I’ve been playing around with hydrosols lately. The main reason is because I want to offer healing aromatic blends to my cat Sophie and to all of my clients that have cats. Essential oils are highly concentrated and way too potent for your furry friend. The liver of a cat is simply not the same as ours and they lack the ability to properly metabolize the various compounds in essential oils…especially those containing phenol. The end result can be gradual toxicity. I advise cat owners to stay far away from any holistic products such as shampoos or medications that contain essential oils yet claim to be safe to use with cats. I’ve seen many products out there that have this claim, with the most alarming being a catnip spray containing catnip essential oil. Just because it’s catnip essential oil does not make it any less harmful. If anything it may be more harmful since your cat probably won’t be able to get enough of it. I experimented with catnip hydrosol and Sophie went crazy! I especially love it because it is all of the fun of catnip without the mess.
So what is a hydrosol? Simply put it is the aromatic water left over from the essential oil distillation process. While essential oils are the fat soluble components of a plant, the hydrosol (or hydrolat) contains the water soluble parts thereby having many of the plants therapeutic benefits. Below is a picture of the essential oil distillation process. The container labeled “fragrant water” is the hydrosol:
Hydrosols are not the same thing as flower essences. Flower essences are produced by immersing a flower in water and then exposing the water to heat or sunlight. A hydrosol can come from any number of plants and plant part that an essential oil comes from i.e. the bark, seed, leaf, etc. They are also much more aromatic then a flower essence and obviously obtained differently.
One of the things I am loving most about hydrosols is how gentle yet effective they are. They can be used safely undiluted on the skin, with children and as mentioned, cats. They can be added to a bath, room diffuser or nebulizer and many can even be taken internally or used as an oral wash. One of my favorite uses is rose hydrosol in a spray bottle for a facial toner. Another favorite is the calming blend of lavender, rose & melissa I blended for Sophie. I find myself using it for myself as a nightly comforting pillow spray. Hydrosols can also be used to enhance the effectiveness of an essential oil blend. For instance instead of spring water as a carrier I’ve used frankincense hydrosol for an insect repellent essential oil blend.
Hydrosols are even more fragile than essential oils and should always be stored in the refrigerator to extend shelf life. Like essential oils, each shelf life varies but most hydrosols are fine up to a year when properly stored. I have found Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy by Suzanne Catty to be an invaluable addition to my aromatherapy library. It is chock full of info on individual hydrosols and recipes from burn treatment to edible creations like soup, tomato sauce & cheesecake that are made better with the addition of hydrosols! So cool.