Hello & Happy May!
I recently had someone reach out to me through instagram about how to make a hydrosol. Instead of answering just her, I thought I'd share my experience making this wonderful form of plant medicine with you all.
One of my great passions is to share with people how to make plant medicine. Even though I'm establishing my herbal career and making part of my living off making herbal medicines, I want the world to be filled with people making their own medicine too! I believe every family, friend group, neighborhood should have a herbalist, growing medicinal plants and making medicines for their friends and family.
What are hydrosols, you may be wondering? Hydrosols are the evaporated water and oils that come from simmering plant matter over time. It's the first step into capturing the essential oils of a plant, but they are much more gentle medicine than an essential oil. They are also easy to make using a pot on a stove whereas to capture an essential oil, you need to have your own distillation still. Hydrosols are a really fun way of capturing the smell, spirit and essence of a plant that you can then use as a face and body spray, a room mist, or even a spiritual cleanse.
Some of my favorite plants to distill in this manner are Lemongrass and Holy Basil. Recently my Gardenia bushes have been blooming like crazy so I thought that would make a lovely Hydrosol. To get started you harvest whatever plant material you'd like to capture the smell and essence of. You let it sit for 40 mins to an hour to let all the bug and critters escape from the plants. Then you place the plant material into the bottom of a stainless steel pot. I would advise against using aluminum as you'll be simmering water with the plants for sometime.
I create a circle of plant matter around the edge of the pot, with enough plant material to cover the bottom of the pot by an inch or two. I then place a small bowl of stones in the center. The stones are just to weigh down the small bowl, you can also skip the bowl and just use a brick. The point of the small bowl or brick is to elevate another bowl with which you want to collect the evaporated water or hydrosol. At this stage, it looks something like this.
I cover the plant matter with the purest water I have access to. I fill the pot with water to the rim of the first bowl, if I'm simmering the plant material for more than an hour, I may need to add more water after a while. Then I place a wide mouthed ceramic bowl on top of the small bowl, invert the lid on top of the pot, so the handle is facing inward, towards the bowl and the lid is concave. Now it's time to turn the heat on. I try to get it to a rolling simmer and then lower the heat so it's a gentle simmer.
At this point, I do this all intuitively as I've made my fair share of hydrosols. I try not to take the lid off the pot too often as I don't want the steam escaping because this is what we're trying to capture. Once I've lowered the heat, I place a ziplock bag of ice in the inverted lid. This bag of ice will need to be watched and changed with new bags of ice throughout the simmering process. I usually use three to four ziplock bags of ice, collect anywhere from 16 to 32 ounces of hydrosol, over a period of 40minutes to 2 hours.
The hydrosol is what collects in the second bowl inside of the pot, the wide mouthed one. When the steam hits the lid of the pot, which is ice cold from the ziplock bag of ice, it can immediately condensate which then drops into your collection bowl. I let this water cool down to room temperature and then will bottle it and keep it in the fridge or add a little organic witch hazel to it, which keeps the hydrosol shelf stable meaning I don't need to refrigerate it.
Voila, now you too can create your own beautiful plant aromas! Let me know if you have any questions or stories of your own Hydrosol making adventures.