Tag: herbal

Making herbal gifts for the festive season

If you’re into making presents, take a look at the following ideas for some herbal themed gifts.

1. For budding cooks and chefs – herbal oils and vinegars.

A really simple one to start, simply add a herb such as rosemary, thyme, chilli or garlic to a bottle of oil or vinegar and it will infuse into the oil/vinegar giving it great flavour, some of its nutritional benefits and also a hint of its medicinal properties. (It also looks great in the kitchen!)

You can use a fancy bottle or reuse an unusual shaped one that you have around the house.

Make sure that the herb you’re adding is dry, or it may start to ferment in the bottle. A great tip is to add 2 tsp of lemon juice to the oil to prevent mould growth.

2. For anyone who likes a tipple during the festive season

The old favourite sloe gin is a great present but you do need to have gathered the berries beforehand and popped them in the gin or vodka to make your herbal liqueur.

Another great favourite is hawthorn brandy, and often something people won’t have tried before, made in exactly the same way as sloe gin (but without the sugar), you add hawthorn berries to brandy and leave it in there for a month or so. (Again you will have needed to collect the hawthorn berries beforehand).

If you want to make a herbal liqueur but you don’t have sloes or hawthorn to hand, why not spice up some vodka with cardamom, cinnamon and ginger? Great in festive cocktails.

There’s also the classic mulled wine (or cider if you’re not so keen on wine), wrap up the following spices in some muslin cloth and tie to a bottle of wine (or cider), as an instant herbal gift.

  • A bay leaf
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (or a tsp of ground cinnamon)
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • ½ tsp black pepper corns
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger

3. Why buy expensive (and often chemical filled) toiletries as gifts, when you can make a lovely natural one instead.

Peppermint Sugar scrub

Use one cup of sugar (preferably brown and organic) to one cup of oil (olive or coconut is good), and add in some peppermint essential oil (10-20 drops). Mix together and store in a kilner jar to give as a lovely present.

Take a look at my natural cosmetic information sheet for more ideas.

4. Lip balms

Lip balms are easy to make and a lovely homemade gift.

Here is my festive lip balm recipe.

Basic lip balm recipe

10g oil

5g cocoa butter

5g beeswax (or carnauba plant wax for vegans)

(Makes 2 – 3 tubes of lip balm)

Melt the oil, cocoa butter and beeswax together at a low heat, in a double boiler (glass bowl over a pan of water). Allow to cool slightly before adding essential oils. (If adding essential oils stir well).

Carefully pour or spoon the mixture into the lip balm tubes. Because there is no water in this mixture it will last 1 – 2 years if kept well, but remember lip balms tend to re melt in hand bags several times and that will decrease the shelf life.

Festive flavours Lip balms can be coloured and flavoured naturally by ingredients you have in your kitchen cupboards. Why not try adding 3g of dark chocolate with 2g of cocoa butter? (More festive versions can be found here).

5. Give the gift of learning

11157347_10153299676429282_5056230117261585179_oFor the true herbal enthusiast, why not give them an extra special gift, one of my distance learning courses.

From herbal home remedies up to a year long courses, there’s something for everyone, and I do vouchers too if you can’t decide which to get.

Learning to make natural soap – it’s not so scary after all!

untitledYesterday I forayed into an area that I’ve never been before, soap making, using the cold process method.

I’ve made soap before (many years ago), using the ‘melt and pour’ method, where you buy a pre-made soap base and then melt it using a double boiler, you can then add any ingredients that you may want.

I’d researched the cold process method before and it just seemed very complicated, all of those thermometers and the scary caustic soda (sodium hydroxide). So I decided to learn at a workshop so that I could gain the confidence with this temperamental process.

It all began at Elder Farm, where Helen Kearney (who was taught by Dawn Ireland at Green Wyse), laid out our ingredients for the day:

  • Sodium hydroxide
  • Oils (castor, sunflower, rapeseed)
  • Fats and butters (cocoa and coconut)
  • Carnauba wax (a plant wax – vegan alternative to beeswax)
  • Water
  • Essential oils

We began by measuring the fats, oils and waxes into a large stainless steel pan; this mix was then melted slowly, and then allowed to cool.

soap-making-2The sodium hydroxide was added to the water, in a very well ventilated area (outside), as the fumes from the exothermic reaction are toxic. This mixture was then allowed to cool.

When the mixtures were cooled sufficiently they were then combined (very carefully), and mixed together with an electric whisk. At this stage the essential oil was added, in this case lavender.

Once a trace was formed (you can see a line of mixture across the mixture), it was then poured into moulds containing juniper berries.

soap-makingThe saponification process will continue over the next 5 – 6 weeks, the soap will turn from an alkaline mixture to a neutral mixture that is a beautiful and natural soap.


For more information about workshops at Elder Farm, take a look here or on their Facebook page.

If you want to learn more about soap making, you can find more information here.


If you too are going to venture into the magical world of soap making, please make sure you take the necessary safety precautions, and if you are unsure, go on a workshop to learn how to make soap safely.