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How to Make Easy Homemade Herbal Hydrosols

Summer’s vibrant herbs aren’t just for culinary delights! They can also be transformed into refreshing and gentle floral waters, aromatic water, or, in the herbalist world, herbal hydrosols, perfect for pampering your skin and promoting overall well-being. But what exactly are hydrosols, and how do they differ from other herbal remedies? Keep reading to learn more. 

Hydrosols vs. Herbal Teas & Essential Oils

Hydrosols, also known as floral waters (or flower waters), are aromatic waters condensed from the steam distillation of plant material. Unlike herbal teas, which involve steeping plant parts in hot water, distillation captures the water-soluble volatile compounds, creating a more concentrated product. While similar to essential oils, which are also extracted through steam distillation, hydrosols are much less concentrated and contain a larger portion of water, making them gentler and safer for topical application.

Why Make Your Own Hydrosol?

There are several reasons to get crafty and create your hydrosol. Not only is it simple, but you don’t need a lot of unique or hard-to-find tools. Here are some of the best reasons for creating a hydrosol:

  • Freshness & Potency: You control the quality of the plant material and can use fresh herbs from your garden at their peak potency.
  • Sustainability: It’s a fantastic way to utilize abundant summer herbs that might otherwise go to waste.
  • Customization: You can choose herbs based on their specific properties to create a hydrosol tailored to your needs.
  • Cost-Effective: It’s a budget-friendly way to experience the benefits of hydrosols compared to purchasing them pre-made.

Hydrosols are a great use for a large abundance of herbs and are versatile products for various homemade DIY skin care products. Hydrosols can be used as part of a natural room spray recipe by adding an equal amount of the hydrosol to witch hazel. Hydrosols are also long-lasting and effective ways to capture a plant’s properties at home. Essential oil use can raise many questions regarding balance, safe amounts that can be used, and its effects on sensitive skin. Pure hydrosols gently collect a plant’s volatile oils without desecrating the oils’ structure or effectiveness. There are so many uses; keep reading to find more ways to use hydrosols at home. 

Summer’s Best for Herbal Hydrosols:

The possibilities are endless when selecting summer herbs for your DIY hydrosol project! Here are some popular choices and their benefits:

  • Basil: Cooling and antiseptic, perfect for a refreshing facial mist or toner for oily skin, especially on a hot day.
  • Lavender: Calming and soothing, ideal for a sleep spray or to promote relaxation. Use a lavender hydrosol as part of a homemade linen spray!
  • Rosemary: Stimulating and invigorating, perfect for hair care or a morning pick-me-up mist.
  • Peppermint hydrosol: Uplifting and cooling, ideal for a facial mist or to soothe sunburns.
  • Chamomile: Gentle and calming, perfect for a soothing facial mist or to ease anxiety.
  • Rose: Luxurious and hydrating, ideal for a facial mist or as a luxurious toner.

This is just a starting point! Experiment with different herbs and aromatic plants and their combinations to discover what works best. Other plants are lemon balm, mint, thyme, rosemary, and even citrus peels. 

The Many Uses of a Herbal Hydrosol:

Hydrosols offer a range of uses for your daily well-being routine:

  • Facial Toner: Spritz your face after cleansing to balance skin pH and add hydration.
  • Facial Mist: Use throughout the day for a refreshing pick-me-up, especially in hot weather.
  • Hair Care: Add a few drops to your shampoo or conditioner to boost fragrance and potential scalp benefits.
  • Aromatherapy: Diffuse the hydrosol to create a calming or uplifting atmosphere.
  • DIY Skincare: Incorporate hydrosols into homemade lotions, creams, or facial masks.

Therapeutic Properties of Herbal Hydrosols

While the scientific research is ongoing, anecdotal evidence suggests that hydrosols possess various therapeutic properties based on specific herbs.  For instance, lavender hydrosol is known for its calming properties, while chamomile may ease anxiety and promote relaxation. Similarly, basil hydrosol is thought to have antiseptic qualities, and rosemary hydrosol might stimulate the scalp. It’s important to note that hydrosols are generally gentler than essential oils and can be used more liberally on the skin. However, it’s always wise to consult a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedy, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.

