GIFTS from the GARDEN

"Lip balms and herbal salves from the garden"
“Lip balms and herbal salves from the garden”

With the holidays coming soon, my DIY urge kicks into high gear!  I LOVE making things, especially body care products.  The soap I made in early fall has cured and is so beautiful, I wanted to make some lip balm and healing salves to go with it for holiday gifts for my friends and family. My job as a gardening teacher provides me with the perfect opportunity to do this project with the children in my gardening classes.  We made some herbal lip balm and bath/body scrub last week and will be making healing salve this week. The children love making things using the herbs from our school garden and beeswax from our own beehives.  Our lip balm and bath salts/scrub came out great and today I made a batch of healing salve to ensure the recipe worked before making it with the children.  Last year we made Lemon Verbena Healing Salve with our fragrant lemon verbena and it sold out at our weekly produce sales!  These are really fun to make with older children or have a few friends over and make a batch to share.  Even better than a cookie exchange party, and totally calorie free!

Here’s a basic recipe for the lip balm and hand salve.  Feel free to use different herbs for your oil infusion and essential oil.  We also supplement our own beeswax with organic beeswax you can purchase online.  My preference for oil is an organic, avocado, coconut and safflower oil blend that is available locally in the grocery store. In case someone has a nut allergy, these oils are a better choice than almond oil (which I love, but not everyone can use it.). Olive oil is good for your skin but has a strong odor that masks the fragrance of the herbs, so I prefer less fragrant oils, but feel free to use organic olive oil if that is what you have.

"grated beeswax"
“grated beeswax & beeswax disk you can buy”

SUPPLIES NEEDED for Basic Lip Balms and Salves:

Lip balm tubes or small tins (Amazon carries them in different quantities, not expensive)

Small jars for the salves (cleaned out baby food jars are excellent; any small jar is fine)

Organic beeswax (get at least a pound so you ensure you have enough)

Organic oil (avocado, coconut, almond and olive are good ones)

Essential oil of your choice: peppermint, lemon verbena, lavender, etc.

2 – 4 cups dried organic herbs if you want to use an infused oil* (not necessary but really awesome!)

Vitamin E (I just use the capsules and break them open)

Pipettes for filling lip balm tubes (not necessary for filling small jars) – get on Amazon, of course

Double boiler set up with a smaller enamel or glass pot that fits inside a larger pot that holds the water.

You can get fancier and use Shea Butter as part of the oil (makes them creamier ) and/or add color to the lip balm (pomegranate powder is great).

 HOW TO MAKE INFUSED OIL*

"Left: infused lemon balm Right: dried lemon balm"
“Left: infused lemon balm in oil
Right: dried lemon balm”

There are 2 basic ways to make an infusion of herbs in oil. If you grow herbs you can harvest them in the summer and dry them in bunches or on a screen, then store them in glass jars when they are COMPLETELY dry. Make sure to label the herbs and put the date of harvest.  To infuse oil, just fill a glass jar halfway with oil then fill the rest of the jar with the dried herb leaves or flowers.  Mash the leaves/flowers into the oil with a wooden spoon until they are really mixed into the oil.  Put the lid on the jar and leave it in the sun or a very warm place for a few days before storing the jars in a dark place for a few weeks or up to a few months.  Strain the oil through cheesecloth when you are making your salves and balms. If you don’t have access to fresh herbs you can buy dried herbs at a health food store or online.

 

"Quick infusion: Heat the dried herbs in the oil until hot but not boiling"
“Quick infusion: Heat the dried herbs in the oil until hot but not boiling”

QUICK OIL INFUSED HERBS:

If you suddenly decide you want to make a salve, you can also make infused oil right then.  Using a double boiler, add the oil and dried herbs to an enameled, glass or stainless steel pot and heat slowly until the oil is very hot but NOT boiling.  Once it gets hot, turn off the heat and let it steep for as long as possible before making your products but at least an hour or two.  You can mix different herbs and flowers into your infused oil if you want.  (see suggestions for herbs at bottom of this post)

 

 

 

"Strain the infused oil through cheesecloth and put back in double boiler"
“Strain the infused oil through cheesecloth and put strained oil back in double boiler”

 

BASIC RECIPE FOR SALVES:  (I used 2 cups oil and ½ cup beeswax. This filled 8 small baby food jars)

