In the warmer months, when my thoughts turn frequently to that bit of green on our back balcony and what I’m going to do with all those herbs growing out there (Mint Juleps, anyone?), my bookstore peregrinations change course ever so slightly, veering less toward fiction and more toward the gardening section, the cooking section, and, when fortune would find me in a really good bookstore, the herbal and natural medecine section. My love for folk medicine is well documented in these pages. Equally, my love of a good bath (here and here). While I’ve found some true gems of recipes from various sources over the years, I’ve yet to find my herbal skin care Bible. I would love to have a well-loved, dog-eared tome sitting on my shelf, full of pioneering wisdom and my own notes scribbled in the margins. But until such a book turns up, I continue to float.
Which is not always a bad thing. Sometimes you find a project on a blog or in a book that clicks as the perfect use of whatever ingredients you have laying around. This time it was a fragrant bouquet of Vietnamese Lemon Balm (or Mint Balm) from a friend’s herb patch. What to do with this mysterious herb. Actually, not so mysterious in East Asia as a bit of research into the plant revealed. A common herb included in salads, soups and curries, Vietnamese balm is often brewed as a tea for treating hangovers (useful after a few Mint Juleps), and is added to steam baths for clarifying the skin. Sounded like a good place to start and as I had a bunch of the stuff, it was time to get to work.
Toner tabs are made the same was as bath bombs — baking soda, citric acid, essential oils and witch hazel — just with more attention paid to choosing ingredients for specific skin concerns. For me that meant adding a few drops of Tea Tree oil for cutting oils and killing bacteria, mixing some fresh aloe vera gel in with Thayer’s Rose Witch Hazel, and of course, adding a few spoonfuls of chopped fresh Vietnamese balm. The result was a fragrant and potent brew that opened up my pores and cleared my troublesome skin.
Homemade skincare is too good to keep to oneself, and a piece of twine does a tidy job tied around a stack of herb-specked toner tabs. We may be starting a little bartering system with our Vietnamese balm providers. Herbs in exchange for product? Not a bad exchange at all.
Herbal Toner Tabs
1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup citric acid
2-3 Tablespoons of fresh or dried chopped herbs
10-15 drops of an Essential oil of your choice (I used Tea Tree. Lavender, rosemary or juniper berry would work very nicely as well.)
1/4 tsp aloe vera gel
Witch hazel for spritzing
Mix dry ingredients and herbs thoroughly. Add drops of Essential oil, stirring often to keep citric acid from fizzing. Shake aloe vera and witch hazel together in a spray bottle. Using one hand to spritz and the other to mix, spritz the dry ingredients with the witch hazel mixture, while stirring continuously with your other hand. If the mixture starts fizzing, slow down and keep mixing. When you can squeeze the mixture together and it holds its shape, stop spraying. You don’t need a lot of liquid, just enough to bind the mixture together loosely.
Fill molds with tab mixture. Press down until compacted. Leave to dry over night. The next day, pop out of molds gently.
To Use: Drop one tab in a sink or bowl full of hot water (not boiling!). Use a towel to make a tent over your head. Steam your face under the towel for a few minutes. Great to do before a face mask or at night after cleansing. Retain toner water and use either to wash off your face mask or keep in a spray bottle in the refrigerator and use as a toner for 2-3 days.
Do you have any recommendations for really good herbal remedies and skincare books? I’m all ears. I got the inspiration for this recipe from Maria’s Self, though there are tons of recipes online.