Herbal soap-mania

During September, I suffered from intensive soap-mania. After a summer break I felt hungry to create a couple of recipes. According to my last resolution I only worked with herbs and pure natural oils, no additional fragrance or coloring. At the first sight, the soaps might be considered boring and similar each to other. They are not models for a beautiful photo, but they still can please in the bath, especially if you are a natural type.

Working on my original recipes, I do only a small batch of each, so the recent mania didn’t overload my stock.

The shampoo bars became the first creation. I cannot imagine washing hair with the commercial products anymore, even though I did it for the most of my lifetime before. I love the natural character of my shampoo bars, as well as the flood of herbal effects that I put there myself.

Actually, I made three different recipes of shampoo bars. The first one, based on herbal powder from birch leaves and linden petals with a lot of hemp and olive oils, was enriched in the water phase by the root of burdock, other birch leaves and also aromatic myrtle leaves. Unfortunately, the lye required for saponification is a killer of gentle natural scents and you must have extremely developed senses to feel it in the finished soap. But the shampoo bars number 1 are almost ready to use.

The shampoo number two is based on herbal powder from wild thyme with pinch of Moroccan clay, traditionally used for hair care even without soap. Among range of natural oils I would like to mention adding of the neem oil which is extremely kind to hair and especially to skin of the skull. Back to herbs, I made distilled herbal water again, this time from decoction of wild thyme, horsetail, burdock and hops. This recipe could treat weak hair and problematic skin.

The third recipe of shampoo is based on chamomile and yarrow with pinch of handmade powder from oatmeal. The water phase is enriched by the same herbs plus hops. Among oils, I used a lot of almond oil and shea butter, so this shampoo is going to be calming and nourishing.

I also succeeded to make an excellent lavender soap. I went for almond and shea butter, coconut, castor and olive oils, honey and beeswax. This time I got the soap of velvet consistency, I almost wanted to eat it. I believe that honey and beeswax made an excellent job inside, cannot wait to test it.

Having a really nice honey, I repeated the trick with another recipe. I tried to use honey solo, without beeswax support. I wanted to combine it with cocoa butter but actually I was out of it. No way to wait for supply! So I took an old comfrey ointment made from castor oil and cocoa butter only (comfrey infused inside). And because I am crazy about writing the exact amount of ingredients every time, it was easy to calculate the soap even from the ointment. Also, I couldn’t think about herbs because comfrey was already there. I decided for chamomile in water phase perhaps because it fits with honey well. Again, I got a velvet soap, still waiting on the shelf.

Last, but definitely not the least was a Master of wilderness. This recipe isn’t boring! I used oak bark powder and crushed juniper berries for coconut oil infusion, and thyme, bay leaf and allspice for distilled decoction. The power of wilderness slightly won over the strength of lye, so the scent remained present. The truth is that I used also a few drops of my own juniper tincture just before finishing the soap.

You see? So much original recipes and herbal combinations, and the rules of soap-making process force me to wait about 6 weeks. Of course, I could fulfill this period of time by making other soaps, but it would be near to perpetual motion 😊 Nothing to say about tons of waiting soaps in my tiny space. So I have to spend my days differently. Fortunately, there is a beautiful Indian summer outside and walking is one of my favorite disciplines.

With love, Ivana

P.S. All my recipes are palm oil free, I work with coconut oil instead.

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Smudging with Mugwort

For years I fully appreciate healing skills of Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), especially in the area of digestion and hepatic activity. Mugwort is warming, astringent and bitter herb, one of those that helps women and knows their secrets. And perhaps this is why Mugwort belongs to the basic herbs used in magic and witchery.

There is a lot of Mugwort growing wild in my neighborhood, so I had a great source for tincture, vinegar, salve and even capsules every year. But until last week I closed my eyes before its magical power.

Generally, I am on guard for rituals because I know how much power they have and how easily they can be misused. And even a good intention may not protect us from disaster because our Ego is masquerade master and likes to present itself as a pure heart.

But I got into a situation where I needed to call my herbal allies into a gun, ask them for protection from evil. I used other options before.

Mugwort volunteered first and I didn’t hesitate for second. Bitterness was our common language and I knew it had to be burned. Despite tiny living space and high temperature outside, I decided for smudging. With no previous experience, I succeeded!

I wanted to make safe smudge sticks, producing minimum smoke but accomplishing the purpose. With a lot of patience, I reached the goal and got Mugwort smudge sticks, looking like homemade cigarettes with burning time nearly one hour per stick. So I was cleansing my home, feeling the move of an old energy out.

I also feel a necessity to do similar procedure inside of my body. I mean kind of burning therapy to cleanse my body before Mugwort starts to protect. I am sure my “cigarettes” might be used for moxa treatment, but is it safe if I don’t have enough knowledge of the meridians etc.?

I’ll keep you updated, in the meantime I welcome any advice or recommendation.

