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Happy Earth Day!

Spring Has Arrived…and the Dogwoods are showing off!

It’s as if Mother Nature is completely oblivious to the current worldwide human tragedy unfolding before our eyes!! Yet there she is splashing greens, whites, pinks, yellows and purples across the landscape as if it’s her own private canvas. Like an answered prayer, spring arrives with its promise of hope and renewal.

As heartbreaking and difficult as these times are, it has forced us to pause…to look beyond ourselves and possibly inside ourselves. The world has become quieter, the sky bluer. The birds can hear themselves sing and the red tail hawk that flies above can surely see farther than ever before. In fact, Mother Nature would be perfectly happy if we all had to stay home forever!!

At some point, the crisis will be over. The hum of an over stimulated world will begin again. For now, let us embrace this gift of time. The time to be with our loved ones. The time to create, dance, sing, read, write, cry, laugh, eat when we are hungry and sleep when we are tired. The time to consider the plight of our fellow humans. To act upon our compassionate hearts, To help one another!! What part of today do we want to carry forward and what part of “before” do we want to keep.

Happy Earth Day!

Jan

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Soap vs Hand Sanitizer

Of all the things I thought I needed to plan for this year, a pandemic was not one of them.  Nor did I think I would need to ponder the qualities of soap vs hand sanitizer. This coronavirus has shattered all of our plans.  It’s scary!  We are worried about our friends and families, our jobs and businesses, and our future.  For me, information and facts regarding action we can take during scary times helps ease some of the stress and anxiety.  One of the most important actions we can take right now is to keep our hands clean.  In this post I will discuss the pros and cons of both soap and hand sanitizer.  And I will throw in a little comic relief with Alton Brown.

Hand Sanitizer

Two of the benefits of hand sanitizer vs soap are its portability and ease of use.  I carry a bottle in my vehicle readily available in order to clean my hands before I touch anything.  You really can’t beat the convenience of it.  And in many situations it is the only practical solution.  However…

It is important to read the manufacturer’s directions for use to be sure we are using the proper amount.  Also, hand sanitizer must be at least 60% ethyl alcohol in order to be effective.  And the product must remain on your hands until it naturally dries.  Don’t wipe it off!!  Most commercial products contain specific ingredients that help spread the gel and insure it stays wet for the required amount of time. 

As convenient as hand sanitizer is, all that alcohol is super drying for your skin.  Our skin is our first defense against pathogens and we don’t want them getting into cracked fingers!!  Secondly, hand sanitizer is effective against some cooties but not all.  It doesn’t work on norovirus or rhinovirus for example.

bulk soap samples
Our Bulk Soap Samples

Soap

Although hand sanitizer is easy to use, my hands never really feel clean until I wash them the old fashioned way…with soap and water.  Coronavirus pathogens are enveloped within a fat layer.  Soap breaks up that fatty layer and the mechanical action of rubbing our hands together while washing helps to dislodge pathogens which are then rinsed off. 

Luckily I happen to know a fabulous soap maker!!  I keep a travel size bar at each sink, like the ones above, in the studio and my home.  That way I can have a good scrub whenever I come in from the outdoors.  If you choose a handcrafted soap with a high percentage of olive oil and pure essential oils, your hands won’t experience the dryness associated with alcohol based sanitizers.  Soap is effective against all pathogens, microbes, grease, and just plain old dirt!!

Here again there is a method of hand washing that increases its effectiveness.  Rather than bore you with step by step directions, check out Alton Brown’s YouTube video below.  CDC recommends a 20 second scrub.  Alton goes a step further!!

Conclusion

It is a very stressful time in our lives.  Human beings are social animals.  We were meant to be together in numbers.  It’s a strategy that has insured the survival of our species for hundreds of thousands of years when we had to defend ourselves against and hunt large game.  So isolating ourselves from those we love goes against our deep seated instinct to gather in groups in threatening times.  It can cause severe dissonance in us. 

But we are not defenseless.  We can all do our part to help each other even if it has to be done from a distance.  We can use technology to check on each other and offer a word of encouragement and support.  We can take this time to look within and discover the things that are truly important to us.  And we can use this down time to nurture our creativity, another human instinct.  Read, draw, paint, sing, dance, write, and celebrate our humanity.  Together, we will get through this too.  Stay well my friends, stay well!!  And remember, wash those hands!!     

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Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis

Lemon Balm makes an excellent addition to any garden.  Not only is it attractive and easy to grow, but it possesses many important qualities.

