While researching ingredients for our deodorant bars I stumbled upon an amazing butter. Sal or Shorea Butter as it's sometimes called, is obtained from the fruit of the Sal tree which grows in India. The oil is extracted from the fruit seeds and then further refined to produce a light colored butter with little to no odor. The butter is often used for cooking and interestingly enough, is also used as a substitute for cocoa butter in manufacturing. Sal Butter is chemically similar to Kokum Butter but when melted, shares similar properties to Argan Oil because of the velvety smooth feeling it gives to the skin. With its low melt point and excellent moisturizing properties is it any wonder we chose it as one of our ingredients for our solid lotion bars?
See the not-so-innocent bar of peppermint soap? I made this soap many, many years ago when I was still soaping in my kitchen. This was supposed to resemble those round red and white peppermint candies but half way through the process I realized that I had forgotten to add the essential oil to the batter. Instead of a nice red swirl, I ended up with a deep pink bar of soap. Yeah, well live and learn... anyway I was moving stuff around in my soaping space about three weeks ago and found this wrapped, peppermint scented bar of soap. For those of you who don't know, soap made with peppermint essential oil has a tendency to make certain parts of your anatomy tingle which can actually be kind of refreshing if you know what's happening. Which I do and which is also why I don't make peppermint soap anymore. Something else you may not know is "old" soap can be rather nice - it's gentle, lathers nicely and is generally harder than a more recently made bar. So I viewed this bar as somewhat of a "find", added it to my collection of bars in our shower and used it every day for close to two weeks.
Around the second week I whipped up a batch of body butters using a recipe I'd used for many years. Lo and behold, upon testing, I thought I was having a reaction to one of the ingredients - my hands felt like they were burning! At first I thought that maybe it was the glycerin I had recently purchased as glycerin will sometimes do that to inflamed, dry skin. After another day of burning (without the body butter) I started to suspect the peppermint soap was the culprit so I went cold turkey.... and the burning sensation did eventually cease to be an issue. I have always had a healthy respect for the power of essential oils and this certainly brings it all home for me.
I love the smell of evergreen trees when I'm out walking the trails on our farm. Although this time of year you're more likely to think of decking the halls with evergreens than making an infused oil. I first learned about infusing pine and spruce cuttings when I happened upon a headache salve that included pine infused oil as one of the ingredients. Further research revealed that the sticky sap was used by Native Americans in poultices on sores and other inflammations. Sap mixed with fat provided a pain killer for chapped hands, cuts, scrapes, burns and rashes. You can also make a vitamin C rich tea by steeping the needles in hot water. Captain Cook, the english explorer and navigator was known to have made spruce beer during his sea voyages to ward off scurvy in his crew. Although my goals are not nearly so lofty, my hope is that the oil and resin that I collected the other day will retain the wonderful aroma of the spruce needles and impart that fragrance to whatever products I make with it - we shall see. For now the jar of oil is warming next to my wood coal boiler in the basement.
If you've landed here because your goal is to lead a more natural lifestyle - good for you! Using chemical free, handmade artisanal products is not for everybody. They may not feel quite the same or perform the way you've come to expect after having used conventional products..but hang in there and you'll soon be a convert too! In the weeks to come I'll be talking about things I've discovered along the way so stop back often and see what's new on the Miller's Homemade Soaps blog.