Friday, November 30, 2012

Rosemary’s Perfect Balm Makes the Perfect Handmade Gift

There are really so many useful and fun recipes to make in my new book, Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide, and many of them would make great gifts. How to choose?  Rosemary’s Famous Face Cream with Rose-Cinnamon-Cardamom Bath Salts [PDF] is a luscious gift for women. For the men in your life, adjust the scent by adding a more "masculine" essential oil, such as bay or sage, and you have skin care products that even guys will love.

Photograph © Jason Houston

Rosemary’s Famous Face Cream

This rich, thick cream is wonderfully moisturizing, and it is probably one of my most famous formulas. It’s the perfect face cream, and depending on the herbs added, it can be very healing for skin problems. Made with calendula oil and essential oil of lavender, for example, it can be used as a healing cream for babies, as a soothing remedy for rough or irritated skin, or simply as a divine cosmetic for mature and “sageing” skin.

¾ cup Calendula Oil, made with equal parts grapeseed and apricot kernel oil (see recipe below)
¹⁄8 cup cocoa butter
¹⁄8 cup coconut oil
1 rounded tablespoon grated beeswax
¼ cup commercially prepared aloe vera gel
¾ cup distilled water
A few drops of lavender essential oil

To make the cream:
  1. Combine the Calendula Oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil, and beeswax in a saucepan over very low heat and warm until everything is melted together. Pour into a measuring cup or bowl and let cool for at least several hours or overnight, until the mixture is somewhat firm, thick, and creamy.
  2. Scrape oil mixture into a blender. In a separate bowl, combine the aloe vera gel, distilled water, and essential oil. Turn the blender on at high speed and slowly drizzle the water mixture into the oil, continuing to blend until all the water mixture has been absorbed by the oil. The blender should “choke” as the mixture thickens and becomes white and creamy.
  3. Turn off the blender and scoop the cream into small jars. Apply the lids and store in a cool, dark location, where the cream will keep for up to a year.
To use:
Apply this rich, thick cream as often as you like. Because it’s quite inexpensve to make, you can use your “face cream” for your whole body! It does wonders for dry and sensitive skin.

Calendula Oil

Pick the calendula buds when they are just opening, if possible on a dry and sunny day, when the resin will be stronger. Your fingers may become sticky from the resin while you’re picking the buds. That’s a good sign.
Dried calendula buds
Photograph © Jason Houston

To make the oil:
Fill a glass quart jar three-quarters full with calendula buds. Fill the jar to within an inch of the top with olive oil (for medicinal preparations) or grapeseed, almond, or apricot kernel oil (for cosmetic preparations). Place in a warm, sunny spot, and let the herbs and oil infuse for 3 to 4 weeks. Strain and rebottle. (For double-strength calendula oil, add a fresh batch of calendula buds to the strained oil and let infuse for another 3 to 4 weeks.) Store in a cool place, out of direct sunlight (the refrigerator is fine), where the oil will keep for up to a year.

To use:
Apply calendula oil topically to skin rashes, eczema, and swollen lymph glands. It makes a wonderful massage oil and is a great addition to any cosmetic recipe calling for oil.
Along with these handmade gifts, you can also gift some of your "precious thyme." What better way to show the people we love that we have time for them? A half-hour facial massage gifted with your jar of all-natural face cream is always a treat. Or a jar of face cream can quickly become a hand- and foot-moisturizing balm if you add a little more coconut butter, lanolin, and/or aloe vera gel. This will ensure that even the driest skin is well-moisturized and protected during the winter months ahead. Add an earthy scent, such as patchouli (yes, patchouli has outgrown its 60s hippy image and is quite respectable these days), clary sage, and a bit of tangerine or grapefruit essential oil to create an uplifting fresh aroma. Along with your face cream now turned luscious-earthy-foot-and-hand-healing balm, attach a handwritten note gifting your friend with a half-hour hand or foot massage (or both!). Handmade herbal gifts are infinitely warm, friendly, personal, and generally inexpensive, and they are often among the most cherished gifts under the tree. For a host of other ideas, refer to my book Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide or Rosemary Gladstar’s Recipes for Vibrant Health.

Find Ingredients: Resources [PDF]

Recipe excerpted from Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide © 2012 by Rosemary Gladstar. All rights reserved.

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