Common Scents: All About Chamomile

Common Scents: All About Chamomile

  Welcome to our series, Common Scents! Common scents is a series of articles exploring the history of commonly used essential oils and how they became so popular in modern day soap and cosmetic crafting. chamomile2

In this edition of Common Scents, we will explore the healing history behind chamomile. One of the world’s oldest known herbs used for medicinal purposes, chamomile has become very popular in soap and cosmetics as well. Commonly confused with the prevalent daisy flower, chamomile typically has a compact yellow center and small, white petals.


What’s in a name?

 The name chamomile has its origins in the Greek word khamaimēlon, which means earth apple; it was given this name because its flowers smell like an apple. Later, the Greek form evolved into the late Latin term chamomilla, which later evolved to the French term camomille, which is the closest to the modern form that we use today.


History and Chamomile

 Chamomile has a long history in ancient and modern medicine. It has long been valued for its alleged healing properties, as well as it’s pleasant fragrance. From the ancient Egyptians to modern day aromatherapists, Chamomile has earned the respect of many believers in natural medicine.


Ancient Egypt

 Ancient Egyptians valued chamomile and it’s purported healing properties so much that they dedicated the herb to Ra, the Egyptian god of the sun and worshipped by many Egyptians as the creator god. Chamomile was given such a high value because it was believed to cure malaria; it was also reported to be used in the mummification process because it was said to repel insects. Egyptian noblewomen used crushed chamomile on their skin because of it’s appealing fragrance.


 Chamomile was also revered by the Romans; like the ancient Egyptians, they too dedicated chamomile to their gods, and used it in their baths. Roman physicians used chamomile to prevent and treat headaches, liver and kidney inflammation, among other medicinal uses. Chamomile was also used to flavor drinks, and was used commonly in incense.


Greek physician Dioscorides also reported healing properties in chamomile. He recommended its use to heal intestinal, nervous and liver disorders, and also prescribed it for “women’s ailments” and kidney stones. Greeks were believed to have made garlands of chamomile to wear, not only for the sweet fragrance but because they also believed chamomile to be spiritually calming.

Middle Ages 

In the Middle Ages, chamomile became more widely regarded as a medicinal herb rather than a luxury herb for fragrances and baths. Chamomile was commonly believed to treat asthma, colic, nervous disorders, skin diseases, inflammation, and many more prevalent ailments of that time period. Vikings also believed that chamomile would lighten their hair, and used it frequently in shampoos to brighten their blonde hair and give it more shine.



Modern Times 

Chamomile is still widely considered as a healing herb. Those who practice natural medicine and aromatherapy have an abundance of respect for its purported health benefits. Commonplace modern uses include treatment of:

-Colds, specifically chest colds

-Difficult wounds


-Diaper rash

-Psoriasis and eczema

-Menstrual pain


Although chamomile is reported as having a multitude of healing properties, it does have some reported side effects, too. A reported side effect of chamomile can include uterine contractions; for this reason, pregnant women are advised not to use it. Some have also claimed that those who are allergic to ragweed may suffer a similar allergic reaction to chamomile, as they are from the same plant family.

It is important to note: these observations and claims are made by those who have used chamomile; the FDA has not approved chamomile in a medical capacity, and we are providing this information for strictly educational and entertainment purposes.


Chamomile in Soap and Cosmetics 

Because of it’s soothing properties, chamomile has become very popular in modern soap and cosmetics. Bath tea, tinctures, bar soap and lotion; chamomile can be used in each and every one! Today’s chamomile, when sold in essential oil form, typically comes in two varieties; German Chamomile and Roman Chamomile. What’s the difference?

German Chamomile: Also known as Hungarian or Blue Chamomile (due to the oil’s dark blue color) is native to Europe and Asia. It is also grown in Hungary, Egypt, France, South America, and the United States. German Chamomile contains a higher concentration of azulene, which makes it a preferred oil for anti-inflammatory purposes. 

Roman Chamomile: Also known as Noble, Common, English, or True Chamomile, Roman Chamomile is native to Europe, East Africa, and the Middle East. It is also grown in the United States, South America, England, Belgium, and France. Roman Chamomile is said to have anti-rheumatic qualities.


Final Thoughts 

Chamomile has a long history of promoting well-being of the body and mind. Whether you choose German or Roman chamomile, you are sure to find that is light, pleasant smell will make a great addition to any fragrance or essential oil blends you are currently using. There are many ways to incorporate chamomile into your products that will be a big hit with your customers, and attract new ones too!

Hot Process Soapmaking for Beginners

If you’re anything like me, you had a few questions when you first got into the art of soap making. Top on your list was most likely, “what are cold and hot processes, and what’s the difference?” Today, we are going to explore hot process soap making and go through a simple step by step tutorial on how to make your very first batch.

First, let’s talk a bit about the fundamental difference between hot process and cold process soapmaking. Hot process uses an external heat source to bring the soap to gel phase, where it is then molded. This is contrary to cold process, which uses internally generated heat to do this. Design-wise, hot process has what many call a “rustic” or less refined look, with little to no opportunity for swirling or intricate designs. However, many soapmakers love HP because of it’s quick turnaround; many soaps can be used the following day (although a longer cure time is recommended for a harder bar).

There are a few essential things you’ll need in order to embark on your first hot processing journey. For this article, we will be covering hot process soap made in a crock pot.

