By Danielle Guercio
More than a popular intoxicant, cannabis is a plant that nature has instilled with hundreds of compounds and chemicals whose functions we only have a tiny grasp on. Development of uses for it that go skin-deep represent a chance to reduce waste, create new revenue streams, or just have some fun with plants in your kitchen.
The byproducts of a flower grow are numerous, but their potential utility and purpose are also immense if you do a little digging. The spirit of do-it-yourself is a key factor in the eventual tipping point that cannabis liberation has reached. All industries were once DIY before legislation caught up. In this bright future, putting every part of the plant to a good use is more than a waste issue, it’s an innovation opportunity.
Trimmed leaves, fibrous stalks, rich roots and even the errant seed could be the ticket to the next big movement in cannabis products. In the beauty world, cannabis crossover is growing by the millions. The sheer volume of applicable uses for all of these plant parts is staggering.
Facial mists are a growing category in the beauty sector, and with great reason. Nutrient-fortified waters can keep the skin moisturized like no cream or oil can, and they can be used hands-free, right away or incorporated into product formulations in place of plain waters. This liquid is called “hydrosol,” which is itself a byproduct, as essential oil that’s also produced during this method of processing is typically the main goal of plant matter distillation.
Hydrosol is the backbone of most facial mists, and rosewater is one of the more common examples of this ‘water’, they’re distilled water-based solutions with a fragrance like the original plant used to create it.
Not to be confused with a tea, hydrosol is produced by boiling the raw material with pure water, and then collecting the resulting condensation. This is the basic process by which many flowers and plants get broken down into a simple skincare item that boosts routines with pure hydration.
So many plants get the hydrosol treatment, but rose and other flowers are the most common. Brands like Heritage Store sell lavender, gardenia and lilac and many boutique producers do rosemary, ylang ylang, and jasmine, but finding a hemp hydrosol is pretty rare. One store in Hawaii sells some, but if you have any amount of trimmed leaves, you can make your own delightful dampener with just a few simple steps.
In theory, you could use cannabis flower to create a hydrosol, and it wouldn’t degrade the THC, which you could extract after drying, but it’s likely that you’d lose some of the aromas to the distillation process, so only consider doing this if you’re going to extract the buds for butter or oil afterwards and don’t mind slightly less flavor. Sugar leaves are the best choice for hydrosol. They have aromatic terpenes that will perfume your offering, but you can also use fan leaves and dried trim to get a hemp-heavy effect.
Yields 6 to 8 oz.
Supplies and Tools
1 pound fresh or
¼ pound dried cannabis leaves
1 liter filtered or spring water
A large pot with lid
A glass measuring cup
Rock Ice or a plentiful supply of regular ice
Cannabis or other flowers if desired
Clean container for storage
Place the measuring cup in the center of a large pot. This is where the hydrosol will collect as the plant simmers. Scatter the leaves into the pot around the measuring cup, then cover with water, being careful to avoid the measuring cup in the middle.
Invert a glass lid over your setup. This way, the steam will slide down the convex design and drip into the measuring cup. Bring the hemp leaves and water to a simmer, covering with the lid inverted so that it’s convex into the pot.
Crack and pile some ice on the top of the lid. You’ll want to keep a turkey baster on hand to siphon off the melted ice if you plan to process more than a pound of leaves at a time. Gently simmer the leaves for 30 minutes. The distillate will collect in the center. Always check periodically to make sure it doesn’t get too full.
You can repeat this process with more plant material and fresh water, but be sure to look out for a stash of essential oils in your hydrosol if you do—stir up the distillate, and then suck up these precious molecules with a pipette, and store separately. If there’s only a small amount, you can just shake your hydrosol before using to incorporate the essential oil temporarily. One batch might not produce enough oil to harvest but will still make great-smelling hydrosol.
Funnel into a spray mister or a bottle with a secure cap. Store in the fridge for optimal freshness, as water-based products can sometimes experience mold and germ growth if no bactericidal/fungicidal agent is added.
If you’ve ever wanted to have the aromas of a harvest on the go, this is a great product to experiment with. You can use the distillate as a facial mist, toner, aftershave, light perfume or base for other cosmetic applications. You can even use hydrosols to lightly flavor food and drinks, like the intoxicating bit of rosewater in a pistachio dessert or fragrant orange blossom water in a cocktail.
The hydrosol of harvest after harvest might even become a popular installation in the skincare or food and beverage world, with craft and nuance to drive the whole cannabis industry forward where flower can’t.