Distilling a cedar hydrosol
Thursday morning is the time I have dedicated to my Herbal Academy and Anatomy & Physiology class because it is the only time all 4 of our kids are in school. So that means SILENCE! For only about 3 hours but I will take what I can get. So after studying the structure of our cells (so fascinating) and about what herbs to use to strengthen the respiratory system, I was ready to take a break, conquer my domestic duties and switch roles with my husband. There were (well, still is) dishes to do, food to cook, laundry to fold, you get the idea.
However, my husband knew that I was excited to use my new still that I received for my birthday about a week ago. So, he decided to push everything aside and fire up the still. I was a bit annoyed, (this is when my perfectionist side comes out) because I was not ready. I wanted to clean up my workspace, study my instructions and decide on the right herb to use. He was having none of that. After a little bit of complaining, I embraced that moment and went with it. I am so glad I did! When I let my perfectionism get in the way of achieving my goals, I don't get very far. For those of you who have kids, you know what I mean. In my perfect world, I would have more silence, a tidy workplace, and unlimited time. However, with four kids, this never happens! If I always waited for the "perfect" moment. I would not get anything done.
My husband harvested cedar foliage from the tree right outside our front door, and we were ready to go.
What is a hydrosol?
Hydrosols are also called flower waters or distillates. They are produced by distilling plant material. They have similar properties as essential oils but are less concentrated and very safe to use for many applications. They capture the aroma of the plant material as well as water soluble healing compounds. They can be used alone or added to lotions, hair care, soaps and more. I like hydrosols because they are so safe you can use them undiluted.
The Process and equipment
I purchased a 1.5 Liter Alembic still from here, and I think it is the perfect size for home distilling. It holds about 48oz of water and about 4oz of dried herb.
The process is so simple and so rewarding! The water and plant material in the pot heats up to a boil and creates steam, the steam (carrying the water soluble properties and essential oils with it) travels through the neck of the still and goes through copper tubing that is surrounded by ice water. The cold temperature condenses it back into water, and this drips out of your still and is the hydrosol.
First, I rinsed out my still to remove any impurities that may remain from the manufacturing process.
Second, I filled the pot half way with distilled water. I avoid using hard water because over time it will leave mineral deposits on the still, not good.
Third, I chopped up my cedar foliage to maximize surface area and added about a cup to the water.
Fourth, I added cold water and snow to the condenser. Another option is ice, but hey, it's winter in Minnesota!
Fifth, I set up a sterilized canning jar to catch the hydrosol.
Sixth, I turned the stove top on high and waited for the water to start to boil. When it is boiling, drips start to come out of the condenser. You don't want a stream, just drips. That's why you turn it down to medium heat. You know you are at the correct temperature when there is a steady flow of drips.
I had waited about an hour before I turned off the stove. The process is over when you have collected about half the amount of water you started with.
The end product
Wow! The aroma of the hydrosol is amazing! It is has a sharp pine scent, a bit floral, fresh, sweet, and it reminds me of a hike in the mountains on a hot and sunny day. If you look closely, you can see the essential oils floating on top. There isn't very much, but it is so fun to see that I captured essential oils! Next batch, I plan on separating the essential oils.
I bottled the hydrosol and now use it for everything. It is great as a room freshener, body spray, cleaner and more!
It is known for its antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Cedar is used topically for its benefits with rheumatism, arthritis, achy muscles, psoriasis, eczema, and fungal infections. It is also used to promote circulation.
PLEASE NOTE: Cedar can be a skin irritant in some people as it tends to constrict the pores of the skin.
Also may contain thujone, a known neurotoxin. This can cause a problem if you ingest a significant amount.