Grace’s Non-Food Uses

Consider making your own spa treatments.
(Posted: Dec. 2013)

Instead of a typical NKHS meeting in November 2013, we asked each member to bring one or more of their favorite homemade beauty or relaxation products and a recipe for making it. What a delightful “Spa Night” that turned out to be as we all shared, sampled, and laughed with one another.

It was a luxurious and wonderful evening. And, we all came away looking and smelling better than when we arrived. The products we shared included scrubs, bath salts, face and hair rinses and lip balms. Some were old stand-bys. Others were new and usual. Each was a grand sensory treat.

The most common ingredients included Epson salt, baking soda, sea salt, and essential oils.

  • Epson salt soothes muscles and helps replenish magnesium levels as well as removes toxins from the skin.
  • Sea salt is used for its mineral content and as a natural exfoliant. It increase blood flow, reduces fluid retention, reduces stress, and aids sleep.
  • Baking soda is alkaline, and helps soothe and clean without harming delicate skin.
  • Essential oils are distilled from herbs and are very aromatic. Some popular essential oils are made from lavender (soothing), peppermint, (energizing), oregano and marjoram (antioxidant), and thyme (antiseptic, antifungal). Rosemary is stimulating and aids in skin toning and firming. It is an astringent and reduces excess oils on the skin and helps with acne. Lemon, a natural antiseptic, can reduce the visibility of scars and acne and is a natural exfoliant that removes dead skin cells.

These recipes are truly a collaborative effort. Some came from my own experiments or were the creation of other NKHS members while others were adapted from articles published in Mother Earth Magazine or Rita Heikenfeld columns in The Cincinnati Enquirer. Feel free to experiment with them.

Simple Sugar Scrub

1 cup white sugar
½ cup oil of choice (Jojoba, almond, olive or grapeseed)

Use for face, neck and throat. Avoid eyes.

Use circular motion and rub the scrub into your forehead, cheeks, chin and neck. Rinse with warm water. Finish with cool water to close pores.

Store in the refrigerator.

Sugar Scrub with Essential Oils

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup oil (avocado, almond or Jojoba)
10 drops eucalyptus oil
10 drops lavender oil
dried lavender buds

Combine sugar and oil in a mixing bowl. Stir until the texture is consistent.

Add essential oils and lavender buds. Then transfer mixture to a clean container with lid.

Use in the shower. Rub the scrub over your body to exfoliate dead skin cells, concentrating on rough skin patches such as elbows and knees, then rinse.

Bath Salts

1 cup Epsom salt
¼ cup sea salt
1 tablespoons baking soda

       1 tablespoon dry goat or cow’s milk
       a few drops of your favorite essential oil

Mix together.

To use: pour ¼ cup into a hot bath.

Foaming Bath Oil

½ cup your choice of oil
¼ cup mild unscented liquid soap or baby shampoo
a few drops of any essential oil of your choice

Gently stir together the first two ingredients.

Then add the essential oil.

Lemon & Rosemary Bath Soak

juice of 2 lemons
½ lemon rind
2 tablespoons almond oil
500 grams coarse sea salt
rosemary leaves

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and stir well.

May be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

To use: sprinkle a few spoonfuls of the mixture into a hot bath and allow yourself to soak.

Hair Rinse

½ cup fresh mint leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried mint)
½ cup cider vinegar
1 cup boiling water

Combine mint and vinegar in a medium bowl, then pour boiling water over the mixture. Allow to cool completely then strain out leaves. Makes 12 ounces.

To use: pour entire mixture over your scalp after shampooing and massage well. Let sit a few minutes, then rinse with tepid water. This type of herb rinse rids hair of dandruff and gets the blood flowing. They cleanse your scalp of dead skin cells and invigorate your scalp. Use 1 teaspoon of baking soda to rid your hair of residue from styling products.

Substitute a combination of Rosemary, Thyme, and Sage for the mint to make another lovely smelling hair rinse.

