Wanting to get started on essential oils but you're feeling a little overwhelmed? You have to remember which oils are safe for the kids and the pets. And how about the jargon? Neat; Phototoxic; Therapeutic grade. Is your head spinning yet?
If you think essential oils are too complicated but you want to incorporate them into your wellbeing toolbox, don't fret! You can reap all the benefits with the hydrosol variety!
Oh sorry, did we hit you with more jargon right there? What exactly are hydrosols, you ask? What makes them different from oils? Let us break it down for you.
First, let's understand how oil is extracted through steam distillation. During this process, the plant material is placed over a still and steam is injected through an inlet. This should be hot enough to break the plant cells down to release the essential oil but not too hot that it burns the plant or the oil.
The steam which contains the essential oil is then condensed to water by cooling. This step separates the water from the oil. The water condenses at the bottom and the oil floats on the surface. After the oil has been separated, the remaining water is sold as hydrosols.
But it's just water byproduct, you say! Not necessarily. Hydrosols, which are also called floral water, hydrolats, hydrolates, or plant water actually contain about 0.2% of the essential oil. They have similar properties to essential oils but because they are less concentrated, the aroma is more subtle. They also have a greener note due to the water-soluble therapeutic properties of the plant that are not present in the essential oil. This also makes them safe for kids and pets and gentle enough to apply directly on the skin!
Unlike their essential oil counterpart, you don't have to study about safety precautions when using hydrosols. They're safe to use for just about anyone! Hydrosols can be applied directly and undiluted on the skin of adults, children, the elderly, pregnant and nursing women, and most of your pets. Essential oils aren't recommended for use around cats, but most cats will tolerate hydrosols sprayed on their bedding, their fur or in the air around them. Make sure they are pure, unadulterated and non-synthetic hydrosols however!
You can use hydrosols for your DIY lotions, moisturisers, toners, pillow spray, and more. Rose hydrosol, for example, is a popular face toner. Spritz into your face after a shower or use it to detangle your daughter's hair! Tea Tree hydrosol is great for minor scuffs and scrapes, while Chamomile hydrosol is soothing for the skin. You can even create your own blends! Try mixing Lavender hydrosol and German Chamomile hydrosol for a nappy rash spray. In the summer, a cool hydrosol is perfect for sunburns. Really, when it comes to the many ways that you can use hydrosols, we could go on and on!
By now, it's clear that there's almost no caution or usage restriction when it comes to hydrosols. But you do have to take note of proper storage. Because hydrosols are water-based and contain no preservatives, they are more fragile than essential oils and has a shorter shelf life of between 6 months to 2 years, if stored properly.
Direct light is damaging to hydrosols so you need to store them in a cool and dark location such as your refrigerator. Watch out for moulds or any signs of cloudiness that mean your hydrosol may be contaminated.
You should also look out for headspace, i.e. the empty space between the surface of your hydrosol and the top of the bottle. This space contains oxygen that can deteriorate the hydrosol over time so try to minimise headspace as much as possible to prolong it's shelf life. For example, if you store your hydrosol in the original bottle and it's only half-full now, transfer it to a smaller bottle to reduce the headspace.
Don't be put off by the shorter shelf life of hydrosols though. They're relatively more affordable than essential oils as well as safer, so use them liberally and often and you won't have them 'go off' on you!
Plant Therapy offer a high quality, unadulterated and often Organic range of Hydrosols. They are in a handy two-action bottle - fitted with a rubber stopper they come with a flip top lid, as well as a mist spray attachment. Perfect for immediate use!
If you'd like to dig deeper into the world of hydrosols, we highly recommend these books:
Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy by Suzanne Catty
Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals by Kristen Leigh Bell
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