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I have a secret ingredient that I prefer to use in place of the water in ALL of my DIY beauty products and toiletries. Hydrosols, aka flower waters! I first came across hydrosols in my essential oil studies. I had learned that they were a result of making essential oils, essentially a byproduct. I was fascinated by these gentle essential oil infused waters. Along the way, I learned a lot more about them and their many uses and varieties. I wanted to purchase every hydrosol that I came across but was sorely disappointed when I realized that I couldn't afford to purchase all of the hydrosols that I wanted. What is a DIY loving hippy to do? Make it myself, of course! Now you can too!
What are hydrosols and flower water?
Hydrosols (aka flower/floral waters, plant waters, hydrolates, hydrolats) have been a part of herbal history for as long as distillation has been around. Before the 16th century, when essential oils became more popular, hydrosols were very popular for medicinal and culinary use. In fact, it is likely that they were the first focus of distillers at that time, instead of essential oils. Nowadays, though, essential oils are the focus, making hydrosols the byproduct in the process of production. Many distillers simply dispose of these waters because they cost a lot more to ship, by weight, than essential oils. These gentle herbal infused waters are the condensate of water distilled with plant material. The resulting waters are completely infused with the essence of the plant, the essential oils sitting on the top of the hydrosol. Even after gently removing the essential oils for bottling, a little bit of essential oil remains emulsified into the waters. These plant waters contain all of the same healing components of the herbs and can be used in place of water in many natural beauty and cosmetics recipes. According to Mountain Rose Herbs:
"Hydrosols are like essential oils but in far less of a concentration. When a distiller brews plant material with water in a large cooker the steam fills the pot and, as it rises, it causes the glands of the plants to burst and release the oils and essence of the plant into the steam. The oil rises through a condenser and collects in a separate vessel. This is what we know as essential oil, but what about all that fragrant water that was steamed with the original plant material? That is our hydrosol, or floral water.
REAL hydrosols can be expensive
Hydrosols are awesome to use in SO many recipes, but they can be a bit pricey to purchase in large quantities. When I don't want to make my hydrosols, or don't have the time, I love to buy them from Mountain Rose Herbs! If you are wanting to take the time to make them yourself, though, you will save a good chunk of money in all of your DIY concoctions. If you are going to buy hydrosols instead of making them, be sure you are purchasing certified organic hydrosols from a reputable company. There are a lot of fakes floating around on the market, many of which can be diluted with lesser ingredients or even made through solvent extraction instead of steam distillation. Making your own hydrosol is another way to be certain of your hydrosol's quality.
Hydrosols have MANY different uses
One of the great thing about hydrosols is that they are great for all sorts of uses both internally (provided it's not a known toxic plant) and externally. They are gentle enough to be used as flavoring for culinary purposes and even can be used in place of essential oils for babies, small children, and pets. These are just some of the many things that you can use hydrosols in:
- Facial toners
- To wet cleansing grains
- Natural teething remedies
- Burn sprays
- Body & room sprays (Fall/Winter, Spring/Summer)
- Herbal shampoo
- Herbal hair rinse
- Ocean waves hair spray
- Sinus rinses
- Sore throat spray
- Shaving cream
- Household cleaning spray
- Owie antibacterial cleaning spray
Herbs that make great hydrosols
There are TONS of herbs that can be made into hydrosols! The sky is the limit! Each herb brings its own medicinal properties, but in a very gentle form, making them perfect for use with pets and small children too (avoid plants known to be toxic to small children and pets!).
- Aloe vera
- Angelica root
- Basil leaf
- Calendula flowers
- Cardamom pods
- Chamomile flowers (German, Roman)
- Cinnamon chips (bark, leaf)
- Citrus peel (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, tangerine, etc.)
- Cucumber (the peel and flesh)
- Dandelion leaf
- Eucalyptus leaf
- Fennel seed
- Geranium/Rose geranium
- Hibiscus flowers
- Lavender buds
- Lemon balm
- Lemon verbena
- Nettle leaf
- Peppermint leaf/Spearmint
- Rose petals
- Rosemary leaf
- Sage leaf (white, clary)
- St. John's Wort
- Thyme leaf
- Tea tree
- Tree bark/needles (basalm fir, fir, pine, cedarwood, black spruce, cypress, juniper berry)
- Witchhazel bark
- Ylang ylang
How To Make An Herbal Hydrosol
- a large stockpot with a lid (preferably a glass lid so that you can see through it)
- vegetable steamer, trivet, brick, or even a rock will work
- smaller glass bowl
- herbs of choice (10 oz. by weight fresh herbs or 5 oz. by weight dried herbs)
- 3 QTS. filtered water
- lots of ice and a gallon sized plastic bag
- Place the vegetable steamer (or trivet/brick/rock) into the stock pot and pour the herbs and filtered water around it. Make sure to saturate the herbs well, with the water.
- Place the glass bowl on the vegetable steamer. This is going to catch the resulting hydrosol!
- Bring the water/herb mixture to a boil over med-high heat, and then reduce heat to simmer over medium heat.
- Cover your large stockpot with the lid placed upside down and fill the lid with a bag of ice. (You can do this without the bag, but it is harder to clean up and switch out as the ice melts.) Empty the plastic bag when all the ice melts, and replace it with fresh ice.
- The boiling water will produce an herbal infused steam that will rise up and condense into hydrosol when it hits the cold lid. It will drip down off the lid and into the bowl.
- Continue to create hydrosol until you have boiled away most of the water in the pan or you have created enough hydrosol for all of your desired uses (20 minutes to a couple hours).
- Let the hydrosol cool before pouring into bottles or mason jars, and store in the fridge for later use.
- Hydrosols will last longer in the fridge, roughly 6-9 months, if stored properly! You can add Leucidal to the hydrosol to help naturally preserve it longer.
There is a TON more information to learn about the amazing benefits and uses of hydrosols. If you want to learn more, one of my favorite references is Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy by Suzanne Catty. This book has a large amount of info about hydrosols, including each individual hydrosol's info (uses, chemotype, pH, etc.).