4 parts herb infused oil*

1 part organic beeswax

10 – 15 drops essential oil (lemon verbena, lavender, and peppermint are my favorites)

2 capsules Vitamin E (helps to preserve the salve)

 

"Add beeswax to oil and heat until melted"
“Add beeswax to oil and heat until melted”

BASIC RECIPE FOR LIP BALM: (this recipe made about 2 dozen tubes; we made ½ with no color and ½ with 1/2 tsp. pomegranate powder**)

1 part oil (1/4 cup) – you can use plain or infused oil*

1 part coconut oil (1/4 cup) – even if it is in the oil blend, this is in addition

2 parts beeswax (1/2 cup) – give or take depending on how solid you want your finished product

2 capsules Vitamin E (at least 200 mg. each, more is fine)

2 – 6 drops essential oil of your choice (different oils have different strengths so just add a few drops at a time and smell before adding more)

** if you want color make sure you use pomegranate powder  NOT juice; any liquid with water will ruin your balm)

"Put a teaspoon of the melted beeswax/oil into cold dish and test for consistency"
“Put a teaspoon of the melted beeswax/oil into cold dish and test for consistency”

DIRECTIONS

NOTE: You use the same process for both salves and lip balms, just slightly different proportions of oil to beeswax.  If you are putting your lip balm into tubes you want to make sure the consistency will harden enough so the balm will come out of the tube when you twist the bottom.  If it is too soft this will not work. If you put your lip balm in small tins it can be a bit softer.  To test the consistency just put a small dish into the freezer until very cold and add a teaspoon of your mixture to the dish. Wait a few minutes and see if it is the right consistency.

Using a double boiler, add just enough water to the bottom pot so it barely touches the top pot. You do NOT want any water to splash up and get into your oil mixture so do not put too much water in the bottom pot.  Add the oil (infused or not) and then add the beeswax.  It is better to grate the beeswax if it is in a chunk or you can buy beeswax “beads” that melt easily.  Once the beewax is melted, turn off the heat, add your essential oil and Vitamin E, stir with a wooden spoon and pour into your jars. For the lip balm, using pipettes (super cheap on Amazon) makes getting the mixture into the tubes very easy.

"Use a pipette to place warm balm mixture into tubes.... super easy!"
“Use a pipette to place warm balm mixture into tubes…. super easy!”
"Put warm salve mixture into a glass measuring cup to easily pour into jars"
“Put warm salve mixture into a glass measuring cup to easily pour into jars”

Once you have all your equipment and ingredients together, the balms and salves are so easy to make and once you have made them you will never buy them again!  The cost of making your own is also so much cheaper than any similar organic product you will find in a store.

Here is a short list of some of my favorite herbs and their properties:

Lemon balm, comfrey, plantain and calendula are excellent for the skin and help with irritation and dryness.  All four of these are easily grown and, in fact, plantain is a “weed” in our school garden and we are always pulling it up and saving some of the leaves.  Once you plant comfrey and/or lemon balm you will have it forever and it will begin to appear in new locations throughout your garden!  Calendula is an annual flower that is bright orange/yellow, easily grown and will readily reseed; plus the bees love it.

Lavender and Mint, besides their incredible aroma, they are also said to be antiseptic for the skin, so are great in salves and balms.

Lemon Verbena is my very favorite herb. It is actually a small tree native to South America and its aroma can be soothing for those with anxiety and insomnia. It has antiviral properties so is great on your skin. When I was very young, my grandma Pollen had a huge lemon verbena shrub in her backyard and I loved to crawl under it and just breathe in the smell.  I never knew what it was until many years later when I brushed against it in a friends’ garden and all those childhood memories from my grandmother’s garden came flooding back.  It is also the hands down favorite herb with the children in our school garden, though lemon balm is a close second (both are great calming herbs when used as a tea and very safe for children).

"Clockwise from top left: dried plantain, lemon balm, & lemon verbena"
“Clockwise from top left: dried plantain, lemon balm, & lemon verbena”

There are many other herbs and plants you can use and if you are interested it is worth getting a book on the subject. One of my favorite authors is Rosemary Gladstar. She has written many books on herbs and making your own herbal products.  I could go on and on about herbs and making your own products, as it is so satisfying to have little jars of balms and salves you have made yourself; plus, you know EXACTLY what is in them! Next project, bath salts and bath bombs 🙂

 

 

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