Thursday, August 29, 2013

Do-It-Yourself Hydrosols - Making and Using Flower Waters for Community Health and Self-Care


Herbal Hydrosols (aka Flower Water) 

The process of distilling volatile oils out of herbs and flower in order to make essential oils creates hydrosols, or flower water.  This can be done in fancy copper stills, or we can use supplies that most us already have, or can borrow from friends/family/neighbors, to make our own simple setup.  Hydrosols can be used in homemade herbal concoctions - from cosmetic to medicinal - as well as in community health settings.  We don’t need to buy Rosewater, Lavender Water, or Orange Blossom Water, which may contain sketchy fragrances and pesticides, be produced by companies that treat their workers inhumanely or that harm the planet in their harvesting and overall business practices, etc.  We can make our own hydrosols!    

A note on essential oils:  Many recipes for do-it-yourself Rosewater, Lavender water, and other hydrosols/sprays contain essential oils.  Even organic, 100% pure essential oils can be harvested in unethical ways, may deplete a community's resources of a particular medicinal and culturally important plant, and have other negative impacts that are difficult to know about due to the long chain of many middle-(hu)mans from harvest through production and sale.  {If you are purchasing essential oils, you can seek out and visit distilleries, such as Bleu Lavande in Quebec, or seek sources that you trust who do their research and care about their suppliers and the plants.}  By making hydrosols we can capture the volatile oils of local and abundant plants which we can harvest ourselves, and we are better able to ensure that the plants (and people!) involved are treated with respect. 



Uses for Hydrosols (aka Flower Water) 

*I have included homemade 
Lavender and/or Rose water in my  herbal first aid kit to use as a cooling spray at marches, rallies, and other events on sunny days.  It’s also great after-care for hot days out in the garden, working in the fields, and at the beach, as well as for hot flashes (aka power surges).  You can add Lavender essential oil to this for its calming effect, as well as flower essences.  I like to add Yarrow flower essence for energetic protection and clear boundaries, especially if this spray is going to be used at events that can be particularly overwhelming. Corn flower essence is also grounding for these situations.  

(I've also carried sunscreen and water in a sports bottle - so it can be squeezed directly into folks' mouths without getting germs on the container - in my Street Medic pack to prevent overheating and protect from the sun.  Prevention is best.  Hydrosols aren't going to prevent a sunburn, but can provide soothing, cooling relief to overheated skin after the fact.  More here: Arnica drops and Lavender Spray: Creating Herbal/Emotional Support at Marches and Demonstrations.)

*If you’ve got a sunburn, you can mix the Lavender and/or Rose water with Aloe juice or gel and/or Lavender essential oil.  I use real aloe that needs to be refrigerated, not the "100%" aloe that often contains sketchy preservatives and colorings.  

*You can use homemade hydrosols in recipes that call for distilled water.  I personally don’t want to give a cent to water-commodifying corporations like Poland Springs/Nestle, and I definitely don't want to use their water in the remedies that I make for my loved ones, my communities, and myself.  By making our own flower water, we encourage self/community-sufficiency and we are also capturing some of the healing properties and fragrance of the plants.

I add Lavender and/or Rose water to: Bath Fizzies (bath fizzy recipe in The People’s Spa: Reclaiming Relaxation and Cultivating Collective-Care), Honey Rose Facial Cleanser, or use straight as a facial toner or body spray.  Hydrosols of soothing, gentle plants can be used in place of distilled water in recipes to make your own baby wipes as well.

*Hydrosols can be used as a spray to help cleanse and move energy in your home*space, workplace, gathering spots, and other collective areas.  This can be a great way to bring in the healing, moving qualities of plants, especially when you aren't able to burn herbs and resins, candles, or incense sticks.  Also, it leaves less of a scent for those with sensitivities.

*You can use your homemade hydrosols as a natural alternative to sprays with toxic ingredients to use in the home:  room spray, bathroom air freshener, linen spray, and whatever area needs some freshening up, such as the car.  Even "natural" store-bought sprays may contain dodgy fragrances and other chemicals.  

*You can create a bedtime hydrosol spray with relaxing herbs to help unwind before sleeping and/or welcome in more vivid dreams and remember them more easily.

*You can use Rose water to soothe pink eye so that you don't have to touch your eyes and possibly share your germs (transmitting it to the other eye if it's only in one, or to another person).  Simply close your eyes and mist them with rose water kept in a spray bottle.  (I've also used moist chamomile tea bags and yarrow compresses for pink eye/conjunctivitis)

*Use as freshening up spray for when traveling, camping, or have other limited access to regular bathing.  This is part of community health because if we're so ripe that other folks don't want to be close to us, it makes collaboration difficult, right?!

