distilling bee balm for hydrosol

My Summer of Distillation

me studying distillation in Washington stateUsing plants for health and beauty is my lifelong passion and life’s work as one of the formulators at Cocoon Apothecary. Every year I delve deeper into the intricate relationship between humans and the botanical world. I read books, take courses, and visit the growers to truly get to know the plant ingredients that we work with. July 2018 took me to the lavender fields in France to study natural perfumery with the Grasse Institute of Perfumery. In January 2019, I toured the jungles of Panama and Costa Rica, and took courses in plant medicine and tree to bar chocolate making at Chocolate is Medicine in Puerto Viejo. Did you know that cacao is a delicious fruit to eat with nibs that are high in anthocyanins (the purple antioxidant) before they go through fermentation? I can’t get enough of this information. This past July of 2019, I travelled to beautiful Washington state to learn how to distill hydrosols with Ann Harman of Circle H Institute. We studied in an old Tudor-style mansion adorned with alchemical symbols that overlooks giant pine trees. I took this course because one of our goals as a company is to be able to grow and distill some of our own ingredients. I marked this course as a starting point for this. We spent mornings in the classroom and afternoons outside distilling in groups of 4, each group completing 4 distillations by the end of the week. We got to take home 16 different hydrosols that we made - lavender, catnip, goldenrod, lemon balm, geranium, sage, oregano, clary sage, spearmint, peppermint.

distilling bee balmHydrosols are the water component of distilling plants. They have some essential oils solubilized into them but also the water portion of the plant has different molecules than essential oils. They are gentle but powerful. I got dizzy and light-headed working around them. One thing that I am fascinated by is the fact that you can safely drink them (unlike essential oils that are way too potent even in water). They have some really useful properties. For instance, I imbibed over the weekend and since I am 45 that led to two days of acid reflux. It finally dawned on me to drink some peppermint hydrosol for relief and it was instant. In skin care, we use hydrosols topically to soothe (rose), heal (lavender), and purify (tea tree).  I have used tea tree hydrosol to help with a rash that the essential oil wouldn’t heal. This convinced me further of the strength that the water soluble components must have.

I bought my first still immediately after taking the course. It’s a 40 L alembic still from Portugal. A copper piece of art which I am going to display in the store over the winter. I have successfully distilled bee balm, lavandin, and peppermint. I have a lot for personal use so I will be exploring all the interesting ways I can use them. I am especially curious about the bee balm which smells like thyme with some citrus and floral nuances. I think it will be useful during the flu and cold season. Hydrosols have a really strong shelf life without preservatives so I don’t have to worry about using them up quickly. This is just the beginning of my journey and I fantasize about working with bigger batches and lots of interesting plants. I can foresee endless uses for beauty, medicine, and culinary/beverages.

If you want to experience a hydrosol for yourself, we sell them on their own as toners in our Orange Blossom (organic neroli hydrosol) and Rose Dew (organic rose hydrosol).

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1 comment

I love your products and the careful research that is behind their production. It was my GP that recommended your products to help with rosacea. Your sunscreen is the best one that I’ve found for my face. Thank you for your dedication to make high-quality products with the most natural ingredients available.


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