Want to know the latest discovery of Zizira explorers in the area of essential oils? It is a by-product from distilling essential oils of aromatic plants, is valuable and has a market! We are talking about what is called Hydrosol! As its name suggests – it is water based and is collected during the process of steam and hydrodistillation. Zizira explorers have been experimenting with extracting essential oils through a mini hydro distillation unit that Zizira owns. The most recent trials were with pine needles and Bay leaf. During the process we learnt more about Hydrosol, a valuable by-product and even collected some. As we discover and learn we like to share it with you, our readers, so that you enjoy the experience as much as we did.
What are Hydrosols?
Have you used floral water sprays? Rose floral water, lavender or chamomile floral water? If yes, then you will have an idea. But if not, read on to find out more, as we explore the potential of Hydrosols. From our hands-on experiment and talking to experts we found that
Hydrosols are not just a mixture of an essential oil and water, but obtained as a by-product during steam or hydro distillation. Hydrosol is a true distillate.
Hydrosols are obtained as by-product during hydro distillation. It is a true distillate! Get your free copy of the 10 DIY best recipes with Essential Oils for daily use. Hydrosols will have a small amount of essential oil as also other soluble volatile compounds and are widely used in aromatherapy. Let us go through the steps of hydro or steam distillation for extracting essential oils and you will see how hydrosols are produced.
The herbage of an aromatic plant, either fresh or shade dried, is packed in a still (a cylindrical vessel) made of stainless steel or other non-reactive material which can withstand high temperature.
Steam is passed through the produce to break down the volatile compounds which are responsible for the aroma and other chemical properties of the plant. This process may take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours or more, depending on the herb!
Once the volatile compounds reach their boiling point, they turn into vapour and rise up along with the steam.
The rising steam and vapour mixture pass through a condenser where they cool down and condense back into liquid form!
It is almost like the steam goes into the plants and nudges the volatile oils to separate from the plant and carries them out with itself!
The liquid that is collected from the condenser will have both the essential oil and a watery substance. When allowed to settle the oil will float to the top *. The watery part below the oil layer is the Hydrosol.
The two are separately collected.
Hydrosol contains a very fine part of the essential oil and, most importantly, all the water soluble volatile compounds of the aromatic plant. The essential oil will not contain water soluble chemicals as they do not mix with oil. Hence Hydrosols have their own special properties.
Essential oils have a demand in the perfumery, soaps & detergents, pharma and food industries. Many have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and other medicinal properties. See what a research paper says:
Essential oils derived from aromatic medicinal plants have been reported to exhibit exceptionally good antimicrobial effects against bacteria, yeasts, filamentous fungi, and viruses” Source
Hydrosol too display some of these medicinal properties. They are used widely in aromatherapy.
(*Most of the essential oils are lighter than water and rise to the top. But there are a few like Clove oil which are heavier than water and settle to the bottom) Given an increasing demand for Hydrosols many professionals distil aromatic herbs only for their Hydrosol. Note of caution: Not all floral sprays you find on the store shelves are Hydrosols. They may just be a mixture of water and a few drops of essential oil, but they are not the same as Hydrosols, which can be packed with many more therapeutic benefits. Please remember – Hydrosols need to kept refrigerated to retain their chemical properties.
While it is not advisable to use essential oils undiluted, hydrosols can be used directly on the skin, without dilution.
But, always check with your aromatherapist about which ones will suit you! What can Hydrosols be used for? Hydrosols are used as body sprays or for spraying the clothing and linen. Even to ward off bugs! A prettily packed Hydrosol with an atomizer makes a great gift.
Uses of Hydrosol:
We have curated some ideas for you:
As bug repellent
Aftershave Toner or as skin toner**
Refresh the air. Soothing for skin irritations. More
Spray on towels to remove musty smell **
Spray on skin to get relief from sunburn*.
As skin toner and as an antiseptic. It can even be consumed.
**adapted from this blog post. Worth visiting the site to read a piece written with a touch of humour! Please note – essential oils and hydrosols are not recommended for pregnant women. We plan to find out more and learn on the possibilities! Join us on this journey of discovering the potential opportunities for farmers of Northeast India.