This is a photo taken by me on Noida Flower sh...

calendula blossoms

I just watched The Story of Cosmetics (2010).  It reminded me of why I went down this road called herbalism.  I kept seeing myself and others buying into the hype on labels, and this hype had little or nothing to do with the contents. For example, we all know a successful company based on oatmeal (Avena sativa).  People buy into these products.  And it is really maddening if you read the ingredients on these products, you will see that they have little to do with oatmeal.

Herbalism is my attempt to keep it real, to see things for what they are, and to try using authentic, original ingredients.

It is kind of outrageous to see myself buying into the marketing hype of cosmetics, when in practice I would never do the same thing, for example, in cooking.  It is generally not my practice to make a meal that is ‘organic’, ‘herbal’ or ‘natural’, and then use ingredients that are none of those things!  It is most certainly not my practice to try to convince others that this sort of a meal is ‘organic food’ when I know it is not.  Actually, the sense of taste and smell are finely tuned instruments for detecting all sorts of things.  Though chemists can trick taste-buds and nasal passages, I doubt I could get away with it.  Moreover, that is simply not the point of feeding people.  If it’s a meal, the goal is to nourish.  The same sort of understanding could be applied to cosmetics. We should nourish our outsides – our skin! – with the same care as we do our insides!

So, I try to use the raw ingredients. I try to ensure that they are harvested and stored in a way that keeps them fresh and beneficial.  This is important for me because a therapy can fail if the ingredients are not the best.  If I am purchasing ingredients, then I try to buy the best on the market, within my budget, from likeminded folks who understand their ingredients.  I personally look for partners who are concerned for the earth and it’s inhabitants.   I can’t say that this is the easiest way, and I can’t say I do this perfectly; but I can say that there are moments of clarity and there are solutions. This comes down to using herbs with knowledge and imagination.

Today I would like to focus on tub tea.  Herbalists have been recommending tub tea for a long time.  Using a bath is a great way to nourish your largest organ, the skin.  And your skin is a great vehicle for getting good plant constituents (or toxic chemicals, if you wish) into the body.

Honestly, as I write this, I have to laugh.  It has been difficult to convince people to make a tea and then bathe in raw botanical ingredients.  I have suggested oatmeal for itchy, dry skin conditions; a couple times, I have received a hugely glazed over look from someone.   It is the messiness of raw ingredients. It is the lack of hype found in the typical bulk ingredients. And, perhaps, it is the imagination we can enjoy in using them.

Well, as I was shopping a few months ago, I found a new product: tub tea.  These are big tea bags filled with botanical ingredients used in a bath.  Now that we have a great name for it, I have a couple ideas for ingredients that you might want to try for making a DIY tub tea.

Let’s start with an oatmeal and blossoms blend.

Oatmeal (Avena sativa) – will help to calm itchy skin due to dryness.

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra) – cooling anti-inflammatory.  Excellent for weeping eczema and infant eczema.

Chamomile flowers (Matricaria recutita) nervine, anti-inflammatory, excellent for irritable states of being and irritated skin.  *Be aware that some people are allergic to chamomile.

Calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis) vulnerary, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory.  Excellent for inflammatory skin conditions, cuts and bruises, burns, insect bites, and athlete’s foot.

Rose (Rosa spp.) – cooling astringent.  Famous for imparting beauty.

Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) nervine, smells wonderful.  Helpful for burns and insect bites.

And what about the bag?  What can you use for a tea bag?  The idea that makes up for a lack of glamour by being the most convenient is the long lone tube sock.  Nylons can be used in a similar manner.  Just add the herbs and tie at the end.  Another terribly basic idea is the tea towel carefully tied into a knot.  Or for those with a sewing machine can make a muslin bag with a draw-string.  All of these “bags” can be washed and reused with new tea.  I also have some fancy tea bags that are sealed with heat from an iron.  These heat-sealed tea bags could be composted along with the herbs.

To Make  A Tub Tea

Put a few handfuls of blossoms and one handful of oatmeal into a “bag”.   Place this bag in a pot or a 4 cup measuring cup.  Pour boiling water over the bag and make sure that the boiling water is getting through the fabric and to the herbs.  Allow this to infuse while you prepare the bath.  Add the tub tea and the bag to the bath.  Now it is the simple matter of soaking it in.  Enjoy!

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal