Homemade gifts are a thoughtful way to share natural products and are fun to make! These are some of my favorite, simple recipes that I’ve shared over the years in classes and to inspire people when they want to make something themselves for friends, family, and coworkers.
The first recipe is for a simple salve (or balm), which is simply a thickened oil or butter, or combination thereof, that can be used to nourish and soften any skin, including the lips. Herbs can be added by infusing them into the oil base (such as calendula flowers into apricot kernel oil) for the additional healing benefits certain herbs provide. Essential oils are another way to enhance the effect of a salve, to make it more therapeutic, and also to add a pleasant aroma.
Next, if you are interested in making your own herb-infused oil, a basic recipe is included below.
Also included is a recipe for a Body Scrub, a Bath Salt, as well of information on good salts for the bath, skin (carrier) oils, and essential oils.
Basic Salve/Lip balm Recipe
1 cup oil of your choice [apricot kernel, olive, avocado, etc; herb-infused oils like calendula or St. John’s wort oils work great here; use part cocoa, shea or mango butter to achieve a thicker lip balm]
1 oz (30 g) beeswax (~1/4 cup)
Essential oils (optional: for scent and therapeutic purposes – commonly used are lavender, orange, tea tree, lemon)
Gently heat the oil and beeswax together in a glass measuring cup immersed in hot water in a pot, or in a double boiler over low heat, until the beeswax has melted. Mix well. Remove from the heat.
Optional: Steep 1 Tbsp. of alkanet root in your oils for 15-20 minutes on low heat and then strain out. This gives a nice pink-purple tint for a lip balm if you so desire. Use the oil as your base.
[Tip: dip a metal spoon into the mixture at this point and put the spoon in the freezer for 1-2 minutes. Test the consistency at this point. Add beeswax or oil to reach desired consistency.]
Add essential oils if using (approximately 50-100 drops to the entire mixture).
Pour the mixture into appropriate containers before it cools and hardens – small jars or lip balm tubes.
Stovetop (Quick) Method:
Use a double boiler or a metal bowl sitting over a pot of water or a heat-tolerant measuring cup partially submerged in water in a pot on the stove.
Cover herb of choice with just enough oil to cover and bring the water beneath the container to a slow simmer. Heat the oil for 30-60 minutes or more, stirring often and not allowing the oil to bubble/boil. Strain out the herbs and use the oil as-is on the skin or use as a base for a salve or skin cream.
Low Heat (Long) Method:
Add ~ 1 – 2 ounces (30 – 60 grams) of dry herb in each cup of fixed/carrier oil in an uncovered container. You can then put in a crockpot/slower cooker at the lowest setting or a dehydrator/by a heat vent, etc. Or place in the oven on the “warm” setting – very low heat. You may need to leave the door of the oven open. Turn on while home and turn off while away. Using a cooking thermometer, check that the oil heats to between 110-120 degrees (F), but ideally does not go over 120 degrees to prevent damaging the oil you are using. Allow to macerate (infuse) for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days at this low heat, checking the temperature and stirring occasionally. For fresh herbs, the heating method works great to evaporate off the water and discourage spoiling.
You can also macerate the herbs in oil in the Sun. For fresh herbs, you must allow for evaporation of water, so cover with a screen or cheesecloth in a jar in the sun.
Body Scrubs & Mask Ideas
Effective scrubs and masks can be made simply in your kitchen or bathroom for a myriad of face and body skincare needs. Scrubs can be very gentle or more abrasive/exfoliating depending on the area of the body it is used on or the desired results. Masks can be hydrating or drying, and are often drawing/detoxifying and are used for general skincare as well as for poultices to actually draw material out of insect/animal bites or deep wounds, etc.
Some recipe ideas follow, but feel free to modify and play as desired!
Miracle Grains (adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s book “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health”)
This scrub is gentle, sweet-smelling, and leaves your skin feeling soft. It is a little messy, as you mix into a paste in your hand with water and massage into your skin over the sink or in the shower. Leaving it as a dry mix in the jar keeps the clay mixture from going bad.