*If you have a plant ally that's aromatic, making a hydrosol is another way to connect with the plant.  If there's a plant you're drawn to, a particular one that's caught your attention that you want to learn more from and share time with, making a hydrosol is one of the many ways you can get to know the plant and make medicine with it.  You can also just sit with the plant ~ to listen, notice, take photos, draw, taste (if it edible - check with trusted sources to be sure!), see who else is enjoying it/ pollinating it, sleep by it, etc.  By making a hydrosol, you can capture the plant's vital energy and scent, and preserve it to have with you throughout the year.

*Making hydrosols is a great way preserve some of the properties of aromatic plants that you're cutting back in the autumn and/or if you have fragrant plants that are still very vital, but maybe a bit chewed up by bugs or turning yellow, etc.   If you have an abundance of a certain herb and you've harvested what you'd like for tinctures, teas, infused oils, etc., you can create a hydrosol as another form of medicine.


Directions for Making Hydrosols (aka Flower Water) 
Thank you to Kami McBride whose writing Healing Power of Aroma was helpful in the creation of these instructions.

1. Put a large, clean enamel or stainless steel pot on the stove and put a clean brick or flat stone in the bottom of the pot.

2. Pour enough water into the pot so that the water comes to just below the top of the brick or rock, but you don't want to completely submerge the brick in the water.


3. Add six handfuls of fresh aromatic herbs, or 3 handfuls of dried aromatic herbs, to the water. You can use one single herb or a blend of several. Some aromatic herbs that you can make hydrosols from are: Lavender stem, leaf and flower, Rose petals, White Pine needle, and the leaf and flower of: Tulsi (Holy Basil/Sacred Basil), Lemon Balm, Peppermint, and Catnip. All of these plants can be used in either fresh or dried form. 


4. Put a clean stainless steel metal bowl or glass Pyrex measuring cup on top of the brick inside the pot.


5. Put the lid on the pot upside down so that the lid is pointing down into the inside of the pot.  This part is important.  


6. Fill the top of the inverted lid with ice cubes.  You can also make one large ice cube by freezing water in a yogurt or another wide-mouth plastic container.  (Remove the ice cube from the plastic container - you only want the ice on top of the lid!)  This larger ice cube melts much slower than many smaller ones. 



7. Turn the heat on and once the water has reached a gentle simmer, turn it to low for 20-30 minutes.  The steam that rises to the top of pot and meets the icy-cold lid contains the essential oils of the plant.   The steam condenses and drips down into the bowl and that's your hydrosol/flower water!  Be sure to keep the heat down - you want the water to be hot enough to create steam, but you don't want it to boil and get plant matter and un-distilled water into your bowl.  
Be sure that lid is on straight too, so that steam (and those good volatile oils) aren’t escaping.


8.  Carefully remove the lid once it's filled with the melted ice and dump that water into the sink, or pour it into another container to cool and then give the water to your plants, etc.  Take care not to let the melted ice water drip into the bowl.  Replace the lid right away so as not to lose too much of the medicinal properties and fragrance in the steam and the hydrosol/flower water that you've created.  Someone suggested in the comments below to remove the water using a turkey basted, so that you don't have to remove the lid at all and therefore no fragrant steam is lost.  (Thanks for the tip!)

9.  If you feel like the plants still have more essential oils to give, you can put the lid back on (upside down!) and add more ice to continue to the distillation process.  Listen to your intuition - I like to feel like I'm getting all the vital oils from the plant, but I also don't want to dilute the hydrosol by adding steam after the plant has given all its volatile oils.

10.  Once your hydrosol is finished, remove from heat.  Pour the liquid from the metal bowl into a sterilized mason jar or a spray bottle. You now have an herbal hydrosol!
I like to let the hydrosol cool to room temperature with the lid on before pouring it into containers, especially if pouring it into plastic.  Another reason to wait to pour the hydrosol until it is cool is that cold glass can break if liquid that is too hot is poured into it.




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Notes:  


Your herbal hydrosol will ideally be stable for six months to one year.   I like to keep mine in the refrigerator.  This helps them keep longer and makes them especially refreshing to spray on in hot weather.  If you have Rose and/or Lavender water, keeping it in the fridge will make it even more cooling if you're using it to cool hot/sunburned skin, hot flashes, and other hot skin conditions.  Also, the cleaner that everything you're using is, the less likely it is that bacterial will enter, causing your hydrosol to go off.  So if possible, sterilize or wash well with hot soapy water your pot, bowl, and what you're pouring your finished hydrosol into.

