Now, it’s time to relax!

Happy Christmas! I hope you are having a lovely day and that Santa has brought you everything you wished for!

By the end of Christmas day or Boxing day, when the relatives have gone and the tidying up is complete, I think most of us will be longing for some rest and relaxation and I can’t think of anything that fits the bill better than a relaxing bath.

There are many real and apocryphal tales of famous ladies bathing in assorted substances. Cleopatra in her asses milk, for example, while others choose champagne and water from famous spas. All of these indicate one thing – that baths of any kind are good for the spirit! However, I think bathing in asses milk is right out (unless you have a pet ass of course) but milk baths can work just as well with a limited amount of milk and not necessarily from a donkey!

Here is a selection of my favourite soaks for you to try, so lie back and relax… and prepare yourself for the New Year celebrations that are just around the corner!

Smiles, Joanna

Cleopatra’s Milk Bath

1.5 cups of powdered milk or 1 litre/2 pint of fresh milk

This will help relax and soften your skin.

While the bath is running add the powdered milk under the fast-running tap. Fresh milk is also nice in a bath but the convenience of powdered milk is that you can keep it in the bathroom with a scoop or cup, ready for the moment when you feel the need of an Egyptian-style bath!

Lavender bath

A simple recipe for a wonderful, aromatic and relaxing bath is to add 6-8 drops of lavender essential oil under the fast-running hot tap as you fill your bath.

Salt Bath

This could not be easier. Salt baths help to relieve tired and aching muscles and make your skin feel wonderful. Run a warm bath and pour 1-2 cups of sea salt under the fast-running tap. Then enjoy!

Floral Soda Bath

Baking soda can be used on its own to make a bath cooling and reviving, especially if you have been ill. However, it is much more enjoyable as a floral bath. This isn’t an ‘immediate’ bath time treat, but is well worth the wait…

Fill a large glass jar (approximately 750ml or 1.5 pint) with bicarbonate of soda to just short of the top. Then, add a teaspoon of jasmine, ylang-ylang or neroli essential oil. Shake the jar well and leave on the side for a week or two, shaking it every time you pass.

Use about a half to one cup for a wonderfully aromatic bath.

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Just the tonic!

Hair tonics are not something you often see among commercial hair care products. They are a special hair treatment that can be applied as a finishing rinse. These tonics and rinses will help make hair shinier, have more body and generally look healthier. Think of it as an extra dose of help, whether your hair is in good, bad or indifferent condition!

To make up hair tonics, or finishing rinses, simply infuse the herbs for about an hour. To make an infusion, put the herbs in a measuring jug and add the correct amount of boiling water. Leave to infuse and then strain through a sieve and discard the herbs. Then add the essential oil, and any other ingredients included in the recipe, to the cooled infusion.

Use the tonic after you have finished any other treatments on your hair. Stand over a large bowl or hand basin, with the plug in, and pour the mixture over your hair. Recycle as much of the liquid as possible using a cup and pour it over your head again to get as much as possible into your hair. Then gently massage your scalp.

Finally, use a little cool water to lightly rinse off the tonic. Don’t use a power shower to blast all the mixture off as the idea is that the treatment will continue working on your hair until the next time you come to wash it.

Rosemary Herbal Finishing Rinse

For all hair types

  • ·      2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves (or 1 tablespoon of dried)
  • ·      300ml boiling water
  • ·      2 drop rosemary essential oil.

Chamomile and Lemon Tonic

For fair hair

  • ·      2/3 cup of chamomile flowers
  • ·      500ml boiling water
  • ·      Juice from 1 lemon
  • ·      2 drops lemon essential oil
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Beautiful hair – naturally

The best way to impart the benefits that various herbs can give to your hair is to use the plainest, mildest, natural shampoo, choosing the best quality you can afford. You can then add extra ingredients such as herbal extracts or fragrance at home. The resulting shampoos will be gentle, but will have strong herbal properties tat will boost your hair’s condition and looks. Here’s a nice simple one for normal hair:

Gentle herb shampoo

  • 100ml (7 tablespoons) mild, unscented shampoo
  • 6 drops geranium essential oil
  • 4 drops lemon essential oil
  • 2 drops parsley essential oil

Method: Carefully drop the essential oils into the shampoo bottle. Replace the cap and then shake thoroughly until they are blended with the shampoo.