With love, Ivana

Obsessed with sour taste

Although winter wasn’t strong this year, we expect another wave of frosty weather next week. My body is already exhausted from endless wait for spring and more and more often calls for sour taste.

On the scale of tastes I usually prefer the bitter one. Sweet probably occupies the second place. Salty is in the middle, sometimes alternating with the sweet. But spicy and sour are definitely in the end of my selection with the only exception. When spring slowly awakes from winter sleep, I am obsessed with sour taste. I need to add some acidity to every meal and it doesn’t matter if it’s sweet or salty.

At this time, sour taste helps me to overcome the last winter days, it keeps me enough alive. What coffee makes for mind in the morning, the sour does for body before spring definitely comes.

Now, the opportunity to really use what I’ve done before came.

Rosehip chips are simple, tasty and sour enough to keep you from eating so much of them. Actually, I made them by accident. I originally wanted to make jam, but I harvested more fruits than I had sugar. So I cooked and mashed the rosehips without sugar, pushed through the sieve, placed a thin layer on a sheet and dried in oven at low temperature. Efficiency isn’t high, but I don’t like to waste the harvest.

Except of lemon, what do you imagine under sour taste? Yes, vinegar!

Perhaps some or most of you have tried to make homemade apple vinegar. It’s nothing complicated as soon as you have apples, big jar and patience.

Based on the same technology, I made also other kinds of vinegar – from the hawthorn berries and from elderberries. And I must say – I love both of them!

Homemade vinegars are great as they are, or you can add some herbs to extend their taste and flavor.

I have three types of apple vinegar – with common wormwood (Artemisia vulgaris), rosemary and onion skins. They are great fresh or cooked, for eat or hair rising.

The hawthorn vinegar is a kind of medicine as well, having a tonic effect for heart and blood pressure. I divided the final amount into three parts – pure hawthorn, with sage and with speedwell (Veronica officinalis), which also helps to keep heart and veins in healthy condition.

But the elderberry vinegar, it’s a treasure! I love even to watch it! It looks like a good red wine or magical elixir. I feel the taste in every cell of my body, awaking me for life. I put it into porridge in the morning, into the soup at noon and into legumes in the evening. As I said, I’m really obsessed!

I’m going to make bigger amount this year, especially after I used the elderberry vinegar instead of lemon juice into the herbal candies. I mixed it with cloves, cinnamon and star anis and it became a heaven in the mouth! They were gone before I took a photo, so you have to imagine or make it yourself 😀

What kind of sour ingredients do you like? I would appreciate more inspiration for my actual obsession. Thanks in advance!

With love, Ivana

Herbal magic for healthy hair

There are many useful herbs to improve quality of your hair. I took an example of my local herbs, divided in groups according to the type of hair. I’ve been testing them by myself and few of my friends.

Blond and/or thin

The key herb of the group is definitely Chamomile (Matricaria Chamomilla) from the family Asteraceae. Trying to sense the energy, it makes clear that Chamomile brings a floral softness and asterisk lightness into the hair. Don’t expect hair thickening from it! Chamomile is proud of its gentle quality and ready to share.

Other herbs could make a good company to Chamomile. Usually I choose a birch leaf or linden blossom. Both of them are a good companion for another group of hair too.

Red and/or middle

The leading herb of this group is hops, either alone or processed in beer. At least in Europe, using beer for strong and shiny hair has a long tradition. Try to imagine growing hops (Humulus lupulus) and you will see long lianas, richly covered by leaves and small green cones called strobili. They are highly aromatic, full of useful components for your hair and skin. No wonder, hops belongs to the family Cannabaceae and is completely legal worldwide.

Longterm use of hops makes your hair thicker (like lianas) and your scalp healthier. But it doesn’t make sense to use it for really thin hair. It seems to me that the strong aroma of hops and fullness of the compounds are too hard (aggressive) for thin hair.

Birch could be a reasonable support for thin hair thickening and is a good companion for hops too. If you imagine birch tree (Betula spp) you will see long but light branches with small, heart shaped leaves. The birch has a beautiful and lifted hairstyle and you can achieve that for thin and middle hair.

Rich look of your hairstyle could be also supported by linden blossoms (valid for thin and thin/middle hair). If you imagine a flowering linden tree (Tilia spp), it will be clear to you. At the time of flowering the linden tree increases its volume and beauty. Blossoms shine with color and scent, attracting attention of bees and humans. It can work for you in the same way – except of insects 😃

Dark and/or thick

This is the group of hair with a good quality, sometimes too strong or thick to style them. Could you imagine a plant with a similar energy other than nettle? The nettle has tiny stingy hairs in huge amount and is ready to share the same quality with you.

Nettle (Urtica dioica) is the leader of the group and it is probably the most famous herb for a hair promotion. But as I have mentioned several times, for some hair (or hair skin) types, the nettle is too rough. For example, my scalp every time turns red after using nettles and it doesn’t matter whether it was in a decoction or processed in soap. The stinging power of nettle is simply too strong for me.