Growth Habit

Lemon Balm is native to southern Europe and generally reaches a height of 24-36 inches.  The perennial heart shaped leaves have serrated edges that give off a fresh, lemony fragrance when crushed. Lemon BalmThis plant (a member of the mint family) has a spreading habit and likes to pop up wherever it finds a happy home!! We welcome this behavior at the Kulturology Soap Company because we use generous quantities of the herb in our Baxter’s Doggy Do Shampoo for its astringent and cleansing quality.  However, this herb can be grown in pots to control its spread.  If left uncut, lemon balm will bloom in mid-summer and although the small white flowers are far from spectacular,  back yard pollinators love it.

Herbal Properties

Lemon balm has powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.  The fresh, lemony scented leaves of this amazing plant can be used in teas to calm nerves and upset tummies, infused to create an astringent cleanser, extracted for treatment of cold sores, dried and added to potpourri for fragrance, or candied for cake decorations.  And if all that was not enough. this herb also possesses insect repelling qualities.  Crush a few leaves in the palm of your hand while in the garden and rub on skin or clothing to discourage the little biters!!  Below we have included a simple recipe for a soothing astringent cleanser.

Astringent Skin Cleanser

Take one ample handful of fresh picked lemon balm leaves (preferably early morning when the leaves contain the maximum amount of essential oil) and place in small pot with two cups fresh water. Simmer on low for ten minutes. Cool and strain liquid into clean dark glass jar and store surplus in refrigerator. Use cotton balls to apply to skin morning and evening for a refreshing skin cleanser.

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Drowning in Plastic Waste

The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre

I guess it was 2010 when I first read about the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre and began to understand the issue of plastic waste.  The author, Alan Weisman, describes in his book entitled The World Without Us, an area of the Pacific Ocean located between Hawaii and California. Here the surrounding ocean currents have created a place of stillness where things tend to get stuck.  He recounts the story of Captain Charles Moore who set out from California toward the western Pacific on his catamaran one day in 1997.  It didn’t take long before the captain and his crew encountered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It took a week to navigate through the 1,000 mile long mass of trash. Moore calculated the gyre contained 3 million tons of plastic waste…in 1997!!

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is filled with empty plastic bottles, six-pack rings, plastic bottle caps, plastic grocery bags, and “nurdles”…billions and billions of nurdles.  Nurdles are tiny plastic pellets that find their way into all aspects of our ecosystems.  Birds, turtles, fish and other aquatic wildlife mistake them for food.  And billions of them wash up on our shores.  They are the building blocks utilized by plastics manufacturers to create the thousands of plastic products we use every day. One way or another they end up in places like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And other places all around the world.  Because plastic never goes “away”. 

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Just Recycle!

We like to think we can “recycle” our way out of the plastic problem we have created within only 50 years. In reality, only about 9% of stuff we send for recycling actually goes through the process according to Zoë Schlanger . In 2018, China stopped accepting plastic waste from the around the world.  But other countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam were more receptive and have now found themselves buried in plastic with no infrastructure to handle the issue.  The sorting of plastic for recycling is a complex process that requires the separation of dozens of various types of resins many of which are simply not recyclable.

What Can We Do?

So what can we do?  We can continue to use and recycle plastics in the hopes that each piece gets its one chance to be re-used to create new plastic. Or we can pledge to reduce our use.  We can choose products contained in sustainable packaging.  We can demand companies find ways to package their products with our environment in mind.  At the Kulturology Soap Company we have committed this year to do our part both in business and in our personal lives.  This will be no easy feat.  Just a quick survey of the products in my pantry and the dozens of products packaged in plastic makes me wonder if it’s even possible to eliminate this stuff!!  Quite frankly, I have been hung up on the issue of peanut butter for two days!!  I love peanut butter!!  Am I going to have to make my own in order to eliminate the plastic container every brand of peanut butter is sold in????

You too can join along in the fun!!  Take the pledge to reduce plastic waste from bath and shower products at www.reduce-plastic-waste.com.  We will keep you updated on our progress.  We are also looking forward to a new documentary about the global plastic issue which you can learn about at https://www.storyofplastic.org/    Lets all do our part to prevent ourselves from drowning in plastic!!

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Frankincense and Myrrh

We’ve all heard of Frankincense and Myrrh.  Many of us associate them with the story of Baby Jesus but what the heck are these mystical substances and why would a couple of prophet- like dudes travel across a vast expanse of desert to deliver them to a newborn child? 

What is Frankincense and Myrrh?

