Herbal Apothecary: Homemade Lip Balm
Winter is on the way, and the furnace is running most of the time, sucking every last drop of moisture out of the air. That means the season of chapped lips is upon us, and I decided to do something herbal about it. So here we have my herbal lip balm. This is a variation of Rosemary Gladstar's recipe (from this great herbal cosmetic handbook, and it worked out really well.
I used the comfrey infused olive oil that I made a while back. That's really easy: Just simmer comfrey leaves in olive oil over very low heat for a few hours, then strain out the solid stuff. It makes the olive oil even greener than before, and it smells herby and nice, though it doesn't taste like much. Comfrey is noted for its healing properties. It helps wounds heal over quickly, so for a while I was using this comfrey oil straight up on my lips; it moisturizes and helps heal any chapping or cracking. But that's kind of messy, so I wanted to get it into a more easily portable lip balm tube instead.
(By the way, there is some evidence linking ingested comfrey to cancer, but for me, this is a reasonable use. I'm not going to eat tubes of lip balm, after all. You should do your own research and make your own decisions, if you are so inclined.)
To start, I infused the comfrey oil with some additional herbs for scent and flavor: dried tarragon, fennel, and angelica – all the anise-y herbs we still had around. In the future, I think I'd try some dried sweet woodruff as well, for that bit of vanilla sweetness. Anyway, the oil smelled really nice as it simmered for another couple hours.
In the measuring cup above, I melted 1 Tbs. beeswax and 1 tsp. honey into 1/4 cup of my comfrey olive oil. It was a little hard to incorporate the honey, so some of our finished lip balms have obvious sweet spots in them. I have since read that the honey is actually harder to mix into the oils if everything is too warm – I would have thought the opposite to be true. Next time I'll try to wait to do it as the mixture cools, but that timing could be tricky. The lip balm starts to firm up pretty quickly, and waiting too long will make it difficult to pour into the tubes.
This amount made nine standard-size tubes of lip balm (I ordered the tubes and beeswax from Bulk Apothecary). To get the liquid into these tiny tubes, I used a glass eyedropper from the local drug store. Next time I'll try to work more quickly – I had to reheat the lip balm and the dropper about halfway through, because it was starting to solidify in the dropper. It was also a little tricky to clean out the dropper when I was done, but lots of hot water and a pipe cleaner worked wonders.
We all started using our new herbal lip balm the next day, and it's been great. I like the herby essence of it (I wouldn't exactly call it a flavor), although in the future I might try increasing the honey a bit. (Or maybe I just happened to get a tube without much honey in it – Tiegan and Kirk ended up with lots of sweet bits in theirs.) It's a little funny at first to be using a green lip balm (the finished product is even greener than the still-hardening balm in the photo above), but it's working well, and I like using something with all natural, edible ingredients. I mean, I wouldn't go around eating beeswax, but overall it seems a more environmentally-friendly alternative than smearing petroleum products on our bodies.