In case your hair isn’t extremely thick or you have a problem with nettle, a suitable alternative for you could be the wild thyme. The purple color of its flowers is a good guide where to use this herb. Disinfecting aroma helps to remove toxins from hair and scalp, and sometimes also from the mind beneath. I like adding the wild thyme for the red hair blends in the winter when they need more protection.

Method

You can easily prepare decoction (like more concentrated tea) and rinse your hair after washing. Or you can even wash your hair with a special soap that contains a suitable blend of herbs. And because it is much more comfortable, I prepare such soaps at home from the herbs I personally gather. Then it is a great pleasure to wash my hair.

I must say that it might be tricky to choose the right combination for chemically colored hair. They usually don’t cooperate well with herbal soaps, decoctions could be fine.

My originally red hairs (treated with henna) are more than happy with the herbal soap (hops, birch, linden blossoms) for more than two years. Even my hairdresser confirmed improvement of their quality.

I’m curious about your experience if you like to share it.

With love, Ivana

Edible experiment

Few months ago I’ve been asked to prepare a sugar-based depilation mass. Preferably including herbs that heal and treat irritated skin. Oh, I like challenges!

At the beginning I decided to go for few ingredients only: sugar, figs, lemon and water. Having no idea about proportions, I had to try. The first attempt contained too many figs, the mass remained soft but delicious on a taste. So, I put it on a pie!

I served the pie with the story and got acknowledgment for both. Especially when I have everybody assured that the mass on the pie has not been used for original purpose yet.

The second attempt brought a much better result. The mass was still a bit soft and resilient, but effective for fine blond hairs. Fortunately, I have that!

The third time was lucky. I got excellent and effective consistency. I already used herbs, my very first choice were chamomile and aloe vera. It still tasted great, so I can depilate and satisfy the taste for sweet at the same moment.

There are a lot of herbal options for this edible depilation and I look forward to the next one. Do you have recommendation or experience? Thanks for both!

Oak tree: Repose and Relax

Speaking of the birch as a mental and spiritual support, I should mention the physical support of the oak tree.

Even if you have a big sized body, the oak tree’s body is much burlier. It takes all your heaviness if you want to share it.  Our ancestors knew the characteristics of the oak well and so they relied on the oak beds for daily rest and the oak coffins for the final rest.

With rapid development of technologies and general speed of life we have forgotten to respect basic energy of materials according to final products and their use. So remember, the first step for good sleep is an old reliable bed from the oak wood.

The oak tree doesn’t keep your heaviness for ever. It has a great ability to take your worries on its shoulders and later pass them deep into the Mother Earth. This ability remains unchanged for the oak wood although it’s no longer physically rooted to the ground.

Healing effects of the oak bark is based on the same capability. It brings you stability and support as well as it removes wide range of toxins and delusions. The oak bark is rough, but always reliable and trustful. Maybe it’s a little bit slow in results but finally they are longterm stable.

I love to use the oak bark in natural soaps, they look like dark chocolates and invite you to taste. Additionally they are great for problematic skin treatment because the oak bark is reputable fighter against eczema, acne and some skin fungus. And if you have no problems with your skin, a little detox can’t hurt you.

Being in touch with any kind of the oak tree energy, it means to be in touch with the physical dimension of life. It’s a true mirror of our Existence in traces of matter and time.

Nettle: Excellent Blood Purificator

Nettle is a plant growing in ordinary places, especially in less respected ones. It is so common that we underestimate its importance and quality. Additionally nettle punish anyone who approaches. It has appropriate arsenal of weapons always ready to use. Amount of small nettle hairs bites our unprotected skin and leave it with itchy spots. And even gardener beginner knows how persistent knapweed nettle can be.

Nettle is very concentrated. Sharp and spicy, better to use it carefully. Wise says that sharpness disappears after cooking or freezing. I must say “it depends how sensitive you are”. I remember terrifying experience with my rose-nettle soap when I used it accidentally in intimate areas. Believe me, I did it only once. I felt as if the biting nettles were fresh regardless of the saponification process in lye.

From the same reason I cannot use nettle in shampoo or hair conditioner, even many people love to do it.

Nettle is like red chilli in a green robe, it can inflame you white-hot. And this is why nettle is so useful for blood purification. It bites all lazy components to increase their functionality. Liver and kidneys work faster and waste products leave body more quickly. Then it can happen that high blood pressure is effectively adjusted.

Nettle likes and supports well vascularized organs such as heart, liver, kidneys, spleen and ovaries. Due to high mineral content nettle helps to maintain healthy blood inside of them.

According to my experience nettle can be a successful ingredient of the anti-herpes salve. Perhaps because of the vigor which expels harmful substances from the blood away.

Which kind of experience with nettle do you have?