Monday, 31 January 2011
Varying the Basic Bee Balm Recipe
In my last post I gave you a very basic bee balm recipe, but it is the beginnings of making a really beautiful product.
First of all you need to decide what your balm is going to be used for. Then you choose a plant oil or combination of oils that will suit your purpose. Choose the type of bees wax - yes, you have a choice - that suits your purpose and finally decide if you are going to add essential oils or perhaps a flower or plant extract or both. Research the type of essential oils that will be suitable for your product and make sure that you like the way they smell. It is a good idea to blend the oils a couple of days before you intend to make the balm to allow the combination to settle down and assume a nicely rounded scent.
A note about bees wax
If you purchase bees wax from your local bee keeper you may find that it is very dark in colour, or very yellow, or has what appears to be impurities in the wax. These impurities are often simply honey, or pollen or even bits of bees - it all depends upon how well the bee keeper has filtered the wax. If you purchase bees wax from a diy store it can sometimes be very very dark brown in colour, in general the darker the colour the older the bees wax - which doesn't necessarily mean that it is bad, but you need to think about what type of bee balm you are going to use it for.
Bees wax purchased from a cosmetic supplier is sometimes pure white in colour, this is because it has been washed until it is totally white and is completely pure. Very often the yellow bees wax will smell of honey and the washed wax does not. They are usually all equally good depending upon your point of view, and your choice should be guided by your end product.
For example, if you are making a foot balm - perhaps with a peppermint essential oil, you may be perfectly happy to choose a wax from your local bee keeper who perhaps does not filter it so well. The final smell of your balm will be changed a little by the combination of the peppermint essential oil with the honey smelling wax. But if you are intending this to be a beauty balm with the addition of an expensive rose essential oil, then you may not want the wax to smell so strongly and taint the rose scent (actually rose and honey is quite pleasant but its a personal choice). Another consideration is the colour - the colour of your wax and the skincare oils that you choose will determine the final colour of the bee balm, some people are funny about using highly coloured products on their face, preferring pure white or slightly creamy rather than vivid yellow or dark brown. It is simply a consideration to be made before you begin.
A Case Study To illustrate my point I am going to divulge the secret of my own recipe Bee Calm Balm.
I wanted a medicinal bee balm to treat stings, insect bites, minor scratches and burns. I chose Calendula Oil (Calendula Officianalus Helianthus Annus - or sunflower oil infused with calendula petals). I thought that calendula would be healing and soothing and gentle on damaged skin. Because it was to be an ointment I didnt mind too much about the colour, but I would prefer yellow than brown so I spoke to a local bee keeper and bought from him a nice yellow - not too highly filtered bees wax that still smelled quite strongly of honey. Honey itself is very healing and soothing, not to mention being antiseptic, so I didn't mind if the bees wax contained traces of honey.
To further inhance the healing qualities of the oil I decided to infuse some medicinal herbs. I chose Chickweed (Stellaria media) because of it's anti-inflammatory qualities and Plaintain (Plantago lanceolata) because of it's ability to staunch bleeding. I then infused these two herbs in the calendula oil for a couple of weeks. To give my oitment a pleasing smell as well as increasing the medicinal value I chose a blend of Tea tree essential oil along with Lavender and Chamomile. I used very little tea tree because I do not find the smell pleasant, but also it is a very strong essential oil and I didn't want to overpower my formula, likewise with the chamomile - the smell is not one that I would like to dominate.
It took me some time to work out exactly how much to use. Because the calendula oil is basically an infusion of marigold petals in sunflower oil and sunflower oil can have tendencies to go off a little quicker than other oils I decided to use some vitamin e to help prolong the shelf life.
I used the basic recipe for a bee balm (given in the last post) - 50ml of oil to 4g of bees wax. The end product was brilliant!! My first aid cupboard will never be without it! So you see, the more thought and care you take over the choice of ingredients, the more amazing your end product will be.
You could choose all organic ingredients, you could mix a large number of plant oils together. You could add flower extracts or cosmetic additives - you could even reduce the amount of bees wax and replace it with a little shea butter. How much? Well that requires you to experiment a bit... if you melt shea butter and let it go hard, it goes really hard so if you were to add it to the above recipe without reducing the bees wax your balm might be rock solid, hence you need to experiment until you get the consistency that you like best. Remember to leave the preparation for a good 24 hours before judging whether it is thick or thin enough for your tastes.
Hint if you think that you will be experimenting quite a bit, it is a good idea to purchase a set of digital jewellery scales (about £20 at last time of looking). These will enable you to scale recipes down to very small quantities, in this way you can make just one pot of ointment at a time and if it is not to your liking you can bin it without too much waste!
And next... I shall be divulging my De-stress balm recipe... so do check back soon.