To lighten hair, use Chamomile tea.

To darken hair, use Sage leaves. Over time this Sage rinse will darken gray hair.

Body Lotion

1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup distilled or boiled water
1/2 cup light unrefined oil (almond, sunflower, canola. olive, and grapeseed oils work well)
1 tablespoon grated beeswax

       To energize your skin: add peppermint essential oil.
       To soothe: substitute chamomile tea for the water.
       To moisturize: add 1 tablespoon of grated cocoa butter to the wax mixture.

Dissolve baking soda in water in a saucepan. Set aside.

Mix oil and beeswax in a double boiler and slowly heat until wax begins to melt, being sure not to scorch wax. Stir until wax is completely melted.

Keeping the wax over low heat and stirring occasionally, put baking soda mixture on a separate burner and heat over low heat until it is roughly the same temperature as the wax mixture (about 100 degrees).

Slowly add baking soda mixture to wax mixture while stirring to combine. Allow lotion to cool completely. You may want to stir occasionally as it cools to keep oil and water from separating. Store cooled lotion in a clean container with a tight-fitting lid. Make 8 ounces.

To use: massage into your skin.

Deodorant Cream

¼ cup vegetable shortening
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking soda

Blend all ingredients together until smooth and spoon into a clean container. Makes 3 ounces.

To use: rub a small amount of the cream under your arms.

Facial Cleanser

1 cup warm water
½ cup uncooked oatmeal
1 tablespoon honey

       Moisture boost – add 1 teaspoon of natural oil (e.g., almond or sunflower oil)
       Astringent – add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or witch hazel to treat oily skin.
       Skin beautifier – replace honey with 1 tablespoon agave nectar, a natural humectant with anti-aging benefits.

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend on high until mixture is smooth and creamy. Makes 4 ounces. Pour into a clean container with lid.

To use: gently massage a dime-sized amount of cleanser into your skin. Scrub skin, rinse well with tepid water and pat dry.

Lip Balm

½ teaspoon grated beeswax
1 teaspoon grated cocoa butter
½ teaspoon light oil (almond, walnut, and sunflower work well)

       Add flavored oil (e.g., vanilla, sweet orange or raspberry) after mixture has cooled.
       Swap cocoa butter for shea butter to care for cracked lips.

Combine all ingredients in a small microwave bowl, microwave until mixture begins to melt.

Remove from microwave and stir until completely melted. Makes ½ ounce. Pour into a small, clean container with lid.

To use: rub a small amount onto your lips.

Lip Care Gloss

2 tablespoons solid coconut oil
2 teaspoons apricot kernel oil
1/8 teaspoon vitamin E
3 drops lemon essential oil
2 drops lavender essential oil

Optional: to exfoliate lips
       Add finely crushed lavendar or finely ground almond slivers

Thoroughly mix all ingredients.

To use: rub a small amount onto your lips.

Organic Vapor Rub

1 Tablespoon coconut oil
3 drips peppermint essential oil
3 drips eucalyptus essential oil
3 drips lemon essential oil

Prepare only in small quantities as it is best used in a timely manner.

Foot Soak Callous Remover

1 part Listerine mouthwash (but NOT the blue kind which will stain)
1 part white vinegar
2 parts water

Soak feet for 5-10 minutes then rub with pumice, dry, and apply any foot cream you wish.

Gardener’s Scrub for Satiny Hands

9 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons Dawn Detergent with Olay Hand Renewal

Mix with a knife until paste-like.

The sugar acts as an abrasive while the detergent washes away dirt and stains and the Olay smooths skin.

Make good scents this holiday season.
(Posted: Nov/Dec. 2012)

You know how good it smells when you walk into a house while Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is cooking, or just after someone has baked a pie or cake. — Don’t you just love to breathe deeply and savor the aromas?

Perhaps you’ve even heard of the real estate agents’ long-standing trick of putting a few drops of vanilla on the floor of the oven and turning it on to spread the aroma before an open house.

