Flower water and floral water are descriptive, but now outdated terms, used to describe the condensate water that remains after the extraction of an essential oil by water or steam distillation. When essential oils are produced this way, not all of the aromatic and healing principles held within the plant are actually captured in the essential oil.
Certain components are hydrophilic, which means they dissolve into water, and this produces what is variously known as a flower water, hydrosol or hydrolate. What ever you choose to call it, the resulting fragrant water contains the very essence of everything that was contained within the plant when it was still alive and growing.
What's in a name?
The terms flower or floral waters are misleading since these miracle waters can be produced from herbs, needles, leaves, woods, barks and seeds. In aromatherapy, these products are more commonly referred to as hydrosols.
Unfortunately today, many 'flower waters' are made from synthetic compounds which smell quite pretty but posses absolutely no healing properties! In fact, quite the opposite - they can cause skin irritation.
Others are produced by adding essential oils or absolutes to water by using alcohol or some other type of dispersant or solvent. This may appear to be perfectly acceptable, since the finished product contains essential oil and has a pleasant fragrance similar to a natural hydrosol.
However, this type of reconstituted product lacks the wealth of vital healing properties present in a true hydrosol, - remember, many of the plant constituents were dissolved into the water whilst extracting the oil, so they were never present in the essential oil in the first place!
Therefore adding an essential oil to water will never create a product with the same range of healing benefits as a true hydrosol. There is simply no substitute for a true hydrosol, so don't let anybody try and fool you.
Hydrosols are highly versatile and can be used for personal care and around the house. In skincare, Rose, Orange Blossom (Neroli) and Lavender hydrosols are great for hydrating dry skin and cooling hot and sensitised skin. If you have been out in the sun too long and got burned, Lavender hydrosol is soothing and comforting as well as healing. Used in the final rinse after shampooing hydrosols help to condition hair and add a shine.
We know of no better remedy for puffy, dark circles under the eyes than Chamomile hydrosol. Just soak two cotton wool pads with the hydrosol and cover each eye for around 10 minutes for an immediate and dramatic reduction in puffiness. Regular use can help diminish those dreaded dark circles too.
Perfect for summer
During the summer hydrosols are perfect to use as a cooling body mist, and the most cooling of all is Peppermint. Make sure you take some with you to use on holidays, on the beach and even to cool those aching tootsies when you are out shopping! Hydrosols help to revitalise you when your energies are beginning to flag, and a few sprays onto a tissue makes a handy wet-wipe for all sorts of applications including babies and grubby children.
To calm a restless baby try adding a few tablespoons of Lavender or Chamomile hydrosol into their bathwater. This can be especially beneficial if your baby is suffering from nappy rash or eczema, because the soothing properties of these hydrosols help calm the irritation and speed up the healing process.
Hydrosols are quite safe to use on young children, and since they only contain a small amount of essential oil they do not need diluting much further except as above when using with very young babies.
A green alternative
Hydrosols such as Rose can be added to the final rinse water in your washing cycle as well as used as a fragrant linen spray whilst ironing since they smell much nicer than their synthetic counterparts. Around the house, hydrosols are great to freshen the air instead of using aerosols which of course are harmful to the environment.