Herbs and Plants to Use in Soaps and Oils
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Wayne Brown
Posted on: January 21, 2002

I am interested in making my own soaps and oils. Could you advise me on the best herbs and plants to grow that have the best medicinal qualities and fragrance? I would also like the information on how to grow them.

I live in Valemount BC which is located in the Rockie Mountain Trench. We have a short growing season. I do have a sunroom that is located on the south side of the house. I wish to maximize the use of that room for the herbs and plants for soap and oils as well as outside.

To start with Sandy Maine’s book, "The Soap Book" (available from Richters) is recommended. This book will give you a good start on deciding what herbs you will want to grow.

Your conditions will of course limit what herbs can be grown and many of the most cherished fragrance herbs are tropical in nature can cannot be grown for production in Canada. Even indoors in a sun room or greenhouse, herbs such as jasmine and sandalwood cannot be grown in sufficient quantity for soapmaking purposes.

Making your own essential oils for soapmaking is not recommended, at least not at the outset, because distilling one’s oils is an involved process and requires large amounts of fresh or dried herb. We suggest using purchased essential oils instead. However, you could make your own fragrance oils which are made by steeping herbs in a neutral oil such as almond oil.

Some herbs worth growing for soapmaking include peppermint, calendula, lavender, and rosemary. You can even make soap with native herbs such as jewelweed (excellent for poison ivy rashes), so once you have had some experience with making soaps you can experiment with aromatic and medicinal herbs to create your own unique soaps.

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