Soothing Calendula Body Wash Recipe

Making liquid soap, in this case a body wash, is a simple way to keep your shower well-stocked. With a relatively small amount of ingredients, you can create a beautiful and effective cleanser! I created this recipe for my fiancé who is sensitive to bar soap, and even added a custom fragrance that we both enjoy! It uses calendula infused olive oil to reduce irritation and inflammation on the surface of the skin, and a blend of conditioning oils to prevent dryness.

If you make your own soap or other skincare products, you probably have most of these ingredients on hand! However, while bar soap is made using NaOH (sodium hydroxide) lye, liquid soaps require KOH lye (potassium hydroxide) to stay diluted in water. This recipe uses a dual lye base to create a thick paste that dilutes well (without losing too much of that lovely gel feeling). I used SaponiCalc to create it, and went with 70% KOH lye and 30% NaOH lye.

As a side note, I added a very small amount of a preservative to keep it fresh in the warm bathroom environment, opting for Germaben II E at a ratio of 1 quart diluted soap to 1/2 tsp preservative. While many people don’t use preservatives in their liquid soaps, I would rather avoid potential mold contamination in the steamy environment it will live in.

Showing you how it lathers!

On to the recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 5.6 oz distilled water
  • Sodium hydroxide lye 0.59 oz
  • Potassium hydroxide lye 2.16 oz
  • Castor oil – 2.4 oz
  • Coconut oil (76°F) – 4 oz
  • Olive oil infused with Calendula – 5.6 oz
  • Shea butter – 2.4 oz
  • Sunflower seed oil – 1.6 oz
  • Sweet almond oil carrying helichrysum essential oil, rosemary essential oil, and peppermint essential oil (for fragrance; these essential oils can be omitted or replaced based on other safe fragrance options) – 2 oz

Total weight before dilution and added oils: 24.86 oz

Begin by turning on your crock pot to a medium-high setting (mine only has a high and low, so I started on high and adjusted throughout to avoid burning the soap). Add the coconut oil and shea butter to the crock pot. While that melts, add in your castor oil, calendula-infused olive oil, and sunflower seed oil.

Mix together your lye and water slowly, stirring well to disintegrate all of the flakes. Slowly add this to your oil mixture and emulsify with a stick blender. This step can take anywhere from 5-20 minutes depending on your emulsifier. You will know when it is okay to stop when it reaches a thick mashed potato consistency. If your blender starts to overheat switch to another or leave the mixture on a low heat setting and come back to it once your blender has cooled. Make sure to wear protective clothing, including chemical resistant gloves, goggles, and long sleeves to avoid being splashed by the mixture; not only is it hot enough to burn you, it also contains unsaponified lye, which can cause chemical burns on its own. Use a small crockpot to avoid splashback or emulsify the mixture in a separate container before moving to your crockpot.

Stir every 30-40 minutes until you are left with a paste that is transparent before you disturb it by stirring. Keep on medium-high heat while you wait. Once it reaches the transparent paste stage, remove from heat, carefully transfer to a jar, and allow to cool. Once cool, you can add your distilled water and sweet almond oil. Depending on how thick you want your soap, you can add different amounts of water. Start with small amounts and stir or use a stick blender to dilute the paste into a liquid. In the end you should end up with a golden-brown soap that is translucent! If you use a stick blender to dilute the soap, don’t be surprised to see that it is opaque for the first week or so. It will settle over time into that beautiful golden-brown colour! At this point, you can also add a preservative of your choice and any colourants or additives you like. I prefer to keep it simple and don’t use any mica or other suspensions, but you can customize your finished soap as much as you like! To thicken it to your preference, you can also add a gum such as xanthan gum, or leave it as is. I prefer a thicker soap, but it lathers well and works as is, too!

Diluted soap in the process of settling after being blended a few days ago. The bottom is the end results’ final colour!

Muscle and Joint Pain Salve

This is a recipe I made and tested, and have found great results with! I had other people give it a go as well, and I feel comfortable sharing it as an option for you all to try! I chose herbs that have been used to treat inflammation and pain in muscles and joints, and used sweet almond oil as a carrier oil due to its light feel and ability to sink into the skin. Let me know if you try it out, too, and tell me how it goes! If you make any changes I’d love to hear about them!

I will note that I do not use fresh herbs for this recipe, but if that’s what you have on hand, it is possible to use them. Just make sure you watch your infusion for any signs of mold or bacterial growth!

