Plants have been an integral part of my life since I was born. My late father was a great lover of plants and he passed that wonderment on to me. I grew up in Wyoming, and was blessed to have my bathroom window open into my father’s tropical greenhouse. Imagine looking outside at six feet of snow on the ground and being able to open my window into my own little paradise, filled with orchids and aromas from the tropics. I enjoyed watching the cultivated flowers flourish under my father’s green thumb.

Since I was a young girl I have been using, playing with, and studying medicinal plants. I spent hours observing the wild plants in their native habitat; who they liked as neighbors, what soil, shade, and habitat they preferred. I marveled at how tenacious some plants were and how delicate others seemed to be. The wisdom of the indigenous peoples and their knowledge of the plant world fascinated me and helped me to learn to appreciate the plants.

I was first drawn to the medicinal waters when I watched James Greene make a hydrosol at a United Plant Saver’s workshop using a simple canning pot and bowl. We produced a beautiful rose water that day. That experiment led me to want to learn more about these magical waters called hydrosols. I experimented with making my own hydrosols on the stove top. My research soon led me to Jeanne Rose, the “Grand Dame of Aromatherapy.” It was Jeanne who first introduced me to the copper alembic stills that I so adore. I have been distilling my own hydrosols on copper alembics ever since.

I set out to write a book on the distillation of hydrosols, a book that I wish I had when I first started distilling. When I began distilling nearly twenty years ago, I wanted a cookbook—a recipe book that told me how much, how long, and at what temperature to distill each plant. It didn’t take me long to realize that we’re not baking a cake here! We are working with nature and the elements, neither of which fit neatly into a recipe book.

It takes much more than a recipe to make an excellent hydrosol. This book offers a compromise of sorts; the book you have in your hands is a road map—a book of suggestions, what to try, what you may want to avoid.

The most important concept that I want to get across is this—there are as many ways to distill as there are colors in a painter’s palette.

Do not be fooled into thinking there is only one right way to distill. This book is here to offer some guidelines, not rules! My principal focus is on distilling a hydrosol as the primary product, not a byproduct. I share with you some of my mistakes and some of my epiphanies.

Once you learn the basics of the act of distillation, use your imagination and begin to learn the art of distillation. Experiment, learn from your mistakes, celebrate your successes, try something new, try something old. In our digital age, we now have access to some amazing ancient texts. There are a number of these old distillation books available in digital form—they hold secrets. These secrets are waiting to be unlocked by eager new alchemists.


I wrote this book to share what I have learned along this journey. Distilling on these ancient works of art—the alembics—connects us to those that have gone before. Hydrosols created with the ancient techniques produce medicinal waters that are a far cry from the byproducts of essential oil distillations that most people are familiar with. When you have tried a hydrosol that was created by an experienced distiller specifically for the hydrosol, there is no turning back.

I have had clients try to describe my waters; one said they were “so lovely”—that they all carried an “Annie note.”

To this day this is one of my greatest compliments. As a distiller, there is a little of me in everything I produce. From choosing and planting the herbs, caring for them and harvesting at their peak, to distilling them with the utmost care, I am involved in every step, From Seed to Still.TM I can’t help but be part of the end product.

Hildegard sums this connection up with the beautiful term Viriditas, which literally translates as “greenness.” She believed that the Divine was in all plants, animals, and precious gems. She held that people acquired Viriditas through the plants, animals and gems and returned it through their virtues.

The plants, the stills, and the waters have much left to teach me and I am eager to continue my journey with them.

This ancient art has the ability to transform—both you and the plants. Let your journey begin.