Hydrosol Shelf Life and Storage:

Properly stored, your homemade hydrosol can last up to a year. Here’s how to ensure its longevity:

  • Store in a dark, cool place: Sunlight can degrade the hydrosol’s properties. The fridge is an ideal location.
  • Use amber glass containers: These protect the hydrosol from light exposure.
  • Disinfect your storage container: Before filling, thoroughly wash and dry your spray bottle or container with alcohol.

When crafting homemade hydrosols, it’s important that all of your equipment is well-cleaned and disinfected. If, after making your hydrosol, you notice debris or growth in the hydrosol, discard the product and do not continue using it. 

How Does the Process Work?

Creating a hydrosol at home mimics a simplified version of steam distillation. As you heat the water in the pot, it vaporizes, carrying the volatile aromatic compounds and water-soluble essences from the plant material. These rise and encounter the cool surface of the inverted lid. The temperature difference causes the steam to condense into a liquid, collecting in the central bowl.  This condensed liquid is the hydrosol, capturing the subtle fragrance and some of the therapeutic properties of the chosen herb.  The ice cubes on the lid play a crucial role. The cool temperature ensures efficient steam condensation as they melt, maximizing the hydrosol you collect.

Creating Summer Hydrosol Featuring Fresh Basil:

Now, let’s get crafty! Here’s a simple method to create your own herbal hydrosols using the summer herb of your choice:

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 cups fresh basil leaves (or 6-7 cups dried)
  • Large pot with lid or large stockpot (a clear glass lid is helpful as you can keep an eye on the process)
  • Heat-proof bowl (ceramic or a small glass bowl work well)
  • 3-5 cups of Ice cubes 
  • Filtered or distilled water (enough to fill the bottom of your pot so the water reaches just over the halfway mark on your bowl)
  • Sanitized spray bottle

Instructions:

  1. Place your chosen herb(s) in the bottom of the pot.
  2. Add enough water to cover the herbs.
  3. Place the heat-proof bowl in the center of the bottom of the large pot, ensuring the water level doesn’t reach the bowl’s rim.
  4. Invert the pot lid and place it upside down on top of the pot.
  5. Place ice cubes on the upside-down lid.
  6. Simmer on low-medium heat for 45-60 minutes. The steam will condense on the cold lid and drip into the bowl, collecting your precious hydrosol.
  7. Once cooled, carefully remove the bowl and transfer the hydrosol to your sanitized spray bottle. Be careful! The lid and pot will be hot. 
  8. Store in the refrigerator and enjoy your homemade summer basil hydrosol. 

Where to Buy Materials and Herbs for Homamde Hydrosols

Although one of the easiest ways to access a large amount of certain types of herbs is to grow them yourself in a garden, we know that is not always possible. Dried herbs can be used in place of fresh herbs. When using dried herbs, double or triple the amount of herbs the recipe calls for. Mountain Rose Herbs, Monterey Herbco, and Frontier Co-Op are all great places o shop for high-quality herbs for your next hydrosol project. 

Making Hydrosols At Home

The latest on Youtube:

Hydrosols are an easy and fun project to start working with aromatic herbs. The process is not difficult and doesn’t require any fancy equipment. Although the end product takes time, it is not hard to produce. The finished product lasts for a long time, too, which makes your time even more effective. 

Start with what you have an abundance of, and have fun experimenting. While making your hydrosol, incorporate a few mindful moments: working in silence and listening to your breathing. Notice the aromas that change as the organic material transforms into hydrosol. The process engages your senses, and you may even notice a mood boost!

​Would you like to see a visual guide? I have included the step-by-step process in one of my YouTube videos. Take a moment to watch the video and see the whole process in action. 



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