Distillation of lavender, in search of the essence

By Amelia Perez

Every summer for years, we take advantage of the flowering of our lavender plants to distill and thus obtain essential hydrosol . The process of evaporation by heat and subsequent condensation by cold through a still serves as R&D, complementing our activity of making artisan soaps.

alembic for distillation of essential oils

Home distillation serves as R&D, complementing our activity of making artisan soaps.

In our shop-workshop in Santiuste de Pedraza, Segovia, we have planted the lavender angustifolia variety that blooms between July and August, and lasts approximately one month. This year we have been forced to delay the process for a few weeks due to the high temperatures, but we have not been able to resist taking advantage of a wonderful harvest.

Our intention is to distill the lavender to obtain the hydrosol with essential oil (hydrosol).

A hydrosol (or distilled water or aromatic water) is an aqueous condensation product obtained after the distillation of a natural raw material (lavender), generally vegetable, which remains after steam distillation.

Although regularly used in product descriptions and beauty articles, the word hydrosol is not recognized by the Royal Spanish Academy and derives from the French 'hydrolat' . Floral waters, obtained from flowers, such as rose water, are also part of hydrosols .

The process

1. Pruning

It all starts at dawn, when the plant is cool and has a higher concentration of aroma. With a hoe in hand, we take out the lavender with its stem and fill the wheelbarrow. Later, we separate the lavender that we are going to use to decorate and we are making little ties to hang to dry.

    Lavender essence distillateLavender pruning for essence distillation

    2. Preparation of the alembic

    Our alembic is 40 liters. It is a small still compared to those used in the professional extraction of essence. To obtain 15 ml of lavender essential oil, approximately 1.4 kg of fresh lavender vines are required .

    The first thing we do is fill the boiler with water. We make sure that the refrigeration circuit works correctly. This consists of a condenser, or a copper tank filled with water whose function is to cool the water that surrounds the coil that causes the condensation of the steam generated by the boiler. Fresh water is introduced through the lower part of the condenser through a cooling circuit driven by a small water pump that fills the tank from below and empties it through a pipe at the top that expels the hot water into another container.

    Filling the boiler of the alembic with water to distill lavenderThe still coil is cooled through the cold water condenser.

    Unlike alcohol distillation stills, those used for the distillation of essential oils have a deposit between the boiler and the dome where the aromatic plants, stems or leaves to be distilled are deposited.

    In our case we fill it with 1.75 kg. of blooming lavender branches, cut to facilitate their introduction into the tank. Once full, we cover with the dome and complete the circuit between the dome and the coil with the "swan neck". All ready to light the fire in the boiler.

      The alembic is filled with lavender for distillation. Ignition of the boiler of the alembic.

      The last step before starting the distillation is to close any possible leak where the steam that contains our precious essential hydrosol can escape. For this we have prepared about 150 gr. of bread dough that we apply to the joints of the alembic. As the still heats up, the mass expands, plugging any steam leaks.

      Bread dough to prevent steam leaks from the stillApplication of bread dough to the still to prevent steam leaks

      3. Distillation

      After about 15-20 minutes you begin to perceive a rich aroma of lavender in the environment. We are attentive to our demijohn filling, drop by drop, with essential hydrosol . During this process we can use our attention in any other activity, as long as we check that the water in the condenser is always cool so that the distillation is completed.

      The lavender essence hydrosol pours from the alembic to the demijohnThe lavender essence hydrosol pours from the alembic to the demijohn

      4. Hydrolate

      To fill our demijohn, about two hours have passed since the distillation began. If we look closely at the surface of the hydrosol , we see that the upper part, approximately 1mm, is darker, this is the essential oil. Physics deals with separating liquids since the density of oil is higher than that of water. This confirms the tremendous amount of lavender needed to extract a few drops of essential oil.

      Lavender hydrosol has calming effects , it is recommended for sensitive skin and reactive skin, also on any type of skin after shaving or waxing.

      Lavender essence hydrosol obtained by still distillation

      At night, I love to apply the hydrosol to my face with a cotton ball just like the chamomile infusion that I alternate depending on the day. You can read about the chamomile routine in our article It's time to take care of ourselves .

      After calmly and carefully cleansing my entire face, I wash my face with any of the natural soaps recommended below .

      Lavender essence hydrosol obtained by still distillation

      Our recommendations

      Lavender soap , carrot soap , olive soap with aloe vera , calendula soap , and rosehip soap are formulated to keep our face clean and bright . They are very nutritious soaps that we recommend for extremely sensitive and dry skin.

      The rosemary soap , the olive soap with aloe vera , the calendula soap , the lavender soap and the argan soap contain regulating ingredients, which we recommend for oilier skin.



      Marta Rodríguez

      Gracias por tan buena explicación con imágenes incluidas, ha sido todo un aprendizaje.


      Maravilloso vuestro trabajo. Desde Mar del Plata, Provincia de Buenos Aires, República Argentina. Enorme abrazo y ansío conocer vuestro espacio de trabajo.

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