Herbal Apothecary: Herbal Soap

Today I was home with the boy child, taking walks in crunchy autumn leaves, exercising my democratic rights and privileges, and puttering around the house. Said puttering included making a couple new bars of soap. 

The past several batches I've made have been variations on my original oatmeal bars, but I'm getting a little tired of those. The idea was that they would exfoliate, and they work to a degree, but not quite as much as I had hoped. When I say "exfoliate," I mean "scrub the bejeezus out of our very thick, incomparably effective sunscreen to try to get rid of it." And oatmeal soap is just a little too gentle for that. Next summer I'll work on some kind of all-natural super scrub, but for now, the exfoliation isn't so necessary. My lotion has pretty effectively solved wintertime dry skin, so this time I'm going with a non-scrubbing, gentle herbal soap.

Enter the herbs I dried over the summer, comfrey and calendula: 

I have used comfrey in lots of other Herbal Apothecary recipes, because it is a great promoter of healing and cell regeneration and was even called "bone-knit" in Medieval times. The calendula has been used for hundreds of years to promote healthy skin and is a mild antiseptic. Both of those things sound perfect for an herbal soap!

First, melt the base. This one is an organic melt-and-pour with the smallest number of ingredients I could find:

I didn't bother with a double-boiler this time, although that's what's recommended. Just very low heat and close attention worked just fine. 

While the soap is melting, prepare the herbs:

For 1/2 pound of base, I used two dried comfrey leaves and about a (loose, unpacked) tablespoon of dried calendula petals. In our mortar and pestle, I ground them up. This took longer than I thought, because I was really trying to get them down to as fine a powder as possible. In addition to regular pounding and mashing, you really need to knead the pestle around, rubbing it back and forth and grinding the herbs in as many different directions as possible. 

This photo shows it getting there, but I worked it for a few more minutes to break up those calendula petals more thoroughly. Although it took awhile, the smell it releases is really nice and herby.

Once the first two steps are completed, stir the herbs into the base:

You can see that some of the herb powder stuck together in lumps, which took some concerted stirring effort to smooth out. A metal whisk would have probably been faster, but this is my designated soap spoon (since it now tastes permanently like soap — don't ask). 

Once the herbs were evenly incorporated, I added a tablespoon of raw honey:

I really love honey in my facial cleanser and scrubs, so adding some to these regular bars of soap should be excellent as well.

Once it's all stirred in, I removed the pot from the heat and added about 20 drops of essential oils for scent. I use a combination of lovage, rosemary, rose, and bergamot. The herbs and honey smell nice, but that subtle scent won't go very far once the soaps have cooled. 

Finally, pour the soap into the molds: 

You can get rid of those bubbles with a spritz of rubbing alcohol, but I never bother — they'll dissolve in the shower the first time you use it, and they're on the bottom anyway. Let them cool overnight, pop them out of the molds, and you get soap:

Wrap it in wax paper until you need it. Keep it or give it away. It's good stuff for skin!


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