Hydrolats are the gentle version of aromatherapy. Composed mainly of water and water-soluble compounds of the plant, they are perfectly well tolerated by sensitive users such as pregnant women, young children or the elderly. Unlike some essential oils, which have numerous contraindications and risks of use, hydrosols are almost perfectly harmless. However, some aromatic molecules are partly water-soluble and can be found in hydrolats, such as ketones. Some hydrolats are therefore an exception to the rule and present contraindications.
When we talk about aromatherapy, we often limit it to essential oils: concentrates of very active aromatic molecules, but which present numerous contraindications and risks of use. Most essential oils are not recommended for pregnant women, children, and in general for sensitive users. Should these users deprive themselves of the benefits of aromatherapy? Of course not. Hydrolats are a branch of aromatherapy in their own right, in the same way as essential oils. Mostly composed of water, they contain all the active water-soluble molecules of the plant as well as a tiny part of aromatic molecules. They are therefore very gentle, yet active, which is why they are preferred for young children and pregnant women. And for each problem its own hydrolat! Pregnant women, breastfeeding women, children or babies, here are some situations where hydrosols can be of great help. To find out more about the uses of each one, don't hesitate to consult their dedicated page.
Although most hydrolats are almost perfectly harmless, some of them may have some contraindications. This is explained, once again, by their composition. Current analyses and research on hydrolats are still quite rare, and the composition of all hydrolats is not known precisely. Unlike essential oils, where a chromatographic analysis is always performed, the molecular concentration of hydrolats is too low to be systematically analyzed. We rely on the few analyses available here and there, and on a theoretical analysis based on the chemistry of the molecules. Indeed, we know that hydrolats will contain the water-soluble molecules of the plant, but also some aromatic molecules. Although essential oils are insoluble in water, some aromatic molecules have a good solubility in it. It is the case of ketones for example, whose toxicity is to be nuanced but which can present risks, in particular abortive or convulsive. On this theoretical analysis, we know that molecules such as ketones, but also phenols or phyto-hormones are likely to be found in hydrolats.
These warnings are given for information and prevention: there has never been any intoxication with hydrolats, except for a few mild skin reactions.
As a precautionary measure, hydrolats likely to contain ketones or camphor are not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women, nor for children under 3 or 6 years old. Here are some examples:
Among the risks that hydrolats can present, there is also an allergic or irritant risk. An allergy to an essential oil can induce an allergy to the corresponding hydrosol. In this case, a simple allergy test can be performed, the same as for essential oils: place 2 drops of the hydrosol in the hollow of the elbow and observe if a redness appears within 24 hours.
Hydrosols containing phenols such as Cinnamon, Oregano or Savory can cause slight skin irritations on the most sensitive skins. To prevent this, it is possible to carry out an allergy test, then to dilute the hydrosol in water before use.
Hydrolats containing phenols such as Cinnamon, Oregano or Savory can cause slight liver disorders when used over long periods. Although the risk of addiction with hydrolats is less, it is preferable in this case to use them for short periods.
Some hydrolats should not be applied before exposure to the sun. They contain photosensitizing molecules that can cause moderate skin reactions. This is the case of coumarins in citrus fruit hydrolats (Lemon, Grapefruit, etc.) or Carrot and Angelica hydrolats.