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lionprincess00

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I read several articles and/or blogs on making your own hydrosols. Simmer water with botanicals, heat safe bowl floating center, lid inverted with ice in baggies on top (is this how you all do it??). Anywho, if I do this to add hydrosols to lotion via swiftcraftymonkey advice, would the heat and hold render it nil and void on goodies left behind? Do you make hydrosols and find them better than plain water? New world of a topic for me, so I appreciate any advice or experience you can provide.
 

Arimara

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I can't picture how that could even be a viable way to make hydrosols so I guess I'm with you here. It sound more like water infusion/ tisane in the make than a hydrosol. Aren't hydrosols by-products from essential oil making?
 

DeeAnna

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Hydrosols are created as a normal byproduct of EO distillation, but now people are doing distillations with the main goal to make a good hydrosol, not to make EO.

A hydrosol distillation needs to end when the scent in the hydrosol begins to deteriorate. When hydrosol is merely a byproduct of EO making, the botanical material can be over extracted and the hydrosol ends up with a "grassy" or "hay" scent that isn't pleasant. The difference is like making tea -- you can brew tea properly and it smells and tastes really good or you can over brew the tea and it tastes bitter and doesn't smell so nice. The difference is all in the timing.

I grow sweetgrass and one of the things I wanted to try last summer was to make sweetgrass hydrosol. In all my reading, it's one of the least common hydrosols -- I only find it sold by artisan hydrosol makers. Sweetgrass does not produce an essential oil, so I suppose that's why it is disregarded by the mainstream producers of EOs and hydrosols. (It does make a great infusion into a good vodka -- the aromatic compounds in sweetgrass are alcohol soluble. You end up with a nicely fragrant vodka that's an interesting pale emerald color.)

I also came across the kludged-up kitchen "still" that you have been looking at -- the one using a big pot, upside down pot lid, and ice -- and tried it. Yes, it really does work on a limited hobbyist level. I'd want to redesign the apparatus so it is more efficient if I was going to regularly make more than small amounts of hydrosol.

The thing I don't like about the usual design for this "still" is that you put the botanical material directly in the water in the bottom of the pot and boil the mess as if to make a tea/tisane/decoction. I've done a tisane/infusion of sweetgrass -- the result smells strongly of hay and grass and is not particularly interesting nor pleasant. I really wanted a system that only allows steam to rise through the botanical material and strip the best of the water-soluble fragrance compounds off the plant material. That condensed steam is the hydrosol.

So, being the engineer that I am (and a chemical engineer to boot), I adapted the usual design. I wanted to raise the sweetgrass out of the water so only steam would touch the grass. I found a colander that fit snugly inside my pot. I put a small dish that was just tall enough to keep the bottom of the colander out of the water in the bottom pot. Colander with chopped up sweetgrass went on top of that dish. I then followed the usual design by adding a second dish to collect the hydrosol, the upside-down lid, the ice, etc. All that went on top of the sweetgrass in the colander.

Gosh, I don't think I'm explaining this well, but I hope you get the drift.

I steamed the sweetgrass for about an hour and collected about a cup of hydrosol in the top dish. It smells heavenly. The hydrosol is surprisingly floral and sweet. I want to keep working on this as I collect more fresh sweetgrass this summer (it's best to use fresh stuff, not dried).

Will heat and hold kill the "goodies"? I don't think so. After all a hydrosol is created with steam, and the temperature of steam is going to be well above the usual 180 deg F for heat and hold.

I would definitely use a good broad spectrum preservative for any lotion made with hydrosol. The hydrosol will supply some amount of "cootie food", although I have only a sketchy amount of info about this. I do know hydrosols that aren't refrigerated, frozen, or preserved will eventually spoil and show obvious signs of bacterial growth, so there's clearly enough food in a hydrosol to make bacteria happy. I have to say the sweetgrass hydrosol is surprisingly pungent, so it's likely I would use the hydrosol for only part of the water phase. This will help the sanitation/preservation issue.

