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Herbal distillate

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Hydro-distillation process of agarwood essential oil

Herbal distillates, also known as floral waters, hydrosols, hydrolates, herbal waters, and essential waters, are aqueous products of hydrodistillation. They are colloidal suspensions of essential oils as well as water-soluble components obtained by steam distillation or hydrodistillation (a variant of steam distillation) from plants and herbs. These herbal distillates have uses as flavorings and cosmetics. Common herbal distillates for skincare include rose water,[1] orange flower water,[2] and witch hazel.[3] Rosemary,[4] oregano,[citation needed] and thyme[5] are hydrosols that may be used in food manufacturing.


Herbal distillates are produced in the same or similar manner as essential oils. However, essential oils will float to the top of the distillate where it can be removed, leaving behind the watery distillate. For this reason, the term essential water is an apt description. In the past, these essential waters were often considered a byproduct of distillation, but are now considered an important co-product.[6] The produced herbal waters are essentially diluted essential oils at less than 1% concentration (typically 0.02% to 0.05%).[7] Several factors, such as temperature and a herb's growth cycle, impact the characteristics of a distillate, and therefore influence the timing of the distillation. Rosemary, for example, should be distilled in the peak of summer before it flowers.[8]


Distillates are used as flavorings, cosmetics and as herbal treatments. Herbal distillates are less concentrated than essential oils, possibly making them more suitable for some topical uses.[8]


The science of distillation is based on the fact that different substances vaporise at different temperatures. Unlike other extraction techniques based on solubility of a compound in either water or oil, distillation will separate components regardless of their solubility. The distillate will contain compounds that vaporize at or below the temperature of distillation. The actual chemical components of these orange herbal distillates have not yet been fully identified, but plant distillates will usually contain essential oil compounds as well as organic acids and other water-soluble plant components. Compounds with a higher vaporization point will remain behind and will include many of the water-soluble plant pigments and flavonoids.[9]

Because hydrosols are produced at high temperatures and are somewhat acidic, they tend to inhibit bacterial growth but not fungal growth. They are not sterile, and should be kept refrigerated to preserve freshness.[10] Herbal distillates degrade over time and will degrade faster than essential oils, which are more stable.[11] Small-scale producers of hydrosols must be particularly aware of the risk of bacterial contamination and take steps to prevent it. Despite concerns that there may be significant amounts of heavy metals in popular herbal distillates, this has not shown to be the case.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "This Natural Skin Care Ingredient Might Be More Effective Than You Thought". HuffPost. 2023-06-13. Retrieved 2024-04-12.
  2. ^ "Pretty, Please: Mindful Skin Care, an Artist Reconsidered, and Bright Eyes for Spring". Vanity Fair. 2023-05-01. Retrieved 2024-04-12.
  3. ^ López, Quispe. "A dermatologist told me everything I'm doing wrong in my skincare routine and how to know if a product is worth it". Business Insider. Retrieved 2024-04-12.
  4. ^ Christopoulou, Spyridoula D.; Androutsopoulou, Chrysa; Hahalis, Panagiotis; Kotsalou, Chrysoula; Vantarakis, Apostolos; Lamari, Fotini N. (2021-12-18). "Rosemary Extract and Essential Oil as Drink Ingredients: An Evaluation of Their Chemical Composition, Genotoxicity, Antimicrobial, Antiviral, and Antioxidant Properties". Foods. 10 (12): 3143. doi:10.3390/foods10123143. ISSN 2304-8158. PMC 8700793. PMID 34945695.
  5. ^ Nieto, Gema (2020-07-30). "A Review on Applications and Uses of Thymus in the Food Industry". Plants. 9 (8): 961. doi:10.3390/plants9080961. ISSN 2223-7747. PMC 7464319. PMID 32751488.
  6. ^ Risner, Derrick; Shayevitz, Avi; Haapala, Karl; Meunier-Goddik, Lisbeth; Hughes, Paul (2018-04-01). "Fermentation and distillation of cheese whey: Carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions and water use in the production of whey spirits and white whiskey". Journal of Dairy Science. 101 (4): 2963–2973. doi:10.3168/jds.2017-13774. ISSN 0022-0302. PMID 29398017.
  7. ^ National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. What are Hydrosols. Accessed 12-5-13
  8. ^ a b Mulvaney, Jill (September 2012). "Traditional hydrosols and hydro-distillation". Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine. 24: 101–103.
  9. ^ Tanaka, Yoshikazu; Sasaki, Nobuhiro; Ohmiya, Akemi (2008-05-04). "Biosynthesis of plant pigments: anthocyanins, betalains and carotenoids". The Plant Journal: For Cell and Molecular Biology. 54 (4): 733–749. doi:10.1111/j.1365-313X.2008.03447.x. ISSN 1365-313X. PMID 18476875.
  10. ^ Cindy Jones. "Herbal Waters or Distillates (Hydrosols)". Sagescript Institute. Archived from the original on 2006-10-28. Retrieved 2006-10-23.
  11. ^ Garneau, François-Xavier; Collin, Guy; Gagnon, Hélène (June 2014). "Chemical composition and stability of hydrosols obtained during essential oil production. II. The case of Picea glauca (Moench) Voss., Solidago puberula Nutt., and Mentha piperita" (PDF). American Journal of Essential Oils and Natural Products. 1: 29–35.
  12. ^ Keshtkar, Mozhgan; Dobaradaran, Sina; Soleimani, Farshid; Karbasdehi, Vahid Noroozi; Mohammadi, Mohammad Javad; Mirahmadi, Roghayeh; Ghasemi, Fatemeh Faraji (2016-09-01). "Data on heavy metals and selected anions in the Persian popular herbal distillates". Data in Brief. 8: 21–25. Bibcode:2016DIB.....8...21K. doi:10.1016/j.dib.2016.05.005. ISSN 2352-3409. PMC 4885015. PMID 27274526.


  • Firth, Grace. Secrets of the Still. Epm Pubns Inc; First edition (June 1983)
  • Price, Len and Price, Shirley. Understanding Hydrolats: The Specific Hydrosols for Aromatherapy: A Guide for Health Professional. Churchill Livingstone 2004
  • Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils & Hydrosols. Frog, Ltd, Berkeley, CA, 1999. ISBN 1-883319-89-7
  • Rose, Jeanne. Hydrosols & Aromatic Waters. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Study, 2007.