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Archive for the ‘Natural Beauty’ Category

Calendula and Chamomile were born to be friends. As cheerful and vibrant as each other, they are two of the kindest herbs I know, always on hand to heal, soothe and balance myriad ailments.

Calendula

Alongside their individual personalities they have much in common, as good friends often do. They both have a deservedly high reputation as skin herbs and are particularly beneficial for soothing sore, dry and irritated skins due to their calming, anti-inflammatory properties. They have both also been used for soothing the nervous system and relaxing spasms in the digestive system. Despite being powerful healers they are gentle enough for young children. They are both anti-septic and can be helpful for a range of external and internal infections.

One of my favourite ways to combine them is in this deliciously rich and soothing cream that I use on areas of dry or irritated skin, sunburn, insect bites, allergies, scars or just as a lovely moisturiser that is great for sensitive skins. It also makes a perfect cream for mother and baby and can be used to help a range of problems such as nappy rash, cradle cap and sore nipples to name but a few. I call it my ‘little pot of kindness’ as that just what these herbs are.

Little Pots of Kindness

Chamomile and Calendula Calming Cream- A Little Pot of Kindness:

These quantities make enough cream for two 60ml and one 30ml pot. It’s good to make it in small batches unless you plan to add a synthetic preservative as it only has a shelf life of about a month out of the fridge (it will be less in a hot climate) or 2 months in. Essential oils can also act as preservatives but are not present in high enough quantities in this recipe.

50ml calendula and chamomile infusion (steep a tablespoon of each herb in a cup of freshly boiled water, strain and measure out required amount).
25ml aloe vera gel (also calming and healing)
1/2 teaspoon vegetable glycerine
10g beeswax
20g coconut oil (considered cooling and calming in ayurvedic medicine)
25ml calendula infused oil (see here for how to infuse your own oils).
25ml chamomile infused oil
2ml Vitamin E
5 drops Vitamin A
10 drops Lavender essential oil
4 drops Roman Chamomile essential oil

Melt the wax and coconut oil in a bain marie or double boiler on a low heat, adding the calendula and chamomile infused oils when liquid and stirring a little if the waxes start to solidify. In a separate container mix the herbal infusion with the aloe vera and glycerine. Take the oils off the heat and allow to cool slightly before adding the vitamins A and E. For more detailed instructions on cream making along with photos of when the oils are ready to blend, see this post here. I use a small hand blender to mix them as I’m not making a large enough quantity to use my big blender. You could also use an electric or hand whisk. Begin to blend/ whisk the water mixture and slowly add in the oils, a drizzle at a time. Continue to blend until you have a nice smooth, even, creamy consistency. Spoon into a jar or jars and stir in the essential oils. Pop in the fridge for a short while to cool.

This is the same method I used to make my infused elderflower moisturiser. I find it works well for me but creams are notoriously difficult when you make them without using an emulsifier. If your cream seems to be separating don’t despair, just keep scraping the mixture down the sides, mixing it up with a spoon and blending or whisking again. It’s fine to use an emulsifier if you prefer, I just like to make things as simply and naturally as possible when I can.

Oh and don’t forget to thank the chamomile and calendula for all their goodness and care. 🙂

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Elderflowers

The Elder tree has been held as sacred in various folkloric traditions, as has the Elder Mother who presides over it. Any lady whose age numbers in the thousands has learnt a thing or two about natural beauty and, luckily for us, the Elder Mother shares some of her secrets in the creamy white elderflowers that adorn her trees in May and June. Elderflowers have long been used in skincare recipes for their softening, anti-inflammatory and beautifying properties and infusions have been used to even the skin tone, ease sunburn and prevent wrinkles.

I love elderflower infused oils for use in face and body care recipes so this year I decided to experiment with a few different base oils to see how they captured the fragrance and nourishing properties of the elderflowers. With the resulting products I made a face oil, a day cream and a body butter, the recipes for which are included here.

