Monday, 2 September 2013

DIY Herbal Bath Products - Low-Cost Indulgences.

Taking an herbal bath is right near the top of my self-indulgence list, but something I didn't do very often because, being frugal, I was frequently put off by the inflated prices of herbal bath products, especially the ones labeled organic. Fortunately I discovered a great solution - making my own!! Many of these products are super easy to make, using common, inexpensive ingredients. One such product is colloidal oatmeal, which in reality is nothing more than finely ground oatmeal. Colloidal oatmeal, sold under the brand name Aveeno as a bath treatment for irritated skin, costs $10.97 for 399g. Compare this to the DIY version using Quaker oats (1Kg costs $2.99 = $1.20 for 399g). and the do-it-yourself savings are obvious.

The picture at left shows simple, yet luxurious products I use all the time - L-R - Lavender Bath Vinegar, Lavender Dusting Powder, Spearmint Colloidal Oatmeal, Basil Bath Vinegar, and hanging up, a Bath Bag made from a dishcloth purchased at the Dollar Store. The herbal products are 100% organic yet everything shown, including the containers, cost less than $11.00.

Besides the money-saving aspect, personalizing these items by using a favourite herb - or combination of herbs - tailors the product to the individual, the mood and the need, which increases the therapeutic value. The base ingredients are inexpensive items normally found in every pantry - oatmeal, vinegar, baking soda, and corn starch.

I grow the more common herbs - those that I personally like the best and which have few, if any, side effects. During the herbal medicine course I took, I found there were way too many herbs with dangerous properties which should only be used by holistic professionals. For having fun and saving money, its best to stick with familiar herbs, including the so called culinary herbs which also have many beneficial properties. 

My Favourite Herbs for Bath Use:
  • Basil - stimulates blood circulation, re-energizes
  • Lavender (my very favourite) - eases tension, reduces stress, relieves joint pain and helps prepare for a good night's sleep - blends well with rosemary, lemongrass and/or rose petals
  • Lemongrass - is cleansing, revitalizes, and reduces stress - blends well with lavender, rosemary or rose
  • Marjoram - relieves fatigue, aching muscles and joints - for a wonderful soothing bath, use equal parts marjoram, rosemary and lavender for a bath vinegar.  
  • Roses - soothing, anti-inflammatory, fragrance reduces the 'blues'' and improves moods. 
  • Rosemary - stimulates blood circulation, soothes aches and relieves joint pain, blends well with lavender and/or lemongrass
  • Sage - relieves muscle aches and pains, blends well with equal parts lavender and rosemary.
  • Spearmint - soothes and promotes healing of damaged or inflamed skin.
Fragrant, Restorative Baths: There are different ways to make aromatic baths, but for simplicity and low-cost I stick with two favourites - the oatmeal bath and the vinegar bath. Also, since I normally have the necessary ingredients in my pantry, I can concoct something whenever the mood strikes.

A good way to find out if you like herbal baths is to throw a couple of herbal tea bags into the tub when you're filling it. Chamomile makes for a soothing, relaxing bath while lemon or mint tea is more invigorating as it stimulates blood circulation. Experimenting this way costs very little and is rather fun.
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The Oatmeal Bath: Years ago, one of our boys came down with "Fifth Disease" - a viral illness that caused a horrible itchy rash. The doctor we took him to suggested giving him oatmeal baths and that worked so well, I've been using them myself ever since. Without going into a detailed explanation of why and how oatmeal works, its enough to know that oatmeal normalizes the skin's pH level, has anti-inflammatory properties and contains saponins, making it a natural cleanser.
Dry, itchy skin has a high pH level which is normalized by the oatmeal bath which is why the itch disappears. The reason for making colloidal oatmeal is that it helps the oatmeal mix better with the water and not sink to the bottom of the tub where it would do little good. When you get into the tub, the colloidal oatmeal water feels soft and, while bathing, coats, moisturizes and softens skin while locking in moisture to protect it from exterior irritants. Adding spearmint to the oatmeal increases its soothing abilities and promotes faster healing of inflamed, rough or damaged skin.

To make colloidal oatmeal: In a blender or food processor grind oatmeal until its a fine powder - in a blender, process half to one cup at a time, in food processor two cups will work. Its important to grind it into a really fine powder. An entire bag of oatmeal can be ground and stored in a sealed container. You now have colloidal oatmeal which can be used as is or mixed with herbs as below:

To Make Herbal Mix: Mix 2 cups dried spearmint (or any other preferred herb) with 4 cups of ground oatmeal.
or
Place the 4 cups of ground oatmeal in a large bowl, mix in 1 cup dried spearmint and add 4-6 drops of spearmint essential oil. Make sure to use genuine essential oils as synthetic oils have no therapeutic value whatsoever.
Store in a sealed jar.
For children or pregnant women, its best to use only the dried herb without the oil.

