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Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Hydrosol/Rose Water Challenge

I'm joining Annette Cottrell, author of 
The Urban Farm Handbook for

Each month, with the help of some blogger friends, Annette is presenting challenges from her blog, Sustainable Eats, to encourage you to explore the homestead/farm life by taking small steps into sustainable living whether you live in a country setting or a downtown apartment.  Join me, this month as I talk about turning your flowers and herbs into refreshing, healing hydrosols.'s the Challenge
Make your own hydrosol...take a picture, and share it on The Woodwife's Journal and Sustainable Eats Facebook pages and tell us how it went.

Annette is also doing a giveaway to go along with this challenge.  To enter, you'll need to try out the challenge, then leave a comment or link on her round up post at the end of the month.  Go to Sustainable Eats for more info.

What is a Hydrosol and why would I want to make one? 
Hydrosols are the offspring of the steam distillation process used to make essential oils.  As the steam rises, water and oils combine until they begin to cool when they separate again.  During this process, there's a little something from the oils that remains in the water creating a delightful liquid that can be used alone or added to other herbal remedies or cosmetics.  This special extraction method creates a synergistic fluid that allows the subtle healing properties to be easily utilized.  Lacking the possibly bitter, intense properties of essential oils and yet retaining unique, qualities of those oils in combination with the water soluble properties, hydrosols are unique and highly prized lotions.  Hydrosols are anti inflammatory, astringent acids, that are soothing to the skin and many are pleasing to the palate. In the past, except for rosewater and orange blossom water, this wonderful byproduct was thrown away!
Not to be confused with floral or herbal waters, true hydrosols must be made by steam distillation. Floral and herbal waters, which are made by adding essential oils or plant material to water, do not contain the unique blend of properties that results from the marriage of both oil and water soluble characteristics found in hydrosols. 

Roses are soft, fragrant flowers that lend a unique flavor to many dishes, especially in Middle Eastern cuisine.  
One way to preserve the aroma of these beautiful flowers is to make your own rose water. The old method is quite effective and very easy to do.

Here's how to make your own hydrosol.

You'll need:
2-3 quarts of flowers or herbs (be sure they are pesticide and chemical free)
(My favorite is rose petals!  Turkish delight, muhallabiyeh (milk pudding) and rose facial cream!) 
An old fashioned speckled granite canner with a convex lid 
or a large kettle with a stainless bowl big enough to seal the top of the kettle.
A fire brick that will fit in the bottom
A heat resistant glass bowl
Ice in a large plastic sealable bag

Place the fire brick in the center of the canner.  The purpose of the brick is to elevate the glass bowl above the heat and the water.  Keep in mind that whatever you use will be in the water so it needs to be clean and sterilized.

Place gently bruised petals or herbs all around the brick on the bottom of the canner.
Add about 3 quarts of water to the canner. (just enough to cover the plant material)

Place the glass bowl on the brick.
Put the lid on right side up.

At this stage, you can let the water and plant material stand together (macerate) for a few hours if desired.

Bring to a boil.
As soon as the water boils, invert the lid so that it dips down in to the pan.
Fill the "bowl" formed by the inverted lid with ice (inside a plastic bag for easy removal).
Gently simmer on lowest heat for 30 minutes or until the water is nearly gone.  If you need to open the lid to check, just crack it open without completely removing the lid.  That steam is valuable!
Turn off heat and allow to cool.

Here's what's happening.  You've created a crude still!  While the water and plant material are simmering and evaporating, the steam is condensing on the cold, inverted canner lid, collecting and running down the convex lid until it drips into the collection bowl inside the canner.

Pour the liquid in the bowl through a funnel into a glass jar. (I like to line the funnel with a wet paper coffee filter.)  The hydrosol will flow through the wet paper but any oily residue left in the filter is essential oil!  There won't be much but you can collect what's there with a dropper.

Here's a cut away sketch of what that looks like.
Cap the hydrosol jar and refrigerate.  Varying reports on the shelf life say that the rose water will keep from one month to one year. If it develops a sour smell or taste it's time to discard it and start fresh.
I like to put mine in spray bottles for ease of application.  They make a refreshing spritz on hot summer days!  Rose water was supposedly Cleopatra's favorite!
*I like to use my rose hydrosol after I've applied powder makeup as a moisturizing spritz to "set" my powder.
Rose water can be used in cooking and cosmetics. Besides the lovely aroma, rose water is mildly astringent making it a great facial freshener for dry or sensitive skin types. I've added it to moisturizers and cold creams with great results. If you have a good recipe for Turkish delight, you know that rose water is a traditional flavoring. I recently found a recipe for rose water shortbread cookies I'm hoping to try out soon.

  Read more about making herb waters or hydrosols in

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Hope you "Like" it!
Much herbal love,

A passion for organics
Herbal and Tea Supplies


  1. This is fantastic! I tried to make rose water last summer and meh. I can't wait to try your still! What is a fire brick though? Can I just buy a clean brick from Home Depot? Or what are you using?

    And if I wanted to make a different kind of hydrosol, like orange would I use orange peels? Rose geranium would just use some leaves? I'm so excited!!

  2. @Sustainable EatsHey!, Thanks! Can't wait to hear how this works for you. Yes, the brick is just a standard fire brick from Lowes...I boiled it first to make sure it was sanitary. You can substitute any plant material you're comfortable with. As always, be sure to research your plant properties for possible toxicity or sensitivity, just like EO's. Hydrosols are more mild or gentle. The fragrances are strong yet "soft" if you know what I mean. If it has essential oil, you can make hydrosol! Have fun!

  3. Found your blog thru Sustainable Eats. This method looks fantastic! I would love to try it. (though not sure about this month) I make my own moisturizers - and have been interested in hydrosols. I had NO idea this could be done without complicated equipment. Thanks so much!

  4. Oh this looks so cool! I've never made my own hydrosols before. My brain is already spinning with the possibilities... Definitely going to give this a try!
    Thanks for such a great and informative post!

  5. @Deborah JoyThanks for stopping by! I hope you'll try it and share your results with us!

  6. @The Nerdy Farm WifeNice to hear from you! Please share your ideas and results. Love to have everyone link up to Wildcrafting Wednesdays, too!

  7. Most of the chiropractic treatments I know use essential oils. There's something about them that just soothe and calm the nerves unlike any moisturizer out there.

  8. This seem very impressive to me and i will definitely try this and share the result of this with you.

  9. Hydrosols process sounds good.This process will be helpful to know briefly about essential oil extraction.The mentioning method is much more comprehensive with low effect and cost.Thanks for sharing the idea.


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