Distillation is an act of magic. While we can explain the process – heat, evaporation, transpiration and condensation – in doing so we bring forth the essence of a plant. Molecules, previously held in and between the cells of its parts, reveal themselves to us in an alchemical conglomerate we know today as hydrosols.
The aqueous product of distillation, hydrosols carry within them the plant’s volatile components. The term hydrosol, brought not so very long ago to aromatherapy by Jeanne Rose, can be simply broken down into its two parts. Hydro, meaning water and sol coming from the word solution.
A sol is defined in chemistry is an aggregate of fine particles that are disseminated into a medium. When we speak of a hydrosol, the solid particulates of microscopic size such as volatile oils are dispersed throughout the liquid medium of water. Alongside the aroma, wonder and enchantment, the spirit of the plant offers to the world.
While the term hydrosol is one coming from the 20th century, the creation of them has a much longer history. We can find evidence of distillation dating back thousands of years. And the products of this process coined various names some such as aromatic waters, herbal waters, floral waters.
Distillation is a ritual undertaking. From start to finish what we put into the process will come out in the final product. When selecting our plant material, one should choose to harvest healthy plants in a gratuitous manner. Water from a wild and clean source will bring much to the end result. Slowing down during the process of distillation will produce a much more nuanced experience of the hydrosol production.
When you distill for hydrosol, you can witness the revelation of different notes of aroma over time. The head waters, or first distillate will often be more pungent and stronger in scent, containing greater amounts of essential oils. While the middle, heart waters are often more mature and complex. And the final distillate, tail waters, are more subtle and ethereal.
These various waters can be blended to the distiller’s desire, creating a hydrosol that speaks to the plant spirit and their individual distillation.
Taking the time to experience the distillation as an act of ritual brings a deeper connection and a greater joy to the distillation process and its final products.
Hydrosols as aromatic medicine can be applied in many ways depending on the plant partner with which the hydrosol was created. The most common applications are spritzed for the nervous system actions aromas offer to our over stressed minds and bodies. And topically, for the skin, hydrosols are applied in the beauty products industry.
Hydrosols speak for the plants and their medicinal natures. Experiencing hydrosols allows the plants to come to you and impart some of their cellular soul to yours. Next time you spray a hydrosol take the time to sit with the distillate and breath in the beauty brought forth from plant to you.