Ahhh! What could be a more pleasant and easy path to wellness that sinking into a steaming bath?
Hot baths have proven therapeutic benefits – the hot water alone can do wonders to promote muscle relaxation and to relieve anxiety. Add in some essential oils, bath salts, herbs or oils and the bliss is multiplied exponentially.
Some sort of bathing concoction figures into my homemade holiday gift list just about every year. I mean what better way to give the gift of wellness than through the delights of the bath?
Back in the days when I owned an herb shop the months leading up to the winter holidays were sheer madness. Ordering and stocking, staffing, planning holiday promotions – my days and evenings were packed with work obligations. Finding a few hours to craft some seasonal gifts was a challenge.
But I managed to do it. Every year I’d find a Sunday (my one day off) in December and my girls and I would have a marathon gift-making session. Bath oils, bath salts and bath herb sachets often figured prominently into the gift repertoire because they are all so quick and easy to make, and yet so loved and appreciated by the recipient.
Although there’s so many different ways to make bath salts and oils, after a few years of gifting their aunties and teachers with a bottle of oil or jar of salts the girls were clamoring for some alternative ideas. And right around then we had the good fortune to learn about a fun new bath recipe: Bath Cookies!
My dear friend Irene (who is now the proprietor of Moonrise Herbs) hosted an Herbal Holidays class some years back, and my daughter Rosie and I attended hoping to get some sparkly new ideas.
The bath cookies were my absolute favorite of the assortment of goodies we made that day, and later that week I made up a big batch at home to give out to my favorite girlfriends.
What the heck are bath cookies anyway?
Well, they look like regular, yummy cookies (well, herbal ones anyway since they can be dotted with rose petals, lavender, etc.) but instead of popping them in your mouth you drop them in your bath where all the goodies dissolve to create a luxurious, aromatic, skin-smoothing spa experience!
And it’s just fun. Because who doesn’t love cookies?
One gift idea would be to nestle some (well-labeled) bath cookies alongside some ‘real’ cookies in a pretty basket. The lucky person can have a therapeutic bath followed by a treat before bed!
Bath cookies look pretty, and when I made them as gifts I just stacked them up and tied it all together with some raffia – no tree-killing gift wrap necessary! Some nice cloth ribbon would work well too.
All you need to whip up some bath cookies is some basic kitchen ingredients and supplies,
and an hour or two of time. Pretty cookie cutters help (we just used heart-shaped ones, but you could use holiday ones too), but you can also just roll them into a ball and press with a spatula.
Today, I’ll share Irene’s bath cookie recipe along with some other great gift ideas for bathing pleasure. Next week, watch for more inexpensive and easy wellness-oriented gift ideas for your friends who don’t have a bathtub.
Remember, the operative word here will be “easy.” As I believe I’ve mentioned before – I’m a bit craft-challenged, and somehow never seem to manifest the time for labor-intensive projects. That’s why I love the herbal path to gift giving.
Looking for essential oils and herbal ingredients for your bath concoctions? If you can’t find them in your local herb or health food store, visit Moonrise Herbs online. They’ll get you set up in no time. You’ll find lots of pretty jars and containers on their site too.
Irene’s Herbal Bath Cookies
2 cups fine sea salt
½ cup baking soda
½ cup arrowroot or cornstarch
2 Tbsp light oil (such as almond or jojoba, NOT olive or coconut)
1 tsp vitamin E oil
Several drops essential oil (lavender or clary sage are both wonderful in the bath!)
Optional: a handful each of rose petals and lavender flowers
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Roll the dough out on a board and cut with decorative cookie cutters. Place cookies on oiled cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Cool completely before removing from cookie sheet. Use 1-2 cookies per bath.
Note: Flower petals can be mixed into the dough or pressed into the tops of the cookies before baking.
Once your cookies are cool, handle them gently – they are delicate! Wrap, package and label as desired. But be sure to save a couple for your own bath!