What you’ll need:

  • 0.5 oz Nettle
  • 0.5 oz Marjoram
  • 0.5 oz Cinnamon or Sweet Cinnamon Chips
  • 0.5 oz Comfrey
  • 0.5 oz Arnica
  • 1 oz whole cloves
  • 24 oz sweet almond oil (or another light carrier oil such as argan, jojoba, or sunflower oil)
  • 20 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil
  • 20 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
  • 6 oz Calendula-infused Coconut Oil
  • 5 oz Shea Butter
  • 2 oz Beeswax (shaved, pellets, etc)

Infuse these herbs together in almond oil, or another light carrier oil like jojoba, argan, or sunflower oil:

  • .5 oz Nettle 
  • .5 oz Marjoram 
  • .5 oz cinnamon or cinnamon sweet chips 
  • 1 oz clove 
  • .5 oz comfrey 
  • .5 oz Arnica*
  • 3 oz. Arrowroot Powder

*omit if using daily or more than once a week regularly. It can be sensitizing on skin when used frequently over time 

Cover with 24 oz. of your chosen carrier oil and allow to infuse for 3-4 weeks. It is approximately 7 oz. of oil per one ounce of herbs. This is more potent than the usual method I use of 1 ounce herbs to 10 oz. of oil because it will be further diluted with coconut oil and shea butter base. I do not recommend using the oil straight on your skin to avoid sensitization.

You may need to store this in multiple jars! This is totally fine. Just keep in mind that the less air in the jar, the better. You can add vitamin e oil to act as an extra antioxidant to prevent some spoilage if desired. 

After your infusion is ready to go, mix in 20 drops of eucalyptus oil and 20 drops of rosemary essential oil. Alternatively, you can add these two elements as .5 oz of each and 7 ounces of your carrier oil to the infusion at the start of your process. I didn’t have either on hand, so I used my essential oils instead, and it turned out lovely! Just be sure to adjust the hard oils to ensure a good texture in the end.

In a separate glass bowl, add 6 oz. of calendula infused coconut oil, 5 oz. of shea butter, and 2 oz. of beeswax. Use a double boiler to begin melting, and add in your infusion after it is mostly melted, with only the beeswax left to melt down. 

A user in an herbalist group I’m a part of recommended magnesium-rich arrowroot powder to cut down on greasiness and also add in another muscle-soothing element. I thought this was an awesome idea and I do think it makes a difference! I ended up melting down half my batch and adding some in, and I do like it better. After your solution is melted completely, begin slowly pouring it in and mix as you do so. 

Divide into small jars and allow to cool. Apply as needed to sore muscles and joints! It should stay good for 6 months to a year without preservatives added, but I do recommend checking it every once in a while for any undesirable mold growth. Store in a cool, dark, dry area when not in use. Apply like icy-hot in areas where muscles and joints are causing discomfort. Due to the nature of herbs and their potential to be irritants on some skin, make sure you patch test your salve before using it. Try not to use it too often, as arnica, one of the herbs in this salve, can be irritating after repeated frequent use.

Be smart, stay safe, and as always, feel free to let me know what you think in the comments. Bye!

Advice for Beginner Naturalists

While I wouldn’t consider myself an expert by any means, I’ve had a lot of experience interacting with and observing the natural world. With these experiences come lessons–some learned the hard way. Here is some advice I have with anyone unfamiliar with nature or the safety practices associated with it.

Giant Hogweed | DSt24 on Pixabay

Don’t touch anything you aren’t certain is safe to handle. There are some plants, such as giant hogweed (WARNING: Graphic photos linked), that contain photosensitizing elements in their sap, which leads to severe burns after snapping off the stem and handling it. What’s even scarier is how much it looks like a completely safe plant, wild carrot, and even a desirable herbal medicine, yarrow. It’s much larger than these plants, but a beginner herbalist or naturalist interested in finding such plants could easily misidentify it. The best way to avoid this kind of danger is to never touch or harvest anything you can’t positively ID as safe. Leaf shape, stem shape, flower shape, etc. are all great ways to identify plants. I recently purchased a book by Thomas Elpel, called Botany in a Day. It offers expert explanations of the many parts of a plant and how these distinctions differentiate them from one another. You can also use apps like iNaturalist to get a starting point in your IDs, but AI should never be the only factor in determining a plant, animal, or fungi ID. You can take photos of a plant and its characteristics to ID later, which is how I have learned many plant names! Returning to it at a later time offers another look at it, too, sometimes in a different stage in its cycle. I have personally picked and handled two toxic plants because I saw them, thought they were pretty, and picked them without knowing anything about them. Be on the safe side, I promise it’s the right one!

