A Hydrosol, also known as a hydrolate or a hydrolat is the condensed water that is left over from steam distillation. When steam distillate is condensed, in the receiver there are two layers, one is the essential oil, and the other is the water layer which contains a small percentage of the essential oil plus all the water soluble parts of the plant. Not all the aromatic and healing properties are captured in the essential oil. Some are extracted with steam and remain in the water layer.
A similar process occurs in water extraction.
At one time these waters were called "floral waters", a term which is now outdated since steam distillation includes herbs, needles, leaves, woods, roots, barks, seeds as well as flowers. We refer to these waters as "Aromatic Waters".
Prior to the Middle Ages, water distillation was employed specifically for the purpose of producing these amazing aromatic waters with very little attention being paid to the essential oil. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans are all known for having made great use of hydrosols for healing and aesthetic properties as well as infusions and unguents.
It is not known when essential oils became popular in Europe but one of the earliest publications occurred in 1507 AD.
As essential oils became more popular the use of hydrosols declined. By the early 20th century these waters was largely ignored.
It is only quite recently that there has been an increase in interest in aromatic waters. Hydrosols are highly versatile and can be used for personal care and around the house.
In skincare, Rose, Orange Blossom (Neroli) and Lavender hydrosols are great for hydrating dry skin and cooling hot and sensitized skin.
There is no better remedy for puffy,dark circles under the eyes than Chamomile hydrosol . Soak two cotton balls with the hydrosol and cover each eye for about 10 minutes for an immediate and dramatic reduction in puffiness.
During the summer peppermint hydrosol is perfect to use as a cooling body mist.
To calm a restless baby, try adding a few tablespoons of Lavender or Chamomile hydrosol into the bathwater. This is especially helpful for rash or eczema.
Hydrosols such as Rose or Neroli can be added to the final rinse in the wash cycle as well as a spray while ironing.(who irons anymore!)
Around the house, hydrosols are great to freshen the air instead of aerosols.