Hydrolates are a bit neglected part of aromatherapy, which is actually a shame. While we are all focusing on essential and vegetable oils (mostly as blends), hydrolates often remain forgotten.
For all of you who want to include aromatherapy in their daily life, it is best to use a little bit of everything – meaning not only the aromatherapy paradigm (essential oils/vegetable oils/hydrolates), but also all the other treatments offered by phytotherapy: tinctures, infusions, decoctions, homeopathy…
Hydrolates, at the first glance just a pale copy of essential oils, are all but that. Compared to essential oils, they have certain advantages.
The first advantage is purely practical. While with essential oils it is always questionable which dose to use and which concentration a blend should have for a certain ailment and for a certain person, such problem does not exist with hydrolates. They have already determined concentration of aromatic substance diluted in water, and also they don’t have a lipophilic phase which could cause irritations. So, some special knowledge of toxicity and an advanced skill in blend preparations is not as necessary as with essential oils.
Hydrolates are very mild substances and in most cases can be used without any fear of skin irritation or a similar negative consequence while using them (sometimes they are referred to as “homeopathy of aromatherapy”). Quite the contrary, most hydrolates alleviate irritations, and some of them, like roman and german chamomile, myrtle ct. cineol and cornflower, are even used in a case of eye infection.
Using hydrolates is simplicity itself – even though pure hydrolates are mostly sold as raw material, they are actually finished products, used straight from the bottle.
Before buying and using the hydrolates, it is necessary to be aware of certain facts.
First, if you want to use them for therapeutic purposes (no matter if the issue is skin disorder or simply every day skin care), the hydrolates have to be completely pure, without any additives such as alcohol or preservatives, packed in dark glass or inert plastic bottles.
For a complete therapeutic effect, use only the purest hydrolates.
Then, don’t expect the smell of hydrolates to be the same as the essential oil of the same plant. Sometimes the smell isn’t even similar. Essential oils and hydrolates consist of completely different plant molecules (one are lipophilic and the other hydrophilic), so the final product, although of similar effect, does not have the same physical or chemical characteristics.
Hydrolates can be used in many ways, just to name several of them:
– skin care tonic;
– water phase for manufacturing natural cosmetics (creams, gels, clay masks, shampoos, serums…);
– treatment of irritated skin;
– gargling medium for throat infection;
– sitz bath;
– addition to baby baths;
– nose drops;
– hair regenerator;
– component for perfumes;
– cooking spice.
For a detailed description of all the uses of hydrolates several books should be written.
So, I will describe here several hydrolates that I use the most.
Roman Chamomile hydolate (Chamaemelum nobile)
A wonderful sweet smelling (and tasting) hydrolat has many uses, from irritated skin therapy to calming down during mental exhaustion.
Roman chamomile is one of the hydrolates always used for skin allergies, rashes, rosacea, acne, redness and sensitive skin in general.
No matter what is the cause of skin disorder, you cannot go wrong with roman chamomile.
Usage is, as with all the hydrolates, very simple – with the help of a cotton pad or a spray pump apply it to the skin. Let the hydrolate dry on your skin, or, if you’re using some additional care product in a form of oil blend, gently rub it on a still moist skin.
The oil always mentioned in sensitive skin care is calendula macerate. If you are using the combination hydrolate + calendula macerate, you are already doing a lot for your skin and most likely you will see the first results quite quickly.
Roman chamomile can also be used as makeup remover and a tonic.
While cleaning your skin, spray the hydrolate on your face and wipe it with a cotton pad. Repeat the process until the cotton pad is clean. You can also moist the cotton pad with the hydrolate (instead of spraying it on your face), if that’s easier for you.
As a tonic, just spray the hydrolate on your face and apply the oil blend or a cream on a still moist face.
Some caution is necessary if you have a very dry skin – this hydrolate has a rather low pH, so in regular usage the feeling of tight skin can occur. If the skin is very dry (naturally, or seasonally – due to extreme weather conditions or similar), mix roman chamomile with some other hydrolate, such as lavender, hamamelis (witch-hazel) or rose.
Roman chamomile is one of the hydrolates that can be used for eye irrigation. In a case of eye infection, such as conjunctivitis, cover your eyes with hydrolate compresses, or simply wash out our eyes with the hydrolate.
If you are prone to eye redness, or if you are often working at the computer, daily hydrolate eye irrigation can become a very healthy habit.
Because of its effect on the nervous system, roman chamomile can be an excellent aid during the time of anxiety, depression or insomnia. The simplest way to use it is to spray it on your face, but you can also treat yourself to a bath with a couple of table spoons of hydrolate added.
A tea spoon of hydrolate, taken orally before bedtime in your tea, can ensure a good night’s rest.
For children, lightly spray the hydrolate on the bed linen.
Tea Tree hydrolate (Melaleuca alternifolia)
The tea tree hydrolate has a smell similar to essential oil – medicinal, sharp, reminiscent of a disinfectant. For most people this kind of smell is not very pleasant, but considering the mostly therapeutic usage, the smell is probably not so important.
As well as its lipophilic brother, tea tree hydrolate is a strong antiseptic, and is also active agains fungi, bacteria and viruses.
It can be used for gargling during throat infection, or as a mouthwash for gum disease. Several times a day gargle a small quantity of the hydrolat and then spit. If the taste of tea tree is to intensive, you can mix it with a small portion of fresh water.
For a fresh breath mix tea tree with peppermint hydrolate (ration 1:1), and use it as a mouthwash.
For genitourinary infections, use it as a sitz bath.
Tea tree hydrolate can be used against fungal infections (athlete’s foot or nail fungal infection), but in more severe cases essential oils will be the best choice. If you are prone to fungal infections, an everyday routine of spraying the tea tree hydrolate on the areas concerned will help a lot in preventing the infections to occur.
In cases of problematic skin (acne), and for cleaning cuts, scratches and wounds, tea tree hydrolate can be used dermally.
In case of a wound, carefully spray the hydrolate around it and clean it using a sterile gauze.
This hydrolate is also useful in anti-lice sprays.
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) hydrolate (Hamamelis virginiana)
One of the most powerful antioxidants among hydrolates. Similar like roman chamomile, it soothes the irritations and has an anti-inflammatory effect. It reduces redness, rashes, itching and scaling.
It is an absolute must in atopic dermatitis treatment. Very often the symptoms of AD can be completely diminished by using only witch hazel hydrolate and shea butter.
If you have both of the hydrolates, the combinations of witch hazel and roman chamomile is a perfect synergy for all skin disorders.
Witch hazel also improves microcirculation, so it can be used for haemorrhoids, varicose veins and in general if you have the feeling of heavy legs.
In case of haemorrhoids use a site bath, and for the heavy legs simply spray the hydrolate several times a day.
If you are experienced in making your own home-made cosmetics, in a gel for legs use witch hazel as a water phase.
As a daily skin care, witch hazel is excellent for mixed skin (it is an astringent), as well as for sensitive and mature skin (antioxidants, firming effect for the skin). It is used the same as other hydrolates, by directly spraying it on the skin.
As I said at the beginning, several books could be written about hydrolates. Maybe these few information you read in this text will make you fall in love with hydrolates (if you haven’t already). They are honestly the holy water of aromatherapy!
The best book I ever read about hydrolates is Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy by Suzanne Catty. If you are interested in this topic, don’t hesitate to read it!
If you are interested in online aromatherapy and natural cosmetics consultations, lectures or workshops, or you have a need for texts about aromatherapy, please contact me.
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