There's a lot of creative thinking about the magical and supposed medicinal properties of hydrosols. That bothers me a bit, because there is little or no real evidence that hydrosols do much more than smell good. I might use a hydrosol in lotion, but I would do it simply because it smells nice and I like nice smells. I sprayed a bit of sweetgrass hydrosol on my hair on a wild whim, and it was lovely how my hair held onto the delicate scent for most of the day.

I now have smelled sweetgrass hydrosol, a commercially produced rose hydrosol, and two commercially produced sage hydrosols. The sweetgrass is really nice (even discounting that I made it). The rose smells like a cheap perfume from the 1950s -- it was okay, but nothing I'm going to spend money on. The sage hydrosols -- one is over extracted and smells overly grassy/hay-like. The other was just bland and not particularly sage-like at all. I suspect a thoughtful hobbyist can make some surprisingly good hydrosols that may be far better than the run of the mill commercial products (which may or may not even be true hydrosols).

This is kind of running off at the mouth, but it was so neat to make the sweetgrass hydrosol and have it turn out so well.
 
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lionprincess00

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Hydrosols are created as a normal byproduct of EO distillation, but now people are doing distillations with the main goal to make a good hydrosol, not to make EO.

A hydrosol distillation needs to end when the scent in the hydrosol begins to deteriorate. When hydrosol is merely a byproduct of EO making, the botanical material can be over extracted and the hydrosol ends up with a "grassy" or "hay" scent that isn't pleasant. The difference is like making tea -- you can brew tea properly and it smells and tastes really good or you can over brew the tea and it tastes bitter and doesn't smell so nice. The difference is all in the timing.

I grow sweetgrass and one of the things I wanted to try last summer was to make sweetgrass hydrosol. In all my reading, it's one of the least common hydrosols -- I only find it sold by artisan hydrosol makers. Sweetgrass does not produce an essential oil, so I suppose that's why it is disregarded by the mainstream producers of EOs and hydrosols. (It does make a great infusion into a good vodka -- the aromatic compounds in sweetgrass are alcohol soluble. You end up with a nicely fragrant vodka that's an interesting pale emerald color.)

I also came across the kludged-up kitchen "still" that you have been looking at -- the one using a big pot, upside down pot lid, and ice -- and tried it. Yes, it really does work on a limited hobbyist level. I'd want to redesign the apparatus so it is more efficient if I was going to regularly make more than small amounts of hydrosol.

The thing I don't like about the usual design for this "still" is that you put the botanical material directly in the water in the bottom of the pot and boil the mess as if to make a tea/tisane/decoction. I've done a tisane/infusion of sweetgrass -- the result smells strongly of hay and grass and is not particularly interesting nor pleasant. I really wanted a system that only allows steam to rise through the botanical material and strip the best of the water-soluble fragrance compounds off the plant material. That condensed steam is the hydrosol.

So, being the engineer that I am (and a chemical engineer to boot), I adapted the usual design. I wanted to raise the sweetgrass out of the water so only steam would touch the grass. I found a colander that fit snugly inside my pot. I put a small dish that was just tall enough to keep the bottom of the colander out of the water in the bottom pot. Colander with chopped up sweetgrass went on top of that dish. I then followed the usual design by adding a second dish to collect the hydrosol, the upside-down lid, the ice, etc. All that went on top of the sweetgrass in the colander.

Gosh, I don't think I'm explaining this well, but I hope you get the drift.

I steamed the sweetgrass for about an hour and collected about a cup of hydrosol in the top dish. It smells heavenly. The hydrosol is surprisingly floral and sweet. I want to keep working on this as I collect more fresh sweetgrass this summer (it's best to use fresh stuff, not dried).

Will heat and hold kill the "goodies"? I don't think so. After all a hydrosol is created with steam, and the temperature of steam is going to be well above the usual 180 deg F for heat and hold.

