What is an example of steam distillation

Steam distillation - essential oils - hydrosols

Steam distillation using a closed saucepan

Even in ancient times, essential oils were often distilled as fragrances and fragrances. The oldest depictions of stills found during archaeological excavations are estimated to be over 5500 years old. These first devices consisted of a vessel with a lid on which the distillate precipitated when heated. (A process that can also be observed when making tea from parts of plants that are rich in essential oils. See also the comment on elderflower syrup!) In ancient times, sponges were used in the lid to prevent this liquid from dripping back into the vessel or tufts of wool to soak up the liquid. These were then simply squeezed out regularly to preserve the distillate.


Steam distillation

Steam distillation represents a further development of the saucepan method, as it is still used today. Sensitive natural substances in particular can be distilled or extracted with very low vapor pressure using this method:

Hot steam is introduced into a container filled with suitable plant parts and closed except for the inlet and outlet lines. This dissolves the essential oils from the plant, and the water vapor mixture pulls under the boiler dome into the drainage line. When cooled, the water vapor mixture is deposited in the form of water and oil droplets, which collect in the copper "Florentine pot" (it comes from Leonardo da Vinci's ingenuity), with the lighter oil floating on the water, above the water remains. They are separated by different drainage openings.


What are hydrosols? What can they be used for?

  • Fragrant, mild hydrosols are formed as condensate when the distillation steam cools. They contain the water-soluble phytonutrients and traces of essential oils. Examples are orange blossom water, rose water, witch hazel water.
  • Hydrolates can be used as a face lotion. - Put a little hydrolate on a cotton pad moistened with plenty of water. Hydrosols also work well in an atomizer.