Frankincense is a tree resin harvested from the Boswellia species–a rugged 16 foot tall tree native to Somalia and the Arabian Peninsula. Also known as olibanum, the resin oozes from the bark which has been cut with a special knife.

Boswellia Trees in Oman
By Armatus1995 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77757853

After harvesting, the resin dries and hardens into “tears” which are then hand-sorted according to quality. Frankincense tears are a pale yellow color and its aroma has hints of lemon, pine and ginger.

Frankincense and Myrrh resins

Myrrh is similar to frankincense in several aspects. Like Frankincense, Myrrh is a tree resin extracted from the Commiphora myrrha tree–a small thorny species native to northern Africa and the middle East.  Harvesting of Myrrh is the same as Frankincense. However, myrrh resin is a reddish brown with a woody aroma.  

Commiphora myrrha tree

History

We often associate Frankincense and Myrrh with the Three Wise men of biblical lore.  However, according to an article at ScientificAmerican.com we don’t necessarily know that there were three wise men. We assume the presence of three people based upon the arrival of three gifts to baby Jesus. We do know the Ancients considered Frankincense as precious as gold and burned it during ceremonies praising the gods. In fact, Frankincense and Myrrh were so important to early Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks they established extensive trade routes across the Arabian Peninsula to support efficient transport of these tree resins. Interestingly…burning Frankincense and Myrrh during early Christianity was strictly forbidden due to its association with pagan worship even though today we quickly associate it with the Christian story of Baby Jesus.

Frankincense Trade Route

Properties

Boswellic acid is the primary active ingredient in Frankincense which is known to have anti-inflammatory and healing affects (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5801908/). Frankincense also possesses strong anti-bacterial properties leading to its use in oral hygiene products such as toothpastes and mouthwashes (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21992439/).

Like Frankincense, myrrh also possesses anti-inflammatory properties.  However, myrrh may be known more for its anti-oxidant effect and was used by the ancient Egyptians during the process of mummification.  Myrrh has also been used extensively as an antiseptic to keep wounds clean and to staunch the flow of blood.   It is also used as a fumigant in order to relieve bronchitis, colds and coughs.

Back to those Dudes in the Desert

Did the Wise Men set out intentionally to deliver Frankincense and Myrrh to a newborn infant or were they travelling along an ancient trade route to deliver their precious load to the next stop along the way?  Were they following that bright star because it was showing them the way to Baby Jesus or were they using that bright star to navigate an immense desert? 

Though many have found the answers to these questions and more through their religious beliefs, we may never truly know the intent and identification of the dudes in the desert! However, given the cold, damp, dirty environment in which Jesus was born, the therapeutic and medicinal properties found in these precious resins would certainly be a practical addition to a personal apothecary.   Frankincense and Myrrh are still used today to purify the air, heal wounds, and treat gum disease.  And we use it generously in our Frankincense and Myrrh soap for its renowned anti-bacterial properties.  Perhaps the dudes in the desert were indeed, wise men.

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First They Came For… A Poem

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out…

Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out…

Because I was not a trade unionist (Martin Niemöller 1946).

Then they came for the the reds, the blacks, the browns, and I did not speak out…

Because I was not red, black, or brown.

They came for the artists, the writers, the dancers, the craftspeople, and I did not speak out…

Because I was not an artist, writer, dancer, craftsperson.

They came for the farmers, river keepers, mothers, the caregivers, and I did not speak out…

Because I was not a farmer, river keeper, mother, or caregiver.

Then they came for the rest, and I did not speak out…

Because the game was complete and they had won (Janet Lewis 2019).

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Sometimes Things Don’t Work Out Like They Are Supposed To!

I tend to get very excited when a new soap variety starts brewing in my head.  And make no mistake…it definitely is a brew, a concoction if you will.  Sometimes it starts with the faintest whiff of a new scent: the aroma of a crushed herb I haven’t explored before, the pungent fragrance of fresh earth as I turn the garden beds, or the comforting smell of a branch burning in the fire.  Other times it’s a color.  Is there an herb, flower, leaf, or twig that will produce that color in my soap?  And will it hold up when exposed to the caustic effects of sodium hydroxide?  You would think after 20+ years of making soap there’s not much left to discover but there is always another variety waiting to come to fruition!! Sometimes things don’t work out like they are supposed to!

The Development Process

No matter how the process begins, there are a number of factors to consider before the ingredients ever hit the soap pot.  For instance, if the idea begins with the incorporation of a new herb I need to know how that herb will color the batch before making it.  If it adds color to the soap, do I want to use it in a swirl, to color the whole batch, or is best used in a layer?  Over the years I have developed a satisfactory method that helps me determine ahead of time how a new ingredient will color the finished soap.