I would definitely use a good broad spectrum preservative for any lotion made with hydrosol. The hydrosol will supply some amount of "cootie food", although I have only a sketchy amount of info about this. I do know hydrosols that aren't refrigerated, frozen, or preserved will eventually spoil and show obvious signs of bacterial growth, so there's clearly enough food in a hydrosol to make bacteria happy. I have to say the sweetgrass hydrosol is surprisingly pungent, so it's likely I would use the hydrosol for only part of the water phase. This will help the sanitation/preservation issue.

There's a lot of creative thinking about the magical and supposed medicinal properties of hydrosols. That bothers me a bit, because there is little or no real evidence that hydrosols do much more than smell good. I might use a hydrosol in lotion, but I would do it simply because it smells nice and I like nice smells. I sprayed a bit of sweetgrass hydrosol on my hair on a wild whim, and it was lovely how my hair held onto the delicate scent for most of the day.

I now have smelled sweetgrass hydrosol, a commercially produced rose hydrosol, and two commercially produced sage hydrosols. The sweetgrass is really nice (even discounting that I made it). The rose smells like a cheap perfume from the 1950s -- it was okay, but nothing I'm going to spend money on. The sage hydrosols -- one is over extracted and smells overly grassy/hay-like. The other was just bland and not particularly sage-like at all. I suspect a thoughtful hobbyist can make some surprisingly good hydrosols that may be far better than the run of the mill commercial products (which may or may not even be true hydrosols).

This is kind of running off at the mouth, but it was so neat to make the sweetgrass hydrosol and have it turn out so well.
Oh, my gosh, perfect sense!!! I bough a steamer long ago with a lower steam bucket that sits into the stock pot almost completely to the bottom, and has a shallow steam bucket that sits closer to the top third of the stock pot. So using the shallow bucket (sieve bottom hovers at the top third mark of the stock pot), sit a heat proof bowl in, botanicals surrounding the bowl in the steam sieve, and, water beneath with inverted lid and ice...should work right? You're, just, awesome lady!
 

DeeAnna

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Yes, you got it. Spot on! I think your steamer would work great.

Another tip -- When I set this up, I put the bottom bowl -- the one that keeps the sieve out of the water -- with the mouth facing up. That was a happy accident because this lower bowl collected a type of hydrosol that was also nicely fragrant. I kept this "secondary hydrosol" separate from the "real hydrosol."

The reason for this secondary hydrosol -- When all of the distillation apparatus was heating up, the sweetgrass inside the pot would have been fairly cool for some time. Any steam rising off the boiling water in the bottom of the pot would have risen into the cool sweetgrass, condensed into liquid water, and dripped down into the bottom of the pot. Since the bottom bowl faced upward, it collected part of this condensate.

The condensate -- what I'm calling the secondary hydrosol -- not only has some of the chemicals that make sweetgrass fragrant, but also contains any residues washed off the sweetgrass, including some color, and any dust, bacteria, or fungi. It would have been sanitized by an hour or so of sitting in boiling water (and perhaps even boiling on its own), but even so I did add a preservative (liquid germall plus) to this. I also let the liquid set for awhile and poured the clear liquid off any traces of sediment. I don't add preservative to the real hydrosol -- I keep frozen until close to the time when I want to use it, then I keep it refrigerated.

The secondary hydrosol is pale yellow and has a stronger aroma with hints of hay odor -- actually closer to the odor of dried sweetgrass itself. The real hydrosol is water clear with a more delicate, floral, sweet fragrance and no "hay" notes. I can't say if a secondary hydrosol from, say, lavender will smell nice too, but it's worth a try to see.

I haven't heard of anyone else who has collected this secondary hydrosol. The distillation method that I think most people use -- the one where the plant material is put directly into the water in the bottom of the pot -- won't create this type of condensate, and maybe that's why no one else has mentioned it, at least that I know of.

