This time of the year I spend a fair amount of time with my hands in the dirt. Often this is a spur of the moment weed and fossick about in the garden beds while the children are playing in the backyard with no garden gloves. My hands suffer, becoming dry and often cracked. Well, they have in past years. This year I decided it was time to look after them a little better. I have made creams and balms for other ailments before so I got busy in the kitchen and made this lovely nourishing hand cream.
The base oil is an infused calendula (marigold) oil. We came home from our overseas trip to the garden taking over, and as much as I hate removing healthy plants it was time to clear the beds for tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and other summer produce, so out came several heavily laden calendula plants. I snipped off the calendula flower heads with the flash of an idea brewing in my head for a calendula hand cream. Calendula is excellent for skin healing. I have used the Weleda healing cream ‘Hypercal’ ever since I had my first child and my midwife handed me a tube of the stuff to help with post-childbirth healing. I quickly became a huge fan of the cream and anytime my children get a cut or graze out comes the Hypercal = a mix of hypericum – St Johns Wort – and calendula.
I made an oil infusion with the help from my favourite ethnobotanist James Wong. This is very easy; simply fill a small jar with flower heads crushing lightly to bruise the petals a little. Cover with a carrier oil – I used local extra virgin olive oil but this could be almond or apricot kernel oil – to completely cover the flower heads. Secure a lid and leave on a sunny windowsill for 2 weeks. You can give it a shake every few days and make sure the flower heads are completely submerged in the oil or they can go mouldy. After 2 weeks strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve, pressing out the oil with the back of a wooden spoon, and discard the spent flower heads. The resulting oil is vibrantly orange with a mild calendula scent.
This recipe is a basic ‘cold cream’ recipe using the calendula infused oil for the oil part and rose water for the water part. Rose water, besides having a beautiful scent, has many skin nourishing properties. I use it as a skin toner spraying it on my face morning and night. It is lovely and light and leaves my skin feeling soft and nourished. You can find rose water at specialty food stores and some supermarkets, however I source a cosmetic grade (especially for the skin) from Aromaflex. It is called Rose hydrosol and stronger than food grade rose water. Either will do, or you can even use filtered water.
The cream is finished with fresh aloe vera gel scraped from an aloe leaf, vitamin C powder – this is optional but it acts as a preservative – and rose essential oil. The rose oil gives the cream a delicate rose scent that I love, rose being my favourite flower. You can omit this if you prefer a more neutral smell although the rose water will lend a light fragrance.
I have been rubbing this cream on my hands several times a day - usually after I wash the dishes - and my hands are lovely and soft, no drying or cracking to be seen. This hand cream would make a lovely gift for the giving season approaching. A little goes a long way so a small jar would be a welcome gift for any eager gardener or home dishwasher/ domestic goddess.
60ml calendula infused oil (or you can use almond oil, apricot kernel oil or olive oil, however the cream won't have the intense yellow colour)
10g / approx. 2 Tbsp grated beeswax
30-40ml rose water or filtered water
1 tsp aloe vera (ideally fresh but a gel will work OK also)
1 tsp vitamin C powder (optional - this acts as a preservative)
10 drops rose essential oil
P.S. Next weeks post includes a little video we have been making this week using fresh homegrown strawberries. Very excited to be sharing this, so stay tuned x