Hydrosols are also referred to as hydrolats, distillate waters or floral waters.
Explained as simply as possible, a hydrosol is the aromatic water that remains after steam-distilling or hydro-distilling botanical material such as lavender.
I do not agree with the term floral water as there are so many types of plants used for hydrosols. I think it is better to refer to the correct name and avoid confusion. For example, tea tree hyrosol is not really a floral water. I find the term limits the breadth of varieties.
Simply speaking the word hyrosol is a chemistry term which means 'water solution'. This comes from the Latin hydro 'water' and sol 'solution'.
Suzanne Catty, author of Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy proposes the following definition: "Hydrosols are the condensate water co-produced during the steam- or hydro-distillation of plant material for aromatherapeutic purposes." [Suzanne Catty, Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy (Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2001), 10.]
Whilst some distillers purposely distill plants for the hydrosol, most hydrosols are produced as a byproduct of essential oil distillation. Personally my preference is to use hydrosols from artisan distillers who are making them specifically for hydrosols. There are many throughout Australia and indeed throughout the world. Stone Rise Farm Essential Oils & Hydrosols in Victoria, Australia produces extremely high quality hydrosols with innovative techniques.
I believe that hydrosols produced specifcally for this purpose and done the correct way result in hydrosols with superior aroma and therapeutic benefit.
The plant matter used in the distillation process imparts the hydrosol with the water-soluble aromatic and therapeutic properties of the plant.
Hydrosols are much gentler than their essential oil counterparts and can generally be used directly on the skin without further dilution. They are my go-to for sensitive clients including babies, elderly and pregnant women.
Hydrosols can be used in place of water when making creams and toners or other body care products. You can also add them into your bath or foot bath or spray them as a mist. Hydrosols can also be sprayed into a glass of water and are used in cooking throughout the world - think rose water in Turkish Delights!
Personally I use hydrosols quite frequently with clients who will benefit from the properties more than essential oils.
If you're ever visiting Harriet Herbery you may be lucky enough to see our Alembic copper still in action or to be treated to a Hydrosol experience.