Esssential Oils, Absolutes and Hydrosols

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between an essential oil, an absolute and a hydrosol? If you are interested in aromatherapy you have encountered this question.


Aromatherapy, sometimes known as essential oil therapy is the practice of using essential oils to enhance psychological and physical health.  Usually the definition of an essential oil includes all natural, aromatic and volatile plant oils in the different forms that they can come including absolutes, C02s and Hydrosols.


Essential oils is a general name for oils that are referred to as botanical extracts or essences. These are volatile oils that evaporate when exposed to air. They are not like olive oil, which does not evaporate if the stopper is let off the bottle.


Essential oils is liquid that is extracted from all parts of a plant including the stems, bark, roots, leaves and flowers. Although they are very fragrant they are not the same as a fragrance, which is manufactured in a way that dispenses with the healing constituents in an extracted botanical.


Absolute oils are premium oils that are extracted from the plants or solvents. This method is used to get the oil out of very fragile plant matter such as rose petals. The result of extracting oils with solvents is a very powerful fragrance that is more potent than those extracted with steam. Hot steam is used to extract the essential oil from most plant matter.  Some aromatherapists consider absolute oils to be inferior because it can be “polluted” with the solvent.


C02 oils are those that have been extracted using carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide becomes pressurized until it is liquid and then applied to plant matter. The oils in the plants seep into the Co2 liquid. When the solution is depressurized and the carbon dioxide evaporates the liquid that remains is the desired high quality oil.


C02 extracted essential oils are preferable because the oils I purer and thicker and retains more of the healing molecules that are naturally in them.  The smell of these oils also tends to be stronger and more layered so thy also tend to be more expensive.


Hydrosols are gentler versions of the essential oils.  Hydrosols are the pleasantly scented left-over waters that are left behind when essential oil is extracted using a steam process. These are gentler on the skin and have a milder scent. Although the smell of a hydrosol can be quite strong the scent does not linger as long. In stores you will find these labeled as hydrolats, distillate waters and floral waters.