Earth’s bounty is always all around us, but it is perhaps even more apparent in the summer, when crops are ripening and plant life flourishes. Wild or cultivated herbs can be useful friends, growing perhaps right outside our kitchen doors. Herbs are commonly used as food, as decorations, as dyes, as flavorings. They also are used the world over to clean and heal.
You can easily make herbal soaps for your family to use and enjoy, right in the comfort of your own kitchen. There are two soap-making techniques. This tutorial teaches you the simpler of the two. Technically, you’re really embellishing this soap, rather than making it from scratch. Because the process is simple, even small children can help to make these beautiful, healing soaps, as long as you carefully monitor them around the stove and hot soap. (Of course you will!)
Calendula (also known as pot marigold) is a common and prolific garden annual that reseeds itself. It is known to have been used as early as Roman times as both a dye and a flavoring. Calendula is known to have antiseptic properties, which make it perfect as a soap additive. Many natural first aid preparations include calendula.
Peppermint grows in many cottage and kitchen gardens. You can use it in teas, desserts, and body care potions, such as lotions, shampoos, balms, and soap. Mint may have a calming and soothing effect for skin irritations, itching and hives. It is believed to have anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Materials for Making Herbal Soaps
- glycerin soap base (I used a glycerin and olive oil base)
- calendula (pot marigold) and mint herbs from the garden (I used a mix of dried calendula petals and fresh flower heads, and fresh mint leaves)
- stovetop pan, cutting board, knife, ladle
- soap molds (also silicone muffin pans work very well; these come in fun shapes )
- essential oils for fragrance (optional)
- soap colorant (optional)
A word about glycerin soaps: You can buy glycerin at the craft store, along with lots of other fun soap-making and body product supplies (dyes, fragrances, molds, etc.). Using pure glycerin soap in this project will result in soaps with a layered effect, since your herbal additives float to the top of your molds as your soap sets. There’s nothing wrong with this, and the result can be quite beautiful and rustic. Another kind of glycerin soap base that you can buy has olive oil added to it, and a property that keeps any additives in suspension, meaning you won’t get layers and your herbs will stay mixed throughout the soap. This is the look that I was going for with these two batches. You can decide what’s right for you. There is no difference in how you make the soap. Just be sure to read the packaging carefully so you get what you really want.
Begin by gathering your materials. You will need a clean cutting board and a table top to work on.
First, cut your glycerin soap base into small cubes. This makes it easier to melt at low temperatures, and you want to keep the temp quite low when you‘re making soap. You can use a double boiler or just put your glycerin cubes into your pot. (Cleanup is easy with hot water and a scrub brush!) Stir the soap often until all pieces of glycerin are melted.
Meanwhile, chop your mint leaves into very small pieces. You may wish to set aside some of the tiniest leaves to be used as a decoration later on. Of course, this is optional.
If you have lots of soap molds or muffin pans, you might be able to make both types of soap at the same time. Since I had to reuse the molds after the first soaps were fully set, I made two batches—first calendula, then mint—cleaning up in between batches.
Before starting, I saved the dried petals from my calendula flowers for a week or so. For my soap, I also used a few fresh flower heads to maximize its potency as an antiseptic.
Add your petals and flower heads to your melting soap cubes. The heat will begin to cook the flowers.
If you want your calendula soap to have a rich yellow coloring, add a few drops of soap colorant to the pot. You don’t have to do this, and if you cook the petals in the soap a while, it will begin to take on a natural yellow color. At this point, you can also add fragrance, if you wish. I added a few drops of geranium essential oil. Geranium is known to be a comforting scent, and since I envision my children washing their scrapes with my calendula soap, comfort seemed to be just the right feeling to evoke by smell.
If you used fresh flowers, you should fish out the centers now. When you’re satisfied with your soap’s color and fragrance, it’s time to pour it into molds to set. Using a ladle, gently fill each cup to the brim. Keep the mold flat. The soap will begin to cool quickly, but it may take an hour or so for the soap to become very firm to the touch. You can speed the cooling by placing the mold flat in your refrigerator.
When the soap is completely firm and set, gently pop each soap out of the mold. They should separate from the mold’s sides with some gentle twisting and come out cleanly.
My second batch of soap was mint. You’ll repeat all the same steps as with the calendula soap. Begin by cutting soap cubes and then just add the chopped mint in with the glycerin. The longer you allow your mint soap to cook on the stove over low heat, the greener it will become. I added a few drops of eucalyptus and mint essential oils to the warm pot. The smell is calming and relieves stress.
You can add your reserved tiny mint leaves into your mold if you wish. They won’t stay exactly in place when you ladle in your mint soap, but you will be able to see pretty whole leaves in your soaps after they have set.
In this photo, you can see my two different pours. The greener bars were poured from soap that had been on the stove longer. The natural green from the mint leaves colored the soaps. I like them both.
A finished mint soap, with lots of gorgeous herbal goodness visible.
And here’s a darker one. This soap was on the heat longer and became a dark green.
Here is the finished calendula soap, with pretty golden-orange petals showing inside.
Homemade soaps make wonderful gifts for family, friends, and teachers. Consider adding a mint and a calendula soap to your outdoor adventure box or your first aid kit. Use both types to cleanse and to heal.Pin It