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Hydrosols, also known as hydrolats or floral waters, are produced through the same process as essential oils. The distinction between the two products is in the chemical make-up of the end product. Hydrosols are predominately made up of hydrophilic compounds of the plant, with a minute number of essential oil compounds. Hydrosols contain volatile components with a maximum molecular weight of 250.1 Hydrosols contain between 0.02 –0.05% of the hydrophilic parts of an essential oil. This is only about 10 drops per 34 oz. (one liter) of hydrosol.2 Hydrosols also contain carboxylic acids, which may explain their observed anti-inflammatory activity.
Hydrosols are obtained through steam distillation, hydro-distillation or combo-distillation as described above under Distillation. Although hydrosols used to be the by-product of the essential oil distillation process, many small distillation companies are now distilling for either essential oil or hydrosol, deciding which end product they require before starting a distillation. This produces higher quality, therapeutic, and mindful products. Hydrosols which are produced as a by-product of the essential oil process are often of inferior quality.
Non-aromatic plants, as well as aromatic plants, can be distilled for a hydrosol. Examples of plants used to distill a hydrosol from include cornflower (Centaurea cyanus), witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). The aroma of a hydrosol may vary from that of the essential oil.
Hydrosols are a great alternative to essential oils for aromatherapists to suggest use with vulnerable groups such as moms-to-be, babies, children, and the elderly, due to their water-based therapeutic properties.
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