In The Best Natural Homemade Soaps (Robert Rose, 2014), Mar Gómez offers 40 recipes for simple luxurious soaps based on three essential ingredients: water, olive oil and caustic soda. Gómez adds a number of natural ingredients like beeswax, cocoa butter, essential oils and herbal infusions to help you customize a soap that’s perfect for you, and each soap recipe is introduced with the history and therapeutic uses of the distinctive ingredient. The following recipe is for echinacea soap.
Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) is an herb that grows wild in the grasslands of North America, but it can also be grown in your own garden.
It is well known in herbal medicine because it helps the body’s immune system quite effectively. The roots and entire plant are taken in powder form, extracts or tinctures, and, to a lesser extent, in infusions or decoctions. Externally, echinacea has a certain antibiotic effect. It acts as a fungicide, bactericide and inhibitor of viral growth.
Native Americans placed echinacea on wounds to prevent them from getting infected and to accelerate the healing process. Settlers to North America learned of the plant’s properties from the natives, but in time attributed new qualities to echinacea that had not been demonstrated previously. In fact, settlers used the plant to treat syphilis and gonorrhea.
After some years, people stopped having faith in echinacea. In the second half of the 20th century, however, its true properties were rediscovered, including its action as a barrier plant against fungi, viruses and bacteria, both on the skin and in the immune system.
Echinacea Soap Recipe
• 7.5 oz mineral water
• 3 oz lye (caustic soda)
• 1.5 lbs extra virgin olive oil
• 0.35 oz beeswax
• A handful of echinacea flower petals (optional)
• 0.07 oz echinacea essential oil
1. Wearing gloves and goggles, pour mineral water into a large saucepan. Add lye slowly, stirring gently until it is dissolved. Do not splash the lye onto your body, as it can cause severe burns.
2. Using a thermometer, monitor the temperature of the lye mixture until it is between 120 degrees F and 140 degrees F.
3. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat olive oil to between 120 degrees F and 140 degrees F, stirring in beeswax slowly.
4. Remove olive oil mixture from heat. Add lye mixture to olive oil mixture, stirring slowly and trying not to splash.
5. Stir occasionally, every 15 minutes or so, until the mixture thickens and congeals. (It will have a texture similar to that of light mayonnaise.)
6. Stir in echinacea petals (if using) and essential oil. Stir for 1 minute with a spoon (or with a whisk, taking care not to create any foam).
7. Pour into a greased or paper-lined soap mold. Gently tap mold to remove any air bubbles.
8. Cover with a blanket or towel and let stand for 2 days. Uncover and let stand for an additional day if the mold is very large.
9. Turn soap out of mold. Wait another day, then cut into bars as desired.
10. Dry bars for 1 month, turning occasionally to ensure they are drying uniformly.
Fun Facts About Echinacea
• Echinacea’s strength as an immune-system booster has been known for a very long time. At organic stores, echinacea soap is sold for its disinfecting abilities.
• There are nine species and two subspecies of echinacea, and all grow only in the grasslands of North America. Three of them stand out for their health-enhancing properties: Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea pallida.
Echinacea Soap's Action on the Skin
• Echinacea can play a major role as an antiseptic for treating wounds, acne, boils or any other type of external attack on the skin.
• Echinacea promotes tissue regeneration and scar formation at the site of an injury. There have been rare cases of allergies with severe itching reported, so test the soap on a small area first.
More from The Best Natural Homemade Soaps
Courtesy of The Best Homemade Natural Soaps: 40 Recipes for Moisturizing Olive Oil-Based Soaps by Mar Gómez, 2014 © Robert Rose. Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.