1 cup white clay (often called kaolin clay)
1 cup finely ground oats
¼ cup finely ground almonds
¼ cup of finely ground lavender and/or rose petals
Combine in a sealed glass jar. To give as a gift, you could layer each item in the jar and leave unmixed, tie a ribbon on the jar, with a tag that instructs the receiver to mix before using, and other instructions.
To use, mix 1–2 teaspoons of the grains with water and stir into a paste (in your hand or a small container) and gently massage into skin. Rinse or leave on for a few minutes as a mask and then rinse with warm water.
This mask is gentle and mild. The white clay is one of the least drying, although it still draws toxins out of the pores. Oats are soothing, moisturizing and gentle to the skin.
Basic Salt or Sugar Scrub
Salt is rougher on the skin so is best used on areas of the body that you don’t mind that, such as the feet, legs, butt, and back/torso. For the face or if your skin is sensitive, sugar is milder and dissolves quickly.
1 cup fine sea salt and/or granulated sugar
1/2 -1 cup oil or mix of oils and butters (jojoba, apricot, or almond oil work well; cocoa or shea butters you would need to melt on low heat and then mix in)
25 drops (or more) of your choice of essential oil (lemon is refreshing and pH balancing, grapefruit helps break up cellulite, lavender is anti-inflammatory and calming, etc.)
Place the salt or sugar in a wide-mouthed jar and cover with the oil. Stir in the essential oils. Use on damp skin and gently scrub in circular motions from the feet up, always toward the heart.
Other options: add liquid soap (castille soap) to the scrub mixture for a mild foaming, cleansing scrub. Or add whole or powdered herbs for color and additional exfoliation. You can also melt a “butter” (like shea, mango, etc.) or coconut oil and pour over sugar. It will partially solidify and make a great scrub.
Aromatherapy Bath Salts
These are easy to make, and greatly appreciated by anyone who likes to bathe, either for relaxation or muscle or other recovery.
Some salt ideas are below, and you can mix and match accordingly.
Simply add salt to your jar of choice, mix in 10-15 drops of essential oil (mix and match to get the scent you want) per 12-16 oz jar, add a sprinkle of flowers such as lavender, rose, or chamomile, and mix well. Usually you need at least a cup of salt to make a decent bath. If you’re working on muscle soreness or recovery, you’ll need 2 cups of Epsom Salts to really have an effect in a typical bath tub.
Some essential oils and their properties are listed below also.
Some salts to use in bath blends
Sea salt – Primarily consists of sodium chloride with trace elements of iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and other minerals. Its low moisture content works well for essential oil blending. It softens and rejuvenates the skin and is a great exfoliant for sloughing away dry skin cells, relaxes muscular aches & pains, and relieves sunburns, rashes, and irritated skin.
Dead sea salt – Very high in minerals with a much higher concentration of salt than salt from the oceans; famous for healing qualities, people come from all over the world for relief of skin problems, joint pain, and wound healing. It is good for psoriasis and eczema, as well as helping with muscle aches & pains.
Himalayan pink salt – Mined from deep in the Himalayan Mountains, the high iron content gives it its color. It also contains 84 other trace elements and is known for stimulating circulation, elimination of toxins, and for muscle aches and pains. Low moisture content works well for essential oil blending. Internally, this salt is used to for gastric hyperacidity.
Epsom salt – Also known as Magnesium sulfate, this salt is good for muscular aches and pains, and is thought to improve circulation, regulate heartbeat, and reduce arteriosclerosis, blood clots and blood pressure, all of which can be effected by magnesium levels.
Carrier (Base) Oils for Skincare
Almond (sweet almond) oil – expeller-pressed & unrefined with a shelf-life of 12-14 months out of heat & light. Emollient, skin softening, soothing, and conditioning. Generally used more on the body than the face, but is used for normal to dry skin as well.
Apricot Kernel oil – expeller-pressed & unrefined with a shelf-life of about 12 months out of heat & light. Similar in its properties to sweet almond oil, but more suitable for sensitive and prematurely aged skin. Used regularly for facial oils and products. Light-weight and generally absorbs well.
Argan oil – pressed from the Moroccan Argan tree kernels, this oil is high in tocopherols (vitamin E), carotenes, squalene, and fatty acids beneficial to the skin. It is a well-absorbed, light oil that is useful for “normal” and oily skin types, as well as for smoothing and treating hair.