Soapmaking
The Soap Pot

Likewise, there are questions to be answered before using a new essential oil.  Some essential oils add only their fragrance to the pot…spruce and rosemary come to mind.  Some on the other hand add their own color to the batch…dark patchouli for instance.  And yet others, quicken the trace which is really important to know before you make the batch especially if you’re planning a difficult swirl affect or a layered bar.  All of these aspects of soapmaking demand the proper amount of research so that you don’t spend a small fortune creating batches of soap that are unusable of otherwise unacceptable.  I know all of this, and yet sometimes in the excitement of bringing that vision to reality…

Sh!# Happens

Campfire

The “idea” began to ferment late last fall.  I had checked the weather (you do that a lot when you live in the mountains) and discovered that although it was 85 degrees that day, in 24 hours it would be 25.  As always, I was unprepared.  So I spent a couple of hours gathering dry kindling and preparing the wood burning stove.  The following evening as temperatures began to drop like a rock, I laced the fire, carefully placing each of the branches I had gathered the day before (it’s always fun to build that first fire, not so much in the middle of February when you’re OVER it).  Most of the branches were pieces of oak that had dropped during summer storms and were covered with their signature funky grey moss.  When I lit the fire and inhaled the aroma…I remembered.

 

I remembered the 2 oz bottle of Oakmoss Absolute that one of my best friends had sent me years before and was hiding in my essential oil pantry.  I ran to grab it, and yes the scent was identical.  Quietly it had sat there for years.  I refused to use it for two reasons.  One, it is one of the more expensive oils to use and two, my friend is no longer here and using it might mean letting go.  I put it back in its place of honor and forgot about it, or tried to forget about it.  The seed had been planted.

Oakmoss Absolute

Fast forward seven months, and suddenly I feel if I don’t make an Oakmoss soap with a smoky swirl I think I will die!  I knew exactly how it would look!  I would pour the white base into the mold, then pour a charcoal gray into the main and swirl it with a whisk pulling the color up from the bottom imitating the swirl of smoke.  This is going to be awesome!  I am the soap goddess!  Umm…maybe not!

Reality

My plan for the batch was to add Activated Charcoal powder to a couple of cups of soap from the main in order to create the smoky swirl I had in my head.  Oakmoss Absolute is very thick and very dark.  Indeed, it is so thick and viscous that it has to be warmed before it is pourable.  And it is so dark, it is almost black and yet it never occurred to me that it would add its own color to the batch!  No problem. Forget the charcoal powder.  I decide during the soapmaking process that I will add the complimentary essential oil to the main white part of the batch and use the Oakmoss in the 2 cups of saponified oils I will use for the smoky swirl.  It’s going to be fabulous.  I happily pour the white uncolored soap to the mold and then go to grab the oakmoss scented cup with its beautiful brown/black color to begin the swirl. 

Oakmoss Soap Block

It was supposed to pour out and hit the bottom of the mold so I could use my whisk to swirl it upward through the soap to mimic smoke.  But somebody didn’t do her research regarding Oakmoss Aboslute’s behavior in the soap pot.  It had reached a full trace in the few minutes it took me to pour the main.  That nice thin stream of color I was planning on swirling would now be more like plops in a desperate attempt to get it into the main before losing it entirely.  Being the consummate professional that I am, I pushed through and achieved a fabulous swirl…on the top of the soap! 

The Final Cut

When my son came into the soap studio a couple of days later while I was cutting the bars and said, “That looks like sh!#” and “Does it even smell right”, well I won’t go there.  Needless to say, I should have spent the time to think through the batch.  All is not lost.  The batch smells amazing even if the swirl is not what I wanted.  It just goes to show…there is always something more to learn…in life and in soapmaking.  Things don’t always work out the way they are supposed to but they always work out.  And we should always be thankful for gentle reminders from our friends! 

Oakmoss Soap
Oakmoss Soap
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Which Oils Are Best For My Skin–Part 2

In the first part of this post we discussed Olive oil and Jojoba–two oils with long shelf lives that can be used multiple ways with personal care benefits. In the second part of this post we will be talking about Coconut oil–yet another versatile oil–in the hope that you can decide which oil is best for your particular skin. We also include a recipe that you can use to create a simple salve that you can personalize with your own favorite ingredients.

