You may have read about hydrosols and wondered what they were and if you could make them yourself.

You’re in the right place! I’m a hydrosol geek, aromatherapist and natural formulator.

And I make my own hydrosol. I’ll show you how.

What are hydrosols?

These are the clear liquid component produced in steam distllation of plants that are beneawth the layer of esential oils.

Often though you wont see a layer of essential oils if the still is really small..

 

Hydrolat

Another name for hydrosols. Some even call them hydrosouls.

Where do  hydrosols come from

They come from distillation. They used to be discarded after the essential oils were removed, because of the high cost of transport.  Essential oils weigh very little vs the heavy watery component from distillation.

How to make a hydrosol

Obviously there’s an art to this. And lots of reading and practice to produce a quality hydrolat/hydrosol.

You will need:

  • the still and all it’s components including tubing, water pump
  • room to store all the equipment
  • clean glass bottles and lids, waterproof pen and labels
  • safety gear- gloves, heat proof tiles, fire extinguisher, first aid
  • flowers, herbs leaves of known provenance
  • clock, paper, pen, thermometer
  • a space free from pets and children
  • patience and sense of humour

 

Setting it up

Before any distilling, you need to clear your diary. No texting, casual telephne conversations… no pets and no kids. Stills can explode if you muck up the seals.

 

First you need to connect all the parts of your still – the base unit, hood  and condenser.  Mine is made of traditional beaten copper, a small hobby-size ideal for making 500ml or less hydrosol.

Large scale production stills are stainless steel while modern alchemists use glassware in their labs.

small copper still for extracting rosewater

unpacking my new copper still

Then you need organically grown flowers or herbs. Weigh them and keep a note. Usually for 1 kilo of fresh flowers you can extract a maximum of 1 litre hydrosol. Don’t expect essential oils.

The flowers are popped into the still. Add the appropriate amount of still water.

fresh calendula flowers going into the still

Connect everything together.

Seal it up with traditional rye or plumbling tape. In the early days I used the traditional copper seal with rye flour and water. It worked really well although took more cleaning.

sea joints with tape or rye flour

seal the joins

Switch on the heat – fire or electrcity.

 

The boiling water  releases steam that ruptures oil glands within the plants, relasing the plant esences intot he steam.  The steam passes through the neck of the still into cool water, so that it condenses into droplets.

copper still

when distilling indoors use heat proof surfaces

These droplets are collected and termed hydrosol or hydrolat. If it was roses inside the still this would be your rosewater. And yes, this clear liquid is highly fragrant.

comfrey hydrosol droplets

first droplets of comfrey hydrosol

Depending on what plant you distilled, you may find an oily slick or shimmer on the sides of your collecting flask. This is a fine layer of essential oil.

If you have enough oil-rich plant material you may find droplets of essential oil floating on the collected liquid.  This is the essential oil that is removed and sold in those tiny glass bottles 2ml, 5ml or 12ml in size.

The liquid underneath the essential oils is the hydrosol.

What happens in typical Bulgaria rose harvests –  the hydrosol is put back inside the still to remove any essential oil remaining in the water.  With every return to the still, the hydrolat looses components.. the smell isn’t as rounded and complete either.

This is why artisanal distilled rosewater can smell so much more complete and complex -m because it hasnt been put back inside the still – you are getting minute droplets of essential oil naturally dispersed inside your hydrolat. Incredible and once you have distilled your own you will spot the fakes and inferior versions

 

 

Why are hydrosols used?

They are the perfect pH for your skin.

They are packed with water-soluble components that your skin loves

They can replace tap water in luxury cosmetics like facial products, shampoos etc

They often small amazing

Hydrosols are safe to use undiluted

 

Hydrosols and face care

I love hydrosols. The ones I use on my own face and for clients are either distilled by me here in Devon, or bought from small organic farms. I’ve been distilling for just over ten years. It’s a hobby and the very small amount of rose hydrosol from my Kazanliks is a treat to use.

 

face cream with hydrosol

moisturiser with flower hydrosol

Best hydrosols for oily or combination skin

Lavender, rosemary, lavender and frankincense hydrolats are easy to find.

Useful are clary sage, cypress, rooibos, green tea, bamboo and tea tree.

Best hydrols for dry or sensitive skin

Rose, rose geranium , chamomile, frankincese, cistus, ylang, palo santo, wild carrot, white rose, sandalwood, helichrysum.

The best hydrosols for hair

Rosemary, chamomile, lavender. sage, ylang ylang, palo santo, sandalwood, rooibos and peppermint.

Best hydrosols for menopause

Must haves for the hormones are rose, sage, agnus castus and sandalwood. To cool the heat, rose,  rose geranium, peppermint and clary sage. To perk up skin and mood, frankincense, palo santo, clary sage, ylang ylang, sandalwood and rose.

Best hydrosols for kids

The magical trio of lavender, chamomile and rose. You can blend them together for an all purpose spray , lovely to mist the pillows before dreamtime. For an extra boost, add a few drops of Rescue Remedy to your spray.

Can be added to bath water or taken on long car journeys to keep them calm.

Best hydrosols for pregnancy & lactation

These are ideal alternatives to essential oils during this deliacte ytime of life. Hydrosols are not intense in scent and  do not interfere with lactation of child bonding.

Lavender, rose and chamomile are lovely and can be used singly or in combination.

 

Hydrosols and cats, dogs adn horses

If you plan to use them for your pet, ALWAYS have plain drinking water available.

Pets can self medicate. You can spray some hydrolat into a separate drinking vessel.

Lavender vcan be

Hydrosols for formulators

All the benefits of hydrosols make them ideal for use in emulsions, tonics, mists, gels, lotions, natural makeup, shampoo and conditioner.

Yes it makes the product costlier to produce and store… BUT it adds so much goodness and power to your recipe! Should you not be doing that for your clients?

More chunky info will go here… Come back soon….