Hydrosols are an aqueous product of steam/hydro distillation. They are sometimes referred to as floral waters, distillates or hydrolats. Beware of imposters. There are many products on the market that are merely water, essential oil and an emulsifier that are sold as “floral waters.” Though these may be fine as room refreshers they ARE NOT Hydrosols, and will not give the same therapeutic effect. Read your labels.

Derived from Latin, the term combines hydro meaning water and sol meaning solution; they are sometimes referred to as floral waters, distillates or hydrolats in Europe.


Jeanne Rose, in her book 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols, describes hydrosols as “the homeopathy of Aromatherapy; as herbs are to homeopathy, so are essential oils to hydrosols.” She goes on to say “Hydrosol represents the true synergy of herbalism and aromatherapy.” We couldn’t agree more.

In his book Medical Aromatherapy, Kurt Schnaubelt describes them as “the product of steam distillation process and contain the water soluble, volatile components of the plant… Their composition is different from that of the essential oil…this means highly tolerable, anti-inflammative and antiseptic substances are found in aromatic hydrosols”

In Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy, Suzanne Catty says of hydrosols, “Hydrosols contain all of the plant in every drop, just like a hologram.”

Not a By-Product

Unlike most hydrosols on the market, ours are not a by-product of essential oil distillation, but are distilled for the hydrosol. This means that they are distilled with FRESH organic plant material, on copper stills, under constant supervision for true therapeutic waters. Many hydrosols on the market carry a “still note” from being distilled on stainless steel, though this does not harm the hydrosol it can make for a very unpleasant aroma. By using copper stills, the sulphur and yeast that cause these off notes bond to the copper, therefore our hydrosols are “sweet smelling” and useable immediately.

Hydrosols can be used as hydrating facial spritz, sprayed on sore muscles and as anti-microbial cleansers. Clients that experience sensitivity to essential oils, are able to use hydrosols with positive results.



Further Reading and Links


Harvest to Hydrosol, 
2015, Ann Harman, ISBN 978-0-9913859-0-4
Available at


Distillation, A How to Booklet, 2001 J Rose and B Alkire, ISBN 1-879687-08-9
Available from or

Understanding Hydrolats: The Specific Hydrosols for Aromatherapy, 2004, Len & Shirley Price, ISBN 0443-07316-3

Hydrosols & Aromatic Waters, from a Personal Collection of …writings, 2007
Available from or

Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy, 2001, S Catty, ISBN 0-89281-946-6

375 Essential Oils & Hydrosols, 1999, J Rose, ISBN 1-883319-89-7
Available from or

Secrets of the Still, G Firth, Out of Print
copies can be found on internet and in some libraries, abundance of information on hydrosols and distilling, more information on Aromatherapy




Distillation Data:

We keep data on every distillation. If you are using your hydrosols therapeutically you need information.

This is what we call The 5 W’s ©.

1.  What herb(s) were used, you should have both a botanical name & a common name;

     what part of the herb was distilled?

2.  When was it distilled – is it less than one year old? Does it carry a lot#?

3.  Where did the herb come from – is it domestically grown or from overseas?

4.  Why was it distilled – for the essential oil or the hydrosol? Is it a by-product of an essential oil

     distillation or was it distilled from fresh plant material for the hydrosol?

5.  Weight – what is the plant/hydrosol ratio? How many pounds did it take to produce

     a gallon of hydrosol?


Small Batching:

All of our hydrosols are distilled by us personally. When you buy from us you are buying DIRECT FROM THE DISTILLER. Our hydrosols are not by-products of an essential oil distillation, but in fact are distilled for the hydrosol. We distill in small batches, under constant supervision. This makes for high quality essential oils and hydrosols.

Clear, Sterile Jars:

It is important that your hydrosols should be kept cool and dark. However, we believe that you should be able to SEE your hydrosols. We have nothing to hide! It is very important to be able to observe if your hydrosol is off. This includes any changes such as color or “blooms”. This is difficult in dark glass and requires pouring into another vessel, which can cause contamination. Hydrosols are perishable products and should be treated with respect. Always use clean, sterile supplies.

Fresh Certified Organic Herbs:

Our hydrosols are distilled from fresh, organic plant material, not dried. The hydrophillic (water loving) properties are intact when fresh material is used. We firmly believe that this makes the highest quality hydrosol because you are receiving more than just the volatile properties of the plant.

Copper Alembic Stills:

Copper stills remove the yeast and sulphur that can make hydrosols smell bad. Copper is known for its anti-microbial properties and may have some preservative effect on the hydrosols. Hydrosols distilled on copper have a sweeter aroma and are useable immediately. No need to wait for the still note to disappear, which can take up to a year! When dealing with a persishable product this is very important.



