Dried herbs, flower petals, and herbal teas make wonderful additions to your bath. You can use many herbs from your garden or buy them already dried from health food stores and online.
You can harvest your own leafy herbs in midsummer, just before they flower. After flowering starts, the oils in the leaves are not as potent. You’ll want to harvest flowers when they are at their peak, in the middle of a dry day. Do not collect flowers when the air is damp or if they are covered in morning dew. To avoid damaging the petals, remove whole flowers with some of the stalk; discard any damaged petals. Put them in an open container; they may sweat and rot in a closed container.
To air-dry herbs and flowers, be guided by the plant. Lavender and sage may be used whole, with only roots and dry leaves removed; rose petals need to be carefully peeled off; sage, lemon balm (melissa), and thyme may
be used with stems and all the leaves on the stalk, removing only roots; with chamomile and marigold, only florets can be used. Prepare the herbs, flowers, and petals by wiping off any moisture on the stems with paper towels. If drying flowers on stems, make bunches of five to ten stems, and secure them with an elastic band. Hang the bunches upside down in a dark, well-ventilated place at a temperature of about 68°F (20°C ) until they are dry. Dry whole florets and petals on an unbleached tissue paper or cotton towel in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. The drying time will vary from days to weeks. Store dried herbs and flowers in dark, airtight, clearly labeled glass jars.
You can also dry herbs in a conventional oven on low heat (no more than 200°F [100°C /Gas 1/2]), or even in a microwave oven. I do not recommend microwaving food, but you aren’t going to eat bath blends, are you? To use a microwave oven, wrap chopped herbs loosely in a paper towel and cook them on high for a minute at a time. Place a cup of water in the microwave; herbs do not contain much moisture.
To prepare an herbal bath blend, crush the stems or chop the leaves and florets (such as those given in the recipes that follow) and mix thoroughly in a small bowl. To use, place the mixture in an unbleached muslin or organic cotton drawstring bag. These are easily found at herbal body care shops or online, and come in many different sizes. A good size to use for herbal bath mixtures is 3 inches by 4 inches (or 3 inches by 5 inches). In Chapter 13, you can also learn how to prepare herbal bath pouches for your baby. Wou can also boil an herbal blend in a small enamel pan, sieve off the herbs, and pour the mix into your bathwater.
1/ Winter Soothing Bath Blend
¼ cup dried chamomile flowers
1 cup dried lavender blossoms
1 cup dried fennel seeds
1 cup dried rose petals
This blend soothes dry, wind-blasted skin and aching muscles better than a Swedish massage session! Oat bran nourishes the skin, while rose petals add a warm, luxurious touch.
The best way to use an herbal blend is to put it into a small, unbleached muslin (or organic cotton) bag and tie it with a ribbon or string. Just put the bag under running water as you prepare your bath. When you are done bathing, remove the bag, let it dry, then discard the contents and rinse the bag. It’s ready to be used again!
2/ Bath Full of Joy Blend
1 cup dried lemongrass
2 cups dried lemon peel
¼ cup dried peppermint leaves
¼ cup loose green tea
¼ cup bay leaves
This bath blend has a very long shelf life. It also makes a great holiday stocking stuffer. Buy a handful of fabric drawstring gift bags (they are fabulously inexpensive!) and fill them with this fragrant blend. You can also use this blend as potpourri to add a fresh aroma to your lingerie drawers or wardrobe.
3/ Skin Rejoice Bath Blend
1 cup Dead Sea salt
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup dried rose petals
½ cup hops flowers
½ cup dried chamomile flowers
½ cup dried calendula (marigold) flowers
This versatile bath blend can be used to soothe itchy skin, sunburns, and rashes. I used this blend to bathe my newborn daughter when she had a bit of a rash (I skipped the rose petals, though), and it seemed to work really well.