Coconut Palm

Coconut Oil

For soapmakers, coconut oil is a treasure because it adds the much desired frothy lather to  soap that is difficult to achieve with other vegetable oils.  Coconut oil is derived from copra, or the dried coconut meat and soapmakers can choose from 76, 92, 101, or 110 degree oils each with its own corresponding melting point.  For instance, 76 degree coconut oil melts at 76 degrees etc. Every soapmaker has a preference depending upon their processing temperatures.  At the Kulturology Soap Company we use 76 degree coconut oil because we process at the lowest temperatures…generally 80 degrees.  However, for use as a moisturizer we prefer organic, undeodorized 76 degree coconut oil.  The smell is just devine!!  Keep in mind however, that coconut oil is not liquid until it reaches its melting point.

76 degree Coconut oil
76 degree Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and therefore is beneficial for acne sufferers.  It can be used as a hair masque, breath freshener, skin moisturizer, lip balm, massage oil, deep conditioning treatment for hair, cuticle conditioning, and as a natural salve.  Coconut oil truly is a versatile item to have in your natural skin care arsenal.  A word of caution however; too much coconut oil can have the opposite effect on skin and hair, causing it to dry out.

Coconut Palm
Coconut Palm

We have barely scratched the surface of available oils out there. Sunflower, safflower, sweet almond, grapeseed, and avocado oils come immediately to mind. However, olive oil, jojoba, and coconut are three oils that offer a stable shelf live and the greatest number of personal uses. Mountain Rose Herbs is a wonderful resource for a multitude of natural oils.   

Recipe

All of the oils discussed above can be used alone or combined with various butters and waxes to create your own salve.  Here is a simple recipe that you can customize based on personal preferences.

1 oz beeswax

2 oz vegetable butter of your choice (we love organic cocoa or shea butter)

2 oz vegetable oil of your choice (olive oil, jojoba, avocado, sunflower, endless possibilities)

The most difficult and messiest part of this recipe is melting the beeswax.  DO NOT USE YOUR FAVORITE POT FOR THIS!!  If you have never worked with beeswax, this will be a learning experience.  For small quantities you can use a small mason jar set in a small pot of water over low to medium heat.  Beeswax quickly solidifies when removed from heat and becomes almost impossible to remove from pots, clothes etc.  We use locally sourced beeswax in our Boo Boo Balm from a local beekeeper.

Boo Boo Balm
Boo Boo Balm

While melting the beeswax, measure out and heat together the oils and butters.  DO NOT GET DISTRACTED!!  Remember you are heating oil!!!  Once the beeswax and butters are melted it’s time to mix them together and pour into small pots or jars.  If you would like to add essential oils, add them after all the ingredients are combined and beginning to cool but before the mixture begins to set up.  The recipe will produce 5 ounces of salve…we like to use one ounce amber glass jars to protect salve from light. 

Whether you decide to venture into your own salve making or not we hope you find the information we have provided helpful.  And, that you are ready to build your own natural skin care pantry!!

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Which Oils Are Best For My Skin?

Part One

Many of us suffer from dry skin, especially during the winter months or when living in dry climates.  A multitude of natural oils are available that can be used alone or in your favorite skin care recipes, each with their own special qualities.  In this article we look at some of the most popular oils including olive, jojoba and coconut.

Olive Oil

Of all the oils we can use on our skin, olive oil is the most readily available and has a long history of external use.  Olive trees originated in Asia but are now widely cultivated in Mediterranean countries where they benefit from mild winters and long, dry summers. These trees grow to about 25 feet and their 4-5 inch oblong grayish green leaves remain on the tree year round.   Olive trees live an average of 500 years but many are estimated to be 1500 years old and some trees in Greece may be 3000 years old!  The best olives are grown on trees in the worst growing conditions as rich soils can expose the trees to various diseases.  Check out the Olive Oil Source for everything you ever wanted to know about growing olive trees.

Olive Trees in Pelion Greece
Olive Trees in Pelion, Greece

Grades of Olive Oil

Olive oil comes in many different grades—from the highest grade, Extra Virgin which is the first cold pressing of the olives to Pomace which is the final pressing and includes the olive pits.  While extra virgin olive oil is best for cooking, the lower grades are better for soapmaking due to the presence of tiny particles held in suspension that resist saponification.  We recommend the higher grade olive oils for use in body care recipes.