Avocado oil – cold-pressed & unrefined with a shelf-life of about 8 months.
An ultra rich oil containing high amounts of Vitamin A, B1, B2, D, and E, it is highly prized to those with skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions, as well as those with sensitive skin and other irritations that require vitamin rich oil. Can be poorly absorbed, so leaving an oily texture, but is very good for conditioning the skin and hair and great in combination.
Castor oil – expeller-pressed & refined with a shelf life of 2 years.
A viscous, shiny oil found used in cosmetics that act as barrier agents and protect against harsh conditions and extremes. It is soothing and anti-inflammatory to the skin. Is considered detoxifying and can be mildly drying. Gives a shine and gloss to products such as lip balms.
Coconut oil – cold-pressed & unrefined (higher fatty acid content) or expeller-pressed & refined with a shelf-life of 2 years.
A general medium moisturizing oil that acts as a protective layer, helping to retain the moisture in your skin. It is a mild oil for those with inflamed and irritated skin, and those with skin sensitivities. Contains caprylic & lauric acids that can inhibit fungus and yeasts.
Evening Primrose Oil – Cold pressed and partially refined with a shelf life of 8-12 months.
Rich in the essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which constitutes an average of 8-10% of Evening primrose oil, and is anti-inflammatory. Gentle and good as a light oil for all skin types.
Jojoba oil – cold-pressed & unrefined with a shelf life of 2-3 years.
Jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax and has properties similar to our own sebum, as has been traditionally used as a scalp cleanser and a general moisturizer for all skin types, combination and acne-prone skin does well with this oil. Does not have a fragrance.
Rosehip seed oil – cold-pressed & winterized with a shelf life of 8-12 months.This unique oil is high in essential fatty acids and is generally considered to be great for dry, weathered, and dehydrated skin, although it absorbs into the skin quickly as well. It works wonders on scars and is the predominant oil used for treating wrinkles and premature aging.
Essential Oils Used in Skincare, Scrubs, & Baths
Blue tansy – anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, cooling, soothing, antipruretic (anti-itch); soothing, relaxing, mood balancing.
Cedarwood – balances oil production from the skin and scalp, astringent, tonifying (normalizing). Grounding, calming, restorative.
Frankincense – considered a good oil for dry/mature skin types, it is used to help reduce wrinkles & promote tissue repair. Grounding, focusing, meditative.
Geranium (rose geranium) – astringent & tonifying, anti-inflammatory, oil-reducing and balancing, insect-repellent – good for skin inflammation, bruising, broken/weak capillaries. Balancing for female hormones, relaxing, mood stabilizing.
German chamomile – anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, analgesic (pain reducing) – good for generally irritated or sensitive skin, inflamed skin conditions.
Helichrysum – vulnerary (wound healing), tissue regenerative, anti-inflammatory – good for any number of inflamed skin conditions and scarring, as well as muscular aches/pains, strains, & rheumatic pains. Soothing and healing.
Lavender – anti-inflammatory, vulnerary, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, relaxing – a good general skin-healing herb for all skin types and inflamed skin conditions.
Lemon – astringent, acid-mantle balancing, oil balancing, antimicrobial. Uplifting and energizing.
Marjoram – antispasmodic; useful for all kinds of muscle spasms and tension; calming to the nervous system.
Melissa (Lemon balm) – antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, insect-repellent, calming
Palmarosa – soothing to all skin types; detoxifying and regenerating; useful for dry, irritated, or lifeless skin.
Rose – astringent, soothing, anti-inflammatory – good for tonifying skin and strengthening capillaries; good for mature skin. Nurturing, soothing, and calming.
Tea tree – incredibly antimicrobial and antifungal. Great for acne, fungal infections (athlete’s foot, ringworm), head lice, etc. Uplifting.
Wintergreen – this plant has the classic scent and action many people associate with Icy Hot/other muscle rubs. It is useful for inflammation and muscle & joint aches and pains.
Ylang ylang – oil-balancing, antimicrobial, promotes healthy hair growth, general skincare. Euphoric.