Fire & Water
The days are getting warmer. Soon, instead of reaching for long sleeves, we’ll be looking for ways to cool down. I love the summer so I can’t wait to feel hot sunshine on my skin, but even I can get too warm at times. This year I’m prepared with some watery aromatic remedies.
Over the last few years I’ve become increasingly interested in aromatic waters. Often over-looked by aromatherapists, these plant-powered waters are great healing tools. ‘Hydrolat’, ‘hydrosol’, ‘aromatic’ or ‘floral’ water are all commonly used to describe these waters, though beware: not all aromatic waters are created equal! The process of extracting essential oils by steam distillation produces a hydrosol; many on the market are simply that, by-products of the essential oil extraction process. To properly harness their power we need to use waters which are produced for the quality of the water itself, not as a by-product. High quality aromatic waters are typically a result of slow distillation at low temperatures, which draws out the plant’s heavier aromatic molecules. Be aware that some aromatic waters (or similarly named products) on the market may have had essential oils or synthetic perfumes added. The latter might still smell nice, but clearly aren’t destined to be part of an aromatherapist’s kit.
One of the most wonderful things about high quality aromatic waters is their exceptionally gentle character. This makes them very safe to use, including with children. Aromatic plants are a huge concoction of aromatic chemicals. Water-loving compounds are amongst the wide-range which may be present in any one plant; these compounds are typically gentle in nature and are the ones which make their way into our aromatic waters. For example, many ester compounds bond with hydrogen molecules in water, i.e. they are water soluble. Therefore ester-rich plants such as True Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) produce ester-rich aromatic waters. Any aromatherapists will tell you that if esters could speak they’d say ‘Relax!’.
There are many ways we can put aromatic waters to good therapeutic use, including as cooling sprays, to clean cuts and grazes, to help calm fractious children and as digestive aids. Some of my favourite ways of using these waters include…
True Lavender & Rose
Combine for an excellent cooling skin spray. This is one of my morning favourites; I give my face a squirt before applying a pure vegetable oil moisturiser; my skin loves the gently astringent action of rose and the all-round uplifting aroma. Both these waters are excellent at calming hot and sensitised skin, so this combo is lovely on sunburn, itchy skin and for cooling menopausal hot flushes. Rose is indicated for mucus membrane inflammations, so can be used as a mouthwash for sore gums. This combination would also make a nice duvet spray for restless nights.
True Lavender & Roman Chamomile
An aromatic nappy rash recommendation! Like its essential oil, Roman Chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties. I used this combination in a spray on a young friend’s shingles – the chill of the spray made her jump but it did calm her itching! You could also try rubbing this on baby’s gums when teething is making you all unhappy, or add it to children’s baths for some bedtime calming. Suffer with headaches? Try a cold flannel soaked in these waters on your forehead.
Aromatic waters are safe to drink (though make sure you only drink pure, high quality ones). Rose in all its forms has been used to calm anxiety, lift the spirits and heal broken hearts since ancient times. It’s thought that rose was the first aromatic water ever produced, by Avicenna in the 10th century. Add approx. 10mls of rose water to a tumbler of water for an emotionally soothing beverage.
• Bowles EJ (2003) The Chemistry of Aromatherapeutic Oils (3rd edition), Crows Nest Australia: Allen & Unwin
• Clark J (2004, modified 2016), Introducing Esters, accessed 24/04/17, available from
• Price L & Price S (2007) Aromatherapy for Health Professionals (3rd Edition), Churchill Livingstone Elsevier
• Z. E. (2016) Which Aldehydes and Ketones are Water Soluble?, accessed 24/04/17, available from
• Seminar notes from talks by Nasr J & Harris R, 2013