When the first bathtub was installed in an American home in 1842, it was reserved for brief plunges in cold water to relieve illnesses ranging from congestion to cholera. The idea of relaxing in a hot tub was not just uncommon, it was discouraged.
Bathing to cleanse the body didn’t become popular until the 20th century. Now, bath products are a booming industry. You can buy products at supermarkets, specialty retailers, and craft and farmers markets. Or you can make your own using healing herbs and pretty flowers growing in your garden.
“The idea of growing things [to use in all-natural bath products] is about more than making great products that are nontoxic,” says Kris Bordessa, author of Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living. “It’s a fun thing to do to say you started growing these flowers and incorporated them into products.”
Bordessa suggests using flowers that haven’t been treated with synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Also, forage in areas that haven’t been sprayed or exposed to exhaust fumes on roadways.
If you want to grow the ingredients to use in bath and body products, add the following eight plants to your garden.
The brightly colored flowers and long bloom times make calendula (Calendula officinalis) a popular garden annual. Different varieties of calendula, also known as pot marigold, produce single and double daisylike flowers in a range of hues from light yellow to deep orange.
Cultivated around the world for medicinal use, calendula is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. It’s used to calm an upset stomach, alleviate heartburn and acid reflux, ease a sore throat and combat respiratory infections.
Calendula blooms from May through August. Removing dead flowers can encourage subsequent bloom. Harvest flowers and use them to make infused oils that are the base ingredients in lip balms, lotion bars, lotions and cold-pressed soaps. Or dry the petals to add color and interest to bath bombs and bath salts.
Recipe: Calendula Infused Oil
This recipe can be easily adapted to other herbs and oils. Follow the same instructions, swapping out calendula for other fresh or dried herbs and flowers and olive oil with sunflower, castor, grape-seed, avocado, jojoba or sweet almond oils.
- 1 cup dried calendula flowers
- 1 cup olive oil
- 12-ounce glass jar with lid
Add the dried calendula flowers to the jar.
Pour olive oil into the jar, ensuring the flowers are covered.
Stir well and screw on the lid.
Place the jar in a sunny windowsill, shaking at least once per day.
Let the jar sit for 4 to 6 weeks.
Strain the oil into a sterilized jar through a cheesecloth (toss the flowers).
The infused oil can be stored in a cool, dark location for up to six months.
The word “chamomile” is of Greek origin and means “apple on the ground.” The herb was named for its applelike aroma and flavor. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has a sweet, apple flavor with mild sedative properties that aid in relaxation. The soothing herbal ingredient is often recommended as a sleep aid and is reported to help with colds and flu, headaches and stomach upset.
The flowers, with yellow centers and white petals, bloom from June through August. Dried flower heads are used to make chamomile tea but can also be added to bath salts and bath bombs. You can also use them to make infused oils that add a fragrant, soothing touch to soaps, lotions, balms and salves.
Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) is a more petite chamomile variety and can also be used in “farm to bathtub” products and in teas.
Recipe: Big-Time Bath Bombs
This relaxing recipe makes five to six medium-sized chamomile bath bombs.
- 2 cups baking soda
- 1 cup citric acid
- 1 teaspoon of chamomile-infused oil
- 1 teaspoon chamomile essential oil
- dried chamomile flowers
- spray bottle filled with distilled water
- bath bomb molds
Mix the baking soda and citric acid together. Use a large sealed sandwich bag to keep the particles from getting airborne.
Once the dry ingredients are well mixed, transfer to a mixing bowl and add the chamomile-infused oil and chamomile essential oil.
Add a few spritzes of distilled water so the mixture is the consistency of wet sand. Less is more when it comes to water. If bath bombs are too wet, they will expand out of the mold and fail to hold their shape.
Add a few pinches of dried chamomile to one side of the bath bomb mold.
Use a measuring cup to scoop the mixture into both sides of the mold. Overfill the molds slightly, then press together firmly and hold.
After a few seconds, release the bath bomb from the mold.
Leave to harden overnight.
More than 100 species of roses belong to the genus Rosa. Roses, often cultivated for their beautiful flowers, come in a range of colors and fragrances. Some roses climb, others trail and most have thorns on their stems.
Regardless of the varieties, roses can be temperamental. Most varieties are susceptible to a host of disease and pest issues. Organic controls are advised if rose petals will be used in bath and body products.
Dried rosebuds and petals can be used to add color and a subtle floral fragrance to bath salts and bath bombs.
Recipe: Beautifying Bath Salts
Combine rose and lavender for a luxurious bath salt. This recipe makes four 8-ounce jars.
- 1 cup Dead Sea salt
- 1⁄2 cup pink Himalayan sea salt
- 1⁄2 cup Epsom salt
- 1⁄4 cup baking soda
- 1 tablespoon rose-hip-infused oil
- 1 teaspoon lavender essential oil
- 1⁄8 cup rose petals
- 1⁄8 cup dried lavender
In a large bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together until well mixed.
