Long before modern science and technology, botany and medicine went hand in hand. I spoke to Cold Spring Apothecary founder and author of The Home Apothecary Stacey Dugliss-Wesselman about going back to basics with homemade natural remedies featuring much-loved healing botanicals. I can’t wait to try the Beauty Salve and the Joint and Muscle Soak that we excerpted HERE.
CG What inspired you to start creating your own natural remedies?
Stacey Dugliss-Wesselman My inspiration developed out of a necessity when in my 20s I became allergic to almost every store-brand cosmetic. As I started to learn more and more about the healing powers of botanicals, I began to experiment more, combining their healing and beautifying properties together. To me a natural remedy always seems to work a little better when you know you have created it. Plus I can control amounts and adjust to my needs are sensitivities.
In your opinion, why’s it so important for people to go back to a natural way of healing?
When we steer away from natural remedies to chemically manufactured ones, we are putting ourselves at risk for the many side effects that come along with them, and that’s not to mention the toll many of these chemicals take on the environment. Nature offers us so much to heal our body, and with less risk. Also, these remedies are often more affordable too than the synthetics.
For readers who’d like to start creating homemade remedies, what ingredients and tools do you recommend?
When you first start out there’s no need to go beyond your kitchen for supplies. Once your start creating more, you can purchase additional tools for your craft. I list the essential tools needed for creating herbal remedies in my book, including a double burner, spatula, strainer and measuring utensils. I also love my mortar and pestle.
When it comes to the herbs, oils and butters my recommendation is to start small. Pick five or so of each to really learn about and master using. Once you’re comfortable with those, you can expand into other less common botanicals. For herbs, start with lavender, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage and turmeric. Key essentials oils are tea tree, peppermint, chamomile, eucalyptus and geranium. For butters and oils, try jojoba, coconut oil, argan oil, avocado oil, cocoa butter, shea butter and (my favorite) neem oil. Additional must-haves for me are wax (soy or bees), witchhazel, apple cider vinegar and aloe.
What are your favourite garden-grown healing herbs/botanicals?
It’s hard to only pick a few, but my favorites or the ones I use most frequently would be the herbs that I always have growing, mostly because they do so well in a pots and containers.
Calendula: It’s super healing; I always have a salve made with Calendula for anything from bruises and burns to my son’s diaper rash. It’s also great in tea for stomach problems.
Plantain: One of my favourites; I use it on all skin irritations, including burns, bug bites and acne. It’s truly the best herb for the skin, at least in my opinion. It’s also rich in nutrients and vitamins.
Turmeric: Not only do I love this herb in my food but its healing properties are quite robust. I wouldn’t survive winter without it. It’s immune enhancing, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. Even if I feel a chest cold or congestion coming on, I make my secret healing chicken soup and turmeric is a main ingredient. I can also be used in skincare to draw out acne-causing bacteria
Yarrow: I’m kind of accident-prone, so yarrow is a must have for anything from bruises to abrasions.
Which recipes do you use most frequently?
When it comes to skincare, I switch up my routine fairly often depending on my needs at the time. One of my favorites is the dry skin cream cleanser (page 79), a thick cleanser that I always keep it in my shower. I’ve customized it with some neem oil, goldenseal and fennel because my skin is acne-prone. I also always use the powder cleansers, both daily and for a weekly mask. Powder cleansers are my favourite to blend because you can really customize them and you can make them in large batches since they last so long. I also always have the following on hand: Cold and Flu Honey (page 106), Cold Season Tincture (page 107) and Sore Throat Lozenges (page 109).
We’re sharing your recipe for Beauty Salve. Can you tell us about the benefits of the ingredients? Is it for all skin types?
This salve is amazing for dry skin types, or those looking to maintain a youthful glow. That said, it’s gentle enough for all skin types, even sensitive ones.
Lavender: Skin soothing and regenerative properties.
Hibiscus: It’s great for anti-aging because it improves skin flexibility and elasticity; it’s also anti-inflammatory and it acts as a free-radical scavenger.
Rose Petal: Moisturizing and anti-inflammatory; boasts antioxidants
Shea Butter: Superior moisturizer; rich in vitamin A and possesses many healing benefits to the skin.
Rosehip Oil: This is an amazing oil to counter the signs of aging because it’s full of vitamins and antioxidants; it’s also amazing on scars and dark spots; super moisturizing.
What about the Joint and Muscle Soak?
I love this soak – after a long day of mixing, blending and filling there’s nothing better then a relaxing bath. The salts detox the body and relax the joints. The essential oil blend not only seems to wash away the day’s stress but really gets in and soothes muscle aches.
Thank you, Stacey! Check out The Home Apothecary book for more recipes for the hair, skin, body and home.