What is a hydrosol?
A hydrosol, also known as a floral water, distillate, or hydroflorate, is water that has been imbued with the essence of the plant through a distillation process. They are similar to essential oils (in that they carry the same plant properties), but are far less concentrated, and can be made at home with simple materials. These are wonderful, healing, and uplifting herbal tools that can be used for aromatherapy, uplifting you and bringing you peace. They can also be used to soothe and coat dry tissues.
One of my favorite things about hydrosols is how they have an almost infinite shelf life. I have hydrosols that have lasted 5+ years with no degradation in their scent or healing properties. And with this easy of a process
When you craft these hydrosols, you can also attend to sacred timing (e.g. crafting them on the full moon) and can use any excess plants, flowers, or other plant matter. Hydrosols should be crafted from aromatic plants (plants that have a scent when you rub them between your fingers).
Common Plants for Hydrosols
Common plants that work really well for this are the following:
- Rose petals (make a wonderful rose water this way!)
- Any conifer that is medicinal (Eastern White Hemlock, Blue or Norway Spruce, any Pine species)
- Scented Geraniums
- St. Johns Wort
You get the idea! Any aromatic healing plants are worth a try.
I will note that you generally want to stick with only the aromatic parts of the plant, not the entire plant. Goldenrod is a good example of this: if you use the whole flowering top, Goldenrod gets a very skunky kind of smell due to the pollen. Goldenrod leaves, which are highly aromatic, are wonderful to use alone for your hydrosol.
What you’ll need:
1. You will need fresh plant material (I have not tried it with dried, and I suspect it would turn out differently with dried plants and have different qualities). Even though we’ve had some serious frosts already, my mints and lemon balms are still going strong, so I decided to work with those two plants.
2. You will need a glass, copper, or enamel pot (not any kind of other metal). The pot should have a lid that seals well and that is domed somehow.
3. You will need three small stones.
4. You will need a small glass bowl that fits within the pot.
5. Filtered or distilled water.
6. A small bag of ice, enough to cover most of the lid of your pot.
For my example hydrosol (peppermint), I am using rocks I found in my driveway (and scrubbed well), a bowl I purchased for $1.00 at the thrift store, and an enamel pot I purchased for $2 at the thrift store. Sure beats a $500 alembic (which is a traditional distilling piece of equipment).
The process is so simple, and depending on how much water you want, takes about 1-2 hours.
1. Clean your equipment really well. This is because you want NOTHING in the pot or bowl that isn’t your floral water.
2. Place your bowl inside your pot on the three small stones (this makes a double-boiler).
3. Wash and chop up your herbs.
4. Add the herbs to the pot, and add enough filtered/distilled water to cover the herbs (you don’t want it going up too high on the bowl).
5. Place the lid on your pot upside down and slowly bring your herbs to simmer on the stove–not too rapid of a boil. The lid is placed upside down so that as the water evaporates, it will condense and drip into the smaller bowl.
6. Once it is simmering, place a bag of ice on top of your lid.
7. The domed lid will allow the floral water to drip right into the bowl. The ice will encourage the steam to condense back to water quicker. You may find that you need to add more ice as the process goes on.
8. Check it ever so often and when you have enough water, let it cool then place into a jar. It should stay good for 6-8 months, if its like the commercial hydrosol (I will report back in 6-8 months on this!)
Other ideas and thoughts. I suspect that you can do this with just about anything from which you can derive an oil. I was thinking about trying it with organic berries and fruits from the store to experiment since all of my fresh produce is done for the year (with cabbage, kale, spinach, lettuce, and leeks being exceptions, none of which I really want as floral water). If anyone else tries this or does experiments with other kinds of materials, please let me know how it works!