Understanding Aromatherapy Terminology: The Difference Between Flower Waters and Flower Essences

Posted on: February 17th, 2012 by
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A flower essence is extracted from impatiens, Cj Samson, wikimedia commons

A flower essence is extracted from impatiens, Cj Samson, wikimedia commons

Aromatherapy is often a complex language of similar words with different meanings!  As a writer, I am perhaps more interested in word definitions than the average aromatherapist, but I still think that it is important to understand the subtle differences between similar and/or common word usage.  Although I have looked at the difference between a flower essence and an essential oil in a previous post, I thought that it was also important to distinguish the difference between flower essences and flower waters.  Here’s a simple definition distinction between the two terms.

What is a Flower Water?

Flower water is a misleading term because it infers that there is the inclusion of some type of “flower.”  In reality, the term hydrolat is the most appropriate term to describe the material in question (source: Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, Shirley Price, Len Price).  A hydrolat is an aromatic water that is “leftover” from the distillation of an essential oil.  In the past, hydrolats were considered the more valuable product, a role which today goes to essential oils.  However, hydrolats are making a comeback and are growing in popularity with aromatherapists.  You might also hear the term hydrosol used interchangeably with hydrolat, particularly in the United States.

Hydrolats are commonly extracted from similar plants as essential oils (which makes sense when you think about how they are formed!) but the aroma might not necessarily be the same as an essential oil.

What is a Flower Essence?

Some aromatherapists describe essential oils as an essence which is not technically correct.  A flower essence is, in fact, the extraction of the vibrational energy from a plant, such as in the Bach Remedies.  Flower essences are diluted in water and alcohol and are not the same as flower waters.  They are also extracted from different types of plants (which include other plants in addition to flowers).  Examples of flower essences include impatiens, clematis and chicory.

Flower Essences and Flower Waters

If you are an aromatherapist, you might not necessarily be trained in flower essences (which is a different therapy) but many aromatherapists become interested in flower essences because of the similarity between the two therapies.  However, the two therapies are used in different ways, so it is important to understand whether you are dealing with a flower water or a flower essence.

References:

  • Price, Shirley, Price, Len, 2002, Aromatherapy for Health Professionals UK: Churchill Livingstone
  • Scheffer, Mechthild, 2001, The Encyclopedia of Bach Flower Therapy, US: Healing Arts Press
  • Author has taken the level 1 certificate in Bach Flower Therapy

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