Tag Archives: apothecary

Lip Balm Production

lip balm 3I’ve been working on this lip balm project for a long time. I had a hard time deciding on the ingredients I wanted to use in my formula. I definitely wanted the consistency of Burt’s Bees but I wanted a calendula base. So I started off infusing sunflower oil with calendula.

lip balm 1Next I chose to use coconut oil (instead of cocoa butter) as a secondary oil. It adds a lot to the texture, making it creamier, because it’s solid at room temperature. (If you want to confuse people at Whole Foods, ask them for “denatured” coconut oil.)

Years ago I made lip balm with my sister and my friend Sharon and was super disappointed in the texture. It was super slick and came right off my lips. We only used oil (liquid at room temperature) and beeswax that time. This formula is much nicer. It’s richer, isn’t as slick, and feels great.

For this batch I used a peppermint oil for flavoring. It’s pretty light. I prefer it stronger generally. I re-melted this batch after my first try because the first time the peppermint disappeared completely. For the next batch I’m going to be using a cacao oil.

This week I sold 8 of my 3x strength wound salves (thanks to being included in this post on The Kitchn “15 Stocking Stuffers That Don’t Suck“) and so I’m already working on a new batch of salve. This is my happy place. Making these apothecary products. Selling them means I get to make MORE.

3x strength Wound Salve

The Post Apocalyptic First Aid Kit: put together your own or BUY MINE

first aid kit 1Last summer was a calamitous one. You know how you can go a long time without getting any cuts or sprains and then suddenly every time you turn around the kitchen knife is lodged in your thumb, table corners conspire to trip you so you sprain your wrist in a fall, and steps suddenly disappear under your feet sending you sprawling on the cement walkway below scraping off a big hank of skin so thick it makes you sick to your stomach to cut it off?

We had one of those summers. That was the summer I finally understood the value of having a first aid kit in the house. We had various components of one. We own at least six pairs of scissors, all suitable for cutting bandaging to size, but when I needed a pair to cut off some skin from my mom’s injury (yes, for real) and cut bandages, I spent 5 precious minutes searching for a single pair while she bled. We had bandage tape but it was not in the same spot as the bandaging. That was the day I decided I needed to put together a first aid kit for our family.

first aid kit 6I could have bought one, of course, but there is no first aid kit out there that blends natural medicine with some modern manufactured supplies. I don’t use Neosporin for cuts and abrasions, I use a handmade comfrey wound salve, or did until I made my own formula with antibacterial herbs in a triple infusion that is much better and stronger than the one I used to buy*. I don’t use Calamine lotion or anti-itch ointment from the store for poison oak, I use natural powdered clay. My son is the one who gets the poison oak and this has worked very well for him.

first aid kit 3I was also inspired by my dystopian novel “Winter; Cricket and Grey” to make a first aid kit that included some natural bandaging in addition to the sterile manufactured gauze pads and band aids. In the spirit of being resourceful during tough times when manufactured goods may be hard to come by I have put cloth bandage rolls in the kit made from natural cotton muslin that’s been pre-washed to improve absorption.

first aid kit 2I put a lot of thought into what should be included in my first aid kits. I’m going to list each item I included  below:first aid kit 4What all first aid kits should include:

Scissors – they don’t have to be fancy, they just need to be able to cut through bandages and bandage tape. Hopefully you won’t ever need yours to cut hanging skin off a wound.

Tweezers – make certain they are sharp edged otherwise they are useless. The ones in this kit are small but have a really nice sharp edge for pulling out splinters. Dull ones make it more painful and frustrating and you will end up cussing so loud you’ll surprise yourself.

Triple Strength Wound Salve – this is in place of using antibacterial ointments. It’s natural, it’s effective, and it’s really good for your skin. The bonus is that it’s made from ingredients that would most likely still be available during an apocalyptic situation. It can be made at home if you take the time to learn how.