To Use: Pour 3/4 to 1 cup of the oatmeal mix into an old sock, or similar throw-away item, or do what I do, wrap it up tight in a cone-type coffee filter (double layer of cheesecloth also works) and place in a bath bag. Hang the bag from the tap and let the water run over it as the tub is filling or just throw the bag into the tub. Gently kneading the bag once in a while helps move more of the oatmeal goodness into the water. After bathing, remove the oatmeal package from the bag and discard, then rinse the bag and hang to dry.

The Bath: When preparing an oatmeal bath, use warm water - especially when taking the bath as a treatment for itchy rashes, poison ivy, allergic reactions, dry skin or chickenpox. Water that's too hot can draw moisture from the skin or aggravate already inflamed skin. Soak as long as its comfortable, then pat dry with a towel - don't rub because this can cause greater irritation. As a treatment for dry, itchy or damaged skin, bathe two or three times a day.


Because oatmeal is so mild, oatmeal baths are a gentle way to treat a baby's dry skin. As mentioned, they are recommended to help alleviate itchiness in infants and small children with fifth disease, eczema, chicken pox and similar itchy conditions.
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The Vinegar Bath: Vinegar also restores the skin's pH balance with herbs adding a magic touch. Fill a clean, sterilized, wide-mouthed jar with chopped fresh herb leaves or flowers, cover with vinegar and let it sit for at least a week. Then strain* into a clean jar with non-metallic lid or rubber stopper, cover tight and its ready to use. Add half a cup of bath vinegar to a tubful of water for a luxuriating bath that makes you feel ever so special. Metal and vinegar don't mix, so use only non-metallic lids and utensils.
Notes *: 

Strain the vinegar through a cone-type coffee filter placed inside a funnel. This method saves the herbs which can later be added to oatmeal for a soothing bath. Freeze the herbs in 1/4 cup quantities and when ready to use, add to 3/4-1 cup oatmeal.

Using 
lavender flowers makes the vinegar something special and great to give for gifts. The vinegar draws out the colour from the lavender and leaves the finished product a lovely purplish-pink colour as shown at left.

If fresh herbs aren't available, half the amount of dried herb will work or a mix of fresh and dried can also be used.

I know in this day of scent-free everything, using scent is frowned upon, but I love using it and I've found that the scented body powder lets me indulge without offending anyone.
One of our boys once gave me a bath set for Christmas and the body powder container and puff is what I've used ever since for my homemade body powder. Smells nice and pleasant memories - how good is that?

Herbal Body Powder.
This is so easy and inexpensive.
Make a powdered mix with:
1 cup baking soda and 2 cups cornstarch, mix really well
Then choose from one of the following:
Any herb/oil of choice can be substituted for the lavender or lemongrass. Those just happen to be my herbs of choice.
  1. Choice 1. Add 6 drops lavender or lemongrass essential oil (or a blend of the two) to 1/4 cup finely crumbled dried lavender or lemongrass - let the herb absorb the oil and sit overnight . add to the baking soda/cornstarch mix.
  2. Choice 2. Super Easy Way - 6-8 drops essential oil - any fragrance choice - I put this on a small square of paper towel and let it absorb the oils till dry, place it in the bottom of the chosen container and add the powdered mix (Johnson's Baby Powder can be used in place of the baking soda/cornstarch mix). It doesn't take long for the powder to absorb the fragrance.
I'll try posting more along this line once a month or so. In the meantime, choose your favourite herbs and enjoy making  your own 'very personally you' bath products.

Sources:
Richter's for Essential Oils:
Lavender -    Cat.# T5180 - 4mL/$5.00
Lemongrass- Cat.#T5200 - 4mL/$5.00  
Other - check catalogue

Richter's for Dried Herbs:
Lavender Flowers - Cat.#H3625-050 - 100g/$11.00
Lemongrass, Cut  - Cat.#H3680         - 100g/$7.00
Other - check catalogue
To order, just click on the Richter's Logo which will take you to their catalogue.

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I want this blog to be interesting, informative and current. Your comments let me know if I'm on track, so comments are greatly appreciated.
Thanks - Lenie