In general, you use more of an herb when it is fresh than when it is dried, as the moisture has evaporated out of dried herbs, making it more potent.  If you have less or more of the herbs than what's listed above, use what you've got!  There's no need to pack in tons of herbs, but if you have an abundance, feel free to add more.  Likewise, if you have just a wee bit of a special plant, go ahead and use what you've got.  It may be weaker than if you had more, but it will still capture some of the scent and medicine.

When making a hydrosol, it’s good to have lots of ice on hand.  I like to fill a large freezer bag filled with a few batches of ice cubes so I have plenty on hand.  Or make a larger one as written above.

You don't need to go get a special hydrosol-making pot.  You can use a large canning/lobster pot.  Be sure to clean everything well so that you’re capturing the scent and properties of the plants you’re using, rather than the chili/tamales/lobster that have been cooked in the pot!

Large ice cube made in a yogurt container on top of inverted lid, 
while making fresh Catnip hydrosol using a glass Pyrex measuring cup.



(Post updated 10/15, 9/16, and 4/17)

61 comments:

  1. thanks for this! could the inside bowl be glass instead of metal?

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    1. Yes! As long as it's heat-proof. The last time I made a hydrosol I couldn't find the metal bowl I normally use, so I used a glass Pyrex measuring cup and it worked great! And one less thing to wash as I always had poured the hydrosol from the metal bowl into a measuring cup for easy pourability. Just be sure to use an ovenmitt or towel to grip the measuring cup or bowl so as not to get burnt!

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  2. Thank you for sharing! I cant wait to try it!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it! And I hope you experiment and make some fabulous hydrosols!

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  3. Is it a dumb question to ask why I have to distill the hydrosol? Can't I just boil the flowers?

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    1. There are no dumb questions! A tea will go bad with days or hours, depending on the herb. A hydrosol distills out the aromatic oils and lasts much longer than a tea or decoction (see Mike's reply below). Thanks!

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  4. Boiling the flowers for a little while makes a tea, for a long time makes a decoction. A hydrosol is something a little bit different. They are close, but not the same. They have different characteristics & properties.

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  5. If I wanted to make an orange hydrosol, could I use peels?

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    1. Yes! That sounds amazing! I haven't made a hydrosol with (organic) citrus peels, but maybe I'll start freezing or drying them til I have enoughto make a hydrosol!

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  6. Hi - I love this method and have used it a few times now to make lavender tonic for my face. For this use, I'm wondering if it's necessary to buy organic dried flowers. Thanks.

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    1. I use organic/unsprayed herbs. They do cost more, money-wise, if you are buying them instead of harvesting them yourself, but it's better for the environment, for the folks working the fields, harvesting, and processing the herbs, and for your herby creations.

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    2. Also, what you spray on your skin goes into your body. Why wouldn't you use organic?

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  7. Love this. Shared it on my Pinterest and reblogged it.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing! Glad you enjoyed it.

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  8. Thanks for sharing this. How long do I simmer for? It has been an hour and I only have about 1/2 cup hydrosol . I use 20 tablespoon of dry lavender buds.
    Thank you
    Claudia

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    1. I just follow my intuition as to amount of herb and length of time to simmer it for. I don't have a set time really. I've read 20 minutes, but definitely do more like 40-60 minutes. I usually end up with around 8-10 ounces of hydrosol. Perhaps you could use less herb or simmer longer? Good luck!

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  9. Thank you for sharing. I wanted to add a tip for the process please...I used a turkey baster to remove the water from the lid before adding more ice. This way I didn't lose any of the precious hydrosol by removing the lid.
    Thanks again for the post.

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  10. I'm unclear as to the position of the lid. Does the lid go on the bowl or pot?

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  11. It goes on the pot.. not the bowl. Turn the lid upside down on the pot :)

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  12. I made a lavender hydrosol, very aromatic, but molded after 3 weeks. What could I have done wrong?

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    1. Hello, glad your lavender hydrosol came out well. Sorry to hear it went off. I would make sure that the pot, bowl, and container are all sterlized or washed really well. And you could also keep your hydrosol in the refrigerator. Good luck!

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  13. Did you sterilize everything you used to make your hydrosol?

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  14. Hi, I do not have a stone at home. I was wondering if you need a floating devise on the water. Can I just put a glass bowl in the water? If not, I have a peice of bamboo that goes on a canister. If I sanitize it would that be suffice? And when you say sanitize do you mean boil in hot water?

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  15. I also have a glass pie pan. Will that work?

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    1. Did you end up trying the glass pie pan? I suppose it just depends on the size of your pot. I use a metal bowl or glass measuring cup that is taller than it is wide. If you do use a glass pie pan, just be careful when lifting it from the pot so that it doesn't spill.