Sprain Bandage – I can’t stand Ace bandages. We have one or two lying around and have certainly had cause to use them but they look creepy with that flesh-like color and they’re always too long and after a few uses get stretched out in an unpleasant manner. I have made sprain bandages from cotton stretch satin. Each kit has two lengths of it so you can use either just one or use both if you need more of it. They are pretty and decorated with a felt heart.

Muslin Bandaging – 100 percent cotton washable bandaging. Two different widths for different needs. It is for making pads and for fixing them in place. It is also perfect for using with the poultice.

Band Aids – I’ve included 20 in each kit I’m selling but it’s not a bad idea to add more to your kit of different sizes. I’ll be honest, we have a lot of different band aid sizes and types at our house but the ones I find most useful are the ones I’ve put in the kits (1″ x 3″) and it’s frustrating having so many less useful sizes and shapes lying around when this is what I most often need. I’ve chosen latex-free because a lot of people have allergies to latex.

20 Sterile Gauze Pads – These were really useful with my mom’s arm injury and I will make sure I always have some on hand as long as they’re available. They’re very porous, though, and the muslin bandaging is better for particularly bloody situations. In either case, where bandages sticking to wounds is a worry, rub some salve on the wound or on the bandaging directly to keep it from sticking.

2 Rolls Bandage Cloth Bandage Tape – You can use muslin to tie wound pads in place but it’s good to have tape on hand as well.

1 Use Comfrey Poultice – If you use this poultice for a wound you can get 2 uses from it but for a sprain you’ll want to use the whole thing. I’ve seen a comfrey poultice in action (my mom used it on my cousin’s sprained ankle and it worked wonderfully well) and is truly be a great value to every first aid kit. It reduces inflammation which is the main thing you want to do with a sprain. The added benefit of using a poultice instead of an anti-inflammatory pill is that it has healing properties on skin. Comfrey speeds up cell regrowth and is known to be healing for bones as well.

Bentonite Clay – any pink or green clay powder will do just as well. I include this because it worked so well soothing my son’s poison oak that he’s a real believer and we always have some around. It helps dry up weepy rashes and reduces the itching. Plus – it’s full of minerals that are good for skin.

Alcohol for Sterilizing – I’ve included an empty bottle with atomizer top in my kits for sale. I can’t sell alcohol without a lot of trouble so you must fill it yourself. You can fill it with rubbing alcohol OR moonshine OR Everclear. The higher the proof the better. Use it to sterilize the scissors or tweezers before use. It can also be used to sterilize wounds, but only do this if you don’t have access to clean running water which is the best way to clean wounds.

There are a few other things that would be fantastic additions to your first aid kits but which I couldn’t include in the ones I’m selling:

Fever/Pain Reducer – We don’t treat fevers in our house until they reach 103 degrees OR unless they are causing terrible discomfort. So we don’t use fever reducers often but there have been times I’ve been really grateful to have it on hand. Pain reducers are also truly beneficial in my opinion and I have never been satisfied with natural pain relievers (except for beer – true story) so this is a case where I believe in modern medicine providing superior care to natural and why in my household we blend modern medicine with natural remedies.

Epi Pen – No one in my house has any life threatening injuries but many people do have them and while they usually have an epi-pen close at hand, having one in your first aid kit is wise.

Thermometer – Not a necessary item but very useful in determining if a fever should be treated or allowed to run its course.

As always, I have to hope you never have need of any of these things, but I also hope you’re prepared in case you and your loved ones are hit with a string of injuries as we were.  Either put your own kit together or buy mine:

Post Apocalyptic First Aid Kit from Stitch and Boots

first aid kit 7*You can buy my triple strength wound salve separately from the first aid kit in my Etsy shop.

The Handmade Lotion Trials: First Batch

I ran out of my usual lotion last week.  I have been using St. Ives for years.  I’ve enjoyed various formulas they’ve come out with.  Generally speaking they use very mild scents and they’ve always been affordable.  All natural they are NOT.  I have branched out time and time again to find an all natural replacement for it but no formula has met my needs.  My skin is sensitive and very dry.  I use hand lotion obsessively.  I am very picky about what it should feel like and how it should perform.  I think everyone’s skin responds differently to moisturizers and so what works for me will not necessarily work for others.

