I know what you are thinking. “Hydro-what?” Many people know hydrosol by other common names: Herbal waters, Rose water, Lavender water, essential waters, or floral waters. Water by any other name should sound so complex.
What exactly is a hydrosol you ask? Hydrosol is a byproduct of the distillation of essential oils. It is not actually an essential oil, but the fragrant water that is left after the oil has been extracted. Hydrosol contains many of the plants healing properties and fragrant qualities, though in a less concentrated form. It also contain the plant acids, making it kind to skin and very useful in facial toners.
Hydrosol is used in many applications. I like to put it in a misting bottle and use it as a room spray or to mist on my pillows and furniture. Also, depending on what the hydrosol is made of, it can be used for flavorings in cooking. If you are looking for something to refresh you a hydrosol can be used from the refrigerator as a cooling body mist or a facial toner. You can even use it to make an insect repellant for you, your family and even your pets. Hydrosol also contains the anti-bacterial, anti- viral, or other disinfecting qualities that make it to useful in the kitchen for a clean up spray. I’m sure there many other uses.
A hydrosol is made using either herbs or flowers gathered from your own garden or dried herbs obtained at your local herb store. The herbs that you select can be because of their scent, their medicinal qualities, their valuable germ fighting abilities, or even for the memories that the scents inspire. Lavender can quiet and calm your nerves or help you sleep. It is one of my favorites. Lemon Verbena, with its lemony fragrance can brighten your mood and makes things smell fresh and clean. Rosemary can clear your mind and help with memory. Peppermint can clear your head with it’s menthol scent and make a room feel less stuffy. Rose petals make a nice old fashion body mist that reminds me of my Grandma and Grandpa’s garden. The list of herbs and flowers that you can use is only limited by what you can get your hands on. The herbs and flowers can be distilled singly or mixed to make a signature scent that is yours alone. Experiment and have fun with it.
You can use common items from around your house to do a simple steam-distillation process at home. To make it yourself you will need: A large kettle with a lid (I used my canning kettle), a brick, a bowl that is made of nonreactive metal or glass, water, 3 to 4 trays of ice, 5 to 7 large handfuls of your herb of choice, a heat source, hot pads and small plastic cup to remove water from the lid. You’ll see, it will eventually make sense.
Making an herbal hydrosol isn’t hard. First assemble your stovetop still. Place the large kettle on the stove and place the brick inside on the bottom in the middle. Next add enough water to just cover the top of the brick. Then add 5 to 7 handfuls of herbs, taking care not to place them on the brick. Next place the bowl evenly on the brick so that it won’t tip over. Place the lid on the kettle upside down and make sure that it is not resting on bowl inside. If it is get a smaller bowl.
To process yours herbs brings the water in the kettle to boil. When the water starts to boil, before you can smell the herbs, place enough ice onto the inverted lid to fill it. The ice causes the steam that is being produced to run down the inverted lid on the inside of the kettle and drip into the bowl that is sitting on the brick and not escape into the air. Turn the heat down to simmer. Now wait and don’t peek.
When all the ice has melted in the lid, about 15 to 20 minutes, turn off the stove. Do not leave the kettle unattended because if the herbs boil dry they can catch fire. Remove some of the water from the lid with the plastic cup so it is easier to remove the lid without spilling the water. Don’t let any of the water from the lid drip into the bowl inside. Remove the bowl from the kettle with potholder and pour the contents into a clean canning jar. Allow the hydrosol to cool completely before pouring it into a misting bottle.
The final product is very fragrant water with a small amount of essential oil on top or Hydrosol. It is somewhat acidic and should be good for 6 months to a year. Though the hydrosol has been produced at a high heat it is not completely sterile and should be stored in the refrigerator in a glass container or something that is non-reactive.
When I started this project my husband just shook his head, he is getting use to my odd projects I think. The house did smell great for couple days and I have a small supply of a cooling mist to use on these hot days of summer.