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Aromatherapy, Essential Oils & Hydrosols
Products of Distillation
by Jeanne Rose for The Aromatic News, 2003

What is Aromatherapy?

            Aromatherapy is an art and science that uses the scent of plants in liquid or vapor form as an inhalant or an application to treat a variety of physical and mental conditions. By inhaling some odors, the psyche is calmed or the person is enabled to sleep; by applying some odors externally, sores, burns, irritations are soothed and healed.

            Aromatherapy can be therapy or it can be simply used for making things —rooms, products, skin care, etc. — smell good.  It has value in natural perfumery.  Aromatherapy should be called Essential Oil Therapy because this would help to separate it from synthetic or fragrance therapy.

            Aromatherapy uses only true essential oils extracted by cold-pressing or steam-distilling from a named botanical species.  Aromatherapy or Essential Oil therapy does not use any synthetic or partially synthetic fragrant product that may or may not be sold as ‘aromatherapy’.

            Aromatherapy is a therapy that uses pure essential oils and their hydrosols [that are extracted from named botanical species] and used in many forms to influence, to change and to modify the mind, body and spirit; to alter physiology or mood.

            “Aromatherapy is a gift to those who know and study it, a science to study and explore, an art to explore and practice, a practice to know and use.”      ——Jeanne rose©2003

Aromatherapy smells good!

What Are Essential Oils?

Are they Essential?

            It is very difficult to describe an essential oil because they are not visible when in the plant. Essential oils are only visible as a liquid when they are released by some means such as distillation, CO2 extraction, or mechanical or a physical process. They are located in the plant, in glandular hairs or cells or scales; oil cells and resin cells; oil or resin canals; and oil reservoirs.

            “They can be defined as the scent of the plant in its liquid or vapor form.”— Jeanne Rose, 1995

            Essential oils are the volatile material in a plant that gives it the specific scent that we associate with the plant. It is the liquid that smells and is released by distillation or expression. Essential oils are not water-soluble and so and are not released into herbal teas or infusions.

            “Aromatic plants are those that contain essential oils which are complex mixtures of individual chemical constituents, the precise nature and proportions of which determine its therapeutic and fragrant properties.”—Battaglia.

                The International Standard ISO Draft 9235.2, entitled  'Aromatic Natural Raw Materials', clearly defines essential oils as:  'A product obtained from natural raw material, either by distillation with water or steam, or from the epicarp of citrus fruits by mechanical processing, or by dry distillation. The essential oil is subsequently separated from the aqueous phase by natural separation or by physical means.'


Essential Oils are difficult to define and once defined, difficult to ignore —Jeanne Rose©

What are Hydrosols?

        The name Hydrosol invented 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 these 3 criteria then they cannot be considered hydrosol.

            Hydrosols are real aroma-therapy. You might consider them the homeopathy of aromatic therapy. 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.

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

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

Hydrosols are good for the skin!



“The act of Distillation is the process or art whereby the invisible is made visible
Jeanne Rose, IHS Conference, June 2002.

            Distillation of plants to produce essential oils and hydrosols is the process of boiling a substance in a closed system and collecting the steam, which condenses, to a liquid. The essential oils because of their specific gravity are lighter than water and therefore float upon the non-alcoholic watery distillate – the hydrosol.  In Plant Distillation a plant material is heated over or in water or via steam being introduced until the liquid volatile portion (scent) of the plant bursts from their cells and is vaporized as a gas, and then condensed again into fluid by submerging the condensing pipe, which is full of the vapors, into a tank of cool or cold water.  This is condensation. Plants are distilled for their essential oil and hydrosol.


HOW DO The essential Oils & Hydrosols Work?

San Francisco, CA —

Essential Oils

            • The aromas are perceived by the nerve endings at the back of the nose, and signals are passed to the limbic system in the brain.  An important part of the limbic system, the hypothalamus, governs the pituitary gland, which controls hormone release throughout the body.  Additionally, production of different neuro-chemicals can be triggered by smells.  These neuro-chemicals can change your moods - like serotonin, which is calming, or endorphins, which gives a natural 'high'.

            • During a massage, the very small particles of essential oil are absorbed through the skin.  They then dissolve in the natural body fats and fluids.  This allows them to circulate through the body in the lymphatic and bloodstream, to relax, stimulate, detoxify and regenerate.

            • The phytochemical components of essential oils have been analyzed and tested and many therapeutic effects have been shown to occur.

            • Smells and fragrances can affect mood and emotions, and trigger the production of hormones in the body.  They can uplift the spirit, clear the mind and totally relax the body.



            Hydrosols contain all the therapeutic qualities of both the plant itself through its water-soluble properties (herbal therapy) as well as the therapeutic properties of the essential oils, which are present in the hydrosol in tiny micro-drops (essential oil therapy). They can be absorbed by the skin or through the gut or any mucus membrane.


   Hydrosols are used

1) Internally in your teas, waters, drinks

2) Externally as eardrops, nose drops, eyewash, douche or suppository

3) Diluted or undiluted for adults and diluted for babies, children, the elderly or the sensitive

4) Externally in all your skin care applications

5) Added directly to the bath for health

6) Topically for direct application to affected or infected skin or cuts, scratches, any injury


• Hydrosols are used for all parts of the home and body

1)      Eyes, ears, nose, throat:

2)      Respiratory conditions by drinking or application taken internally for the digestive system for gas, bloating, bad breath, gums that are unhealthy, vomiting, diarrhea, colitis, constipation, painful liver, anorexia, bulimia, excess appetite, indigestion:

3)      Circulatory conditions and problems of the blood and heart by internal or external use. As a compress for varicose veins, for cellulite, for hemorrhoids, to stimulate the circulation or as a hypo- or hyper- tensive:

4)      Reproductive problems:

5)      Problems of the skin — bruises, cuts, scratches, children's playtime wounds, acne, eczema, psoriasis:

6)      Urinary problems including the kidney:

7)       For the nervous system:

8)      In the kitchen as a beverage or cooking ingredient:

9)      Environmentally in the home as a cleaner, or bug repellent.

See past issues of The Aromatic News for more detailed information on uses.


©All Rights Reserved 2003, 2004. 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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