Hydrosols, also known as hydrodistillates, herbal distillates, hydroflorates and sometimes floral waters, are one of my favorite forms of plant medicine. I enjoy using them for a myriad of beneficial uses like skin care, cleansing the air, as surface cleaning agents, pet care, garden pest management, and for energetic shifting. You can also safely incorporate them into healing beverages too. (I must caution, as always, research any unfamiliar plant you plan to take internally, especially if you’re pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or taking medication). Hydrosols contain essentials oils, organic acids, flavonoids, plant pigments, various water-soluble plant components and trace molecules.
This ancient form of botanical medicine making (when using a metal still) is a rather magickal alchemic union between the elements; earth, air, fire, water, and metal. The first people to utilize stills were the Egyptians, as it is depicted in ancient carvings and paintings.
|One of my first distillation set-ups. I plan to remove the heat-safe plastic with more copper fittings.|
Through the process of hydrodistillation a plant's molecular structure is extracted through heat and water and captured within the steam which builds together from the cold (condensation) thus forming a hydrosol. I should also mention that hydrosols can also be extracted by using purely steam distillation, without plants bathing in water, however, through my *recent learnings some trace molecules that are water-soluble might be lost in that process, therefore, you loose a little bit of that plant's "magick". And then there's also the combination of the two, which is called hydro-steam distillation.
I practice a low and slow hydrodistillation process so that I can keep *smaller molecules in tact and capture them in the hydrosol. Larger-scale essential oil companies use a higher flame and they process the plant material a lot quicker, which I think makes the end product not as whole as it could be. You don't see many of these companies purely producing hydrosols, they basically sell what they view as a by-product of the essential oil. Technically, it is a hydrosol but it was not initially distilled for that purpose, placing the intention in essential oil extraction rather than a wholistic hydrosol.
|Homegrown CA Sagebrush (artemisia californica) Hydrosol.|
These hydrosols carry water-soluble therapeutic properties that can be incorporated into one's healing regime to address several types of conditions along with supportive energetic properties for the spirit. These waters are fresh and alive and therefore need to be preserved in refrigeration and in darker colored bottles. I like to use blue bottles for the extra healing benefits of chromotherapy, every crafter has their twist, that's the really fun part of this art.
As I mentioned previously, hydrodistillation is also how essential oils are extracted, a craft that requires a lot more plant material and preparation depending on the plant you use. For example, some plants might require a special soak of some type to extract essential oils.
If you want to separate the oils you could purchase an essencier.
|You can see essentials oils floating here with a bit of a blue hue. |
This is a hydrosol trio blend of rose geranium, white yarrow flowers and cleveland sage.
I really enjoy using hydrosols all the time and sometimes I'll switch them up according to the season (you know, to be in tune with the cycles and all) and of course for whatever energetic shift or remedy I'm looking for. Although with that said, there are a few right rightnow that I like to keep close by all year long like the sages, myrtle and rose geranium.
Hydrosols really should be at the forefront of aromatherapy, in research and in use. I'm thrilled there are more and more folks starting to make their own. They are gentler on our bodies yet strong in their medicine. It takes less plant material to make and I really believe that these waters carry more therapeutic benefits than solely in their seperated essential oils. They can really help guide healing paths and they carry transformative powers down to the cellular level. *The results from gas chromatography - mass spectrometry essential oil testing (most essential oils have a GC/MS report that lists active organic compounds) doesn't reveal trace molecules, which aromatherapist John Steele has stated, are "the soul of the plant."
In the realm of this alchemic practice I believe it is important to know the distiller's methods of crafting and in particular where they are sourcing their plants from. Essential oil production is the main culprit for modern ecological imperialism because of the amount needed to produce EOs and to meet the increasing market demand. *There is a renaissance of alchemists working directly with nature and the cosmos to produce botanical "potions" in which we are fully immersing ourselves (spirit) into the distillation process. Any botanical distiller can tell you of the energetic stages and experiences one has while sitting with their plant distillations. Seek out solid sources my friends.
Want to learn more about the art of hydrodistillation and hydrosols? I know I do!
Here are some super reputable online resources that I've found to be helpful and inspiring:
The School for Aromatic Studies
Facebook Group: Artisan Essential Oil Distillers
Stillpoint Aromatics List of Therapeutic Benefits
Aromatic Plant Project
*Recent learnings: Alchemy Panel Discussion - Hosted by Roxana Villa of Illuminated Perfume with panelists, Cathy Skipper, Dr. Florian Birkmayer, John Steele and Roxana as well. Learnings mentioned were captured from John Steele. The last sentence was inspired by the overall panel discussion with strong themes from Cathy Skipper on the alchemical art of hydrodistillation.
Visit my etsy shop to check out my hydrosols, some change seasonally.
Reference Resource: 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols by Jeanne Rose, 1999 Frog Ltd.