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Hydrosol Standard
What is a Hydrosol and How to you get a Quality Product

By Jeanne Rose

Hydrosols are that other product of distillation when plants are steam-distilled to release their essential oil. Hydrosol simply means, ‘hydro’ or 'water' and ‘sol’ or 'solution', that is, the water solution that contains some of the water-soluble micro-molecules of essential oil as well as water-soluble plant components. These micro-molecules of essential oil give the hydrosol its scent and the plant components give the hydrosol its herbal or floral therapy.

Remember that hydrosols are not just misters, water to which essential oils have been added. Hydrosols are a unique product, a true part of distillation and cannot be manufactured synthetically.

The micro-drops of essential oil are left intact in the hydrosol. The hydrosol is only the first part of the distilled non-alcoholic waters that will come over - not all of it. They can be bottled 100% pure as they come out of the still or can be manufactured into products.

They have a strong taste, strong scent and a perfect acid balance of 5.5 –to match human skin.

Receiver or Retort • Essential Oil • Distillation • Copper • Essential Oil

Terroir of the Plants

This is a French word originally applied to wine but that can easily be applied to the factors that affect an essential oil and its hydrosol. The essential oil reflects the expression of the earth, or the particular planting site (its ecology), in the resultant essential oil. Terroir is a factor of soil, shade, wind, water, rain and terrain. In the hydrosol, the water used in the distillation can also have an effect.

One of the mystiques of essential oils is the variation available. First, let us consider some of the variables in agriculture.

Earth, Wind, Water, Rain, and Terrain

1.) Clonal selection of the variety: Clones are physically like identical twins, but even closer, yet they show some different chemical characteristics that can have a rather dramatic difference in the end product. As an example, there are over 25 different identified clonal selections of Basil.

2.) Location of the planting: Anyplace, while only a relatively small area in relation to other growing region of the area, may exhibit widely different soil types, depths, textures, drainage, fertility, slopes (from steep hillsides to flat land), sun exposure, etc. Even within a small property, we see differences in a small distance.

3.) Weather variations: Rainfall in the spring, as well as later can directly affect flower and seed size, chemical concentration and health of the plant. We can see a wide variation of rainfall within any area. Regarding local temperature, there are hot spots and cool spots in any area.

4.) Location relative to the water or mountains and the amount of wind present are also factors: Finally, there are the year-to-year weather variations, which can be significant. In recent years, there can be both unusually hot seasons and long cool growing seasons. A significant number of variables have been covered already without even touching on growing or distillation techniques, which are some of the most important variables. —From 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols © Jeanne Rose, 1998

Quality Essential Oil & Hydrosol
How to Get A Quality Essential Oil and Hydrosol

By Jeanne Rose

In order to get a quality essential oil and hydrosol, you must first start with the correct cultivar type of plant and then plant it in the best location in the correct soil type (for Lavender this may be above 2500 feet in chalky soil). Then distil it, analyze the essential oil and if the numbers (GC/MS) are correct for that particular plant, then you can plant out this as a crop and be pretty much assured that the essential oil and hydrosol will be a quality product. Each species of plant will have different needs and requirements.

You will also need a three-year plan before you try to market your product:

1. Know Your Soil.
2. Location, Location, Location.
3. Water source and type.
4. Choose the correct plant that will match the terroir.
5. Harvest at the correct time.
6. Harvest the correct part.
7. Choose a method of distillation and type of equipment that works for your plant.
8. Choose whether you are distilling for essential oil or hydrosol.
9. Distil with the art and craft of careful knowledge and many years’ experience.
10. Hydrosols should be assessed for quality by all these 5 criteria
(known as of 2007)
     a). Scent - Organoleptically, the hydrosol should have Scent
     b). Taste (#2)
     c). pH should be less than 5.5 (#3)
     d). Pounds/Volume: How many pounds of plant material went in for how much volume/pounds of hydrosol? This should be
          about —1 lb in and about 1 qt± out — or another way is 1 lb in/2 lb± out. (#4)
     e). TOC – What is the Total Organic Carbon in the hydrosol?
11. Bottle and label your sterile hydrosol or essential oil.
12. Market the product.

An Essential Oil/Hydrosol for Aromatherapy Should Be:

1. Natural No synthetics or synthetic components.
2. Origin It should come from a known origin.
3. Named It should be derived from a named species.
4. Organoleptic Quality It should exhibit the characteristic odor and color.
5. Batch Code No. It should have a batch number to indicate records have been kept.
6. Date Distilled A distillation date gives you an indication of age.
7. Quality Do not assume that price equals quality

Quality is important and should be evaluated by examining the provence (background/terroir) of the oil/hydrosol and its organoleptic qualities such as color, clarity, viscosity, intensity and taste. Evaluate as much as possible – as soon as you purchase the oil/hydrosol and periodically thereafter. Start with color and odor. Each essential oil Chemotype has a standard color and characteristic odor. Each hydrosol has a characteristic odor, pH, TOC. Always record your impressions and take notes that can be later referred to later.

What are Hydrosols?
From The Aromatic Plant Project

The name Hydrosol was first used for some of the waters resulting from distillation in 1990 by Jeanne Rose. They are the pure natural 100% non-alcoholic distillate that is produced during the distillation process that also extracts the essential oils. They are quite fragrant, strongly flavored and have a pH of 5 or so. If they do not follow at least these 3 criteria then they cannot be considered hydrosol.

Hydrosols are real aromatic therapy. You might consider them the homeopathy of aromatherapy. Just as herbs are to homeopathy so are essential oils to hydrosols. Hydrosols represent the true synergy of herbalism and aromatherapy.

When the plants or flowers are put into the still, they are subjected to either boiling water, steam or both. The steam hits the plant, softens the scent-containing cells; the essential oil that is contained within the cell escapes as a vapor. This vapor mixes with the steam and goes through the gooseneck of the still apparatus and through the condensing coil, which is surrounded, by water. This cools the steam and vapor, which pours into the receiver as water and essential oil. The best scented hydrosols are obtained when copper is used in the distillation.

Due to the difference in specific gravity of essential oil and water, the condensate cools, the essential oil separates, floats to the surface of the water (hydrosol) and is removed leaving the hydrosol behind. However, not all of the water that comes over into the receiver is the hydrosol — only the first 25-50%. For every 1-2 lbs of plant material, only up to 1 quart of hydrosol is produced. The hydrosol is acid in nature, usually about 4.5 to 5 pH.

 Herbs produce herbal hydrosols (Rosemary and Marjoram) and flowers produce floral hydrosols such as (Lavender and
 Rose Geranium).

Hydrosols are good for the skin!

Source: Jeanne Rose books on Aromatherapy and Herbalism and the three courses in home-study are available at, 415-564-6785

Receiver or Retort • Essential Oil • Distillation • Copper • Essential Oil

Author Bio: Since 1969, Jeanne Rose has authored over 22 books including the well-respected 375 Essential Oils & Hydrosols, a complete reference book of plant extracts and hydrosols with clinical and botanical indices. Recently, she has produced a workbook on copper and Distillation How-To, Hydrosols & Aromatic Waters, Blending Essential Oils and another on Natural Perfumery. Jeanne Rose has a unique and mindful approach as she reaches out into the hearts of thousands of readers through her work. In addition to teaching through books and her three home-study courses, Jeanne travels throughout the United States and Canada to teach weekend Seminars on various aspects of aromatherapy and herbalism.

©All Rights Reserved 2002 to Course, Books, Kits and Profile.
No part of this article may be used without prior permission from The Aromatic Plant Project.
©Author's Copyright and Jeanne Rose,

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