Distillation Surprise: An Azulene Dream

Matricaria recutita

German Chamomille (Matricaria recutita) before harvesting this morning!

Sometimes it is a surprise to actually get great results when I make medicines. Not because I usually get poor results, but when things ‘go to plan’ and work in practice as they should work in theory, it’s a lovely surprise. Take today; for the first time, I made a floral water of German Chamomille (Matricaria recutita), as part of the process of making a Chamomille tincture (For those that know how I make aromatic tinctures, the water phase of the menstruum is usually a floral water – gives a stronger/better result). I only made a small quantity of floral water – about 600ml, with 250g of fresh Chamomille flowers in the still as the source material.

So, I fired up the still, and waited – not long. Within a couple of minutes I was absolutely shocked when the hydrolait

Azulene Floral Wate/Hydrolait

A Chamazulene rich hydrolait – an emulsion of essential oil and floral water.

or distillate that came out of the condenser was bright blue. Aromatherapists or those who use essential oils may know that the best quality Chamomille essential oil is bright blue. This is due an aromatic phenol compound called Chamazulene – not found in the plant itself, but created by the process of steam distillation from the compound Matricin. Now, I know that my little alembic makes nice floral waters – I keep the condensing coil cool (recirculating pumps) and the throughput of steam good. But as it’s not very sophisticated, I’d assumed that something like Azulene was beyond my grasp. So imagine my surprise when I found I’d extracted Chamazulene rich hydrolait! I can’t quite believe it. So here it is – an almost fluorescent blue.

So, nothing major in terms of what I used this hydrolait for – it went into the tincture as normal. But it’s nice to see the chemistry in action in such a visible way, and to know that my medicine making skills and equipment are working as they should do!

Categories: Experimental Herbalism

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