Making Hydrosols (floral waters) Without an Alembic

Fresh mint

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!)
  • Rosemary
  • Mint
  • Chamomile
  • Monarda
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • 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.

Fresh mint
Fresh mint

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

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).

Double boiler
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).

Ready to simmer!
Ready to simmer!

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.

Ice on the lid
Ice on the 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.

Process in action!
Process in action!

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!)

Final hydrosols
Final hydrosols

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!

Dana O'Driscoll

Dana O’Driscoll has been an animist druid for almost 20 years, and currently serves as Grand Archdruid in the Ancient Order of Druids in America. She is a druid-grade member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids and is the OBOD’s 2018 Mount Haemus Scholar. She is the author of Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centered Spiritual Practice (REDFeather, 2021), the Sacred Actions Journal (REDFeather, 2022), and Land Healing: Physical, Metaphysical, and Ritual Approaches for Healing the Earth (REDFeather, 2024). She is also the author/illustrator of the Tarot of Trees, Plant Spirit Oracle, and Treelore Oracle. Dana is an herbalist, certified permaculture designer, and permaculture teacher who teaches about reconnection, regeneration, and land healing through herbalism, wild food foraging, and sustainable living. Dana lives at a 5-acre homestead in rural western Pennsylvania with her partner and a host of feathered and furred friends. She writes at the Druids Garden blog and is on Instagram as @druidsgardenart. She also regularly writes for Plant Healer Quarterly and Spirituality and Health magazine.

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  1. This is a great idea. What is the consistency of the final product? Assume you use what is left in the smaller bowl? Thanks!

    1. Its just water with a strong flavor/smell of the plant you used. So my peppermint hydrosol smells and tastes like mint, but looks like water and has water’s purity. Make sense?

  2. This is just…uh! Do you have any idea how fantastically happy I am right now?

    1. YES!! I was so happy to do this as well :). Enjoy! 🙂

  3. Thanks for the instructions! I so want to try this in the spring when my plants come back to life! I’m thinking plants like lemon balm, bee balm, mint, and violet flowers. I loved your idea of doing it with lemon balm, as the essential oil is quite expensive. Any ideas for things to do with the hydrosols?

    1. Bethany,
      You can use them as a uplifting spray–lemon balm and peppermint and lavender work well for this. You can add a few droppers full to a drink. I use it to create sacred waters for rituals and special occasions :). I’ve also read that people can use them for cooking, but I haven’t tried that yet.

      1. I have seen a recipe for lemonade that had rosewater in it – I bet lemon balm or lavender hydrosol would make a tasty lemonade!

        1. I bet you are totally right! Rosemary lemonade? Nums. Although it might be easier to make a tea than a hydrosol for the purposes of beverages 🙂

  4. Hm.
    What would happen if you made numerous batches, then re-hydrosol’d your hydrosol?
    Super hydrosol?
    I could think of a number of things for that…
    Insect repellent
    Body spray
    Infused smoking blends/incense
    Off the top of my head

    1. I haven’t tried that, but it’s an interesting idea! The floral water that you get is pretty delicate–I don’t know how it would work through repeated steam distillation. It is certainly worth a try, however! 🙂

      1. My first thought was with mugwort flower. I use it for so much along my path. I hear what you are saying about the delicacy of what you do, I’d say it might work well with something more robust.
        Wintergreen would be fun too.

        1. Mugwort isn’t very aromatic, but you could certainly try. Right now, our wormwood (artemesia vulgaris) is in bloom…now that is a robust smell and might be interesting to try in that way! Hmmm…..

          1. Yes Artemisia vulgaris, That’s what I know as mugwort.
            Its not blooming here yet. Soon though!

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