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  16. After I reread and did other research, it looks like you're saying the brick should fit at the bottom of the pan, not floating on it (haha, I did think that was odd). So the higher the stone or brick the more hydrosol you can accumulate. I guess I will have to force myself to take a trip to a hardware store! And I am supposed to hard boil everything to sanitize it?

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    1. I generally just wash everything well with hot soapy water before creating a hydrosol. But if you'd like to sanitize everything with boiling water, feel free!

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  17. I used the sweet woodruff for an air fresher spray, fresh leaves. Sweet but weak.. this year I will dry them first.

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    1. I did the same, will try with dried also.

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  18. Thank you so much for this tutorial. A recipe had called for Rose Water Essential Hydrosol but I could not locate it in any store. Happy to know I an now make my own.

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    1. Glad that it's helpful. Did you end up making your own rosewater?

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  19. Hi there!
    I ran across your article just now (excellent read, VERY informative) and I am getting ready to possibly create and possibly sell Hydrosols on Etsy to help make a bit of extra money while I go to school. I have a question regarding something sort of silly - color. I have seen only Rose Water, and the fluid itself is clear. And as a gift from my mom, she got me a bottle of locally made Jojoba essential oil, which is a lovely amber-orange color.
    Would a few drops of Jojoba oil make a good addition to Hyrdrosols? And would its color pass on well to the floral water? Thank you!

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    1. I would recommend experimenting with hydrosols before selling them. Especially to see how long they last so that you can let your customers know the expiration date. I have never seen a Jojoba essential oil. Is it a Rose or other essential oil diluted in Jojoba oil? This is common for the especially precious/expensive essential oils. In my experience the essential oils carried in Jojoba oil do not integrate into the water. But you could shake it up. I have never had an essential oil affect the color of a hydrosol. As they are oils, they stay separate from the water unless you possibly add other ingredients. Or you can just shake it each time before using. Good luck!

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  20. Very good article thank you for sharing!!

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  21. I am going to try this to make some Lotus Hydrosol!!

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    1. Did you end up making it? If so, how did it come out?

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  22. Enjoying my second batch of lemon balm hydrosol thanks to you. Followed your instructions to the letter and it works great. Incidentally, I live in Colorado and it is very dry here so I use the hydrosol as a facial spritz any time my skin is feeling parched, thank you so much for sharing!! -Deb

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    1. Lemon Balm hydrosol sounds amazing! And must feel so lovely on the skin. All the Lemon Balm I harvest each season usually becomes tincture, elixir, or tea. But maybe this growing season I'll make a wee bit of hydrosol too!

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  23. Glad that folks found this info helpful and love hearing about hydrosol adventures!

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  24. This is such a great technique! And as this isn't using any additional oils, I presume I could put this flower water in drinks to add flavour and offer floral notes/medicinal benefits of the herbs used? Or would that not be advised?

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    1. I am not trained in using essential oils and hydrosols for internal use. If I want to ingest herbs, I take them as tea, tincture, vinegar, or some other such edible form. I make hydrosols in small quantities, so I save them for special sprays and such. If I want the flavor and/or medicinal properties of a plant, making tea is much quicker, easier, and energy-efficient than a hydrosol.

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  25. Hey how much water does 3 handful of herbs make?

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    1. I've found that every plant is different - and a surprise! I use the amount of herb that I have and then see how much hydrosol it gives. I'm still experimenting for sure. Did you end up making a hydrosol? If so, how did it turn out?

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  26. Fun post! I'm looking forward to experimenting w this!!! Suzanne Catty in Hydrosols says it takes several weeks for a hydro late to stabilize. Any thoughts on how to know when it's ready to use? I just purchased a fresh batch of frankincense hydrolate from a distiller and I'm wondering if resins from hydro distillation require any length of wait time until it's used?

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    1. Oh! Great questions. I'd never heard of that before - that there is a sort of waiting period for hydrosols! Have you learned more about it? Feel free to share! I haven't waited a certain set time before using a hydrosol. I usually make it when I'm harvesting a plant fresh and/or I'm making a spray or facial cleanser or some such potion that I'd like to include a hydrosol in. Often I just let it cool and keep it in the fridge til it's needed.

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  27. Thank you for sharing your hydrosol recipe. I'm very exited to try this with the large bags of dried chamomile and calandula flowers that I have, and haven't used very much of it up. I'm also thinking of getting some lavender flowers to toss into this healing mix as well.

