A specific for allergic contact dermatitis associated with the plants poison oak, poison ivy and poison sumac. Helps relieve the itching and can prevent or lessen the occurrence of blisters. Available through Herbpharm (see Resources). 1 oz. grindelia tincture made with VA teaspoon peppermint essential oil dried flower and leaf 1 oz. sassafras tincture made with dried root bark Make tinctures, but use 10 percent glycerin in the menstrum for tincturing the sassafras due to its high tannin content, or purchase them premade. Combine the tinctures and add the peppermint essential oil. Put in a jar with a mist nozzle, and spray on skin or apply with a disposable cotton swab. In severe cases, additional relief can sometimes be gained by internal use of this compound. Take 20-40 drops in water 3-5 times per day.
Note: Herbpharm makes this preparation with menthol crystals instead of the peppermint essential oil. Ed Smith adapted the recipe here for simplicity’s sake.
When you read the ingredient labels of commercially prepared products for skin, nails and hair, you are often confronted with a long list of chemicals with unpronounce able names, artificial colors, synthetic scents, stabilizers and preservatives. Frequently the labels attempt to seduce you with mystifications like “anti-aging complex” or “amino-enriched formula” that seem to promise eternal youth and beauty. The sophisticated packaging and alluring ads are often enough to make you believthat if you spend enough money, eternal youth and beauty really can be yours.
Behind the multimillion-dollar, youth-oriented beauty industry is the idea that through “science” humans can control and improve upon Nature an idea that springs from a profound sense of alienation from the Earth. Ironically, many of the ingredients that go into the products created by this industry are synthetic versions of naturally occurring substances. The question we should ask ourselves every time we reach for a commercial body care product is whether the synthetic ingredients it contains really are an improvement upon what Nature herself has to offer. From my perspective, the answer is usually a resounding no. If we can accept ourselves as a part of Nature, rather than set ourselves apart from her, then we can begin to accept the simple gifts she has to offer. When we use these gifts to make our own body care products, we are empowered with the knowledge of exactly what we are putting on our bodies, and we can feel reassured by their natural purity. We can also feel satisfied knowing that using these ingredients is generally a more ecologically sustainable choice than using highly processed or synthesized ones.
When choosing ingredients for your body care formulas, keep in mind the principles of simplicity and purity. Many of the ingredients called for in the formulas presented here available through health food stores, co-ops or direct mail. When you use agricultural products, try to choose ones that are organically grown. Whenever possible, choose minimally processed ingredients that are as fresh and as close to their natural state as possible. For example, if you are 12 Ingredients making a formula that calls for nuts, you might buy whole nuts and grind them in a blender yourself so that the nutrients are not lost through oxidation. This is also especially important when using seeds and herbs. Avoid ingredients that have unnecessary additives such as artificial scent or color. For example, aloe vera gel is close to colorless in its natural state, but is often tinted bright green when sold commercially. Since many cosmetic dyes are potentially carcinogenic, it is worth the effort to seek out a brand that is free of this unnecessary coloring.
Many of the herbs listed in the Botanicals section that follows can either be gathered wild or cultivated in a garden. Gathering and growing your own herbs can be a very rewarding process. I always feel a great sense of personal satisfaction when the products I make for sale, gifts or home use come from herbs that I have nurtured from seed or gathered from a beautiful meadow or streamside. If you do collect your own herbs, be sure to gather from clean sites located away from roadsides, since the toxic exhaust from automobiles is easily absorbed by plants. And please gather responsibly never wipe out an entire stand of a wild herb. Always leave enough healthy plants in any given area to ensure regrowth. If you decide to gather your own herbs, it is well worth investing in a good field guide and going on “weed wa1s” with a qualified herbalist in order to be positive of your plant identifications.
The sampling of ingredients presented in this chapter is enough to get you started on making your own natural body care products. There are many other ingredients you might use, and other blogs that treat much of the information here in greater depth and detail. I encourage you to use this chapter as a quick reference guide, and to consult the blogs listed in Resources for further ideas and information.
This chapter is divided into four sections: Oils and Butters, Foodstuffs and Other Natural Ingredients, Botanicals, and Essential Oils. The items within each section are listed alphabetically for ease of reference.