Gifts from the Herb


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Making Them Yourself is Easy

Although making soap from scratch involves time-consuming, complicated, and potentially dangerous chemistry, there is a simpler way.  By starting with shredded unscented soap, you can easily create sensuous soaps to order.  Originally the choice was limited to a castile or glycerin base, but now you’ll find blends that include softening goat’s milk, healing aloe vera, nourishing cocoa or shea butter.

A trip to the internet will unearth an amazing number of suppliers (  and are two) willing to ship you any amount of basic soap base.  Essential or fragrance oils, colorants, and a wide variety of molds are equally easy to come by.  And if you just want to experiment before getting too involved, you can order a kit with enough ingredients for one or two batches. 

These basic soaps are satisfying as is, but adding herbs or one or two other common ingredients will let you customize soap to pamper yourself and your friends. 

Here are a few ideas to try:

1.Create a subtle fragrance with a strong infusion of an herb such as lavender or lemon verbena.  To heighten the scent and add more of the herb’s powers, stir in a few drops of its essential oil.

2.Add the healing, invigorating, or calming properties of herbs by stirring in a few drops of an herbal tincture made by infusing the herb in vodka or liquid vegetable glycerin.

3.Mix in powdered or crushed dried leaves and petals for color, visual appeal, and more herbal benefits.

4.Stir in a tablespoon or two of skin- nourishing oil.  Almond, olive, and coconut are among the best.

5.Mix in some powdered milk to help soften the skin.

6.Fold in some ground steel-cut oatmeal, cornmeal, dried lavender blossoms, or herbal seeds for their exfoliating ability.

7.Place a loofah in the mold and pour the soap over it for a soap-and-scrub bar.

8.In place of artificial colorants try natural ingredients such as paprika or cinnamon, or mineral paint pigments.

9.Use old milk cartons, tins, and chocolate molds instead of regular soap molds.

10.Add colorant to half the batch, then swirl the colored and uncolored base together to give a marbleized effect or pour in layers.  If you are using two compatible fragrances, give each color a separate scent.


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© photos Chris Mead; drawings Don Wise, video Rara Avis Productions, text Emelie Tolley



Herbs:  Gardens, Decorations and Recipes

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