When I got down to scraping the bottle of my St. Ives lotion I bought a replacement for it, once again telling myself that some day I would just try to make my own lotion.  I had a neighbor once who said she and her mom make their own lotion every year and said it’s really easy.  However, needing lotion RIGHT NOW TODAY THIS MINUTE I brought home a familiar formula of St. Ives called “Intensive Healing” and opened it up and slathered it on my dry legs and was instantly overwhelmed by the most potent fragrance – perfumey and strong enough to knock a horse out.  This was new.  They don’t usually have such obnoxious fragrances and usually the fragrances smell pretty natural.  This scent that accosted me from my own skin reminded me of a certain cologne-stinking produce man I have a secret and strong dislike for.

Not okay.  Not only that, even if I could stomach such a strong scent on myself, I am not okay with accosting other people with chemical fragrances that may give them headaches or worse – make them sick.  So I hit the lotion isle at Rite Aid hoping to find one last bottle of my tried and true lotion.  They didn’t have any.  I read every lotion bottle on the shelf.  Every damn one.  I’m pretty sure I made the Rite Aid employees very nervous.  The ingredients lists, even on the “natural” bottles, read like foreign languages.  Partly this is due to the fact that most of the companies list ingredients like vitamin E in fancy-pants science lingo.  Still, do I need all that crap in my lotion?

Remember: skin is the largest organ of your body and what you put ON it goes IN in it.  Into to your system.  Toxins enter your system easily through skin.

I complained about my lotion problem to my mom and she got all excited to try making our own.  I love this about my mom.  She is the greatest inspiration to me to make my own medicines and go the natural route.  She brought me up that way.  So we consulted our Rosemary Gladstar herbal recipes book and found she has a “perfect” lotion in it.  Last night we made it.

What it has in it: Coconut oil, sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil, 8 vitamin E capsules (emptied), linseed oil (a tiny bit), beeswax (we used 1/2 ounce for this batch, the recipe says 1/2 to 1 ounce), filtered water, aloe vera gel, and some essential oil (grapefruit).

How did it turn out?  It’s thick, which is what I like in a lotion.  It smells like coconut, which I don’t like (though it’s a huge improvement on the nasty loud smelling bottle I have to ditch on someone who likes that kind of thing).  It has a greasy feeling finish, which I don’t like at all.

How hard was it to make?  Easy!  It worked really well following Gladstar’s directions.  It didn’t separate on us and it didn’t require any special equipment.  Cleaning my blender and the bowl we used may require a trip through the scouring hot dishwasher to remove all trace of the beeswax but that’s a small price to pay.

Is it less expensive to make your own than to buy it?  That is highly dependent on what oils you choose to use.  It is also difficult to cost because this recipe called for a tsp of lanolin but we had to fork out $11 for a whole bottle of it.  Stored properly the lanolin will last a very long time and we can use it for many batches (maybe as many as 10) which makes the cost difficult to determine.  We also had to buy vitamin E in capsules, we only needed 8 of them but had to buy a whole bottle.  That was another $10.  I think if you use inexpensive oils you can make a very cheap lotion.  While cheap is good when on a budget like we are, I insist on good quality so I’m willing to spend more for sweet almond oil.  Buying bulk oils online is probably the best way to reduce the cost of making it.

How much does one batch make?  We got a total of about 16 ounces of lotion.

I have two other books with lotion recipes in it and I also have a friend who makes lotion professionally who has offered to let me make some with her.  My plan is to devise a master formula to meet my personal preferences and learn enough about how to adjust it so that I can make suggestions to others who want to try their hand at this but who may want a different sort of performance from their lotion.

Biggest question I need answered: what controls how greasy a lotion feels?  The main ingredient in lotion is oil and obviously oil is grease – is it the amount of water that tempers the greasy feel?  Or does the beeswax also temper it?  Are there certain kinds of oils that are more or less greasy feeling?

I’ll report back when I’ve made my second batch.