Sunday, September 26, 2010

Starters for the D.I.Y Beauticians

So, you have a basic understanding on the knowledge of herbal-lore. And now, you want to take this further. So... whats stopping you?
Possibly motivation... or possibly understanding... or probably, if you are a consitent reader, just a little more guidance into the direction of creating your own cosmetic line.

Firstly, I would like to share that I have been overjoyed from what I have been witnessing over the internet. Before, when I first started this blog. There were no websites out there, to support the idea of creating your own cosmetics... and hardly any companies that would develop 'organic' products. Since, this blog has been posted up, I have been 'wowed'! There has been a sudden 'boom' in the market for organic and DIY products, that I must say... I am very impressed.

My only drawn back is, that even though the boom is good.
I will warn readers to be very careful on some of these recipes being posted on others sites. Some of these sites (possibly out of ignorance) post some ingredients that will actually do HARM to your body, rather than improve it. So be careful.

This is also why, I think it is a priority that I post information about different ingredients. I want you to have an understanding of what you are putting into your recipes. One ingredient in particular, Lemon, has great benefits... if used in the correct reciepe.

For example:

Lemons, are great for lightening up your skin, and creating lovely natural highlights to your hair. BUT the high acidity in them, can be HARSH to your skin and scalp. And can cause unwanted bleaching, if not used correctly.


Anyways, enough of the preaching. Lets get down to business. This post is strictly about different ways to 'prepare' your chosen ingredients for your recipes.

Different types of preparations are as follows:

  • Tinctures
  • Infusion
  • Decoction
  • Distillation

Tincture: Is a solution that has either an alcoholic base or non-volatile substance (like, witch hazel). The base solution is used to extract the properties from natural substances (like, plants or minerals). In this process, a lot of the original properties from the original substance is preserved. Tinctures are considered one of the closest forms of the original extraction.
(example of commonly used tinctures: Witch Hazel)

Example Recipe: Witch Hazel

1/2 cup of vodka
1oz of witch hazel flowers

Place items in a tinted glass jar. Let the mixture set for 6 months (max.) in a cool and shaded environment. Shake the contents weekly. Filter the loose leaf out using cheese cloth; and use in recipes.

Infusion: Is a solution that has an oil base (usually olive oil). Like the tincture technique, it extracts the properties of the original subject. Though Infused solutions carry a great percentage of the original subject's properties, it is not the closet form of the original extraction. However, most recipes that will be used on the skin/hair, will use mostly infused solutions or decoctions, since tincture solutions (due to the alcoholic base) are to harsh for the exterior body.
(example of commonly used Infusions: Calendula Oil)
Preparation is for external usages

Example Recipe: Calendula Oil

1 cup of Castor Oil (or Olive Oil)
1 1/2 oz Calendula flowers

Place contents in a tinted jar. Place container in a shaded environment for 3-6 months (min), shaking the contents weekly. Filter the loose leaf out using cheese cloth; and use in recipes.

Decoction: Is the most common form of preparation, when using fresh or dried herbs. Decoction preparation time is more instant, making it more convenient. However, because the herbs are prepared on a high temperature, most of the natural properties are cooked out of the herbs/minerals, making the mixture not as potent as it could have been without decoction.
(Example of Decoctions: Tea)

Example Recipe: Peppermint Tea

4 fresh twigs of peppermint
3 cups of water

Place water into a small pot; bring to a boil, then add peppermint leaves. Bring the temperature down to 'low heat'. Then let the mixture simmer for a couple of minutes (sweetening the tea, whilst it is over a heat. Sweeten to preferred taste). Take pot off of the stove, and let the mixture seep for 3 minutes before serving.

Distillation: Is the most potent solution and the most commonly used solutions used. It is oil based like infusions. Distillation is similar to Infusions. The only difference that Infusions are prepared and left to sit in dark cupboards, and their preparation time is much longer. Distillations can be left to 'infuse' outside in the sun, for a shorter period of time. The process is great, however, it does require a large amount of herbs/minerals to create a solution that is greatly potent. Preparation is for external usages

Example Recipe: Lavender Distillation

1 oz of Lavender Flowers
1 cup Olive Oil

Place contents in a jar (preferrably a tinted jar, but not required). Place the container outside, in a stable location, where the container will recieve a large amount of sun. Leave the container in this location for 2 weeks (max), shaking the container bi-weekly. Filter the solid contents out, and bottle the liquid into a tinted container, and store in a cool location.
  • Essential Oils: are a sub-catergory in Distillation. After the herbs have been infused in the sun for a couple of weeks (allowing the substance to become some what oxygenated), the solution is then further filtered. From the base solution, they extract the plants natural oils. Essential Oils require a HUGE amount of product (like, a few pounds), just to make a 2 oz bottle. The process is very delicate. And takes a lot of time to produce. However, if done correctly, essential oils are the CLOSEST format of the original subject. And can be used in almost any external type of recipe. Preparation is for external usages

And there you have it... the basic preparations when working we herbs. So what do you do from here? Try it yourself. Try combining different types of herbs to create a new oil infusion (like, calendula & lavender). With making "base infusions" (like distillations; tinctures; and oils) you are cutting down on preparation time when you are in the kitchen. Also, you are cutting down the costs, since you will only need to use a few drops of your homemade solutions, verses a few cups of your materials.

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