fragrant to perfume your linen while ironing.
5. Babies: Hydrosols of lavender or chamomile can be added to baby’s bathwater, used in treatment of eczema, diaper rashes and to calm restlessness.
Apart from these, you can use hydrosols in the following situations also:
6. Use hydrosols as a facial mist or toner to cleanse the dirt in your face.
7. Add hydrosols in your bathwater for a natural, aromatic and homeopathic bath experience.
8. Use hydrosols in hair care to treat damaged hair or as a wonderful conditioner that makes hair grow healthy and strong.
9. You can use hydrosols to treat wounds, open cuts, bruises and many types of injuries. They are harmless and do not cause any serious irritations or side effects.