from The Essential Herbal Magazine May/June 2012
Yarrow Sunburn Suite
Yarrow - Achiellea millefolium
Yarrow - Achiellea millefolium
Now that I’ve left the land of constant sunburn, I find I’m looking forward to a little sun. I spent many years trying to hide from the sun under long sleeves and sunscreen. The sun is beginning to peek through on a regular basis, and it is gloriously below sixty. Judging from last summer, my first back in the great pacific northwest, there will be many hot and sunny days between bouts of lovely fog and rain. I imagine that I’ll be out without sunscreen at some point, getting a little over-done, and my mind turns to Yarrow for relief.
Yarrow contains a large measure of azulene, prized for many properties including being an anti-inflammatory. I’ve used yarrow successfully for sunburn over many years. It has an added soap and toiletries benefit in that it contributes a beautiful yellow color.
About ten years ago I was a wild-crafting heroine, concocting yarrow-based lotion and compresses while staying at a cabin on lake Couer d’Alene in Idaho. We’d all left off sunscreen during a boat ride on the river, and I found a stand of wild yarrow near an abandoned farm. I dragged home a pile of it to make infusions. One caution about Yarrow – it is not good for people who are allergic to ragweed. Even being in the cabin long enough to make the infusions had my poor mother sneezing her head off, so I moved the harvest outside away from the cabin.
Let’s branch out a bit from soap to create a suite of products to soothe a summer’s worth of sunburn. Yarrow is carried into these recipes by infused oil and tea.
I like to use the sun to create my infused oil and teas. You can, of course, also make them by heating them in the kitchen. You can make up a big batch of yarrow-infused olive oil and keep it on hand as needed to create your sunburn products. I’ve found that it is best to make teas as needed.
Yarrow cold process Soap
Yarrow-infused olive oil – 6 oz
Coconut oil – 5 oz
Shea butter – 3 oz
Cocoa butter – 2 oz
Castor oil - .5 oz
Yarrow tea – 4.5 oz.
Lye – 2.2 oz
To prepare for this soap, make a strong yarrow tea with 2 tablespoons of dried yarrow and 4.5 ounces of water. Cool and strain to remove herb pieces. Re-weigh the water and add plain water to make up the full 4.5 ounces. Be sure the infusion is completely cold before making the lye solution.
If you need instruction on basic soapmaking procedures, look on the home page of the Essential Herbal web site.
Weigh out the oils and butters into a heat-proof mixing container. Break up the solid oils into small pieces for ease of melting.
Put on hand and eye protection.
Weigh the cold yarrow tea into a heat-proof mixing container. Weigh the lye and sprinkle it into the tea while stirring carefully and constantly until solution is clear.
Pour the hot lye solution into the oils. The heat from the lye solution will melt the solid oils. Stir well until solids are melted, breaking up stubborn pieces as needed. Stir the soap batter until it is at a good medium-thick trace. Pour into mold and insulate. Let soap sit for two days then remove from mold and cut into bars. Let bars sit for two weeks to dry and cure. Store in a dry area with plenty of air circulation.
Yarrow M&P Soap
16 ounces of natural melt and pour glycerin soap base
Light muslin or heat-seal tea bags.
If you shop around you can find natural, even organic melt and pour glycerin soap base. The most common non-botanical ingredient in melt and pour soap is polypropylene glycol. I like to use a square of light muslin to make a tea bag, but I also use reusable muslin bags and large heat-seal tea-bags for this kind of project. Put three tablespoons of dry yarrow in whichever bag you decide to use. Wet it in hot water and put aside.
Cut the melt and pour soap into small cubes. Using a heat proof mixing container, melt the soap in the microwave. Start with 30-second bursts until you get a feel for how long it takes your microwave to melt it. Don’t let the soap get above 150 degrees. You may also melt the soap using a double boiler. Just be extra-sure not to let it boil dry.
While the soap is very hot and thin, submerge the yarrow bag and poke it around in the hot soap until the bag is saturated. Dunk it a number of times to create a kind of infusion. When it looks like the yarrow has given all it will give, remove the bag and either clean it out or discard it. It is most likely not suitable for compost.
Pour the infused soap into mold. You can eliminate bubbles by spritzing the top with rubbing alcohol. Let the soap sit until it is cold and firm. Remove it from the mold and cut into bars. Wrap in plastic or put into plastic bags. Unlike cold process soap, this kind of soap does best in air-proof packaging.
Yarrow Infusion Light Lotion
Yarrow tea – 7.5 oz
Yarrow-infused olive oil – 2 oz
Borax – 1/2 teaspoon
Beeswax - .5 oz
Gluconolactone and Sodium Benzoate preservative (sold as Microguard and Neodefend) – 1 teaspoon
I believe that unless you’re going to use lotion right away it is a good idea to use a good preservative to prevent mold and spoilage. There have been a lot of advances in preservation technology available to the at-home lotion maker, and I like this one.
Beeswax and borax is not an ideal emulsifier, but it will work well. If you like you can order some vegetable-based emulsifying wax from your soapmaking supplier. Substitute it for the beeswax and omit the borax.)
Heat the water, borax and preservative. Warm the oil and beeswax until the beeswax is melted. Pour the warm oil and melted beeswax into the hot water, stirring with a whisk. Whisk to emulsify. As the mixture cools, whisk periodically as it thickens to maintain the emulsion. Pour into bottles and label with recipe name and date made. Keep the lotion in the refrigerator to extend its life, especially if you omit the preservative.
Yarrow-infused olive oil – 8 ounces
Beeswax, grated, beads or prills - .5 ounces
Warm the infused oil and beeswax until the beeswax is melted. You may need more or less beeswax depending on how loose or firm you want the salve. You can test the consistency with the cold spoon method. When you start to make the salve, place a few spoons in the freezer. Test the consistency of the salve by dipping the frozen spoon into the mixture. Add more beeswax if desired. Pour into jars. Store extra in the refrigerator.
Yarrow Bath Tea and compress –
Dry lavender flowers
Dry rose petals
Dry milk powder
Light muslin square, reusable muslin bag or heat-seal tea bag
Make a mixture of dried botanicals. Three parts yarrow, one part lavender, one part rose petals, one part dry milk. Store a bulk amount in a dry jar with an airtight lid. Fill bags as needed and drop one into a warm bath. Alternatively, use the saturated bag as a small compress for sunburn. Gently swab tender areas.