Herbal Bath Salts combine the ease of fragrant bath salts with the healing benefits of herbs. I like bath salts for many reasons. I have one son who has eczema flares in the winter - and salt/herb/eo baths have helped keep those to minimum for the past few years (along with a rich body butter). My other son has mast cell issues and severe food allergies and we have found that the mineral rich epsom salts help keep him from having as many skin reactions. As he is older he prefers to shower now, but still has a soak when he has been having a rough week health-wise.
Herbal Bath Salts are easy to make and very customizable. Many places sell dried herbs - or you can use what you grew/dried from your own garden (bonus!). Here is a base recipe using herbs known for their calming and healing properties - plus a few ideas of how you can customize your own.
Sleepy Time Bath Blend
Approx. 4-6 baths
Mix the salts together in a large bowl with the dried herbs. In a small vial or cup mix your carrier oil with the essential oils. Drop a bit at a time into the salt/herb blend as you stir well.
Store in an airtight container. To use, scoop ¼ to ½ cup per bath into a re-usable muslin pouch, and steep in the tub as you fill it. Soak and enjoy!
Optional add-ins or substitutions: dried plantain, lemon balm, lemon verbena, coconut milk powder, dried orange peel, or rolled oats. If you collect your own garden herbs, just be sure to dry fully and remove from stems before weighing. Also, you can use just the salt & herbs and skip the essential oils.
Other essential oil and herb combos that are nice (just blend into the carrier oil and add to the salt mix) as alternates::
To make as a gift, put your blended batch into a nice glass jar and attach instructions and a muslin bag or scoop. Attach instructions - use 1/4 cup or more per bath - and gift away!
You can also make individual tub bags - measure 1/4 cup portions into unbleached biodegradable large empty tea bags. I really like the x-large natural iced tea bags because they strain finely so no bits end up in your bath and they are compostable. You can simply sew or sticker them shut at the top and put into a pretty box with instructions. Craft stores also sell wedding favor bags which are a good size - and they can be cleaned and re-used. The key is to store the pre-filled bags in an airtight container so that they don’t start to dissolve from the moisture in the bathroom.
The salts will sink to the bottom and settle if you use a single large jar, so be sure to stir or shake before scooping into the tub. Be sure to keep the lid on tight for a whole jar or store the pre-filled bags in an airtight container to keep from dissolving in the bathroom moisture.
Herbal Bath Salts
Instructions: Scoop 1/4 cup per bath.
Tip: Don't use bath salt blends for tiny ones. For toddler baths you can use a small pouch of only dried calendula or lavender – using 2 Tbsp of dried organic herb is enough for a shallow bath – and skip the salt and essential oils. Those gentle herbs will help sooth any bottom or skin rash, while remaining safe for wee ones. The easiest way to do this is pour 1 cup of almost boiling water over your herb pouch in a heat safe bowl, and let steep until room temperature. Remove the pouch and pour this *cooled* infused water in with your toddlers bath water. This way you have the full infusion added to a bath at a safe temperature.
I cannot believe it is November. It has been so warm here in Wisconsin. Flowers are still blooming, I am still watering pots, and we have been outside with green grass, short sleeves, and iced drinks. It is unbelievable, but I keep hearing that little voice saying only a few weeks until G's birthday and Thanksgiving, and only a few more weeks until winter solstice and Christmas --- you are soooooo behind on gift making. Why yes, yes I am.
I am sure you are all much better than I, and have been cranking away at handmade gifts and goodies for months. I seem to transition from all of the garden work season to holiday making season and when garden work continues for so long the rest gets pushed off. I have so many great recipes for hand made goodies in my pile of things to blog that I never blogged, so I think I will share them over the next few weeks. Since some are old and some are new and some were for our home projects, I won't out our gifts to any family members (which is always the worry this time of year), and I will also motivate myself to get rolling on the making. After I water all of my pots with iced tea in hand, of course.
The in-between of handmade things - from small kids (find something safe! and easy! and cute!) to teens (I know what I want to make and don't need your input, thanks!) - is the tween and early teen crafting making phase. The phase where the project needs to be interesting and cool enough for them to want to join you and actually do it all themselves thankyouverymuch, but short enough to not seem like some mad mom thing. They want to make gifts for people and they want to feel involved, but they want to be interested. This melt and pour herbal soap falls into that category. My tween (soon to be 12) son loves working with me on all of my aromatherapy projects and assignments. He wants to know about the chemistry and whip things up and use all of my special measuring devices that I reserve only for that stuff (so!many!cool!measuring!devices!and!stir!rods!). My 13 year old son is in the wellllllll maybeeeeeeeee but I'm pretty busssssssyyyyyy phase, but even he enjoys something that resembles a DIY:Sci science project. No, it isn't dangerous and doesn't blow up, but the big grated ball of m&p is microwaved until it is a liquid and you get to pour it into molds, so that is fun. And they have something to give that they made.
