Guest Author - Winsome Tapper
Frankincense and myrrh are resinous gums harvested from small balsam-like shrubs found in Africa and the Middle East. Used for centuries in traditional Ayurvedic, African and Chinese medicine as well as in religious cermonies and as perfume oils, these resins were once worth their weight in gold. The resins are collected at specific times of the year. Both the tears(resin) collected and the oil distilled from the tears are used. Frankincense and myrrh are mentioned in ancient text as some of the oldest fragrant material used by mankind for ceremonial, spiritual and medicinal use.
Myrrh was so valued by the ancient Greeks that they used it as a cure all for many illnesses. During the 3rd century BC this valuable resin was used to replace human sacrifice in rituals. Ancient Egyptian papyri found dating to 1500 BC lists myrrh as an important ingredient for treating illness and a chief embalming ingredient.
In modern day Ethiopia frankincense is used during cold and flu season. It is often burned to relieve pulmonary ailments. In aromatherapy, frankincense essential oil (Boswellia carterii), a light yellow liquid is used to treat anxiety, asthma, bronchitis, extreme coughing, scars, stress and stretch marks. The fragrance, used as a base note is described as woodsy/spicey and balsamic with fruity overtures.
Myrrh(Commiphora myrrha), like frankincense is a base note with warm woodsy/ balsamic notes and a golden brown color. It is used in aromatherapy to treat amenorrhea, athlete's foot, bronchitis, chapped skin, dysmenorrhea, gums, halitosis, hemorrhoids, itching, ringworm and toothache. It is proported to be antifungal and anti-inflammatory. Myrrh is contraindicated for pregnant women, while frankincene is safe for all.
This recipe uses luxurious oils as a foil to a luxuriously woodsy blend of eo's. Some nice spices to add to this soap are grated nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. These spices will add a richness in aroma as well as give a nice warm brown color to the soap. Suggested amounts to use are 1-3 teaspoons of spices.
8 Oz. Coconut oil
8 Oz. Olive oil
16 Oz. Shea Butter
2 Oz. Macadamia butter
4.38 Oz. Lye
8 Oz. distilled water
Total = 32 Oz.(2 pounds)
Essential oil blend:
¾ Oz. frankincense essential oil
¾ Oz. myrrh essential oil
If this is the first time you are making cold process soap, please read, Equipment needed to make cold process and hot process soap
1. Always Open windows to allow fresh air to come into room.
2. Clear the space you will be making soap of all pets and children. Don safety equipment such as a chemical mask, neoprene gloves, protective goggles, neoprene apron or layers of clothing to protect skin from any errant lye crystals. Use the mask/goggles when weighing the lye and while combining the lye with the water.
3. Get two pitchers (heavy glass or durable plastic), one to weigh the lye and the other to weigh the water. Weigh water in one pitcher and weigh lye in the next. Add lye to the water and stir with a noncorrosive metal whisk, plastic or silicone spoon. Note: Never add the water to the lye or it may erupt into a volcano-like mass that spills everywhere.
3. Mix lye and water to gently but thoroughly dissolve the lye particles in the liquid. A whisk makes dispersing the lye in the water easy. Dissolve all the lye particles which sometimes stubbornly refuses to break up and may clump. It is important to stir gently enough so it does not splash everywhere.
4. After mixing lye and water, you will notice that the container is very hot; this is because the lye and water are involved in a chemical process that produces heat which is described as exothermic. The temperature is too hot to immediately combine the lye with the oils, so remove it from your primary soap making area and leave it somewhere to cool down a bit (100 - 120 degrees Fahrenheit)- in an area that is inaccessible to children or pets.
5. Heat all solid at room temperature oils - and in this recipe, the coconut oil and then add the olive oil and shea butter. The pot used to melt the oils should be large enough so that after adding the lye and water mixture, there is enough room to mix so that it does not easily splash out of the container.
6. Leave oils to cool to the same temperature as the lye 100 - 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Check temperature with thermometer, wiping off to check the next liquid or use two different thermometers. After lye water and melted oils have reached the desired temperature, add lye/water liquid to the cooled oils.
7. Stir with the wire whisk briskly, or use a stick blender, which speeds up the whole process immensely. We are mixing to reach trace. Trace is the point when the mixture (oil/lye) thickens, appears opaque and shiny and when the whisk or stick blender leaves an impression after it is stirred. This will look similar to a gravy or sauce of medium to thick consistency. It usually takes anywhere from 15 – 40 minutes of stirring to reach trace. If using the wire whisk, after mixing for 5 minutes or so, take a break of a couple minutes and continue stirring. I usually stir in between doing other things. After making soap several times, one learns to gauge how much time is actually needed to reach trace in a certain recipe. However, for the first time making soap, it is important to be vigilant and watch for discrete changes that occur in the mixture.
8. If using the stick blender, keep the blender blades immersed near the bottom of the pot stirring in a circular and figure eights. What we need is to make sure all of the mixture is stirred. It is especially important to have a pot that is deep enough with ample headroom when using the stick blender. The stick blender causes more turbulence in the mixture, therefore increasing the risk for accidental spillage. Turn the blender on after immersing it in the lye/oil mixture, so it does not splash out of the pot. Trace occurs quicker using the stick blender than mixing by hand with the wire whisk
9. After soap reaches trace add essential oil blend and spices/herbs to traced soap and mix thoroughly, dispersing them throughout the mixture. It is important to add fragrance or essential oils last as some fragrances or essential oils cause the soap to seize or become very thick and unmanageable.
10. Pour mixture into prepared lined mold. I usually use thick utility type plastic that is cut into manageable pieces, to line the mold. Alternately, freezer paper maybe used as well as a kitchen garbage bag with the sides cut open so that it is flat. Cover mold with a lid (if it has one) or a piece of cardboard or a flat piece of lumber. Then insulate this with a blanket, by covering the top, sides and bottom with the blanket.
11. Leave covered soap in a safe place away from children or pets for 12-18 hours to saponify and set. After 18 hours, uncover and allow to sit in mold a couple more hours. If firm enough, unmold onto plastic, utility paper or a clean dishcloth. Soap is still lye heavy so don neoprene gloves and cut bars with a sturdy chef's knife or a soap cutter. Store soap on a platter or open box lined with absorbent butcher paper, tissue paper, paper napkins or any non staining paper and allow to cure for 3 to 6 weeks.
Once soap is cured fully, store in a dry box lined with paper. It is very important that the soap be dried fully before covering and storing. In warm climates molds and other undesirables will proliferate on the soap if it is not dried properly. At this point the soap may be wrapped and packaged for gift gifting or sale.