What a Treat! I just read a wonderful review of my Clarifying Serum on a product review site called Hot Ink. The reviewer has been using the serum for a year, and though she started with skin that was dryish in places, but also prone to oiliness, acne, and sensitivity, all of these issues have been resolved from using this serum as her primary moisturizer. I made a fresh batch just a week ago and can attest to how chock-full of goodness it is. I now infuse the oils with organic thyme (antiseptic), chamomile (anti-inflammatory), and calendula (healing) to further bolster the power of the oils. Yay! I love to hear success stories with what I believe to be a great product, and I really wanted to share this with all of you, my dear readers. (I know you likely thought I had dropped off the edge of the planet, but fear not, I haven’t, and trust me: I am getting back on board with devotion to my blog. Lots of news to update you on! And I will! Soon.) For now, read this awesome review. :-)
Liniments. Hm. Sounds vaguely medicinal, right? I remember once going to a bar that was ‘inspired’, I take it, by herbal formulas. Some drinks (shall I say ‘concoctions’?) boasted the inclusion of herbal tinctures of elderflower, ginger, or lavender. Not a bad thought at all, as we often use more familiar alcohol extracts of vanilla or orange peel in herby libations. However, there was a drink that supposedly included the use of an herbal liniment…..HA HA HA HA. Well, that’s the herb snob in me, I’m a little ashamed to admit. Why? Because liniments are for external treatment, not for cocktails. In fact, many liniments use rubbing alcohol as a base which sounds downright raunchy as an addition to an evening beverage. In truth, a liniment could essentially be made the same way as an extract meant to be taken internally, despite the fact that the definition implies that it is used externally. It can also be made as an infused oil, which, if made with the right kind of oil, can be a fabulous culinary addition! Still, I feel some “nameology” needs to be in order.
Moving on. A liniment is most often made as an alcohol extract. The purpose is to provide a vehicle for the important chemical compounds in herbs that would be used for external application. I have included a DIY recipe below for a ginger liniment that is made with a neutral oil, and some additional possibilities are olive oil, safflower oil, or sunflower seed oil. Essentially an infused oil, this ginger liniment works great as a massage oil post-exercise to relieve aches & pains. It is also a great treatment to increase circulation. Try on arthritic joints, on sore muscles, and troublesome joint pain. Best used twice a day at least!
3″ piece fresh ginger
1/4 cup almond oil
Grate ginger and combine with oil in a non-reactive (non-aluminum) saucepan. Cover and heat on low heat for one hour. Make sure you have this at the lowest possible temperature to avoid the oil overheating or ‘burning’. Remove from heat and steep for another hour. Strain out ginger. Pour oil into a 4 oz colored glass bottle with a tight-fitting screwtop.
Alternative: Use 1/4 cup grain alcohol instead of oil. Infuse for a minimum of 6 weeks (without heat) in a dark place. Apply externally with a cotton pad to relieve aches and pains. Do not apply on broken skin.
NOTE: whenever applying an external remedy, do a test patch first to make sure you are not allergic to any of the ingredients. Apply a small amount on the inside of your arm and wait 24 hours to make sure you won’t have any reaction. Some minor redness can be a natural side effect of a ginger liniment, as increased blood circulation may bring blood flow to the surface of the skin.
Over the years, when I would hear about a hair oil or see a recipe for one, the association was usually with a hair treatment oil that would be used for a deep conditioning application for dry or damaged hair. This kind of hair oil treatment can be a great benefit to hair, because the oils penetrate and revitalize extra dry locks to great effect. Because my hair is on the oily side to begin with, I knew that a hair oil treatment of this kind is not something I would necessarily need. Plenty of lubrication there! I prefer using herbal hair rinses to reduce oil production and increase lustre and shine.
That said, when perusing Colleen Dodt’s Essential Oils Book a few years ago, I came across what was, for me, a novel concept. Dodt advocated the use of a blend of fragrant essential oils in a carrier oil base that are put in a dropper bottle, applied to a wooden comb, rubbed into the wood, and then combed into the hair.