The truth is: we are very suspectible to smells. Just a little bit of an odor (Bad!) or a scent (Good) goes a long way in influencing our mood, our comfort level, and hunger.

Even now, when you stop to think about it, can’t you remember the smells of the holidays and how good they made you feel? — I sure can.

Alas, we can’t always count on having those delightful aromas filling our homes unless, of course, we take steps to make sure they’re there.

Here’s how I make my favorite potpourri which I then strategically locate throughout my the house from Thanksgiving to New Year’s to ensure that it smells suitably festive for the holiday season. Wouldn’t you like to try it at your house?


1 cup rosemary leaves
2 cups pine needles
2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
1 tbsp whole cloves
½ cup dried orange peel

Note that all of these ingredients should have been dried before using. Place ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Place in an airtight container for storage.

To use, add the entire potpourri mixture to 3 cups of simmering water. As the mixture boils away, you can add more water as needed. The mixture can also be allowed to cool and can later be reheated.
Click here to open a pdf version of this recipe to print and/or save.

Have a wonderful and scents-ible holiday season.

Try a warm herbal soak to relax your body and your mind.
(Posted: Summer 2011)

If you’re feeling stressed, tired from lack of sleep, exhausted from hard work, or just plain wiped out, don’t take a shower. Try an old-fashioned tub bath, but make it leisurely. Take your time, lean back, relax, and enjoy it.

And, if you normally bathe in plain water, try treating yourself to a luxurious and peaceful herbal/milk soak. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how good it feels, even on a hot summer day. Just don’t let yourself get over-heated and light-headed.


1 cup oatmeal
1 handful fresh lavender flowers (or 2 tblsp dried lavender)
1 sprig fresh rosemary (or 1 tblsp dried
1 cup milk

Place oats and herbs in a cloth or muslin bag, and tie the bag under the tub’s faucet. Fill the tub by turning the water on and letting it run through the bag so the bath water is infused with healing properties of the herbs and oatmeal.

When water is the desired depth and temperature, add the milk.

Remove the bag from the facet and use it like a washcloth, rubbing it over your skin. You’ll find it very refreshing.

There may be other times when you won’t want to bathe but your burning feet are screaming for relief. You might find it beneficial to soak your “tired dogs” in a mixture of some of your favorite herbs. You can use them fresh from your garden or dried and chooped.


½ cup Epsom salts
1 teaspoon olive oil
Water to fill your soaking pan.
3 or more of the following: chamomile flowers, lavender flowers, peppermint leaves, eucalyptus leaves, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano.

Boil water in a tea kettle or another pan that you will not be putting your feet into.

While the water is heating, place the herbs in your foot-soaking pan. When the water boils, pour it over the herbs and then stir in the Epsom salts and oil.

Do not begin to soak your feet until the water has cooled to a comfortable temperature. Soak as long as you desire. For a more relaxing effect, place several small stones in the bottom of the soaking pan and gently roll your feet over them to massage and relax your feet.

Click here to open a pdf file to print and/or save the directions for preparing these soaks.

Tea — It’s not just for drinking.
(Posted: October 2010)

People who think about, or talk about, tea, are usually concerned with drinking it. That’s not surprising. Whether it’s served hot or iced, sweetened or unsweetened, with milk or cream or lemon or plain, it’s one of the most popular and widely consumed beverages in the world. And, it’s gaining even more popularity due to a recent wave of newspaper and magazine articles, as well as television talk and kitchen shows, that have featured both the old and familiar varieties of tea, as well as many new ones, including herbal blends.

Even our own club has jumped on the tea bandwagon. We devoted our entire October 2010 meeting to herbal teas. We talked about them, brewed them, and taste-tested them. And, just like almost everyone else, we focused primarily on drinking them.

There are, however, other beneficial uses for tea, and it may be worth your while to take note of them. A recent article in The Herb Companioncited the four following uses.