Avocado conditioner

For all hair types

  • 1 small or half a large avocado
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 5ml (1 teaspoon) wheatgerm or avocado oil
  • 3 drop parsley essential oil

Apart from making you feel a little foolish as it looks as if you’ve dunked your head in a bowl of guacamole, this treatment gives you hair a soft and shiny finish.

Scoop the flesh out of the avocado and place in a small mixing bowl with the egg yolks. Using a fork, mash the two ingredients together. Then add the wheatgerm or avocado oil and the drops of essential oil, and blend thoroughly.

Using your hands, massage the conditioner into your hair and scalp, making sure it is well covered. Wrap your hair in kitchen foil and relax for about 15-20 minutes. Then rinse your hair with plenty of water and dry as usual.

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Scrubbing up well!

When thinking about beauty treatments and pampering, we often tend to think about our faces and neglect our poor old bodies.

A very effective way of making your body smoother and softer and altogether nicer to look at, is to treat them with a scrub, followed by a soothing cream and there are lots of ways of doing this using natural products. Here are a couple of ideas for you to try.

Coconut scrub – Suitable for any skin type

You will need:

  • 150ml dessicated coconut
  • 150ml ground almond
  • 150ml oatmeal
  • 45ml liquid honey
  • Rosewater, as needed

This scrub makes skin lovely and soft. Mix the dry ingredients and add the honey. Pour in as much rosewater as necessary to make a smooth paste. You can use it anywhere on your body. Simply rub it in and leave for 20 minutes. Then, with strong circular strokes, rub off with a flannel – you will be positively glowing!

Marigold mask – This is ideal for backs!

You will need:

  • 23ml (1½ tablespoons) of marigold tea (see below)
  • 1 tablespoon of clay
  • 10ml (3 teaspoons) glycerine

This an excellent way of making your upper back look beautiful in summer dresses and swimming costumes!

Marigolds purify the skin and blood circulation is invigorated by the massage that automatically happens when you remove the mask.

Make an infusion of the marigold petals in 300ml of boiling water. Leave it to stew for one hour. Measure out the required amount and stir in the other ingredients. If needed, add some more marigold tea to get a good consistency, then rub your back with it and leave for 20 minutes to work its magic on your skin as you relax, lying on your stomach. Remove the mask with strong circular strokes with a flannel. It might be easier (and rather more relaxing!) if you ask someone else to do this for you!

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Herby beautiful

With all the herbs growing like mad, I thought it was time we had another herby pampering session!

Rosemary Hair Tonic

Rosemary is an excellent substitute for mildly medicated shampoos, and this tonic also helps control greasy hair and enhances the shine and natural colour.

You will need: 

  • 250ml/8fl oz fresh rosemary tips
  • 1.2 litres/2 pints bottled water.
  1. Put the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes, then allow to cool in the pan.
  2. Strain the mixture and store it in a clean bottle. Use after shampooing your hair. 

Feverfew Complexion Milk

Feverfew grown prolifically in the garden, self-seeding all over the herb beds, and this is a welcome use for some of this over-enthusiastic plant. The milk will moisturise dry skin, help to fade blemishes and discourage blackheads.

You will need:

  • One large handful feverfew leaves
  • 300ml/½ pint milk
  1. Put the leaves and milk in a small saucepan and simmers for 20 minutes.
  2. Allow the mixture to cool in the pan then strain into a bottle.

PS. Feverfew flowers

If you haven’t got feverfew sprouting everywhere like I have… it can be cultivated easily; it is especially pretty grown in tubs and pots in the greenhouse or conservatory.

Hang bunches of flowers upside sown and leave to air dry; use as a decorative addition to flower arrangements.

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