Salts & Oils – The Super Easy Bath-Time Gift
Making cookies sound like too much work? Maybe your oven is on the fritz? You can whip up some bath salts and/or bath oil in less than an hour.
To make a basic bath oil, simply mix essential oil into some almond oil, pour it into a bottle with a pretty label and you’re there. Or you can get a little fancier and use an herbal-infused oil such as calendula, which soothes and heals the skin.
You could also mix a few different oils together – such as adding a couple of ounces of rich apricot or avocado oil to the larger amount of almond oil. Any blend of oils will work. The amount of essential oils to add depends on which ones you use and your preference. You’ll need about 5-12 drops per 8 oz. of ‘regular’ oil.
(Cheat: the above simple bath oil recipe also doubles as a massage oil.)
A soak with some good bath salts does wonders to relieve achey muscles and promote relaxation. I like to make an all-natural bath salt blend with little chunks of flowres and herbs inside, but it doesn’t have quite the look of conventional bath salts. If you’re making up a gift for that aunt that turns up her nose at all that ‘health food stuff,’ try the rock salt recipe.
Natural Bath Salts
1 cup Borax
1/8 cup Kelp
1/8 cup Kaolin (or white) Clay
1/8cup Ground Oats
1 cup Sea Salt
1/4 cup Epsom Salt
1 tsp (or more) essential oil of choice (can be a combination of oils)
Optional: 1 cup coarsely ground dried flower petals (roses, lavender, calendula)
Use a wire whisk to stir all ingredients together except the essential oils. When well blended mix in the essential oils. The resulting mixture should smell very fragrant because the bath water will dilute the scent. Keep adding essential oil until you are thinking “whoa, this is way too strong.” Then it will probably be just right for the bath.
Package bath salts in pretty jars or even ziploc bags and label. To use: Add 4-6 tablespoons to a hot bath and swish to dissolve.
“Conventional” Bath Salts
When Rosie was about 10 or so, she balked at anything that looked natural calling it “hippie stuff.” So I had to figure out how to make the type of bath salts we would find at the Mall.
Turns out it’s even easier than the natural version. Basically all you do is pour some rock salt into a big bowl, add in a few drops of food coloring of your choice (I know, I know – but remember this is the conventional method) and some essential oils. When it looks and smells right, pour into jars and it’s good to go.
It had been a while since I’d made these, and a quick internet search revealed some new ideas: skip the food coloring and make some pink bath salts using Himalayan Pink Rock Salt.
Great stuff – and good for you too. Add essential oils of choice and you have an attractive and therapeutic gift.
And of course there’s always good old fashioned bath herbs! But I’ll save those recipes for another time.
More Fun And Easy Bath Recipes – courtesy of Irene at Moonrise Herbs
Remember those stinky bath oil beads? Well, here’s a fragrant, natural version that will turn a bath into an emollient skin treatment.
¼ cup powdered milk
1 Tbsp powered sugar
2 Tbsp Borax
¼ cup rose water
2 tsp vitamin E Oil
10 drops essential oil
Mix together all dry ingredients, add vitamin E oil and then slowly add rose water until a thick paste has formed. You may not need all of the rose water. If too wet you will not be able to roll into balls or shape. Using a teaspoon make balls and dry on wax paper
2 cups Baking Soda
1 cup Citric acid
3 Tbsp Ground Herbs (such as roses, lavender and calendula)
1 tsp Sweet Almond Oil
30 Drops essential oil
Mix all dry ingredients and slowly add in wet ingredients. Form dough into molds or one-inch balls. Leave to dry for 24-48 hours. Store in an airtight container in a dry location.
2 oz. grated cocoa butter
2 oz. baking soda
3 tsp. powdered oats
1 ounce citric acid
10-30 drops essential oils
Mix dry ingredients together. Melt the cocoa butter in a double boiler then stir in the dry mixture. Add essential oils. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze for 30 minutes. Release from the molds and store in a cool, dry location. To use: drop one melt into a half-filled tub. (Hint: fashion your own double boiler by placing a glass or ceramic over a pot of boiling water.)