Originally toiletries and cosmetics were, of course, all made from local, natural ingredients. Today cosmetics abound in chemists, department stores and specialist shops. But it is very satisfying to create effective and natural cosmetics of your own. What is more, herbal preparations have many beneficial qualities in addition to their distinctive fragrances. Lavender and camomile are relaxing, comfrey regulates ageing skin, sage gives relief from aching muscles, spearmint and thyme are refreshing, rosemary and angelica are stimulating, while lovage is supposed to make you more lovable!
You can add the herbal fragrance of your choice to unperfumed castile soap by grating the soap and melting it in the top of a double saucepan over simmering water. Stir in a teaspoon of almond or vegetable oil and a teaspoon of honey and stir over the heat for 5 minutes. Stir in a few drops of essential herb oil and leave the soap to cool and harden.
Soap used to be made with tallow but you can substitute vegetable oils and make your own soap, following the recipe below. Take great care when using the caustic soda. Vary the herbs you use, add honey or oatmeal and use a variety of different shaped molds such as jelly molds, yogurt pots or baking dishes.
Place the water in a glass bowl, add the caustic soda and stir with a wooden spoon until it is dissolved. The soda will heat spontaneously. Set aside until lukewarm. Meanwhile, warm the oils to the same temperature. Pour the oil slowly into the soda, stirring continuously, then add the marjoram and beat until the mixture thickens and turns opaque. Pour into molds, stand on a cooling rack and leave in a warm, dry place for 24 hours until set. Remove from the molds, wrap in wax paper and leave in a col plac for 2-3 weeks to harden.
Natural oils which encapsulate the fragrance of the flower or herb, form the essence of many cosmetics. Concentrated herbal oils must be purchased from a herbalist or chemist as there is great skill in preparing such items. However, the following instructions will enable you to create light floral oils with scented flower petals. Use a measuring cup to weight the petals.
Warm the oil in the top of a double saucepan over simmering water. Add 2 cups of petals, stir, cover and leave over a low heat for 2 hours, checking regulary to ensure that the pan does not boil dry. Strain and reserve the flowers. Add another 2 cups of flowers to the oil and repeat the process until all the flowers have been used.
Pour the oil and all the flowers into a large pan, bring to a boil slowly then simmer gently for 40 minutes. Strain the oil through muslin (Cheese Cloth), pressing to extract all the oil from the petals. Stir in the liquid storax and tincture of bonzoin to fix the fragrance, pour into bottles, seal, lable and store in dry, dark place.
For a relaxing and fragrant bath oil, mix one part homemade floral or herbal oil with three parts almond oil for an oil which will float on the water, or with Turkey red dispersing oil. Pour the oil into bottles, seal, label and store. These bath oils make excellent gifts. Only a teaspoonful is needed in the bath. To counteract the drying nature of soap add a cupful of herbal vinegar to your bath water. Brush on skin after each bath…store in a dry place.
Make small quantities of fragrant powders to brush lightly on the skin after a bath – all you need to do is grind the following ingredients together until they are very fine. Mix ¼ cup each of dried rose petals, lavender flowers and ground orris root with ¼ cup of cornflour (cornstarch).
Successful Gardening ~
Kali S. Winters
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