Female Lone Star Tick | Lisa Zins on Flickr

Don’t wear flowing clothing when in fields or among brush. Ticks carrying diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness, make themselves at home in fields and other grassy areas with a lot of cover. Although small and their brief stay in your skin is relatively painless, the diseases they sometimes leave behind can be debilitating. To reduce your risk of tick borne illnesses, wear tight, fitted clothing and tuck your shirt into your pants and cover the cuffs of your pants with your socks. Ticks and other irritating bugs (such as chiggers) look for easy access to skin, along with somewhere to hide (such as shirt sleeves. Tying these sorts of areas down reduces the chance of being bitten. You can also make use of bug deterrents containing Permethrin, DEET, and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (which is not considered safe for children under 3, but is one of the more natural options on the CDC’s list of recommended deterrents). Make sure to shower as soon as possible after being in tick hotspots, and to check your skin and clothing for ticks. If you develop a rash or fever after being bitten by a tick, you should make an appointment with your doctor immediately. Ticks are predicted to be particularly abundant this year due to the mild winter here in the US, so be vigilant when exploring the beauty of nature!

Herbs | Silviarita on Pixabay

Don’t use anything you find to make food or other products if you aren’t certain it is pesticide, insecticide, and disease free. When I was 15, I used a few knockout rose petals from my front yard to create a tea for myself. I ended up with stomach cramps all night, and only then did I ask myself what else could be on or within those petals. I no longer forage anywhere that could have been sprayed with pesticides or insecticides, or have had prolonged exposure to car exhaust. Don’t learn the hard way what ingesting this type of thing feels like! There is also the potential for diseased plants to misbehave and become downright inedible. Yuck. You can harvest these plants for decor or to make an herbarium, but leave it at that.

Soap and Faucet | suju-foto on pixabay

Wash your hands often, and don’t touch your mouth beforehand. Some parasites, including the mostly benign but very uncomfortable pin worm, can be acquired from fecal material or shared surfaces where someone with pin worms has accidentally deposited eggs (most likely from not washing their hands after using the restroom). Other parasites are found in streams, caves, and even puddles. While being infected with a parasite can be fairly inevitable even with diligent safety precautions, simply washing your hands and nails thoroughly can deter many of them, or at least lower your risk of contracting them.

Forest and Road | David Mark on Pixabay

Don’t get lost in the wilderness. I have lost my way in a small grouping of trees with a path in it because I stepped away and forgot where the path was. It was getting dark, and despite knowing I was in a park and I would be just fine, I admit that I started to panic. Now, I will never leave the path without someone watching me from it. Exploring a little deeper isn’t worth getting lost and having to reorient yourself to find your way back to a trail. Bring a map and a compass and a good deal of knowledge on how to use both if you’ll be somewhere more out of the way than a park. Having a good friend with you is another way to stay on track!

These are my tips, all gleaned from experience or the experiences of others! I hope you don’t have to make these same mistakes I did to learn a good lesson. Have a great day! Bye!

Silky Lip Balm Recipe

I love making products for myself and others, and recently made my own lip balm recipe. It’s easy to make and I love how well it works! It’s silky smooth and feels buttery when applied. You can decide to add flavoring if you want, or leave it unflavored for less risk of irritation. I like my lipbalm super soft, and I like when it melts as soon as it touches my lips. Bear that in mind when deciding to use this recipe by the book or switch up some ratios! Here’s the recipe, which yields about 75 tubes in total:

  • 1/2 cup shea butter
  • 1/2 cup beeswax
  • 1/3 cup mango butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. of a lavender infusion made with sweet almond oil and jojoba oil (2/3 sweet almond, 1/3 jojoba) OR an infusion made from another herb such as calendula
  • 1/3 cup sweet almond oil (omit or use much less of this for a firm lip balm. I like mine super soft)
  • 1/6-1/4 tbsp. vitamin e oil

Next time, I’m going to replace the olive oil with an olive oil infusion made with calendula, and might replace the other infusion with Hibiscus infused in olive oil for flavour. I’m not sure I’ll like the flavour, but it’s worth a shot!

You can also use this as a skin balm for minor abrasions or sunburns. To make it into a lotion bar or a firm salve, remove the 1/3 sweet almond oil!

A quick swatch of my balm

Let me know how it goes for you if you make it yourself! I currently have a bunch in a jar and have shared many with my friends and family!

Identifying Wild Plants with iNaturalist

As a child, my Nana would share the plants she knew the names of with me. Some of that stuck, and it definitely gave me a desire to know more about the natural world. Now that I’m grown and have a repertoire larger than my Nana’s casual knowledge, I turn to new sources when I want to identify a particular herb, tree, or berry, using the same skills of observing that she shared with me many years ago.

While I have several books with guidance on identifying herbs, sometimes I want an answer without having to spend too much time deciphering leaf patterns and structures. Just today, I spotted some pretty yellow flowers in the grass outside my cousins school, and I wanted an answer without my books handy.

In times like these, I use an app called iNaturalist to quickly decipher what the plant may be. It isn’t always right, but it offers a starting point to work with. Often, it can help me get right down to the species! All I do is upload a few clear images of the plant in question (although bugs, fungi, animals, etc. are also in the database) and see what it comes up with. It’s an amazing tool for anyone starting out with herbs or naturalism of any kind. I love using it to confirm my identifications. It even offers an easy comparing function so you can feel confident in your identification.