The result? Hair that smells really, really beautifully — delicately scented, aromatic, and provides a halo of natural fragrance wherever you go. She likes to use it to banish smoke when leaving a smokey environment and carries a tiny bottle in her purse at all times. I just love the concept and often apply it to dry hair in the morning or evening before going out. My hair is actually on the oilier side, and this kind of application needn’t aggravate oily hair at all. You are basically just –very lightly — applying a nourishing hair conditioner that contains essential oils actually beneficial to the hair itself. There are definitely hair oil treatments that can be applied for deep conditioning for drier hair types, but this fragrant application does not fit into that category.
Aromatic Hair Care Oil
Start with 1/2 oz. of base carrier oil, such as jojoba oil. Be sure to use only pure essential oils, not synthetic fragrance oils. You can add to a comb or brush as described below and comb into dry hair OR you can add a few drops to your scalp, especially if you have a dry scalp, when hair is wet and allow essential oils to add conditioning fragrance to your hair as it dries.
Try any of the following blends, as your needs dictate:
Soothing Scalp Refreshment Blend: 2 drops rosemary, 2 drops lavender, 2 drops clary sage, 2 drops jasmine absolute
Fragrant Garden Blend: 2 drops lavender, 2 drops rose geranium, 2 drops ylang ylang, 2 drops patchouli
Conditioning Blend: 2 drops Roman chamomile, 2 drops lavender, 2 drops sandalwood, 1 drop jasmine absolute
Earth Blend: 2 drops rose absolute, 2 drops patchouli, 2 drops sandalwood, 2 drops lavender
Healing Scalp (anti-dandruff) Blend: 2 drops cedarwood, 2 drops lavender, 2 drops rosemary, 2 drops tea tree.
1. Fill a 1/2 oz. dark glass dropper bottle with the carrier oil and essential oils.
2. Add 2-3 drops of hair care oils directly onto a hair brush or comb before using. If you have a wooden comb, the oil can be rubbed directly onto the comb. The oil conditions the hair as you brush or comb.
REF: Colleen K. Dodt, The Essential Oils Book: Creating Personal Blends for Mind & Body, MA: Storey Publishing, 1996.
Happily, there are lots of natural repellents in the form of essential, or volitile, oils derived from many aromatic botanicals. Essential oils are used in very small amounts when mixed with neutral carrier oils such as sweet almond or grapeseed oils. Other repellent oils, such as Neem and Karanja, are cold pressed oils that can be used directly as insecticides and/or repellents when mixed in a formula, such as a lotion or salve.
Essential oils such as lemon eucalyptus, eucalyptus globulus, lemongrass, lavender, pennyroyal (do NOT use if pregnant), citronella, mints, thyme, sage, and rosemary are all useful repellents, and these can be used in dried herb sachets tied to ankles and wrists (perhaps spiked with a few essential oils). My prefernce, however, is to use the pure and very potent essential oils (try just a few drops at a time) in water-based spray solutions, oils, and/or balms. Such preparations utilizing repellent essential oils need to be re-applied more frequently than chemical deterants (such as Deet), but I would much rather surround myself with a cloud of essential oil-scented solution every hour or two than apply a chemical that poses health risks, especially when it comes to children. (It’s pretty incredible to me, actually, that something with potentially harmful neurological effects would appear in bug sprays made specifically for children!) For infants, try to stick to a solution with extra gentle essential oils such as lavender, perhaps with a tiny bit of spearmint or rosemary.
Try the recipe below for your own insect repellent oil spray. This will last for a long time, as water based formulas are always more susceptible to problems than oils. Vitamin E and Rosemary Oil extract are anti-oxidants that help protect the oil against rancidity.
