Do you know the difference between an essential oil and floral water? I had no idea either; I did not know that there is a huge difference in the two. It is true that both start life in the same fashion, being steamed in huge containers (commonly known as a steam distillation plant), but I had no idea that the process actually separates the plants oils into condenser thus leaving the steam which is the floral water. This perhaps is a rather simplistic overview and obviously the process is far more in depth.
Floral Waters otherwise known as Hydrosols, Hydrolats, Hydroflorates or distillates contain essential oils. This occurs when the distillation process takes place. The specific plant matter is placed into the Distiller which also contains a measured quantity of water. Once the plant (distillery) starts to heat, steam is produced which warms the plants encouraging them to release oils and aromas. These oils are collected in a condenser but during this process, tiny particles of the oils are trapped in the steam and this essentially is your Floral Water or Hydrosol.
Hydrosols are far less concentrated than essential oils only containing 0.2 percent essential oil they are of a lighter fragrance, having been diluted in the steaming process. Floral waters therefore are far less harsh and irritant than essential oils and make perfect astringents for skin; you will find there are many products which are used for this purpose such as skin cleansers and toners or refreshing facial mists. Floral waters can be applied direct to the skin whereas many essential oils are too concentrated for this purpose and have to be mixed a vegetable carrier oil such as sweet almond oil, sunflower or olive oil before applying. These are sometimes referred to as base massage oils.
Producing Hydrosols and plant oils is now becoming a sideline for many farmers within the UK, setting aside land to produce aromatic herbs such as Lavender, Sage, Chamomile or Rosemary for example. The farmer grows these crops and when ready, harvests them, shipping them to the appropriate distillery, once the process of steam distillation has taken place samples are then tested in an independent laboratory, these tests include aroma evaluation and gas chromatography. This in turns ensures the highest quality essential oils.
From this point the uses are endless, especially in the health and beauty industry. You can find essential oils in aromatherapy products, hair care products, skin creams and lotions, bath and shower products, soaps and of course massage oils as mentioned before. Other products include oils for oil burners or vapourisers, Inhalators which can be sprinkled on handkerchiefs, fragranced room and linen sprays, candles with essence of oils, as well as gums and resins for air fresheners, they are so versatile they can even be taken as a tonic or used as a douche!
So with all these healing and skin nourishing qualities are they safe to use? It has been noted that essential oils should not be used during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Contraindications observe that essential oils may be harmful to the foetus or even contribute to miscarriage. Essential oils should also not be used on infants under 8 weeks as the liver is not mature enough in those first few weeks of life to filter the oil. Essential Oil should never be applied directly to the skin as it can be an irritant and cause an allergic reaction. But it is safe to say that consultation with a trained aromatherapist or strict compliance with the manufacturers guidelines will make the use of essential oils and flower waters an extremely pleasant and in many cases relaxing experience.
So with all this knowledge from seed to bottle it is possible to track the process of the initial aromatic herb through to the final form whatever that maybe, with such a wide range of essential oils and floral waters to choose from such as Rosemary, Geranium, Chamomile, Hyssop, Frankincense, Hemp, Lavender, Dill even Lemon we haven’t even scratched the surface.
Shaun Parker investigates the difference in floral water floral water and essential oil, is one better than the other, how are they made, do they possess the same qualities? Facts about the distillation process, and how it produces different products.