It also has a social aspect where other naturalists can offer insight or agree on your match until it reaches research grade, aka three positive species identification from separate sources. This is added to their research grade database for others to use alongside you!

This is my favourite app so far. I’ve tried a few others, but find this is the one that suits me and my needs best! This post isn’t sponsored, I just wanted to share something I love with you all! It’s a tool I use nearly every time I leave my house, even if it’s just to document where I have seen certain herbs. I love the guides it offers in the explore tab, and often find myself browsing nearby observations and learning more about the plants near me. I also appreciate that it saves your observations and the ones you help identify. It makes it easy to go back and see what you’ve spotted!

Let me know what you’re favourite app is, and how it helps you in your journey. I’ll see you soon! Bye!

Making an Herbalism Journal From Upcycled Materials

I love making my own journals and notebooks. I get to upcycle paper materials and fashion custom covers to represent me and the contents the journal will hold. I just finished one for holding my recipes and how I feel they went, as well as ratios and measurement guidelines for oil infusions and tinctures! I’m really pleased with how it came out, and hope that sharing my process will inspire some of you too make your own!

Materials I used:

I cut my pages into the same size rectangle (except for one special insert in the middle that’s much smaller) and sewed them together as three signatures. I’m not too savvy with binding methods, so I just sewed the middle signature to the ones on either side and then sewed the two on the side to each other. Then I modpodged a piece of tissue paper I’d gotten in a package over the stitching ant onto the front of the first and back of the last signatures just a tad.

After binding them, I made my cover. I cut out a sheet of magazine text just a little bit bigger than the papers with enough room to cover the spine added in. Then, after measuring it again and ensuring it was the right size, I laid down some mod podge and a piece of white tissue paper. On the back side, I folded the tissue over and used more mod podge to secure it.

I let these both dry before putting them together. Then, I cut out a mostly white page from a magazine (mine says chanel on it, but it’ll be covered eventually). It needed to be the size of the signature pages x2. Then I glued one piece to the pages, making sure to go close to the spine. Then, I folded it by closing the book, opened it up, and glued it to the inside of the cover. I repeated this process with the back cover.

Sometimes I add ribbons or closures to my journals, but I kept this one simple.

After this, I drew some herbs on the cover and used some an extra scrap piece of homemade paper to label it “herbalism” and glue down.

This is usually how it goes when I make my own journals! Not perfect, but functional and dare I say aesthetically pleasing for the most part. Let me know if you have any fun journals like this!

Thanks for stopping by! See you again soon! Bye!

3 Creative Ways to Use Spent Herbs

I hate tossing out herbs after using them to make oil infusions or medicinal teas. It’s so frustrating to see them going to the bin or a compost pile when they seem barely touched on the surface. Here are three ways to reuse spent herbs and enjoy them just a little longer.

1. Add them to a cloth sachet and throw them into a bath. You can use them as is in your bath for a luxurious herb (or oil and herb) soak. If you want to add a bit more oomph to it, you can mix in some Epsom salt or powdered oatmeal and slip in for an impromptu spa night. Just make sure not to soak past 20-30 minutes if you opt in for Epsom salt! If you have a bunch of oily herbs left over, you can store them in a sealed container in the fridge, keeping an eye on them for any mildew or mold growth. I’d toss after two weeks either way just to be safe! Remember to be cautious with herbs in every area, and ensure they are skin safe before using!

photo by wettinok // Pixabay

2. In the case of tea, you can add them to a batch of homemade paper. There’s something incredibly fulfilling about making your own paper, and adding a bit of your herbs only adds to the magic of making. You can also let the herbs dry and use them in paper at a later date. I make paper by blending up a variety of paper scraps, cardboard boxes, and the remnants of other paper batches. I fill up a bucket with them and plenty of water. Then, using a splatter guard, catch the fibers and sift them up before flipping them over on a towel and blotting with another. If you have an exorbitant amount of a particularly fibrous herb, you may be able to make paper with them alone! Another option includes adding seeds to your fibers and creating seed paper! The herbs would act as a delicious source of compost once planted!

Photo by Yvonne Huijbens // Pixabay

3. Before lighting an outdoor fire, add the herbs to your wood pile. Allow them to dry out as much as possible beforehand. If they’re particularly aromatic, you may still get some lovely whiffs of their fragrant oil as they burn. If not, they’ll contribute to the fire and may even make a great starter if fully dried and bunched together! Just make sure the herbs are safe to burn!

I hope you all are enjoying your Friday, or whatever day it is when this post finds you. Let me know what you like to do with your spent herbs!

Bye!