Add lavender and lavender essential oils, and stir until incorporated.
In a large glass jar, layer rose petals, add bath salts until half full, add another layer of rose petals, fill with bath salts and add a final layer of rose petals on the top.
Store in a sealed jar in a cool, dry location.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is one of the most popular culinary herbs. It’s prized for the strong aroma of the thin, needlelike gray/green leaves and hailed as a natural health powerhouse that aids in digestion, enhances cognitive function, reduces inflammation and improves liver function.
Leave the leaves on the stems to make infused oils that can be used in soaps, lotions, balms and salves. You can also use a mortar and pestle to turn the leaves (stripped from the stems) into a powder that makes a fragrant addition to bath bombs and bath salts.
Recipe: Super Sugar Scrub
Rosemary and lemongrass make a wonderfully easy sugar scrub.
- 1 1⁄2 cups organic cane sugar
- 1⁄2 cup coconut oil, melted
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary powder
- 10 drops lemongrass essential oil
- 5 drops rosemary essential oil
- 5 drops vitamin E oil (as a preservative)
Melt the coconut oil in a double boiler.
Add organic cane sugar, dried rosemary powder, lemongrass and rosemary essential oils and vitamin E oil. Mix well.
Scoop into glass jars with lids.
The recipe will make three 4-ounce glass jars.
Although Provence, France, is famous for colorful fields of lavender, the fragrant perennial is not native to France. And despite its name, it isn’t native to England either. English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) hails from the Mediterranean.
(French lavender, Lavandula dentata, is also from the Mediterranean.)
There are several different varieties of the herbaceous perennial:
- ‘Hidcote’ is known for its dark purple flower spikes. It has a fruitier flavor than other lavender varieties
- ‘Lavenite Petite’ hails from New Zealand and produces pompomlike flower spikes.
- ‘Miss Katherine’ is one of few pink lavender varieties that has elegant sprays of deep pink blooms.
All lavender varieties can be used in bath and body products.
Lavender is prized for its fragrance, making it a popular ingredient in soaps, bath oils and perfumes. Thanks to the healing effects of the essential oils, the plant has a long history of use for ailments ranging from insomnia, depression, chronic pain, muscle spasms, digestion, inflammation and stress.
Like other herbs and flowers, lavender can be used to make infused oils. The flowers, when dried, also add amazing color and fragrance to bath bombs and bath salts.
Peppermint (mentha x piperita) might be mistaken as a species all its own. But it was developed by crossing water mint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). The result is an herbaceous perennial with robust mint flavor and fragrance.
The leaves have a strong scent and, when dried, can be added to soap, bath bombs and bath salts.
Peppermint grows up to 2 feet high and 2 feet wide. It grows aggressively. Plant it in containers to keep it from taking over the garden.
The name is a little misleading. While the perennial herb has a lemon scent and citrus flavor, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a member of the mint family. Both the fragrance and the flavor are best described as mild.
The dried leaves are a great addition to bath products ranging from soap to bath bombs.
Lemon balm spreads like other mint varieties, making it best confined to a container where it won’t take over the garden.
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are among the first signs of spring. Their bright yellow flower heads pop up between blades of grass, between cracks in the sidewalk and along roadsides.
These “weeds” are a staple of Chinese medicine. Tinctures made from the roots, leaves and flowers are used to make restorative tonics.
Dandelions can be harvested in the wild—look for places off the beaten path where chemical weed killers are not apt to be sprayed. Use the yellow flowers to make infused oils that can be used in lotion bars, salves, cold pressed soap, lip balm and other bath and body products.
Recipe: Dandelion Lotion Bar
The number of lotion bars this recipe creates depends on the size of the silicone molds.
- 1⁄2 cup dandelion-infused oil
- 1⁄2 cup shea butter
- 1⁄2 cup beeswax
- 10 drops of orange essential oil
- silicone mold
Using a double boiler, melt the beeswax and shea butter until it’s liquid.
Add the dandelion-infused oil and essential oil, and stir well.
Pour the melted liquid into silicone molds. Leave them to harden.
To use the lotion bar, rub it across your skin. Your body heat will lightly melt the ingredients and provide a layer of moisture on your skin. Store in a cool, dry location.
There are numerous ways to turn products you grow and raise on your hobby farm into natural skincare products, from adding honey to cold-pressed soap and using tallow as a moisturizer in balms, to incorporating dried flowers and herbs into bath bombs and lotion bars.
If you want to grow the ingredients to use in bath and body products, add these eight plants to your garden.
This article appeared in Hobby Farm Home, a 2022 specialty publication produced by the editors and writers of Hobby Farms magazine. You can purchase this volume, Hobby Farms back issues as well as special editions such asBest of Hobby Farms and Urban Farm by following this link.