***

The main issue with this type of distillation apparatus is that the steam coming off the top of the plant material is condensed right in the same apparatus. So you have heating going on at the bottom and cooling going on at the top. You don't actually need to use ice on the lid, but you do need to keep the up-ended lid cool enough so steam will condense (in other words, the lid has to stay below 212 deg F). A more efficient way is to let the pot be the heating stage only and have a separate condenser to cool the water vapor into liquid water. That requires more equipment than the typical kitchen has easy to hand, but it's the way to go if you want to make hydrosol more often and/or in larger amounts.
 
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lionprincess00

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Yes, you got it. Spot on! I think your steamer would work great.

Another tip -- When I set this up, I put the bottom bowl -- the one that keeps the sieve out of the water -- with the mouth facing up. That was a happy accident because this lower bowl collected a type of hydrosol that was also nicely fragrant. I kept this "secondary hydrosol" separate from the "real hydrosol."

The reason for this secondary hydrosol -- When all of the distillation apparatus was heating up, the sweetgrass inside the pot would have been fairly cool for some time. Any steam rising off the boiling water in the bottom of the pot would have risen into the cool sweetgrass, condensed into liquid water, and dripped down into the bottom of the pot. Since the bottom bowl faced upward, it collected part of this condensate.

The condensate -- what I'm calling the secondary hydrosol -- not only has some of the chemicals that make sweetgrass fragrant, but also contains any residues washed off the sweetgrass, including some color, and any dust, bacteria, or fungi. It would have been sanitized by an hour or so of sitting in boiling water (and perhaps even boiling on its own), but even so I did add a preservative (liquid germall plus) to this. I also let the liquid set for awhile and poured the clear liquid off any traces of sediment. I don't add preservative to the real hydrosol -- I keep frozen until close to the time when I want to use it, then I keep it refrigerated.

The secondary hydrosol is pale yellow and has a stronger aroma with hints of hay odor -- actually closer to the odor of dried sweetgrass itself. The real hydrosol is water clear with a more delicate, floral, sweet fragrance and no "hay" notes. I can't say if a secondary hydrosol from, say, lavender will smell nice too, but it's worth a try to see.

I haven't heard of anyone else who has collected this secondary hydrosol. The distillation method that I think most people use -- the one where the plant material is put directly into the water in the bottom of the pot -- won't create this type of condensate, and maybe that's why no one else has mentioned it, at least that I know of.

***

The main issue with this type of distillation apparatus is that the steam coming off the top of the plant material is condensed right in the same apparatus. So you have heating going on at the bottom and cooling going on at the top. You don't actually need to use ice on the lid, but you do need to keep the up-ended lid cool enough so steam will condense (in other words, the lid has to stay below 212 deg F). A more efficient way is to let the pot be the heating stage only and have a separate condenser to cool the water vapor into liquid water. That requires more equipment than the typical kitchen has easy to hand, but it's the way to go if you want to make hydrosol more often and/or in larger amounts.
So you freeze the primary hydrosol and don't add preservative? I was going to ask about that. Do hydrosols fragrant say, a lotion, enough (because heat and hold) or would a fragrance or eo need to be added? What would you recommend doing with a secondary hydrosol? Thx again for your wisdom!
 

DeeAnna

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What I've seen of the commercial hydrosols, they are sold without preservative. I think they're usually packaged in a spray pump bottle to reduce the chance of contamination. That said, I'm not totally against adding a preservative to a primary hydrosol depending on what I was doing with it. I have no practical experience with a lot of this, so bear that in mind, but I do have some ideas --

If adding it to my ultrasonic EO diffuser (aka mini humidifier), I'd prefer the hydrosol to be preservative free. It's not going to be at room temp long enough to grow cooties and I would rather not breathe preservative.