Hydrosols are delicate therapeutics

  • Care should be taken to keep your precious hydrosols cool and dark
  • Avoid rapid changes in temperature that can create condensation
  • Always use sterilized jars when transferring into individual containers
  • Keep portions that are not being immediately used refrigerated to prolong their shelf life
  • Remember, hydrosols are perishable and should always be treated with respect

Suggested applications of Hydrosols

Atomizer: Spritz directly on body and face. Use after shower/bath to rehydrate dry skin. Spritz in air and inhale. Freshen a room.

Compress: Dampen clean cloth with hydrosol (hot or cold) apply to affected area. Great for sore muscles, rashes, bites.

Bath: Add 1-2 Cups of Hydrosol to a bath and enjoy

Footbaths: Use hydrosols in footbaths & hydrotherapy

Massage: Spritz on skin and massage gently

Neti Pot: Add 1 tsp to the water portion of your neti

Facial Toners: Spritz on face to rehydrate after shower or anytime during the day


General Uses of Specific Hydrosols

Anti-bacterial: Calendula, Pine, Lavender, Balm of Gilead

Anti-viral: Lemon Balm (Herpes), St John’s Wort, Helichrysum

Astringent: Calendula, Rosemary, Lime, Goldenrod

Back Pain: Helichrysum, Yarrow, St John’s Wort, Willow

Bites & Stings: Yarrow, Helichrysum

Bursitis: Rosemary, Yarrow

Calming: Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Lavender

Digestion, Heart Burn: Basil, Peppermint

Hot Flashes: Sage, Rose Geranium

Hydrating Facials: Rose Geranium, Lavender, Elder Flower

Immune System: Elder Flower, Yarrow

Mild Depression, SADS: St John’s Wort, Lemon Balm, Lemon verbena

Rashes: Calendula, Lavender, Helichrysum

Rheumatism: Elder Flower, Rosemary

Rosacea: Helichrysum

Scar Tissue: Helichrysum, Rosehip, Calendula

Stimulating: Lime, Rosemary

Sunburn: Lavender, Calendula

Women’s Hormone Balance: Sage, Rose Geranium, Clary Sage



Written for Aromatherapy Thymes
©Ann Harman 2007

Ancient History

Distillate waters have been with man for over 5000 years, possibly longer. The first distilled waters were believed to be the famed rose waters. Rose Petals were boiled in a pot with lambs wool stretched over the top to catch the rising vapors. These pieces of wool were then periodically wrung out into vessels, thus a crude rose water resulted.

In 1975, a terra cotta still was discovered in what is now Pakistan, that dates back to 3000 BCE. There are numerous accounts describing both stills and distillations throughout ancient and modern history. Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine” himself is believed to have used floral waters. There are many celebrated waters throughout history. Queen of Hungary water, said to date back to the 14th century contains rosemary, grape spirits (wine) and up to 5 other ingredients-among them lemon balm, orange flower, rose and mint. Carmelite Water has been traced to the Carmelite abbey in Paris and dates back to the late 1300’s. The nuns of the abbey made this famous floral water for centuries. It includes lemon balm as the main ingredient, angelica root, lemon peel, coriander seed, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. Aqua Mirabilis shows up in text around the late 17th century and has several claimed origins. Its fame is mostly attributed to either Wilhem Mülhens, who is said to have received it as a wedding gift, or to Paul Feminis a Franciscan monk. It is the basis for Eau de Cologne.


Take a dram each of cloves, galangal, cububs, mace, cardamum, nutmeg, and ginger; half a pint of the juice of sallendine; a pint of the spirit of wine; three pints of white wine. Infuse all these 24 hours, and then distill off two pints by alembic. This water is very good against wind in the stomach and head.

From the Art of Distillation by John French 1651

Before the invention of the condensing coil, which has been credited to an Arab philosopher named Avicenna around 1100AD, aromatic plants were distilled for the floral waters they produced. Until this invention, condensing was rudimentary. Very little essential oil was produced and the miniscule amount of essential oils found floating on the top of these waters were thought to be impurities and thrown out. With this invention and later the water bath, called the Balneum Mariae, invented by Paracelsus in the 1500’s, the essential oil industry was born. Now aromatic plants were distilled for both the floral waters and the “quintessence” or plant essences they produced.

Victorian Era

Stillrooms were a common fixture in large households from the late 1500’s until the 1800’s when “modern medicine” replaced the herbal cabinet. Considered the realm of women, they produced their medicines for both household and farm and to flavor cooking. Recipes were kept in their cookbooks and many can still be found today. Some of these recipes included distillates of up to twenty herbs. Some were used immediately and some stored until the next growing season. Others were distilled with “grape spirits” and made into flavorful, medicinal cordials.