Hydrosols all natural?
Hydrosols or hydrolats are the isolated distillation condensate waters,
either intentionally produced or produced as a by-product to essential
oil production, where aromatic materials are steam or hydro-distilled.
Hydrosols are used by aromatherapists, and are used in nebulisers,
cosmetics & shampoos and to a limited extent in foodstuffs. Popular
hydrosols include lavender water, orange flower water, kewda water
etc. In India for example, kewda water (produced from male spadices
of Pandanus odoratissmus flowers) is used for flavouring syrups, soft
drinks & Moghlai cuisine. Little chemical data exists on the chemical
make-up of many hydosols, but an interesting paper by Platto A. &
Roberts D. (2001) "The Aroma Quality of Lavender Water: a Comparative
Study" Perf. & Flav. 26(3), 44-64 compared lavender waters
from several different origins & determined (amongst other things)
that genuine lavender water distillation condensate could be differentiated
from reconstituted water (diluted essential oil in water) by the absence
of acetate esters.
Are Hydrosols all natural?
of hydrosols should always demand a "Certificate of Naturalness"
from the supplier. This will have a section showing the total percentage
of the natural involved, and a listing of the percentages and identification
of each additive, if any. If the product is truly 100% botanically
derived from the named source by a purely physical process (i.e.
steam distillation) then it will indicate this fact - If the supplier
is unable to do this, change to someone more professional [a template
of a typical Naturalness certificate is available from Cropwatch
Some genuine 100% natural hydrosols are storage-stable, and the
natural bacteriostatic/fungicidal properties associated with many
essential oils are enough to maintain product integrity (for a short
shelf-life period at least). However, wherever natural products
with a high water content are produced, opportunistic micro-organisms
may become problematic. Those of you who have experience of brewery,
potable water or dairy work will know that problems can occur which
can be very difficult to eradicate. It is also true that the essential
oil in some hydrosols only show weak anti-microbial properties.
The upshot of this situation is that individual floating colonies
of (often gelatinous) opportunistic fungi are frequently seen in
hydrosols. This situation may require producers to add preservatives,
stabilisers, anti-oxidants etc. to maintain the product in a fit
state for later usage - these should be clearly stated on the label/accompanying
literature or on the producer's website.
Returning to the specific question, the water content "as is"
should be regarded as natural, and part of the product produced
by an allowed physical process. It is true that more unscrupulous
producers may physically add distilled or de-ionised water to adulterate
the product - added water here would not be regarded as part of
a natural physical process.
Be aware also that a carcinogenic group of compounds known as chloropropanols
can be generated by steam distilling proteinaceous material (as
would be found in the aromatic leaves, stems, roots etc. of plants)
with chlorinated mains water. Many specifications now stipulate
a maximum chloropropanol content (especially 3-MCPD) for essential
oils (there is an EU limit for foodstuffs) although the problem
is particularly associated with products like soy & oyster sauces,
or with sterilisation of herbs etc.