Sunday, January 31, 2016

What IS a Hydrosol?

There has been some online discussion recently about what does or does not constitute a true aromatherapy hydrosol/hydrolate.  We have even seen the suggestion that one could somehow combine an essential oil and distilled water and produce your own hydrosol, without the trouble of distillation, fresh or dried botanicals, etc.

Ann Harman, master distiller and author of From Harvest to Hydrosol was kind enough to address the issue as a guest blogger.

Courtesy of Ann Harman

Hydrosol – Why so much confusion? 

The term hydrosol means different things to different people.  If you ask a scientist to define a hydrosol he would most likely say something like “an aqueous solution”, such as salt dissolved in water. In chemistry, the term hydrosol refers to any solution where a liquid, solid, or gas is dispersed in water. In aromatherapy, the term hydrosol refers to the aqueous product of distillation; the term hydrosol may be defined as “the aqueous distillate resulting from a distillation from plant material.”   
The key words in this definition are distillation and plant material. You can’t make an aromatherapy hydrosol without the act of distillation. The aromatherapy hydrosol carries a very small percentage of volatiles (essential oil) in suspension.  This volatile percentage is less than 0.1% of the hydrosol.  The other 99.9% is still up for debate as very few analyses have been done on the non-volatiles.  In theory the hydrosol would contain the water soluble plant acids and other soluble components of the plant.
Our modern day terms for these distillate waters are hydrosol or hydrolat (hydrolait, hydrolate. In Germany they are referred to as pflanzenwasser. In the early 1990s, Jeanne Rose coined the term hydrosol to name the first portion of distillate from the steam distillation of plants. The term literally means water solution—from hydro meaning water, and sol meaning solution. It is the term most often used in the United States to describe the distillate waters.
Throughout history, distillate waters have been given numer­ous names. In the sixteenth century, they were simply called “the water of _____,” as in the Water of Plantain, or the Water of Rose. Latin terms were also used to describe a distillate; for example, Aqua Sambuci describes the distillate water (Aqua) of the Elderflower (Sambuci from its genus Sambucus). The term Oleum Sambuci referred to the essential oil of the Elder.
Ancient distillates were referred to as floral or herbal waters, depending on the type of plants distilled. Distillates were made from many medicinal herbs, both aromatic and non-aromatic plants). Aquarom was a term used in the early 1980s by Dr. Gumbel, author of Principles of Holistic Therapy with Herbal Essences, to describe the aromatic waters of distillation. The term floral water is sometimes still used today, but now usually refers to a mist made from distilled water, essential oils, and an emulsifier. Though this may technically be a hydrosol by chemistry definition, it is not a hydrosol by aromatherapy standards. 

If you want to use hydrosols therapeutically in your practice you should familiarize yourself with the terms associated with the distillate waters and learn how to read through marketing hype.  Use the same standards you would when searching for quality essential oil; buy from reputable suppliers that sell to the aromatherapy market – not soap or cosmetic suppliers.  Know what you are buying and know how to differentiate between the different products on the market. 
 My comment: Nature's Gift is delighted to offer some of Ann's true hydrosols, as well as those produced by other artisan distillers. You may see our full range here. I guarantee that none are produced by combining essential oils and water!


If you follow us on Facebook you will have seen a long list of enthusiastic posts on the Nature's Gift page about Uncommon Scents. Why? What IS this?

In the words of one of the creators:

Uncommon Scents explores aromatherapy through interviews with a full spectrum of experts who
hold the industry to its highest standards. The film's producers have invited esteemed growers, distillers, chemists, suppliers, educators, scholars, and practitioners from around the world to share their unique insights. Experts will explore fundamentals (including what essential oils are, where they come from, how they've historically been employed), discuss best practices (safety, education, interfaces), and weigh-in on key challenges facing the industry (including sustainability, purity/adulteration, and monetization). The film celebrates natural aromatics and the global aromatherapy community; Uncommon Scents endeavors to deepen dialogues around the use of essential oils, aromatherapy, and aromatic medicine and elevate the stakeholders in aromatherapy's future, including nature herself.

How did I get involved?  I was misled!   In October, while I was planning for the first half of Mark Webb's Aromatic Medicine Course,  Mark said "I'd like to have a question and answer panel some evening, and would like you to be part of it." Since Mark and two of my other mentors were the panel I felt a bit out ranked. I wanted to ask, not answer, questions. But Mark urged, and I said yes.

Midday, the day of the panel, Mark told the class that the panel was being filmed, to be part of a trailer for a proposed documentary about Aromatherapy. Mark said "film" and I tried to resign on the spot. NONONONnononono. I don't LIKE cameras! I was over-ruled. However, the panel was a wonderful experience.  I was silent throughout most of it, until Kristina addressed a question about safety to me.  She had to cut most of my answer for brevity, but the soul of it made the trailer. The current trailer is available here. I love Gabriel's statement, and I guarantee Robert will make you laugh!  The first trailer, made the night of that forum, may be viewed in the gallery, at this link: 
If for some reason that link takes you to the main page of the fundraiser, just click on the Gallery tab to view the earlier trailor and other announcements.

During that weekend in Georgia, Mark Webb and the students in his class raised the total cost to produce the first trailer, to start an IndieGoGo campaign to fund the movie.

Our dream? To have an award winning quality documentary explaining who we are and what we do. Where these oils that we love come from and the power to heal that they give us.

When the original trailer was first released, of course we shared it on Facebook.  Kristina shared the following: "Thank you so much for your support, Marge--and for your contribution to both the campaign and the panel in Atlanta! The source of your quote in the video had to be narrowed down to fit in the time frame, but it is the WHOLE of what you said that captured our hearts: "Anything that is powerful enough to heal--and these oils are--is powerful enough to harm. You treat them with respect and they enrich our lives... It's that simple."

I am asking you, if you care about the healing art of aromatherapy, if these amazing oils have enriched YOUR life, to view the trailers at the links above, and to contribute to the production costs.  There are a wide range of rewards for those donating on different levels.  More than the concrete "perks" and rewards is the knowledge that you will have contributed in a meaningful way to our community.  (The perks will be fun too!  come peek at a perk!)  We need to raise (holding my breath) $60,000. We are more than 1/3 of the way there.  Help us reach the goal.  And when you donate.... Please leave a note here, or on our Facebook page. I would love to see that the Nature's Gift community cares! 

Thank you.