Along with my usual sweet almond oil infusion, I chose to try safflower oil and macadamia oil as well as a couple of solid oils- coconut and mango butter. Safflower oil is popular in cosmetics because it is high in essential fatty acids. Like sweet almond, it is a light oil with little odour so I thought it would work well for capturing the scent of the elderflowers. Macadamia is a rich, fatty oil that it particularly beneficial for dry or mature skins and has a deep nutty aroma. Coconut oil has a lovely light consistency which is perfect for cream making though its strong smell can detract from the elderflowers, so I also tried the mango butter which has a similar, though slightly creamier consistency, with hardly any smell. Coconut oil is considered cooling and elderflowers have been recommended for sunburn so I thought this would make a nice aftersun if blended with some aloe vera and lavender water.

It’s important to use only organic, cold pressed oils to retain all the therapeutic benefits and ensure there are no traces of harmful chemicals in your products and, of course, make sure you only harvest elderflowers from areas you’re sure haven’t been sprayed.

Fresh Elderflowers give up their scent and beautifying properties quite quickly and will go off if left to infuse too long. I chose to sun infuse my oils for about 10 hours on a bright windowsill which was plenty of time for them to absorb all the goodness without getting that ‘cat’s pee’ smell that can accompany over done elderflowers! With the coconut and mango butters I melted them in a bain marie before pouring them over the elderflowers and allowing to infuse for a day before re-warming and straining. You can use the heat method but the oils can quickly degrade at high temperatures so I prefer to sun infuse where appropriate. For a detailed explanation of how to infuse an oil see my previous post here.

Elderflower Oils

As elderflowers have very fine pollen I chose to strain the liquid oils through a coffee filter to ensure as much of the plant material as possible was removed and prolong the life of the finished oil. The melted butters went quite happily through a muslin cloth however. I was really happy with all the different infusions, especially the mango butter and safflower which, I thought, retained the best smell. The macadamia oil has a really decadent feel but would be too heavy to use alone so I decided to mix equal parts of the three liquid infused oils to make a delicious face oil. By mixing all three you get the benefits of them all with a really nice consistency. Don’t feel you have to use the same oils as me, feel free to use any that you fancy and you can also just use one rather than a combination for ease and practicality.

Elderflower Face Oil:
This recipe makes three 30ml bottles
30ml elderflower infused in safflower
30ml elderflower infused in sweet almond
30ml elderflower infused in macadamia
3ml vitamin E Oil

I use just 3 or 4 drops of this oil massaged into damp skin at night and it feels so soft in the morning.

I also made a face cream for use in the day.

Elderflower and Rose Moisturiser:
50 ml rosewater
25ml aloe vera gel
1/2 tbsp vegetable glycerine
10g beeswax
50ml elderflower infused oil (I did 20 safflower, 20 almond and 10 macadamia)
20ml elderflower infused mango butter (or coconut butter. Use plain if you have none infused)
5ml Vitamin E
5 drops Vitamin A
10 drops Rose Otto essential oil

This makes a really lovely, rich cream so a little goes a long way. Melt the beeswax in a bain marie and add the mango butter and oil when it’s already soft.

In a separate container, mix the aloe vera, rosewater and vegetable glycerine.

Take the oils off the heat and allow to cool slightly before adding the vitamins A and E.

I use a small hand blender to mix them as I’m not making a large enough quantity to use my big blender. You could also use an electric or hand whisk. Begin to blend/ whisk the oil mixture and slowly add in the waters, a drizzle at a time. Continue to blend until you have a nice smooth, even, creamy consistency. Spoon into a jar or jars and stir in the essential oils. Allow to cool completely before putting in the fridge as this will help prevent it separating.

This recipe doesn’t contain a preservative but it you want it to last longer than a month or so you will need to add one.

I have a much more detailed description of cream making here.

Also a description of ingredients including preservatives here.

Elderflower Softening Cream

I’m currently making a toner to go with this by infusing elderflowers in witch hazel distillate. For normal or combination skin mix 25ml of the resulting liquid with 75ml of rosewater and place in a spray bottle to spritz on after cleansing or to refresh the skin throughout the day. For dry skin, drop the witch hazel to 10ml and up the rosewater to 90ml and for oily skin you can increase the witch hazel to 40ml and use 60ml of lavender water instead of rose.

