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What is and how to use a hydrosol

What is and how to use a hydrosol

According to the French Pharmacopoeia, an hydrosol (or hydrolate, or aromatic water, or even floral water), is "a distilled water loaded by the distillation of volatile active ingredients contained in plants".

The hydrosols are therefore the products of the distillation of fresh aromatic plants. These precious extracts keep intact (and not contaminated by external agents, such as dust, moisture, etc.) all the properties of the plant of origin. They are free of salts and contain the water-soluble components that are not found in essential oils. In fact, since not all odorous and volatile molecules are insoluble in water, some of these (the most water-soluble ones) will not collect with the essential oil, but will remain in solution in distilled water, at a concentration usually very low ( rarely more than 1%) but sufficient to perfume water and to exert some effects.

How much and how will this water be scented?

It will naturally depend on the plant from which it derives, exactly as for the essential oil, but the composition will always be different from that of the essential oil.

Since the hydrolates contain the water-soluble fraction of the volatile component of the aromatic plants, and since the molecules that dissolve well in the water are especially those rich in oxygenated compounds, the aromatic waters will be particularly rich in alcohols and carboxylic acids, while the hydrocarbons , molecules composed only of carbon and hydrogen atoms and therefore not very soluble in water, will be only in the essential oil. The aromatic water will therefore be all the more fragrant and charged the more the plant contains oxygenated compounds, while it will be rather poor in aroma when the plant contains almost only hydrocarbons.

To experience this difference, it is sufficient to smell the hydrolate of a plant rich in oxygenated compounds such as thyme, rosemary, saves, etc. and compare it with that derived from the distillation of a conifer like the Pine.

How can hydrosols be used?

Unlike essential oils, it is difficult to think of any toxicity of hydrolates, seen which are very diluted derivatives of plants which for the most part are however permitted for free food consumption; for this reason they can be used in those cases where essential oil would be contraindicated or difficult to use.

  • they can be used to flavor dishes or drinks, without the fear of exaggerating with the dose;
  • they can be used in the environmental vaporizer when a fragrant note is desired, but to avoid the use of essential oil (for example for young children);
  • the presence of carboxylic acids makes the soothing and soothing aromatic waters for the skin. Also the presence of a fraction of mono- and sesquiterpene alcohols is interesting for possible applications of hydrolates when it is necessary to act with great delicacy with antiseptic and anti-inflammatory agents. For example, the hydrolates of Rosa, Camomilla, Lavanda, Neroli and a few others are excellent dermatological applications for all types of inflammation, in some cases better than the same OE;
  • they can be cosmetic agents used to control excessive production of sebum or to reduce acne inflammation;
  • they can be used together with the preparations of face, body and hair masks because they enhance and integrate the functionalities. The hydrolates are used pure or diluted, directly on the skin;
  • some are ideal for eye pain and inflammation of the conjunctiva and are, from this point of view, better than infusions because most of the plant particles are eliminated;
  • other uses include cases of irritation or breast fissures in lactating mothers, or vulvar irritations.

List of hydrosols of common use:

Juniper Water: Very useful as an adjuvant to treat imperfections related to water retention and cellulite thanks to its powerful draining and diuretic action. Juniper Water, due to its astringent, antiseptic and purifying properties, is indicated for the treatment of oily and impure skin, scalp with dandruff and seborrhea. While its tonic and astringent properties make it an ideal product for the prevention of hair loss.

Rose water: precious water with beneficial effects on body and mind and whose use is almost unlimited. Refreshing and soothing of skin inflammation, also referred to as decongestant for the eyes. Very useful on aged skin and marked by evident wrinkles of expression, it is always indicated as a tonic for all skin types, even the most delicate ones like that of children.



Orange Blossom Water: A magnificent water with soothing and calming properties that helps in cases of stress and insomnia. Useful for all skin types to regenerate and tone. It gives wellbeing and balance.

Rosemary Water: It is a water with stimulating and revitalizing properties, also useful for concentration and good memory. Very effective on scalp to stimulate hair growth and slow down its fall. It acts on seborrhea, dandruff and reduces the oiliness of the hair. On the skin it has a purifying and antibacterial function indicated for oily and impure skin.



Lavender Water: It is indicated to help skin with aesthetic problems of couperose and irritations and for stressed and devitalized skin. It has calming and pain-relieving properties; it is a great help to refresh and moisturize even in hot seasons.

Roman Chamomile Water: It is a soothing, calming and anti-reddening water. Suitable for all skin types, especially for sensitive, sensitive skin with reddening, and for dry skin. Very useful for soothing irritations.

In conclusion:

The hydrolates were famous and widely used until the mid-eighteenth century, more than the essential oils, but apart from the classics such as orange blossom water or rose water, they then ended up in oblivion. For some years, however, are coming back strongly to the fore and it is good to rediscover their power.

Dr. Laura Comollo

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