Just got back from a wonderful 'playgroup' at Sarah's, I call them playgroups, because you spend so much time having fun, laughing and learning that it hardly feels like work, so calling them workshops seems to formal to me lol! This time we investigated creams and salves, after a discussion I'd had with Sarah recently about Alkanet (Alkana tinctoria) and its dyeing properties Sarah said we could have a go at making a lip balm using it. And boy does it ever work wonders as a dye for cosmetics! Everybody was in awe at the beautiful colour the Alkanet Root gave, whilst I had one of those 'Harry Potter' moments, gazing into the pan like it was a cauldron marvelling at the alkanet alchemy going on in there.
At a Herb Society demonstration last year Tina Stapely mentioned using alkanet to get a pink colour for creams and salves etc, she must put a very small amount in to get pink as it seems very potent. As an aside she also mentioned using Calendula (Calendula officinalis) to get a pale yellow to orange colour and Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) to achieve green, but Dandelion flowers (Taraxacum officinale) also give a really pretty daffodil yellow colour and St John's Wort oil will turn a cream, lotion or balm pink.
The recipe we used was adapted from one in Josephine Fairley’s book “The Ultimate Natural Beauty Book” ISBN 978-1856265133. We changed quantities so everyone could take a jar home and the main oil was changed, in the book olive oil is used, but we used a double infused calendula oil instead. I'm giving the recipe for our version of the recipe below, the quantities were tripled, except the alkanet, which for 75ml (3oz) of oil in the original recipe is given as 45g (1½ oz). Although I think that is way too much, as with 225ml of oil there was still more colour than needed. Next time I make this I would only put about 10-20g of alkanet in to start, and keep adding more until I get the colour I'm after.
The rose essential oil is given in the original recipe as 9 drops, we didn't triple this just added 12 drops. The beeswax also said 20g (3/4 oz) but Sarah thought that was too much for the small quantity the recipe was making, and our tripled recipe would only need 1oz of beeswax and that's what we used. She was exactly right, the quantity we made over half filled 16 of the tiny 28g preserve jars you get from hotels etc.
Rosebud Lips Balm
225ml (9floz) Calendula Oil
3 Tablespoons Jojoba Oil
45g (1½ oz) Dried Alkanet Root
30g (1oz) Beeswax
12 Drops Rose Essential Oil
Method - Gently heat both oils in the top of a double boiler for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the alkanet root and steep for around 30 minutes, to extract the colour from the root.
Strain the root from the oils through a muslin cloth. Return the oils to the double boiler with the beeswax. Once this has melted, remove from the heat and add the rose essential oil drop by drop. Pour into small sterilised pots or jars. Allow to cool thoroughly before putting the lids on.
The lip balm was tested by everyone except the guys, (although Gary said he would try some later ;) ) and it did turn everyone's lips a light rosy red colour, not too intense, just a nice pleasant shade and it is a wonderful moisturiser for the lips. I suffer from dry cracked lips in the winter and this balm helped make my lips feel soothed and soft, part of that will be down to the calendula.
Other things we made today included an aqueous cream which we added infused oils, tinctures and essential oils to. I chose to make a rose geranium cream, I added calendula oil, st john's wort tincture and rose geranium oil, it smells wonderful and will get used often. It was so easy to make as well, following Sarah's recipe I can easily replicate the recipe at home. I think some of my family members will get homemade herbal creams for Xmas this year tailored to suit them.
We also made a salve for sore hands, we used a combination of plantain, calendula, yarrow and sweet violet double infused oils with beeswax. Once again it was really easy to do, the great thing about Sarah's 'playgroups' is you always get to have a go at something yourself and you get to take away something that you've made. As I'll be getting a double boiler this week I'll be able to begin making my own infused oils, add them to the tinctures I've already made and the ones yet to make and I'll be able to produce a variety of herbal hand creams, balms and salves to suit all my needs. The alkanet as a cosmetic dye has really spurred me on to investigate using it to dye wool and cloth, so watch this space, more dyeing posts to come in the future and more recipes I'll be bound.