Hydrolats versus Floral/Flower Waters (28th March 2014)

The terms hydrolat, hydrosol, flower water, floral water or aromatic water are used inter-changeably, and there is often confusion surrounding what these products are and how they might differ. We have put together a detailed guide to help explain the differences between 'pure' hydrolats or hydrosols and other types of floral water.

Pure Hydrolats / Hydrosols

oil and hydrolat separator

Image illustrates how the essential floats to the top during the distillation process, leaving the hydrolat at the bottom.

Hydrolats, also known as hydrosols, are waters that are collected when plant materials are steam-distilled to extract their essential oils. This involves heating up plant material until a vapour is formed. During this process many active chemicals in the plant are released into the steam. When the steam is cooled it turns back into a liquid which contains the therapeutic chemicals that were released from the plant. Some of these natural chemicals are ‘oily’ and can be separated out from the water - resulting in essential oils. Other chemicals dissolve into the water which produces the hydrolat or hydrosol.

This pure hydrolat naturally contains tiny amounts of essential oil, as well as other water-soluble compounds from the plants, that are not found in the essential oil, and which add to the products therapeutic powers.

It is important to note that true hydrolats may or may not smell like their essential oil counterpart. Some hydrolats have a pungent, earthy aroma and some have no aroma at all. This is because different plant chemicals come through in the water portion of the distillate than those that are found in the essential oil. For example ‘linlaool’ a major component of Lavender essential oil is not present in the hydrolat – which results in a different aroma.

Other Flower/Floral Waters

Pure hydrolats are not to be confused with other ‘floral or flower’ waters which are produced by mixing water and essential oil. As we know, oil and water don’t mix (see pic) - so manufacturers also add a dispersing agent to combine the two ingredients. Dispersants commonly used include alcohol, Polysorbate 20, Peg 40 and Peg 100, which can in turn reduce the therapeutic properties of the essential oil contained within.

Some flower waters also have synthetic fragrance added and may not even contain 'pure' essential oil.

Even if a product is made from pure essential oil and water, it will still lack the specific healing qualities of a pure hydrolat – as it will not contain the additional water-soluble compounds that are found in the water portion of the distillate.

Base Formula Hydrolats and How to Store Them

Pure hydrolats are very fragile substances which require careful storage. Many companies add alcohol or preservatives to give their products a longer shelf life. This can however reduce their therapeutic properties.

Base Formula supply only 100% pure hydrolats produced via the steam distillation process outlined above. We DO NOT add any alcohol (or other dispersant), preservative, colour or artificial fragrance.

Our hydrolats are now pasteurised during the bottling process which results in a completely ‘sterile/bacteria free’ product until the point of opening. After opening, with correct storage, our hydrolats will have approximately a 3 month shelf life. To maximise their shelf life our hydrolats should be stored away from heat sources and bright lights. Refrigeration is also strongly recommended.

Find out more about hydrolats and their uses.

If you have any questions about our hydrolats or how to use them please do not hesitate to email us direct.

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: The information provided on the Base Formula blog is for personal information and interest only. It is not intended to offer professional medical advice or treatment for any condition. We recommend that you consult your GP or nurse if you have any health concerns whatsoever. Our advice has been provided on the basis that there are no known contra-indications to treatment. If you have any health problems or are taking any medication you should seek advice from your healthcare provider prior to using aromatherapy. We would also advise that you make an appointment with a local aromatherapist who will be able to take a full case history and offer you tailored treatment advice. Please note that Base Formula accepts no liability for misuse of essential oils or other products or for any reliance on the information provided within.

Please visit our website for more details on using essential oils safely and effectively.

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