The forgotten essence of nature


“Waiting for that moment when the first drops of hydrosol leave the still, the birth of this other form of the plant. The odor and the resonance are extremely powerful. The plant expresses itself differently; its soul is revealed in a new way”- Cathy Skipper  

What is a hydrosol?

A hydrosol is the very essence of a plant captured in water after distilling the botanical material. It is the most ancient process we have to gather the properties of the plant in a solution that we can then use for healing and beautifying purposes. In contrast to the essential oil that can be derived from a plant through a more dense process, hydrosols are alive and safe to use on the skin without the necessity to be diluted. In the process of distillation some of the hydrophobe components, the oils, are present in the retrieved water together with the hydrophilic components (those that are dissolved in water). Simply speaking this means that hydrosols contain both the properties of the plant itself and those of its essential oil. Due to this combination they can be easily and safely absorbed through the skin and the mucous membranes without causing harm to the user of it. That makes them hundred percent safe to use for children, babies and animals as well.
Depending on which plant is distilled and its specific properties, hydrosols can be used as medicine both on the outside or the inside of the body. Moreover, herbalists and aromatherapists have shown us how the subtil smells and essence of the plant can be used to heal our energetic body as well. Additionally, they are actively used in skincare, fighting various skin problems such as redness and acne while also enhancing tone, texture, shine, etcetera. Their effect has been shown throughout history. 

Hydrosols in history

Hydrosols have been used for centuries, dating from even before writing existed. The first proof we find of its usage was in Egypt, more than 6000 years ago. Alongside the holy river Nile botanical gardens were created specifically for the use of plant-distillation. Plants like myrrh, frankincense, cinnamon, spikenard and labdanum came with the trade between Persia, India and other lands along the route. They used these distilled waters for antiseptic reasons, to perfume the body and in ceremonial use. Old recipes were discovered engraved in the walls of the temples, those same recipes that have been later on adapted by future nations to come. Not only Egyptians used hydrosols. The Assyrians, the Greek, the Babylonians, the Phoenisicans, the Indians, the Jews, the Christians, the Chinese…; all continents and tribes used their own specific recipes and local plants to heal themselves, to parfume their bodies and to honour the divine in ceremonies. The Greek and later on the Romans wrote extensive essays on the healing properties of plants, those writings became the foundation for herbalism today. Although forgotten in the dark ages, plant-distillation made its way to Europe where especially France became specialist in this plant distilled water. Herbalist and aromatherapist worked closely together to create parfums during the renaissance in France, while these same waters were used in hospitals as medicine for the people. Sadly enough two factors existed that slowly banned the hydrosols from everyday use: the popularity of essential oils and modern day science.

The vanishing of the hydrosol

More and more the focus in the distillation process shifted to the essential oils only. Whereas in former times the essential oil floating on the water was seen as a by-product, it was now the other way around. The dense concentration of the essential oil seemed more effective but was way more dangerous in its use (and it lost a lot of the other plants properties). Simultaneously the rise of chemical science banned the hydrosols from the medicine world. It was seen as better to synthesize the elements in laboratories, and moreover it was considered cheaper and faster to produce as well.  Synthetic copies however, tend to be more toxic and are less friendly with human tissue. They are highly addictive and have way more side-effects. Plant medicine, or native medicine, became alter-native medicine and was banned from hospitals completely. Only recently have we observed a renewed interest in plant medicine, herbalism and aromatherapy, mainly because society has started to see the effects of synthetic drugs and products on the long run. 

Hydrosols are back, with more knowledge this time

Hydrosols have moved themselves out of the shady corner of alternative hippies and tribes. More and more scientists are starting to think more holistically realizing that chemical medicine causes lots of unwanted side effects and the internet is full of articles that explain how synthetic skincare causes more harm to your skin than good. It seems humanity is entering in a revaluation of the plant medicine, learning from their ancestors how they made the simplestes yet highly effective hydrosols. The difference is that now, not only the effects are proven by oral stories, but also shown in laboratorical studies. One of the most interesting findings is about the role that water plays in the use of hydrosols. 

The character of water

Hydrosols are all about water. From the process of distillation to the end-result: water is the essential element in a hydrosol. When we distil a hydrosol, only the purest water is used. All the properties of the plant are transposed to the water through the process of heating and then condensing. When distilled in a copper still, small impurities that were in the water or plant stay behind and only the purest condensed form is used. But there seems to be something interesting happening during this process. Even when heavily diluted, the water seems to copy the properties of the plant as if it remembers and transmits this information to the other molecules. French homeopath and researcher Jacques Beneviste was one of the first to dedicate his work to this idea. He described a phenomena that he called ‘the memory of water’, showing that ‘minute quantity of antibodies dissolving in water continued to provoke a biological reaction, even when the solution was so dilute that the probability of a single molecule of antibody remaining in the solution was zero. It was as if the water remembered the information from the antibody and acted as if it was still present’ (J. Beneviste 1988).  Later on Emoto, the famous Japanese researcher, picked up on this idea experimenting with water bodies and how water was influenced by energy. He showed through numerous experiments how water crystals changed as an outcome of music and words spoken to the water. This leads us back to the hydrosols. Since hydrosols are the essence of the plant diluted in water, we now understand better why it is so effective. It seems that the water magnifies the properties of the plant, like water does with the light when it shines through a raindrop. And since our human body exist for more than 70 percent of water, the properties of the plant are easily absorbed by our tissues making it safe and effective to use. 

Summary and the hydrosols use in skincare

In this article I have given a little bit more insight in the world of hydrosols. We have learned that the hydrosol is the very essence of a plant captured in water through a process of steam distillation. I have shown how since early ages hydrosols played a role in medicine, skincare and ceremonies, and that after it almost disappeared, hydrosols have gained renewed interest in modern day culture. At last I explained that scientific research has proved that water carries an imprint of the plant molecules, making the work with distilled plant material even more important. That leads us to the final part of this article, the use of hydrosols in skincare.[/ 

Skincare nowadays is coming from an industrialized, commercialized and chemical background, leading to products that are massively produced. Due to this there is no quality control over the ingredients and moreover they are mixed with synthetic ingredients and preservatives that do more harm than good. Even the skin toners that say contain hydrosols are often essential oils diluted in normal water, in which case -as we have learned in this article-, the water doesn't carry the essence of the plant. For that reason it is very important to understand the background of your product, the ingredients list and the production process. Nature in its purest form, from the bottle to your body. If you are looking for a product like that, Namo is a leading example on the market. All handcrafted, organic and with no preservatives, their skincare line contains only the good: the pure hydrosol.

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