Hydrodistillation vs Steam Distillation For Essential Oils and Hydrosol

Lavender farm hydrodistilled hydrosols

Essential Water or Hydrosol

Botanical distillation creates two products: oil and water.

People are often disappointed when they are seeking essential oil from us and find out we do not distill for oil but rather the water. The water is called “Hydrosol.” Essential oil is the oil extracted from buds, obviously, and hydrosol is hydrophilic (water) constituents of the plant with microdroplets of oil entrained in the water. Both the hydrosol and the oil carry the same benefits. The hydrosol is less volatile and may be applied without carrier oil, while essential oils must be blended at a certain ratio with a carrier oil to prevent reactions.

Lavender oil has been deemed safe for a “neat” or direct skin application, however, care and skill must be taken to prevent sensitization from prolonged or improper use. Even when essential oils are applied to your skin, it is still excreted through your liver and kidneys. Too much of a good thing like essential oil could put stress on your liver and kidneys.

Why We Specialize in Hydrosol

We specialize in English Lavender and it is notorious for being stingy with low yields with its oil extraction. We are a micro farm which means we do not have a lot of plants like a mega farm and every stem of lavender is precious to us and we need to maximize each flower’s use to its full potential. Only mega farms will have English Lavender oil that is grown and distilled on its farm. Micro farms may distill and pass off Lavandin, a prolific, high yield oil producer, as Lavender but there is a distinct difference between the two plant constituents: Lavandin is a natural stimulant, high in camphor, while Lavender, high in linalool, is naturally calming

Hydrosol has a slightly different scent than essential oil. It smells like lavender but it has a slightly “green” layer. In other words, it smells like a lavender plant with the flower, not just the lavender flower. Our hydrosol provides the natural scent in all of our water based farm crafted products. Our proprietary farm crafted lavender blossom soap and lavender lotion captures the essence and scent of our lavender fields in bloom on a hot and humid summer day!

Our lavender linen spray is a “true hydrosol.” This means it contains only two ingredients: English lavender (stems, leaves and flowers) and water, mindfully harvested and hydrodistilled together. It is not essential oil mixed with water or witch hazel or alcohol with a dispersant. Oil and water do not mix so anything that says “shake before use” or contains those ingredients, is not a true hydrosol.

Paul’s Background in “Steam”

There is a distinct difference in the technique of distilling. Luckily Paul is a retired USN BT CPO. What does this mean? He was a US Navy Chief Petty Officer Boiler Technician. In short, he made the steam to power the ships.

Little did Paul know then, this big experience of powering entire Navy ships, would turn into custom outfitting tiny electric stills to distill botanicals in his retirement and make high quality essential waters in small 1 gallon batches!

Hydrodistillation vs Steam Distillation

Hydrodistillation and Steam Distillation are both two different extraction methods.

Steam Distillation is when you have a still with a column and stuff your botanical matter in the column to have the steam run through and cooled at high pressure to extract both oil and water from the botanical. The steam distilled extraction method is great to make essential oil but produces a lower quality essential water. This extraction method produces about 1 gallon of essential water in one hour.

Hydrodistillation is soaking the botanical in water and distilling without a column. This extraction method takes 12 hours to produce 1 gallon of essential water. The extracted oils are microscopic and are entrained in the water. Hence, the reason why you do not need to “shake” a true hydrosol before spraying.

Ernie, the Keebler Elf, used to say “you can’t rush richness.” We believe the quality of hydrodistilled essential waters surpasses the quality of steam distilled essential waters by leaps and bounds. Especially when your botanical is hydrodistilled for hydrosol only and there is no essential oil extraction involved. In turn, hydrodistilled essential water will end up being more potent than steam distilled essential water or hydrosols.

What is Lavender Hydrosol Used For?

You can use lavender hydrosol for anything you use lavender oil for. You do not need to dilute lavender hydrosol with a carrier oil. It is naturally purifying and calming so many people use it as a pillow or linen spray before bed.

A true lavender hydrosol will not stain fabric which includes sheets, clothing or bedding. In fact, one of our valued clients re-purposes cashmere and she uses a variety of our hydrosols to freshen up her cashmere.

A true lavender hydrosol matches the pH of your skin so it is good for all skin types. I even use our lavender hydrosol as a “no-poo” (no shampoo) alternative when I do not wash my hair daily. It is also great for tangles. You can read more lavender hydrosol uses in our blog post: “22 Lavender Hydrosol Secret Uses.”

Lavender Farmer | Aromatherapist | Yoga Instructor at Twin Flame Lavender Farm | Vibe Aroma LLC | + posts

Renee started out as an avid real estate blogger in 2006. Opting for a less stressful life, Paul and Renee moved to Michigan in 2018 and started a lavender farm in 2019.

There are very few resources available to aspiring lavender farmers for growing lavender, lavender aromatherapy and lavender culinary infusion.

Renee hopes to change and shake up the world of lavender by sharing her knowledge and experience she has gained by being a lavender farmer and aromatherapist with lavender lovers all over the world.


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