If using a hydrosol as a room air spray, adding a preservative would be a good idea since I would want the spray close by and convenient. Running to the fridge for air freshener spray just doesn't work for me! I don't think liquid germall plus is approved for aerosol use, so I'd have to find another preservative that would be suitable.

If I was using the hydrosol in a light skin toner, then I would probably formulate the recipe to use grain alcohol as a preservative as well as be a useful part of the toner. In that case, no other preservative except the alcohol would be needed.

In a lotion, I would think you'd have to experiment with how to create a pleasant aroma that's strong enough. I suspect some hydrosols could be used as the only fragrance, but I'm going to bet the scent of many hydrosols is not going to be strong enough after being diluted with the other lotion ingredients, especially if the other ingredients have their own scent. Adding EOs might be useful to enhance or balance the scent of the hydrosol.

I'm also betting that using a combination of hydrosol + EO might end up smelling more pleasant and interesting than either one alone. The complete scent from any given plant will be a blend of water-soluble aroma compounds and oil soluble compounds. To give an example, I would think a blend of rose hydrosol + rose EO might be closer to what you'd smell from a real rose, compared with the EO or the hydrosol alone.

Some hydrosols will not have scents that are especially pleasant alone (chamomile comes to mind), others may have a nice aroma but overly faint, and others like sweetgrass or rose may be a pleasant and strong enough scent all on its own.

What to do with the secondary hydrosol? I'd say pretty much whatever you would use a primary hydrosol for, although I don't think I'd sell it because I couldn't represent it as first quality stuff. I've been using the secondary sweetgrass hydrosol in a spray bottle to spritz on my pillow and clothing. With germall plus as the preservative, I don't want to inhale the mist directly, but the scent is nice on my pillow!
 

lionprincess00

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Question. I was considering using dried buds. I have some. I googled and many said it is perfectly fine to use, and because it's concentrated down in dried form, it may be stronger smelling. I assumed dried may not smell much at all for it fades. Any advice on dried buds for hydrosols, or has anyone attempted it and has information on the outcome?
 

DeeAnna

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The best way is to make most hydrosols is from freshly picked plant material, because the more delicate fragrance components will fade as time passes. That said, I don't think there's anything bad or wrong with using dried material. The resulting hydrosol might not be the creme de la creme, but its still going to be good, especially if you're using your own home grown herbs that have been stored well (cool, dry, dark, airtight) rather than if you use stuff that's been sitting out on a store shelf for months. Here's a link to someone who used dried elderberry flowers to make her hydrosol with good results: http://www.ourheritageofhealth.com/elderflower-water-a-homemade-hydrosol/

The aspect of concentrating the fragrance chemicals during drying might be valid, but it has to be balanced with the aspect of collecting the more delicate aroma chemicals that dissipate during drying. I suspect some plant materials might benefit from drying but others such as many flowers may not be improved. I do know the old perfumers preferred fresh flower petals for enfleurage and other techniques for collecting their perfume ingredients.

I am skeptical that more hydrosol can be created from dried plant material than from fresh. Fragrance chemicals in the plant material don't magically increase when the material is dried. What might be confusing people is that dried material is more compact. They can get more hydrosol simply because they start with more stuff in the still. If they distill that larger amount of material for the same amount of time as they would distill a batch of fresh plant material, they may end up with something that is more concentrated simply because they didn't "cook" it as long. The yield on a fresh-weight basis would be lower, however.

I hope I'm making sense!
 
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DeeAnna

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Found a recent well-written article about the "kitchen pot method" of making hydrosols. The author, who is a professional perfumer, calls it the "simplers" method. I think that name has a nice ring to it. She explains she also has "official" distillation equipment, but sometimes prefers to use the simplers method instead. If you are wanting to know more of the practical details, this is a good one to read. See http://anyasgarden.com/blog/make-hydrosol-the-simplers-herbalist-way/
 

lionprincess00

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Found a recent well-written article about the "kitchen pot method" of making hydrosols. The author, who is a professional perfumer, calls it the "simplers" method. I think that name has a nice ring to it. She explains she also has "official" distillation equipment, but sometimes prefers to use the simplers method instead. If you are wanting to know more of the practical details, this is a good one to read. See http://anyasgarden.com/blog/make-hydrosol-the-simplers-herbalist-way/
Thank you for this! I finally got around to reading it. Good info!!!
 

