The impetus behind writing this post was my frustration in finding measurement guidelines (the mathematics) to make a balm or salve. Many recipes give specific measurements for a specific recipe and that’s it–no guidelines, no “WHY.” What if I need a small quantity (e.g., 1 ounce) or a large quantity of an odd number (e.g., 23 ounces)? What if I have funky containers and need to know how much salve I need to make to fill those containers? Read on to learn more… Continue reading “The Mathematics Behind Balms & Salves”
Over the summer I was working with a case-study who I knew needed to get back into the tub.
This person used to take baths galore, but ceased to do so since moving to New York City (read: small bathroom and a not-so-ideal-sized bathtub). I needed to deliver a synergy of essential oils to her via the bath but did not want to bog her down with dilution instructions and cautions that might have kept her from using this beneficial modality (e.g., diluting in a lipophilic substance at x number of drops/dilution rate and why). So where did that leave us? Bath Bombs (a.k.a., Aromatic Bath Fizzies)*!
The thought behind using essential oils via this delivery method is to:
- Ensure the safe delivery of essential oils to the bather
- Not make the bather worry about “doing things right” (stress is anathema to a relaxing bath)
- Make it a fun (fizzing!) and therapeutic bathing experience.
So, I needed to do some research. How do I make these? What are the ingredients and why am I using them? What are the correct ratios? What is the best order of operation for making
these crazy things? I did the research for you–read on for the results and have fun! (By the way, these fizz because of the acid/base reaction when the two are catalyzed by water.)
*There is NOTHING therapeutic about using the word “bomb,” especially when considering the wellness of a sentient being.
(Always remember: solubilize essential oils in a lipophilic solubilizing agent (e.g., honey, milk, a nut/seed oil) before adding them to a bath as some essential oils may be dermal irritants and/or mucus membrane irritants.)
|Baking Soda (Sodium bicarbonate)||4||ounces||Mild alkaline|
|Citric Acid (substitute: cream of tartar)||2||ounces||Mild acid|
|Magnesium sulfate||0.5||ounces||Inert (keeps chemical reaction from happening as water is added in the mixing process)|
|Corn Starch (substitute: Arrowroot powder, Milk powder, Coconut Milk powder)||0.5||ounces||Inert (helps soak up liquid/solidify the ball)/Corn starch helps “float”|
|Nut/Seed Oil (use a light/less dense oil)||20-25||ml||Acts as your dispersing agent; adjust amount accordingly|
|Essential oils||1-2||ml||(20 drops of EO in 1 ml)|
|Hydrosol||5-10||sprays||The water element helps “glue” the dry ingredients together (as does the carrier oil). Though beware, as it is a catalyst for the chemical reaction!|
|Equipment needed: (You might not have all of these-what matters is the ratio–see below in the end-notes)
- Measure out the Baking Soda, Magnesium and Arrowroot powder using a scale.
- Combine the three ingredients together and run through a sieve to ensure no clumps remain.
- Mix well with a non-reactive spoon to ensure the ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Measure out the Citric Acid in a separate bowl and set aside.
- Measure out the Carrier Oil and Essential Oils in a beaker or graduated cylinder.
- Ensure your essential oils are solubilized in the carrier oil.
- Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix to thoroughly distribute the oils.
- Spritz the mixture with the hydrosol of your choice and mix thoroughly to distribute the moisture amongst the dry ingredients.
- Remember, you can always add but not subtract—spritz a few times, stir and then see how well the “dough” clumps together. If the “dough” is too wet, add a tiny bit more arrowroot powder.
- Add the Citric Acid to the mixture and stir evenly to distribute.
- The citric acid is added at the end of the process as it reacts with the baking soda if water is present. If the water (hydrosol) is incorporated into all of the other ingredients first, it is “tempered down” and will not react (as much/minimally) with the baking soda.
- Once thoroughly mixed, pack the dampened mixture into your molds of choice.
- Once firmly packed and formed, place the aromatic fizzies onto a tray lined with parchment paper.
- The aromatic fizzies will be firm within 2-3 hours; allow 24-48 for them to fully dry before storing them.
- Once dry, store the aromatic bath products away from moisture, in a sealed, non-reactive container. (Moisture/Water is the catalyst for the acid-base reaction!)
*Don’t get too fancy—shelf stability matters (e.g., I thought of using liquid coconut milk as a dispersing agent (as opposed to jojoba oil) and determined that would be a bad idea unless I planned on freezing the end product).
**Ratio guidelines: 2 parts Sodium Bicarbonate: 1 part Citric Acid: (Optional: 0.5 part Starch: 0.5 part Salts); Dry ingredients should be 90-98% of the product whereas wet ingredients should be 2-10%; NO MORE THAN 2 ML of EOs should be used in a bath fizzy–more than that is wasteful, disrespectful of the plant and could be harmful depending on the EOs used. The therapy of EOs lies in their subtlety (i.e., less means more).
Note: Many recipes call for only using the base, acid and alcohol-based witch hazel, many recipes also call for spritzing the product with alcohol (as a fixative), adding dyes and other objects like glitter. While always thinking about the therapeutic nature of the product (e.g., organic ingredients, using coconut milk powder and jojoba for skin softening) you are using/making, also consider how some substances should NOT go down the drain (glitter), how others may stain your tub (e.g., dye) and how it might not be a great idea to immerse your body in questionable substances.
Aromatherapy is subtle and therapeutic—this is why I chose to use hydrosols instead of alcohol and/or the witch hazel commonly sold in drug-stores.