Olive Tree Bearing Fruit
Olive Tree Bearing Fruit

Body Care Uses of Olive Oil

When used directly on skin, olive oil attracts moisture from the air while also providing a breathable barrier that keeps moisture locked in without blocking pores.  Not only can olive oil be used on skin but many people benefit from a periodic hair masque by applying the oil to scalp and split ends at night and shampooing out the following day.  Olive oil can also be utilized to soften nail cuticles and has a long shelf life compared to some other oils. We prefer a high grade olive oil for solar infusing our herbal oils such as Plantain.

Jojoba Oil

Jojoba oil (pronounced ho-HO-ba) is extracted from the seed of the jojoba plant which is a small bush native to the Sonora Desert of Arizona, Northern Mexico, and desert areas of California.  The female plant produces seed which is pollinated by the male plant in spring and when grown from seed can take up to 3 years to produce. This “oil” is not actually oil but more like a liquid wax according to the Jojoba Company.  It is very similar to the oils produced by the human body and is readily absorbed by the skin.

Jojoba Bush
Jojoba Bush

Body Care Uses of Jojoba

Jojoba also has a very long shelf life and can be used to moderate oily skin due to its calming effect on overactive sebaceous glands.  This “oil” can also be used to treat acne because of its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities.  It naturally contains vitamins A and E and can be used to sooth chapped lips, cracked heals and elbows, and rough cuticles according to Natural Living Ideas.  Finally, due to its stable shelf life, jojoba makes an excellent carrier oil for essential oil blending.  The best quality “oil” should be cold-pressed and retain its natural golden color.

Jojoba Nut
Jojoba Nut

In Part Two of this post we will discuss another versatile natural oil—Coconut Oil and offer a simple recipe to create your own skin salve.

*All photos are licensed under the terms of cc-by-2.0

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Broadleaf Plantain

Broadleaf Plantain Plantago Major

It’s that time of year again when so called “weeds” begin to appear in our yards.  Here at the Kulturology Soap Company we rarely meet a weed we don’t like so before you consider spraying this useful plant with some noxious chemical please read this post.  You might find yourself  bent over picking the tender leaves like we do every year!!

What is Broadleaf Plantain

Broadleaf Plantain or Plantago major is a low growing plant with broad, oval shaped leaves 2-8 inches long and 2-3 inches wide.  Its deeply veined leaves arranged in a rosette serve as the base for the small unremarkable spike shaped flower growing atop a long stem.  This wind pollinated plant is a seed producing powerhouse…A typical seed head can contain up to 20,000 seeds!!  Broadleaf Plantain is native to most of Europe but has a remarkable ability to naturalize itself to even the most challenging growing conditions such as cracks in sidewalks or roadways.  Combined with its ability to naturalize to almost any growing conditions it is no wonder one of the plants common names is “white man’s foot” due to its emergence everywhere the first white settlers to the Americas landed!

Broadleaf Plantain
Broadleaf Plantain

Uses

Broadleaf Plantain has a long history as a healing herb and is still referred to as ‘slan-lus’ or plant of healing in the Highlands.

Pliny the Elder claimed it could cure the “madness of dogs” and is sometimes called ‘snakeweed’ in the US due to the belief it could heal snake bites.  In an ancient Anglo-Saxon text,  plantain (called Waybroad) is one of nine sacred herbs and is included in a recipe for “salve for flying venom”:

‘Take a handful of hammer wort and a handful of maythe (chamomile) and a handful of waybroad and roots of water dock, seek those which will float, and one eggshell full of clean honey, then take clean butter, let him who will help to work up the salve, melt it thrice: let one sing a mass over the worts, before they are put together and the salve is wrought up.’

The recipe seems a bit dramatic and overly complex to us so we have included a simpler version below!  It is an easy way of preserving the goodness this plant has to offer.  The oil can be used alone or in combination with other herbal oils.  We use it liberally in our BooBoo Balm and always have it on hand for the inevitable bug bites and scrapes we get working the gardens.

Plantain oil
Plantain Oil

Broadleaf Plantain Herbal Oil

Pick the leaves in the early morning after the dew has dried.  Be sure to pick only leaves that you know have not been treated with herbicides!  Fill a clean glass jar 2/3 full with leaves and top the jar off with oil of your choice.  We prefer organic, extra virgin olive oil due to its long shelf life and its own skin friendly qualities.  Place the jar in a protected sunny location for 30 days, giving the jar a good shake every day or so.  Strain the oil through a colander and then through cheesecloth to remove leaves and sediment then bottle in amber glass and store in a dark cabinet.  The oil can be used straight from the bottle for bug bites, diaper rash, sunburn etc.

Happy Plantain picking!! We hope to see you in the fields!!