    I have a question concerning the ingredients, specifically, the source of water for the hydrosol. I'm all for avoiding the bottled "spring" water, but I would assume that tap water in some locales would not be preferred due to the high presence of chlorine and other disinfectant chemicals found in tap water. I would therefore think that distilled water would be better then tap water, as fetching fresh, from the source, spring water is not feasible for most people. Though, I do live in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and can find sources of spring water with a little effort.

    What are your suggestions or thoughts on this topic of tap water?

    Thanks,
    Flavia

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    1. Great questions! This makes me want to gather water from various places and experiment. Hmm...I suppose if you have access to spring water that that would be lovely. If you're using tap water, you could let it sit overnight or for 24 hours, if you're concerned about chemicals. I've heard of people doing this so that chlorine and such evaporates off before drinking, water plants, etc. I don't think it's necessary to buy distilled water, as you'd be distilling it again. If you buy your drinking water, you could use that.

      Water is sacred and I there are so many layers to our connection with this element - what we have access too, who profits off from our water, our personal and ancestral connection to water, etc. I may need to reflect on this more and update this post again and/or write another! Thank you.

      Did you make a hydrosol with the Calendula and Chamomile? And Lavender? Those sound so lovely, separately and in any combination!

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  28. I just made a few hydrosols on 11/4/16, and when I took them out of the fridge to make soap, I noticed that both my roman chamomile and german chamomile hydrosol has a few white specs floating at the bottom of the bottle. I used completely sterile pans, distilled water, and plant material I grew and harvested myself. They are in 4 ounce glass ball jars, with no headspace. It's been about 2 weeks that they have been in the fridge. Are the little white specs a "bloom" (its gone bad/moldy?) Or is it just small fragments of plant material that entered the steam and hydrosol? Please help! Thank you

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    1. Hmmm, have you solved the mystery? I'm wondering if it's something from the flowers? When I had a hydrosol go bad it formed more of a blob - a darker mass of goo in the hydrosol. It didn't smell off, but it didn't look okay, so I gave it back to the earth.

      Both Chamomile hydrosols sound amazing! Did you use fresh or dried flowers? I've found it really difficult to strain chamomile tea, oil, and tincture, as its flowery bits are so wee tiny. I haven't have this trouble with other flowers like Calendula, Lavender, Roses, etc.

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  29. Anything containing water intended for keep without preservative would readily go bad. It might take as long as 2 weeks or longer for specs to show but the spoilage would have begun by the 5th day at most.
    It is more responsible to preserve a hydrous product than to not. Do not sell the product until you've gained some mastery of this.
    Contact your supplier to know what might be the best choice of preservative fir a hydrosol as well as its suggested use rate.
    Thanks for sharing your recipe.

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    1. Yes, I agree with experimenting a lot and getting to really know a process before selling anything. Especially something so fresh and vital as a hydrosol. Folks can look into adding some kind of preservative - essential oils themselves are anti-bacterial and can extend the shelf life of a hydrosol. Besides occasionally adding essential oils, I prefer to keep mine in the fridge and/or keep an eye on it, rather than using synthetic or natural preservatives. The distillation process makes the liquid last much longer than say a tea would, but it definitely does not last forever!

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  30. Could I use Vitamin E Oil as a preservative to maybe make the hydrosol to last longer?

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    1. I have not tried using Vitamin E as a preservative in hydrosols before. I don't believe that it would incorporate well, as oil and water don't naturally combine. I think the Vitamin E drops would just fall to the bottom and I'm not sure if the hydrosol would benefit from its preservative properties. Did you end up trying this?

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  31. Your recipe making a plant hydrosol is very thoughtfully written. I have just one query. If one is using a meticulously clean pot, lid, bowl, etc. how do you account for the porous, impossible to clean natural rock or clay brick? Wouldn't the steam dislodge all sort of bacterial possiblities? Is there a more sterile option to the brick?

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    1. Thank you for your comments. I wash my brick well with hot soapy water before making each hydrosol. I suppose you could seek out a less-pourous stone to reduce possible bacteria in the process. I'm not sure what other material could withstand the heat of the water? Perhaps a stainless steel steamer basket that is a bit taller than most and that also a bowl or glass measuring cup could rest in?!!? Any other ideas?

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  32. In the case where you would be using a particular hydrosol less frequently than others. Could you freeze half in a sterilized mason jar to thaw in the fridge just as you ran out of the first half?

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    1. Hmmmm....I've never tried that before, as I make most hydrosols in small batches. You can definitely try, and let us know how it goes! My only concern would be the glass jar breaking with the change in temperatures, so be careful when thawing to give it a lot of time, rather than trying to heat up the glass, which can make it break. Good luck!

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