HappyBeeSoapCo

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I've used hydrosols in lotions, conditioner, toner and shampoo and I really like the smell of rose hydrosol but not the lavender. The lavender smells kind of like dirt to me so I have to use EO to cover it up and I use it at a low %, usually not more than 10%. I like to use rose hydrosol in my face products because they smell good without having to add fragrance which I prefer not to do for facial products. And there seems to be some possibility that it can benefit mature skin. I know it feels great and smells great too!

I use only hydrosols and floral waters in my toner, no distilled water at all. I do add preservatives to all of my products that have water in them, including hydrosols, because they are for sale, and I can't take that kind of risk.

@Dee Anna now you have me itching for summer to try out your "simplers" method! You always have so much information for us!
 

DeeAnna

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I'm looking forward to making more hydrosol too! I have beautifully fragrant roses, and I'm very curious to see if I can make rose hydrosol that doesn't smell like old lady perfume! Of course there's my sweetgrass patch that's just now starting to green up -- I want to try making hydrosol from it again.

I think "Simpler's method" is a really cool name that lady is using for this type of hydrosol making. In herbal medicine, a preparation using a single herb is called a "simple" and the "witches" (wise women) who practice this "one herb at a time" method are called simplers. Susun Weed is a simpler and is a very interesting person to listen to -- see http://www.susunweed.com/ and check YouTube for her many videos on herbs. (My last name also happens to be Weed, so I am doubly intrigued by Susun.)
 

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I took my sweetgrass hydrosol (the non-preserved "primary" stuff I talked about earlier) out of the refrigerator today to check it. I noticed bacterial growth in the bottom of the jar -- it looks a little like egg white. I didn't take any special precautions to sanitize the canning jar before I transferred the hydrosol to the container, so that is a likely reason for the contamination.

Seeing this contamination is proof enough to me that a hydrosol that it needs to be preserved even if refrigerated. Even if I had sanitized everything scrupulously, just opening the jar was enough to have caused the contamination. A better option for storage would be a sanitized bottle capped with a pump or spray top so the container doesn't have to be opened to remove some hydrosol. Other options are to keep it frozen until right before use or to store single-use portions in sterile packaging.

I'm reading The Essential Oil Maker's Handbook by Bettina Malle and Helge Schmickl. On page 62, they suggest preserving hydrosols with 16% ethanol (ethyl alcohol, EtOH) by volume, based on 96% purity of the ethanol. This means you would add 16 mL of 96% ethanol to 84 mL hydrosol to make a total of 100 mL.

Most of us can measure weights more accurately than volumes, so I converted this to a weight basis. The 16% by volume translates to an alcohol content of about 13% by weight. This means 13 grams of 96% ethanol plus 87 g hydrosol to make a total of 100 g. Since I can't get 96% pure ethanol here in Iowa, here's a formula that calculates the grams of alcohol needed at whatever "proof" of alcohol that is available --

alcohol weight, grams = (hydrosol wt, grams) X 25 / (proof - 25)

Everclear is high proof ethanol sold in the United States. It comes in 151 proof and 191 proof, but my state of Iowa only allows 151 proof to be sold. So if I have 145 g of hydrosol to preserve, how much Everclear at 151 proof should I add?

151 proof Everclear, wt = 145 g X 25 / (151 - 25) = 145 X 25 / 126 = 30 g

Alternative preservatives are water-soluble products such as liquid Germall Plus. Hydrosols are slightly acidic to near neutral pH, so be sure your chosen preservative will work in slightly acid conditions.
 
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