None of us have been through holidays pandemic style, which has curbed many gatherings and celebrations that, in the past, have been common. It has made me think a lot about traditions. The ones we cling to without question, the ones we joyously uphold, and the ones we yearn for. I am from a small complicated family and often crave the big loud, gregariousness of a larger celebration. Young kids, pets, spice, chaos and magic. Lights, carols, holiday movies, cookie making…The main theme for me is creating. I love those traditions of making certain Christmas cakes or cookies, Solstice Tea Blends, Oils & Potions for bath and body, Delicious cordials or bitters blends, and more. So, this holiday season, I thought I would share some of my favorite treats to make and share in hopes of inspiring you to do the same. Homemade is my favorite kind of gift!
Herbal Bath Salts- I adore a nice hot bath, especially during the colder months. I always start with blending a big batch of salts…1 part epsom salts or magnesium flakes, 1 part coarse sea salt, and 1 part dead sea or celtic sea salts. This is a nice affordable, but mineral rich base to start with.
Sexy Thang Bath Salts
2 cups salt mixture (above)
2 Tbsp. rose powder
20 drops of sandalwood and rose essential oil. I like it heavier sandalwood, but mix what you can afford and prefer. Vanilla also can enhance this blend. Blend all ingredients together well in a big bowl and let it mellow a couple hours to overnight. Bottle and label. I add from 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup blend per bath.
Dew of the Sea Bath
2 cups salt mix
1 Tbsp. kelp granules
1 Tbsp. Dulse granules
5+ drops trace minerals
1⁄4 cup green or white clay
30 drops Rosemary essential oil
Blend together well. Wonderful cleansing/detox bath.
Bliss Bath Salts
2 cups salt mix
7 drops chamomile essential oil
15 drops lavender essential oil
5 drops vanilla essential oil
13 drops of Rescue Remedy or Five Flower Flower essence blend
Mix all together well and relax in bliss. To make this extra soothing, you could also add oats or kava powder.
*A few notes on bath salts: You can absolutely add herbs to your bath salts, but I would recommend staying away from lavender flowers. The salt turns them brownish…as in mouse turd brown, which kinda ruins the bliss effect. Powders are wonderful (herbs do work topically as well) and can add lovely color. Rose petals or buds, calendula, chamomile, mints, etc. work well and you can add the blend to a muslin bag to keep herbs from clogging up the drain. If salt is
too drying for you, consider a bath tea with some wonderful moisturizing herbs such as linden, marshmallow root, and rose, along with herbs to calm or uplift. Whatever you would use the herb for internally would also be wonderful externally. Brew yourself a nice big bag of herbs and steep your body in it!
Herbal oils are so very easy to make and versatile as well. I use mine as skin moisturizer, bath oil, massage oils, hair oil, and as a base for salves. There are certain oils that I always keep on hand such as comfrey, plantain, calendula, st. john’s wort, solomons seal, and chamomile. It is best to start with dried or overnight wilted herbs so that your oil does not become rancid. As for the oils….so many to choose from. My favorite is olive oil as it has a nice long shelf life and its own medicinal properties. If you do not want the smell of the olive oil, my other recommendations are: jojoba, almond, apricot kernel, grapeseed,sesame, sunflower and coconut. I do not often use straight coconut as it tends to be drying, so I add other emollient oils. Each oil has its benefits and drawbacks including shelf life and cost. Start with small batches while you figure out what your preferences are. There are two main ways of making oils…the folk method, which means you place your chopped up herbs into a mason jar and cover with oil, making sure that the oil covers the plant material completely with an inch or so over. Place a lid on the jar and set in a sunny spot for 4 weeks or more. Shake regularly and strain when complete. Label your oil with the date and herbs and oils used and use within one year. If you need to speed this process up, as in time for holiday gifts, just create a waterbath and heat over low heat for 4-8 hours. You can do this on the stovetop with a pot of water and set the mason jar (tightly lidded) filled with herbs and oil inside or fill a crock pot with water and do the same. The thing to remember is low and slow. You do not want to deep fry your herbs or make your oil rancid. Strain well through muslin or cheesecloth and label. Once you have an herbal oil, you are only one step away from having a homemade salve. For 1 cup of herbal oil add 1oz. Beeswax. Place this in a double boiler and heat on low until beeswax is melted. Take off heat and add vitamin e, essential oils, or flower essences to your liking. Pour into glass jars and cool. Salve will harden as it cools.
You can also make shea whips with your herbal oils:
2 cups shea butter, whipped in kitchen aid or by hand until light and fluffy
1-2 oz. herbal oil, whipped together with shea
20-40 drops of essential oils of your choice
Mix all together well for a nourishing skin treat.
OR….add some sugar and mix in by hand for a moisturizing sugar scrub. Possible additions are vitamin e, essential oils, charcoal powder, matcha, vitamin c, and honey. Play with these and see what you love. As long as you are not adding food ingredients (such as pumpkin) or high moisture content plants, these should remain shelf stable for at least a year.
Ahhh…honey. What is not to love? Our wonderful bee friends provide a nectar that is not only delicious, but tonifying to the blood, moisturizing to the skin, a lovely digestive tonic, and can help treat burns and infections. Many folks love to make aromatic and medicinal honeys to add to teas or pour over yogurt, onto baked treats, or just to enjoy by the spoonful. You can also turn a tincture into an elixir by adding an herb honey. Here are a couple that I like to keep on hand:
Cardamom Orange Honey
4oz. Honey (local and raw is best)
1 tsp. Cardamom powder
2-4 drops organic orange essential oil
Mix together well and place in a beautiful jar to gift. So easy, so delicious! I do want to mention that normally I do not recommend using essential oils internally. In this case, the amount is very small and orange is often used in moderation in the food industry and has been proven safe. Peppermint is another that can be used this way. Diluted in super small amounts only.
Peel and slice a 3 inch chunk of fresh ginger root and add to 4 oz. honey. Let this sit for a week and strain out ginger chunks (throw into stir fry or soup, or brew as tea instead of tossing it). The honey will be delicately spiced with the ginger and is lovely to add to teas, baked goods, yogurt, or oatmeal.
I hope this gives you a few ideas for lovely treats to make for your holiday gifting. Please share with me any wonderful herbal treats that you love to share. Over the years I have made cordials, herbal dog and cat treats, flower essence blends, aromatherapy sprays, and herbal teas. Most everyone I know loves getting some healing herbal goodness for a gift and the sharing of handmade herbal goodness is a tradition I hope to always create.
Happy Holidays to you and your families. Made they be filled with love and peace, no matter how you celebrate.