What are Hydrosols and How to Make Them in Your Home

Several years ago I bought a Lemon balm hydrosol. I LOVE Lemon balm herb and use it quite a bit in our home (I even grow it!). For those who are essential oils users, Lemon balm is called Melissa because its botanical name is Melissa officinalis...ts also an expensive essential oil. I figured this was a way to get some of the benefits of the essential oil without spending an arm and a leg on the essential oil.

Well...I couldn't stand the small, which was odd to me because I love the smell of Lemon balm.

I never ended up using it.

Fast forward to today...where I keep precious flower hydrosols....Rose and Neroli...on hand and absolutely love them. In fact, before I sat down to type this, I sprayed Neroli hydrosol on my face and it just felt so luxurious.

What is a Hydrosol?

A hydrosol is the other product of steam distillation. Some people will classify it as the "by-product" of making an essential oil but there are companies that distill just for the hydrosol, therefore making the essential oil the "by-product"

When plant matter is steam distilled it separates into water and essential oil. The essential oil just sits on top of the water (which is why you should never drink your essential oils) and then gets "skimmed" off. The water is now infused with the plant properties (including trace amounts of essential oil).

Two well know hydrosols are witch hazel (yes that stuff you can buy at the pharmacy...but that can have additives) and Rosewater.

What Do You Use a Hydrosol For?

While the most well known use of hydrosols are for cosmetic purposes (like in our Rose-Carrot Toner), they can be used just like essential oils can be used. For babies, hydrosols are the perfect alternative for essential oils. Keep in mind that hydrosols could smell very different than the essential oil. The healing uses, however, remain the same.

Neroli (Citrus aurantium), for example is an expensive oil because it is from the flowers of the bitter orange tree. It is wonderful for your skin as well as mental health. The essential oil can run you $55-130 for 5mL where the organic hydrosol $6.50 for 3 ounces (from Mountain Rose Herbs)

 Unlike essential oils, hydrosols can be applied directly to the skin without any further dilution.

How to Make Them in Your Home

So now that you know what they are, lets start making one!

Fresh plant matter is always preferred but if you have dried, it will still work. You will need:

  • Plant matter (I am using Rose petals)
  • Water
  • Large pot with lid
  • Small jar
  • Something to set the small jar on in the large pot
  • Ice (not completely mandatory but it does help)

Place the small jar in the large pot (put it on top of something to keep it off the bottom). Add your plant matter and cover with plenty of water. Turn the heat on low and turn the lid UPSIDE DOWN on top, and place ice on the lid.

rose hydrosol

The goal of the upside down lid and ice is so that when the steam rises, it hits the cold lid and condenses. When it condenses, we want it to run down the lid to the handle and drip into the small jar.

 Upside down lid. The potholders stop this lid from falling in because my large stock pot lid doesn't work for making hydrosols.

Upside down lid. The potholders stop this lid from falling in because my large stock pot lid doesn't work for making hydrosols.

Continue distilling for up to 45 minutes (for a medium amount of plant matter/water). You don't want the water to boil and you don't want to have all the water disappear.

Once you are done, remove the small jar. You now have your own hydrosol! Bottle it in a dark jar (if you can) and store it in the fridge.