DIY (oil based) Insect Repellent Spray
1. measure 30 drops of any of the above e.o.s
2. add to 2 oz. carrier oil, such as olive, grapeseed, or sweet almond
3. add a few drops Rosemary Oil Extract or vit E (optional)
4. Store in 2 oz. spritzer bottle
Neem (Azadirachta indica) is an Ayurvedic herb well known for its insecticidal effects, mostly by targeting the reproductive system of pesky wee critters. Unlike the volitile essential oils used in the herbs above, neem oil is a coldpressed oil derived from the pressed kernals of the neem fruit. Snowdrift farm features insecticidal recipes for a salve, lotion, and massage oil using Neem & Karanja oils for treating mange and mites in pets.
There’s a fascinating folk remedy called “vinegar of the four thieves” that I’ve recently come across. It is tied to a story about perfumers during the Black Plague who utilzed the antiseptic properties of several herbs to create a protective infused vinegar. Using wormwood, lavender, rosemary, mint, and sage, one can create an infusion that can then be sprayed on cutting boards, diaper pails, or anywhere else that some anti-septic, and insect repellent action is necessary. It can also be applied to clothing and exposed skin, it is supposed to be effective against chiggers, ticks, and fleas.
DIY Infused Vinegar:
1. Measure 1 oz of dried herbs, including lavender, wormwood (or rue), sage, rosemary, and mint
2. Put herbs in a mason jar and cover with cider vinegar
3. Steep 1-6 weeks in a cool, dark place
4. Strain into a spritzer bottle and use liberally wherever an anti-septic or insect repellent is needed.
(This will keep indefinately, as vinegar is a natural preservative)
Herbs of wormwood and garlic also have insecticidal properties, and these herbs can be used even as protection for house or garden plants. The spray below is easy to make and the materials are cheap, though I’ve never tried it. You can try subsituting beeswax for the paraffin and see how that works (and let me know how it goes!).
DIY Houseplant insecticide using Garlic:
1. chop 90g raw garlic
2. soak in 2 Tbsp paraffin oil for 24 hrs
3. slowly add 600ml water with 7g soap dissolved in it.
4. Stir well and strain through cheesecloth or muslin.
5. Store it in a glass container (do not use a metal).
Have some home remedies or recipes? Let me know about them so I can share them with my readers!
FYI: My own Lilith’s Apothecary “Shoo Bug!” Insect Repellent and cooling peppermint Bug Bite Soother can be found in my etsy shop!
I have really enjoyed reading the herby magazine Herb Companion in recent years and have had fun discovering new recipes, herbal histories, and lots of fun information and resources. It’s great to have the feeling of an herbal community through periodicals, blogs, and web-based information on top of all that book learnin’. Recently, I decided to begin guest blogging for Herb Companion and it’s a lot of fun, as you all know how much I love to share information about herbs, nutrition, and natural body care! Be sure to check out my latest post on wild crafting healing herbs to make your own infused oils and medicinal salves.
My Silk Kimono body butter is one of my favorite products, and certainly one of the favorites of my customers. Its silky smoothe texture glides onto the skin and soaks right in. The butter is made of whipped shea and coconut oils, with just a touch of vitamin E to protect the oils. I generally use only 100% natural, pure essential oils to scent my products and generally shy away from fragrance oils unless I am sure that they are pthalate free. I also feel that it’s better to use a product that has some aromatherpeutic value, a characteristic that is completely lacking in synthetic fragrances. We all know that there is just no comparison between natural essential oils such as lavender and their fragrance oil versions.
So, here’s my dilemna. My customers and retailers are clammoring for new scents for this whipped shea body butter, currently only available in the signature Silk Kimono scent. What other scents would you like to see? I’d love to take a poll from my readers and get some feedback about the kinds of blends that would make you want to indulge in the wonders of whipped shea! What do you think?
I’d be remiss in not at least once bringing up the pure luxury of a simple salt or sugar scrub. First of all, you don’t have to pay huge amounts of money for this kind of product, as it’s something you can easily make in your own home! That said, of courseit’s worth the $12 to buy my beautiful essential oil blended scrubs with premium dead sea salts, a diverisity of high quality therapeutic oils, and nice packaging. (I had to say that, I’m running a business) But seriously, $12 is a totally reasonable price. Many companies charge upwards of $25 or more for such a product. And again, you can do this yourself!