  • Reduce under eye puffiness by placing a wet, cool tea bag over each eye and relaxing for 10 minutes.
  • Soothe insect bites by placing a wet tea bag over the bite to relieve the itching.
  • Try a tea bath for a bad sunburn. Let the water run over 4 or 5 tea bags of Oolong, Jasmine, or green tea, then relax in the fragrant, warm water.
  • Use your favorite tea blends for a cooling skin refresher. Make the tea, put it in a spray bottle, and then spritz yourself as needed. Mint tea is very cooling on hot days.

Note, however, that at least the first two of these depend upon the astringent properties of true, traditional teas made from the leaves, flowers, and/or stems of the Camellia sinensis plant. The so-called “herbal teas” we often prepare without actual tea leaves will not work for these purposes.

And, in your enthusiasm for these new uses for tea, don’t forget to take time to drink some it. It is, after all, a marvellous beverage. I particularly enjoy relaxing and starting my day with a soothing, delicious cup of tea before doing any other work. I also enjoy it when I take breaks throughout the day.

Have you tried herbs as critter-deterrents?
(Posted: May 2010)

Sprinkle dried bay leaves around your food cupboards and even in your storage canisters to keep weevils and mealy bugs out of your pastas, flours, and cereals.

Dried tansy will keep ants from coming into the house, if it’s placed in the paths most likely to used by these invading pests, such as across doorways and on windowsills.

And, out in the garden, try planting a wide row of nasturtiums as a border around your herb and vegetable gardens to keep small four-legged critters away.

How about an herbal hair rinse?
(Posted: March/April 2010)

Among the things I miss when we’re cooped up inside all winter are the fresh air and the lovely smells of my garden plants and herbs. In fact, I’ve learned that the aroma of herbs can help me get rid of the winter blues. So, I’ve been experimenting with some herbal hair rinses like those featured in the November 2009 issue of Herb Companion..

I’ve been using my cat Isaiah as a guinea pig for the hair rinses. I use a small washcloth moistened with the rinse, and rub his back and cheeks with it. He really smells great!

He seems to like the basil and rosemary rinses, but the one I made one using catnip is his real favorite.

I have also dried some pennyroyal that I plan to use on him. It repels fleas and insects. But, be careful with it; unlike many other herbs, it is not suitable for tea and neither you nor your cat should ever drink it.

     This will also darken the hair and cover gray hairs.

2 cups water
1/4 cup fresh or dried sage leaves

Boil water and pour over sage, let cool and then strain out all solids.
To use: Pour over clean hair as a final rinse. Do not rinse hair again.

     This will also lighten hair, especially blond hair.

2 cups water
1/4 cup fresh or dried chamomile flowers

Boil water and pour over the chamomile flowers, let cool and then strain.
To use: Pour over clean hair as a final rinse. Do not rinse hair again.

     This will also darken hair and keep it silky.

1 tbsp fresh (or ½ tbsp dried) rosemary leaves
1 tbsp fresh (or ½ tbsp dried) thyme leaves
2 cups boiling water

Place herbs in a glass bowl, pour boiling water over them. Steep until cool. Strain liquid and pour into a clean container.
To use: After shampooing, pour the rinse over your hair. Do not rinse again.

Rosemary and thyme have been used for centuries to darken hair and to keep it silky. They also have natural antiseptic properties that will help keep your hair healthy, clean, and free of dandruff. It will, however, take several rinses to acquire this effect.

     This will also add shine to dull, limp hair.

½ cup apple cider vinegar 
½ cup fresh (or 1 tbps dried) mint leaves
1 tbsp fresh (or ½ tbsp dried) lavender leaves 
1 cup boiling water

Place vinegar and herbs in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let cool, then strain.
To use: Apply the solution to the scalp as a final rinse after shampooing. Rinse well with cool water.

All skin and hair types can use this rinse. Mint and vinegar clean scalp and hair. The vinegar rids your hair of all leftover residue from styling gels or soap-based shampoos. Use this rinse monthly.

Click to access a pdf file of these hair rinses to save or print.