Herbalism Homesteading Wild Foods

The Process of Ice Water Distillation:Rose Hydrosol

Since ancient times roses have been known to be, not only beautiful, but a nutritional and medicinal powerhouse.  It was also used as a constituent in perfume. Greek, Romans and Phoenician cultures considered large gardens of roses to be as important as orchards and wheat. The oil used in perfume was the essential oil of Rose, also known as attar of rose and can be traced all the way back to the Persians in the middle ages.  The water left over from the process was called rose water.  Nowadays, known as rose hydrosol.

A copper alembic still is used to create it but it can also be created at home through the process of ice water distillation. This is done by boiling rose petals in a large pot set up to catch the distilled hydrosol as it drips down off the cover filled with ice.  It was confusing until I decided to try it for myself. Before we get into the setup, let’s talk about the benefits.

Rose Hydrosol is used in many different ways. It’s edible, used in cosmetics, perfumes, medicinally and even spiritually in rituals. In India, its used to flavor water, in sweets, lassi (yogurt dairy drink), even rice pudding.  In areas of southeast Asia, it is added to water and milk to make a favorite drink called bandung. It’s used extensively through the middle east to flavor everything from gumdrops, to baklava, to a sparkling replacement for champagne for those that don’t drink. Cosmetically, rose water is used in perfumes, cold creams, toners and face washes.  In India, they use it to make Gulkland, which is a sweetened preserve of roses which is high in calcium and anti-inflammatory properties. Spiritually, it’s used in Hindu, Ba’hai faith, Zoroastrianism and the Eastern orthodox church.

The great part about making the hydrosol using ice water distillation is you are left with a large amount of strong rose infusion.  Rose tea also has a large number of benefits, among which are:

  • Heavy periods – regulates hormones, eases uterine congestion, eliminate cramping & mood swings
  • Respiratory – soothes respiratory tracts, lung and throat. Helps expel phlegm and mucus.
  • Mood – hormone regulation eases depression and stress
  • Immunity/Chronic Diseases- stimulates white blood cell production, antioxidant, lowers effects of oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
  • Insomnia – helps regulate circadian rhythms
  • Digestion – balances gut flora
  • Detox – improves liver function, & diuretic.

Ice Water Distillation Setup

You need a large stainless pot with 2 heatproof bowls that when stacked on top of each other, stay below the lip of the pot.

When you put the first bowl in open side down, fill the pot with distilled water to the top of the first bowl.  Add the rose petals (I used 8 ounces of petals).  Place the second bowl on top of the first, open side up. This bowl will be used to catch your distilled rose water.

Once the water begins to slowly boil, place the lid of the pot upside down on top of the pan. If the pan doesn’t have a lid, place a plate that will hold a good amount of ice cubes.

As the water boils the rose hydrosol will collect on the bottom of the lid and drip into the top bowl.  Be careful when checking that you don’t spill melted ice water into the top bowl. Continue to keep the lid full of ice, as the more condensation you create the more hydrosol you end up with.  This process can be time consuming.  In 2 hours, out of 8 ounces of rose petals, I collected 6 ounces of rose hydrosol and 2 quarts of strong rose petal infusion.

If you are interested in making gulkand; you can find the recipe here:

By Danielle Savage

I am a lifelong learner. I have lived experience in many, many forms but what I hold dear is my connection with the land, my spirituality, my ancestors and teaching others that there is another way to live besides the current offering!

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