Melt and pour has a bad rap for being meh, but there are some very good quality organic versions out there (and palm free options!) and it is great for the tweens as it doesn't involve the lye and caustic chemicals of processed soaps, but it is something that they can make and customize. Or, you can make it yourself. No tweens needed. I like the addition of dried herbs from our garden in m&p soaps. They add some skin nourishing properties, they give it more of an earthy homemade feel, and they look nice.
herbs: This recipe combines lavender and calendula, both of which are soothing, relaxing, and healing. Combine ingredients to suit what you have in your herbal cabinet – try adding items such as dried rose petals, dried chamomile, or dried mint leaves. Tweak your fragrance to match your additions.
molds: You can use soap molds of course, but don’t be afraid to get creative. Using muffin tins or silicone candy molds work great and give a great variety of patterns. I used a metal mini cake mold for this batch.
16 ounces/475 mL of organic m&p soap*, grated (try a natural glycerin, aloe, or hemp type - choose your favorite)
3 Tbsp honey (optional)
4 Tbsp dried calendula petals
2 Tbsp dried lavender buds
1 Tbsp apricot kernel oil or avocado oil
1/8 tsp vitamin E (from bottle or pierce a vitamin E capsule)
You can make the soap using only the base, oils, honey, and herbs. But to add some additional fragrance, you can add a blend of essential oils. This mild earthy citrus blend goes well with the calendula and lavender and has a nice uplifting aroma.
8 drops bergamot essential oil
30 drops mandarin
45 drops lavender
13 drops cedarwood
or if you like a more floral blend, try
45 drops lavender
25 drops sweet orange
8 drops sandalwood
7 drops neroli
3 drops ylang ylang
Don't panic. If you are thinking you want to make this but using only two essential oils - you can't go wrong with lavender + sweet orange.
Oil your molds if using metal tins, or follow instructions if using soap mold or silicone.
Melt your m&p soap base. There are two ways you can melt your grated soap base. You can melt gently in a double boiler on your stove, or you can microwave in a microwave safe bowl, stirring !very! !gently! (to help prevent foamy bubbles) every 30 seconds or so until melted. When melted, quickly and gently stir in your honey, vitamin E, and base skin oils. Pre-heat your honey a bit so it will stir in - if you pour it in fairly cold it will clump and sink. Add your essential oils, and finally add in the calendula petals, stirring carefully and gently to not add bubbles.
Pour this mix into the molds gently to avoid too much bubbling. After cooling for only a minute, sprinkle the lavender buds over the top. They will sink in, but not all the way to the bottom this way. If you wait too long they will just sit on top, not sink and harden into the soap.
You can gently remove any bubbles at the edges using a skewer or chopstick, so that the bar will dry smooth.
Let the soap harden and cool fully before removing from the molds. If you are using metal tins, let the soap cure/dry in the tray so that they shrink enough to pop right out the next day. If you are using soap or silicone molds, remove from the mold to cure/dry on a tray for a day or two before wrapping.
Package the soaps in a little box or wrap with ribbon or string. Gift away (and keep a few for yourself!).
*Not all melt and pour soap is alike. Look for organic vegetable glycerin melt and pour. It doesn’t have any harsh petrochemicals and is a gentle and environmentally-friendly base. There are palm oil free versions, and even aloe, honey, or hemp! You can choose an organic goat milk type of m&p as well (although herbs won’t show as much). We stick with non-animal based soaps since my son has severe dairy allergies and cannot even bathe with them.
Mountain Rose Herbs
Bulk Herb Store
I realized that I haven't written about our garden in many months. Once planting season begins it seems that summer rushes by, noted only by how many days has it been since it last rained, and what is ready to pick, always hot and sunny but urgent in the need for constant weeding and tending.
Interestingly, our garden(s) took on a whole new level this summer. I don't usually like to tell people of any of our charitable projects. Doing nice things or donating to help someone get on their feet or working and volunteering to help people is something we should all do without any expectation of attention or praise. Because it is the right thing to do. But when my children are involved on this level, I like to recognize them for their kindness, generosity, and loving hearts. They are amazing humans.