In conjunction with a toothpaste I made to help treat gum inflammation, it seemed wise to concoct a soothing mouth-rinse that could be used to:
- Clear any residual baking soda from the mouth.
- Address bleeding gums (post brushing & flossing).
- Freshen breath.
For this, it seemed a gentle, cooling effect would be best, which is where hydrosols come into play. Which leads to a quick explanation of what a hydrosol (i.e., hydrolate, hydrolat, floral water) is from the highly regarded Suzanne Catty (in aromatherapy terms):
“Hydrosols are the condensate water coproduced during the steam-or hydro-distillation of plant material for aromatherapeutic purposes.”
Truth-be-told, I have used the Listerine brand for years–mostly out of learned behavior and co-habiting: my father used Listerine and my husband does. [To be clear: I am not knocking the brand nor asking anyone not to use it–the point of this post is to share how incredibly simple alternatives exist using plant medicine and aromatherapy for oral care.]
Following is the formula for the mouth-rinse (for an 8 ounce bottle):
- Peppermint hydrosol (Mentha x piperita) (1/2 cup):
- Anti-inflammatory and a mild antibacterial agent.
- Note: AVOID using with children less than 3 years of age.
- Rock Rose hydrosol (Cistus ladaniferus) (1/4 cup):
- Astringent (stops bleeding) and cicatrisant (healing/scar tissue).
- Witch Hazel hydrosol (Hamamelis virginiana) (1/4 cup):
- Astringent, anti-inflammatory, cicatrisant and antiseptic.
- Everlasting hydrosol (Helichrysum italicum) (1 tablespoon):
- Ani-inflammatory, cicatrisant and a mild analgesic.
- Xylitol (1 tablespoon):
- Xylitol counteracts the production of bacteria-loving, decaying acid through a neutralizing effect–it is essentially a plant-based neutralizer.
- Take a mouthful (e.g., 1 tablespoon) of the rinse and swish around the mouth for 60 seconds. Spit out. Although the mixture is non-toxic, it is wise to spit out and not swallow–the goal is to rid any lingering bacteria from the body.
- The end product is NOT shelf-stable. Hydrosols are still WATER and can spoil/”bloom”:
- Keep the mixture in the fridge if you do not intend to use the mixture within a few days. (Or always keep the mixture in the fridge to enhance the cooling sensation.)
- I chose a sterilized 8 ounce bottle because I have them on-hand–go ahead and use any glass bottle (avoid plastic if you can…). Just be sure you can put a cap on the delivery device to reduce oxidation, evaporation and contamination of the mixture.
- Keep xylitol away from pets, especially dogs. Keep away from children aged 3 and under.
I had a routine dental check-up in late July of 2015 and received bad news–bleeding gums on my lower-right gum-line. As you can imagine this was depressing news. Granted I don’t floss as much as I should. Though I do gargle and brush, twice daily, with national brands of mouthwash and toothpaste. Obviously something had to change, like the products I was using.
Over the years the benefits of nut & seed oils (e.g., for oil pulling), baking soda and xylitol have been known but I didn’t pay attention–it was definitely more convenient to go to a store and give a large corporation my money in exchange for oral care I trusted. So I started reading about these ingredients online, in books and in magazines/journals. With all of the knowledge I was gaining I had to question–why not make my own toothpaste? And why not enhance that toothpaste with essential oils that are known for oral care?
After two weeks of using my homemade toothpaste (and mouth rinse) my gums do not bleed when I floss. Following is the formula for the toothpaste:
- 2 parts baking soda (e.g., 2 tablespoons): Neutralizing, mild abrasive that will not ruin tooth enamel
- 2 parts coconut oil (e.g., 2 tablespoons):
- According to a post (about oil pulling with coconut oil) on Web MD: “Most microorganisms inhabiting the mouth consist of a single cell…Cells are covered with a lipid, or fatty, membrane, which is the cell’s skin. When these cells come into contact with oil, a fat, they naturally adhere to each other.” In other words: like attracts like.
- “Coconut oil has…lauric acid, which is well-known for its anti-microbial agents….a recent study found that coconut oil may help prevent tooth decay.”
- 1 part xylitol (e.g., 1 tablespoon):
- “Xylitol’s molecular structure slows the growth of S. mutans on the tooth surfaces, stops the production of tooth decay-causing acid and neutralizes the pH level in saliva and plaque.” [Source: odha.scholarlab.com]
- Essential oils known for their wound healing, oral care, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties: (Formulated for 3 ounces @ a 2% dilution rate)
- Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) (20 drops): gum/periodontal disease, gum inflammation, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial
- Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) (12 drops): antimicrobial and overall dental tonic
- Clove (Eugenia caryophyllata) (8 drops): toothaches, oral bacteria, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial
- Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) (8 drops): analgesic, refreshing/cooling, anti-inflammatory
- Always use caution when working with essential oils as they must always* be diluted prior to use–especially oils like clove and peppermint. [*Some oils do not need to be diluted but it is a best practice to always dilute.]
- Always combine essential oils in a glass or metal bowl as some oils are pungent enough to eat through plastic. If using plastic, as I did here, first add all of the dry ingredients and coconut oil to the container, then add the essential oils and mix thoroughly.
- The end product is shelf-stable; avoid contaminating the contents of the jar by using a stick (e.g., popsicle, craft, waxing).
- I chose a 3 ounce jar because it was on-hand–go ahead and purchase empty tubes, smaller jars, larger ones. Just be sure you can put a cap on the delivery device to reduce oxidation, evaporation and contamination of the mixture.
- Keep xylitol away from pets, especially dogs.