Hydrosols: Steam-Distilled Floral Waters

Transform homegrown plants into aromatic waters fit for royalty with a few simple steps. Whether made with a still or on the stovetop, hydrosols can bring a safe and therapeutic aromatic experience to your daily life.

By Hannah Kincaid
Winter 2018

Photo by Getty Images/Anna-Ok

The three most popular floral waters in stores today are rose, orange blossom, and witch hazel. Some people may view floral waters as frivolous artifacts of a bygone era; however, they’re experiencing a resurgence for their safety in natural body care products, aromatherapy, homemade cleaning recipes, and edible goods.

Distilled floral waters have a rich history, and historians believe that the first clay still, which was found in Pakistan, may have been used to distill floral waters as long as 5,000 years ago. With time, the aromatic waters rose in popularity, and by the 18th century, French chemist Nicolas Lemery described more than 200 of them in commerce. Floral waters faded with the commercialization of essential oils around 1840, for which the same general distillation process and equipment is used. As floral waters took a back seat to essential oils, we slowly forgot about using chamomile water to bathe an upset infant, fennel water to ease digestive upset, or plantain water to soothe an itchy bug bite.

Photo by Adobe Stock/Valerii Honcharuk

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