Back in March while we were starting seedlings, my boys had the idea to grow flowers for the food pantry. Our community garden keeps a bin up front for the local food pantry so that any extras in the garden can go right to them. The local food pantry also has an extra large plot there managed by volunteers to grow as much fresh produce as they can as well, so they pick up the extras in the bin when they are there. We have always put our extras in the bin, but growing flowers and making bouquets so that families could have something fresh and colorful on their tables in addition to the food sounded like a fantastic idea. I wrote a letter to our local Badger Prairie Needs Network and asked if they would take flowers if we grew/bunched/delivered them. They said yes! The boys wanted to call it the Happy Flower Project (#happyflowerproject).
After getting the YES from the food pantry, we went into overdrive choosing flower seeds and starting a few hundred extra seedlings. I quickly realized that our very small community garden plot wouldn't hold that much and that our home garden wasn't developed enough yet for that many more plantings. But we really wanted to make our flower project for the food pantry work! Gulp. I kept growing those seedlings, thinking we would find a way. In May, just as I was hardening off hundreds of flowers, a local unschooler mom wrote to ask if I knew Janelle, who had garden space to spare and was looking for some people to fill it. I wrote to her and we went out to see her lovely valley where she organically raises goats and has a large organic garden plot. We were SO LUCKY to get space there, and we planted so.many.flowers. in late May and early June. My husband, as always, jumped into our family project and helped with everything. In addition to all of the flowers, we planted many medicinal herbs and two vines of cucumbers and heirloom pumpkins in that patch. This space is twice the size of the other community garden plot, and the soil is wonderful (and the goats eat our weeds by the bucketful).
We chose to plant only family food like tomatoes, peppers, peas, watermelon, and some herbs at the community garden plot as it has picky soil and isn't very big. We did plant zinnias around the perimeter for extra cutting flowers if we needed them. At home, we expanded our fruit plantings and I added additional many perennial plants in a few new small beds around the house. As we rotated weeding/harvesting/caretaking from garden to garden each week, the goat farm was quickly the favorite place for the boys as there are goats (baby goats!), chickens, and a large trampoline there. Woot! Even with how hot our summer has been, things were growing well. Of course that led to the inevitable garden crash - a few weeks ago we had a few days of torrential rain and our community garden plot was completely submerged. We ended up losing almost 100% of the plants in the community garden plot from the floodwaters and then not long after, to rot. Can you imagine how relieved I am that we had the other plot out at the goat farm? And that most of our flowers and medicinal herbs are there? We are again SO lucky.
Every Friday we go out to the farm garden to pick flowers for a few hours and transport them in buckets of water back to our house (the garden is about 15-20 minutes from home). From there we divide them by type and then create mixed bouquets. We rubberband the ends and put the bunches into fresh buckets of water. After that all that is left is that we load up our car and deliver all of the flowers to the Badger Prairie Needs Network so that they have fresh flowers for busy Saturdays! We have been filling a dozen mason jar vases each week so that the community meal tables have fresh flowers (as well as the registration desk and waiting areas). The garden has been producing more and more each week and we have been able to make dozens of bouquets - filling several buckets - for visitors to choose from each week. We are hoping to increase our bouquet count each week for a few more weeks before they start to slow down for the season.
My kids know all the hard work required in doing these bouquets, but also get to carry buckets of those flowers and a crate of filled vases into the food pantry every Friday, knowing that people have been so happy to see fresh flowers that they can take home for their table. It has been eye-opening for them to see how our local community of individuals, businesses, restaurants and chefs work together to help over 300 families in our school district alone. How chefs donate their time, how local businesses and restaurants donate all of their extra produce and meals, how local stores donate their dents and bakery items. How gardeners bring in giant bags of produce. How many volunteers donate their time to clean, prep, cook, stock, make, and feed so many people in our community. They see how even in our small town we are all a part of something together, and that it is important.
The #happyflowerproject has been a nice experience for all of us this summer, and I am so glad we jumped in head first and that so many things came together for us to make this happen. I hope the weather allows us to keep this going for as long as possible! So I am tooting a horn for my amazing kids with their kind hearts and commitment to our community. And their recognition that flowers can make people smile.
I'll share more about what we ended up growing in our 3 gardens and what we plan to pot to overwinter and which varieties we are growing again next year - but for now, just my boys. <3
Edited to add: I have had several people write to ask how we "do it all" with mast cell disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and asthma (etc.) on our plate. And the key is, we pick our own projects, we create our own parameters and expectations, and we deliver based on our own timeline. We accommodate ourselves. We create our own opportunities together as a family, and we do what works for us! (And, my kids are amazing.) ❤️
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, permaculturist, health justice activist, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled boys in south central Wisconsin.