Three Methods for Using Herbs in Soapmaking

Adding herbs to soap is nothing new, but always fun to experiment with!

They are added for the color they impart, as well as for the attributes they contribute to soap.  They can be added using several different methods, as well.

Among the herbs I’ve used in soapmaking, using one method or another, are the following.  In parentheses are the reasons I’ve used them.

  • Comfrey (skin)
  • Parsley (color)
  • Dill (color, exfoliant)
  • Marshmallow Root (mucilage, exfoliation)
  • Calendula (skin, color)
  • Chamomile (skin, exfoliant)
  • Sandalwood Powder (skin, color)
  • Cornsilk (skin, color)
  • Plantain (skin)
  • Chickweed (skin)
  • Turmeric (skin, color)
  • Paprika (just a touch for color!)
  • Lavender (skin)
  • Annatto Seed (color)
  • Green Tea (skin, color)
  • Rooibos Tea (skin, color)
  • Poppy Seeds (exfoliation)
  • Cornmeal (exfoliation)

The methods for using herbs in soap:

1.     Make a tea with the herb and use it as the water amount.

2.     Powder the herb and add it at trace

3.     Make an oil infusion with the herb.  Make it 4 – 6 weeks ahead by infusing the herb in the oil and then using it as one of your soaping oils, or add the herb as you heat the soapmaking oils and remove the herbs once infused.

You might be asking why soapmakers use different methods, rather than choosing one.  The answer is complicated, but in short, the method is chosen because it yields the best results–the best color, the strongest infusion, or is easier to use a certain way.

For instance, Marshmallow root is best extracted in water, so soaking the material in water overnight yields the best mucilage that will make the soap most gentle on the skin, rather “slippery,” if you will.  Of course, powdered root will add exfoliation, so if that’s your goal, simply add it at trace.

The possibilities for using herbs in soapmaking are virtually endless.  We’d love to hear what herbs you use and how you use them!


8 Responses to “Three Methods for Using Herbs in Soapmaking”
  1. Robin says:

    My favorite homegrown herbs that I use so far are:

    Lavender- powdered & whole, mostly for added scent retention, but also for the rustic look & exfoliation.
    Calendula- whole or chopped because it holds it’s color in CP soap & creates an elegant look.
    Comfrey – infused in olive oil for it skin benefits and the creaminess it imparts to my soap. Also, adds a nice soft green color.

    Thank you for the info on Marshmallow. I grow and use it medicinally, but, did not know it would be such a benefit to my soaps. I’m going to use the water extraction to my next soap batch.

    Thanks, SM, great info!

    Garden’s Heart Herbals

  2. SavonTalk says:

    You’re welcome! Glad to be of help to you.

  3. I have always been hesitant to use fresh herbs in my soaps, but you have given me a good reason to give it a go again. Thanks

  4. SavonTalk says:

    I hope you do! Let us know what happens.

  5. Ann Belonger says:

    I have been using spirulina for color in my soap, thanks for the comfrey tip, I would like one of my soaps a softer green color.

  6. Atihcnoc says:

    Using whole herbs in soap does not scratch the skin and plug the drain?

    Those are the main reasons why I never give it a try, does anybody have an experience with this?

    Thank you.

  7. SavonTalk says:

    I don’t use many whole herbs in soap, just Calendula petals and I’ve pressed lavender buds into the tops of molded soap. Thus, it’s a very small quantity that washes right down the drain and doesn’t cause a problem. There are very few in any one bath or shower.

    For the most part, however, I infuse the herb in water or oil or use it ground and again, the quantity in any batch or individual soap is relatively small. I believe that most soapmakers do the same.

  8. Miss Sniggerly says:

    So herbal properties in infused oils survive the saponification process? I hear mixed opinions on that.

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