On Saturday I was fortunate enough to attend a class on Distilling Hydrosols & Essential Oils in Atlanta at Kaleidoscope studios.


It was simply amazing to see first hand how essential oils are made! I always thought the hydrosol  were the byproduct of distilling essential oils but a true hydrosol is made with that purpose in mind and then the essential oil is collected from the top of the hydrosols since the eo’s float on top!

Definition- Hydrosols, also known as floral waters, hydroflorates, flower waters or distillates are products from steam distilling plant materials. Hydrosols are like essential oils but in far less of a concentration.

There is so much hype on essential oils nowadays, attending this class has clarified quite a bit for me. While I do use a small amount of eo’s in my topical salves and in aromatherapy products I do not  use internally.  Too many people are overusing these precious oils at a crazy rate. Essential oils should be used cautiously no matter WHICH company you purchase them from. They are not candy or flavorings as some companies may have you think. Instead of adding a couple lemon drops to your water – use a real lemon! I saw a recipe for using basil essential oil in a pesto recipe or pizza recipe, can’t remember exactly BUT seriously what in the heck are you thinking  to use an essential oil as a spice instead of the spice? Go get some dang basil from the store or better yet your garden?!!!


Ingestion-of-essential-oils-has-its-place-but-must-be-approached-cautiously Learningabouteos.com has a ton of good info for reading up on essential oils!

If the use of essential oils continue to that extent, we may not be able to keep up the growing of the plants especially the rare one or hard to get – frankincense, sandalwood and rosewood.

Back to that lemon water and basil “seasoning” – it takes 3000 lemons to make 1 kilo or 35 ounces of essential oil. It takes approximately 50 pounds of plants – basil, mints to make 1 pound of essential oil except for rose – 2300 pounds of flowers – uggghhh. AND peppermint? 1 drop of peppermint essential oil is equal to 24 cups of peppermint tea!!! I will drink the yummy tea instead, thank you.

OK now for the cool stuff of what we did, sorry didn’t mean to get on a soapbox! 😀

Our teacher was Chris Gambatese and here is his bio from The Homestead Atlanta, by the way please click their name for some more fabulous classes!! Lorna Mauney-Brodek assisted and bottled the hydrosol. Lorna is the Herbalista and runs the Herb Bus clinic in Atlanta – check her out too!



About the Instructor:
Chris Gambatese is a brewer, distiller, & herbalist practicing in Cork City. He has been an avid grower of medicinal plants for 15 years. Also in that time, he undertook studies in Herbal Science and Medicine for 6 1/2 years and has continually experimented with various forms of medicine making, concentrating mainly on tinctures and aromatic waters. He is a bit obsessed with being in control of all steps from seed to bottle in the medicine making process. Chris also has an avid interest in field botany and wild crafting.


Chris showed us the type of stills to use and why copper is better than stainless steel. The commercial eo companies use stainless steel but the copper is reactive to the plants and 4x more conductive so it is a faster process of obtaining the hydrosols and eo’s. Copper is also anti-microbial helping to make your hydrosols have a 1 year shelf life. The hydrosols can be used immediately rather than have them sit a couple months to age or whatever it was called.

He called the art of distilling magical because you are using the 5 elements of earth as you do the process:

  • Water – our solvent
  • Metal – the copper pot
  • Earth – the plant matter
  • Air – the vapor, gasses as the water boils
  • Fire – the flame under the pot


Chris had 2kg or 4.5lbs fresh rosemary in a pot with approximately 2 gallons of water.

rosemary - Copy
Bella Vista Farm Rosemary


The still was assembled and the fire lit to bring it up to a boil then reducing the heat. At the same time there is heat, at the top of the still, cool water flows over the domed top which then makes the vapors hitting the cool top drop down into another chamber down a hose and into the beaker.




Beaker quite full so at this point some of the hydrosol was decanted off and the process continued below.


THAT is our hydrosol and essential oil. It took almost the whole 3 hour class to completely finish. The darker color in the pictures of the the liquid is the essential oil. It had separated at one point but came back together when beaker was removed and swirled slightly, like a centrifuge.

Out of that 4.5lbs of rosemary and 2 gallons of water, we got 50ish ounces of hydrosol and 1/2 ounce of essential oil. YEP 1/2 ounce!!!!! Each of us got to take home a small bottle of hydrosol. Sweet!


So what am I going to do with my hydrosol? Keep it all to myself until I can do it on my own!!! No really I am going to try it on my face, in a hair tonic and maybe add to a tincture. Chris told us by adding the hydrosols to our alcohol tinctures we create a layered medicine with more plant properties than just the alcohol or water or hydrosol. So cool! If you do take your hydrosols as internal medicines, take 1-3 teaspoons, depending on the herb up to 3x/day.

I will be uploading a video that I took of the decanting of the hydrosol and the essential oil as soon as I get permission. 😉

Hope you have a warm, cozy day today!



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Very interesting read. The more I learn
The more I realize how little I know.
Love love learning!


Me too Ann!!!


So happy you got the site up and running- it’s awesome!! And you are so right about essential oils- I enjoy using them for some things, but I took to heart what you told me last year (and what you stated in this post) about how much it takes to make oils. That’s why I’m looking forward to learning more about using plants on my own!!


So happy you got the site up and running- it’s awesome!! And you are so right about essential oils- I enjoy using them for some things, but I took to heart what you told me last year (and what you stated in this post) about how much it takes to make oils. That’s why I’m looking forward to learning more about using plants on my own!!


Thank you! I so enjoyed that essential oil class, can’t wait to try my hand at distilling the hydrosols. 🙂


Like!! I blog frequently and I really thank you for your content. The article has truly peaked my interest.

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