Finally I made a really simple body butter with the following ingredients;
60 ml elderflower infused in sweet almond
30ml elderflower infused mango butter
30ml shea butter
Melt all the ingredients together in a bain marie/ double boiler, mix well and pour into a 120ml jar. Allow to set in the fridge before using liberally.

Do patch tests first to ensure you aren’t sensitive to any of the ingredients in these recipes.

And last but not least, don’t forget to thank the Elder Mother! 😉

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Almonds are one of my favourite nuts (along with walnuts), not only because they’re so delicious but because there are so many things you can do with them. I have been making almond milk to drink every day for a couple of years but only recently have I been even more decadent and enjoyed almond milk baths. As I hate to waste, I try to use up the pulp left over from the almond milk in a variety of ways, including making face and body scrubs like the one below.

Almonds are the most nutritious of all nuts containing calcium, magnesium, iron, Vitamin E, trace minerals and fatty acids. Using the milk in the bath helps soothe tired, dry, rough or dehydrated skin.

Almond Milk Bath:

1/2 cup almonds soaked for a few hours
1 litre of water or herbal infusion of your choice, lavender or rose are beautiful for bath milk
4 drops essential oils if desired, again you can’t go wrong with lavender, chamomile or sandalwood for soothing skin and helping you unwind

Blend the almonds and water/infusion in a fairly powerful blender and strain through a jelly sieve or muslin cloth. Save the almond pulp that’s left over for making the scrub below. Stir in the essential oils and pour into a hot bath just before getting in. Let the day’s troubles float away.

Almond Pulp Body Scrub:

1 cup almond pulp
1 tablespoon finely ground sea or crystal salt
A teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons sweet almond oil or other base oil
1 tablespoon ground lavender flowers
4-5 drops essential oils of your choice

Mix all ingredients together and store in the fridge before taking into the shower with you and scrubbing your cares away.

Ground almonds have been used in natural cosmetics for centuries for their beautifying and nutritious properties and the pulp from almond milk has many similar benefits though some of the fats and nutrients have already been extracted into the milk. It is also softer than normal ground almond after being blended with the water. The salt is cleansing, both physically and energetically as salt can help absorb any negative energies we have picked up throughout the day. The pepper will boost the circulation, the lavender and honey are soothing, healing and antiseptic and the oil helps trap moisture in, leaving you silky and smooth.

You can always save a cup of the milk to sip whilst you recline in the tub, it’s nice warmed with some cinnamon and a touch of honey.
Enjoy.

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After a long day in London studying, there’s nothing like coming home to a hot, steamy bath full of herbal wonders.

Avena, or as we commonly call her Oats, is a lovely choice for such times, when you are both exhausted from the early morning, travel and long hours in a classroom, as well as over stimulated from the bright lights, loud noises and hectic pace of the big city. A classic tonic to the nervous system, Avena can help us deal effectively with periods of stress, anxiety and nervous tension. She can help soothe and protect us when we are suffering from the sensory overload usually induced by spending time in a busy city and enable a deep and restorative nights sleep. Oats are also rich in silicon which helps build the skin, nails and hair.

The classic way to have an oat bath is to tie a handful of rolled oats in a square of muslin cloth and hang it under the taps as you run the bath to release a creamy oat milk which is soothing for sensitive, dry skin.

I like to pack my baths with as much medicinal value as possible as we have the ability to absorb many substances into our bodies through the skin. This oat and chamomile bath takes a bit of pre-planning but is quick to do and captures many of the beautiful healing properties of these two wonderful green allies.

If you know you’ll have time for a bath that evening, make a strong infusion of oatstraw herb and chamomile in the morning and leave on the side for the rest of the day to extract all the goodness from the herbs.
I usually use a large handful of oatstraw, with a large pinch of chamomile, in a jar or cafetiere with pint or so of freshly boiled water.

When your ready for your bath strain the herbal infusion into a blender and add a couple of handfuls of porridge oats.
Blend up into a cream.
Stir in 4 drops Roman Chamomile, 2 drops Lavender and 2 drops Sandalwood, or any of your favourite relaxing essential oils.
Pour into a freshly run, hot bath, get in and feel the days stresses melt away.

Magic.

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