Salt or sugar scrubs are absolutely marvelous. There are many versions out there, some which contain soap or ‘whipped’ soap, some that are emulsified with other oils and waxes (such as my brown sugar scrub) and many that are simple combinations of salt or sugar and oils. Cheap versions –such as some chain bath & body stores that I won’t name outright–use petroleum-based oils as the primary ingredient in these products. Not helpful. The point of a body scrub is to provide exfoliation to slough off the outer dead skin sells and thus ‘polish’ the skin into a healthy, revitalized glow. Not only does this get rid of the dull outer skin cells, but it also increases circulation and invigorates the tissue. The oils then sink into the fresh layer of skin to provide nourishment, moisture, and protection from the elements. Indeed, oils not only provide SPF protection against UV rays, but the oil also acts as a natural barrier to keep the skin from getting too dry or chapped. Scrubs are great in the summer because they keep your skin glowy and fresh, and somehow, even more necessary in the winter because they keep your skin protected and well-moisturized. I find that I don’t need a moisturizer when I use a polish towards the end of a shower or bath, and my skin doesn’t get that winter itchy, dry feeling that is the norm.
For those who don’t like applying oils directly to the skin in this way or like something a bit smoother in texture, an emulsified scrubis ideal. This is a bit more high-tech to make and so it’s better purchased, but emulsified scrubs do eliminate the slippery oils that can often coat the floor of the bath tub in the former. Some people hate those oils and also find the salts a bit too harsh if they have extra sensitive skin. The oils are actually in a solid state, adhered to the fine sugar crystals, so the texture is like fine breadcrumbs. A handfull of this can really do the trick in gently exfoliating and moisturizing the skin.
So how do you make something like this at home instead of spending a lot of cash on the so-called ‘upscale’ spa version?
Well, it’s simple.
DIY – Simple Sugar or Salt Scrub.
1. Find a nice container – plastic or glass – and make sure it is clean and dry. It’s very important that you keep the container as dry as possible and try to avoid getting water in the scrub unless you intend to use it up quickly, as the introduction of water can create a potential for mold growth, especially if the scrub sits around with water in it.
2. Fill the container with salts or sugar – it doesn’t matter what kind, though an extra course texture of salt or sugar will be more ‘scratchy’. I find that the finer the texture, the better, in most cases. Leave a little of room on the top but not more than 1/2″ – 1″.
3. Add a little Vit E (squeeze out one capsule or add 1/2 tsp oil) to prevent rancidity (if you have it on hand).
4. Add the fragrance. Start with 20 – 30 drops of your favorite essential oil. I generally advise away from most fragrance oils because of the presence of pthalates and because only true essential oils offer aromatherapeutic benefit. That said, some essential oils are extremely expensive, so you might have to use a fragrance oil to get the scent you want. For true essential oils that are readily available and affordable: Try ylang ylang for intense, heady floral notes; orange for a lovely citrus fragrance: peppermint & rosemary for something zesty and refreshing (don’t overdo the e.o.s on this); lavender for its beautiful, relaxing qualities; or patchouli for it’s earthy, sensual scent.
5. Fill the container with a skin-nutritive, natural oil or blend of oils. Jojoba, Sesame, Olive, Grape seed, or other oils, many of which you may be able to find in small quantities at your grocery store. Do NOT use mineral oil, J&J “baby oil” (How can J&J actually market this for babies?), or other petroleum-based oils, as these are equivalent to putting saran wrap on your skin. The petroleum oil creates a barrier but doesn’t provide any true moisturization or nutrition for your skin cells. It’s basically a useless oil slick, as far as I’m concerned.
Voila! Pure luxury for the bath time ritual and an absolute must for regular skin exfoliation and moisturization.
See my store for various salt scrubs, including my Ayurvedic Healing Scrub for those who suffer from skin conditions such as psoriasis.