You’ll need the following equipment:

  • A crock pot
  • A plastic, glass or stainless steel container to measure lye (do not use aluminum or tin: the lye will react negatively with it)
  • A heavy duty plastic, glass or stainless steel container for mixing the lye and water
  • A scale (a kitchen scale or postage scale will work nicely)
  • Spatulas (wooden or silicone/rubber)
  • A stick blender (a stainless steel shaft will make for easy cleanup)
  • Safety goggles
  • An apron
  • Gloves
  • A well ventilated work space

This article is going to focus primarily on the process itself with the assumption that you have found a recipe and are ready to use it.

Let’s do this!

Step One: Measure and Prepare

Measuring your ingredients and preparing your mold first will drastically streamline your hot process soapmaking experience. Measure your oils (both solid and liquid, but keep them separate for now), lye, water, fragrance and colorants; then, prepare your mold.

Step Two: Melt Your Oils

Now that you’re all measured and prepared, set your crockpot on low and add your solid oils. Once added, they will take a bit to melt; while you’re waiting, move on to Step Three to mix your lye water.

Step Three: Mix Your Lye Water

This can be the most intimidating step for new soapmakers; I was there too! When handled properly, lye is perfectly safe. With your apron, goggles and gloves firmly in place, mix your lye into your water; never, ever pour your water into your lye: this will cause a negative and dangerous reaction. Stir the water with your chosen wood or silicone spatula as you are sprinkling the lye in to keep it well mixed; stir slowly, being careful not to splash, until incorporated. Then, let your lye sit until it is clear and completely dissolved; this will also give it time to cool. You will notice that combining the lye and water will produce fumes; this is perfectly normal. Do your best not to breathe in these fumes.

Step Four: Combining Melted and Liquid Oils

Once you have mixed your lye water, check on your oils. If they are melted and if you have chosen to use liquid oils too, you can add those at this point to heat.

When your oils are heated to around 120-130 degrees, then you can add your lye water. Your oils should not be over 180 degrees when adding the lye water, or a negative reaction will occur.


Make sure your oils are melted completely before continuing.

Step Three: Time to Make the Soap!

Alright! You’ve checked your oils and they are at a balmy 120-130ºF, and your lye water has cooled for about 15-20 minutes. Time to combine the two and make beautiful, beautiful soap!

Lay your stick blender on the side of the crock pot and gently pour the lye water into the oils you have. Do this slowly; rushing may cause unnecessary and harmful splatter. By using the shaft of the stick blender as a means of diffusing the lye water, you will drastically reduce the risk of being splashed.  Once you have poured in all of your lye, stir for a few moments with the bell of your stick blender to begin incorporating the lye water into your oils. Then, pulse your stick blender on low and slowly circle around the pot, keeping the bell of the blender immersed in the batter; this will help to eliminate air bubbles. Periodically, hold your stick blender upright and while the bell is seated flat on the bottom of the crock pot, tap it up and down to get rid of unwanted bubbles.


Lay your blender against the side of your crock pot; slowly pouring the lye water down the shaft will help to prevent splashing.

Stir, stir, stir! You will be alternating between pulsing your stick blender and using it to stir for about 10-15 minutes to emulsify your mixture, and reach what is called trace. You’ll know you’ve reached trace when you pull your stick blender out of the batter between pulses, and ridges of liquid are visible on top of the mixture (see below).


The trails in the soap indicate that trace has been reached.

Once you have reached trace, it’s time to cook! Put the lid on your crock pot, and continue to the next step.

Step Four: Cook it!

 Your soap is going to change form quite a bit through the cook process. You may notice that the edges start to bubble; this is normal! Once the bubbles rise, you can do one of two things; either you can stir it down gently (recommended if it starts to bubble a lot) or you can leave it to cook. Be sure to scrape the sides of your crock pot while the soap is still in the cook process; if you scrape down while it’s hot, you’ll cut down on the amount of dried soap on the sides before you mold.

After awhile, your mix will start to look like Vaseline; it will have a glossy, almost iridescent appearance and will be wax-like to the touch. Depending on your recipe, this can take anywhere from a half hour to an hour. Once you’ve reached this consistency, it’s time for the next step!

Step Five: Craft Your Masterpiece

 Now that your soap has cooked, turn off the heat in your crock pot. If you are adding fragrance, you’ll want to allow the batter to cool for a bit first; adding it at very high temperatures will cause some of the fragrance to dissipate, leaving you with a faintly scented product. Adding the fragrance under 180ºF will help to keep it in your soap instead of in the air around you. You can also add your colorants at this point. If this is your first time making hot process soap, I would recommend using one color and fragrance until you get use to how the soap behaves when it is cooling.

You’ve scented, you’ve colored; now it’s time to mold! Grab your prepared mold and plop your soap batter in; you can use your spatula to smooth it out, but try to work quickly. If your batter cools down too much, it will be difficult to work with. Once you’ve filled your mold, pick it up and tap it a few times on your workspace to help work out any air bubbles. If you are using any decorations like lavender buds or glitter on the top, add it now! Decorations will be much easier to place and will stay on better if your soap is still nice and warm when they are added.


You did it!

Now, the waiting begins. Most hot process soap will be ready to slice after about 24 hours; as with any bar of soap, the longer it sits, the harder and better it will be. Letting it sit for at least a week will really make a difference in the overall quality of your bar.

The hot process method of making soap produces a nearly ready-to-use bar, and is a relatively easy method for those just starting out. If your first batch isn’t quite the way you want it, don’t give up! You’ll find that after a few times, you’ll have your recipe down and the method mastered, too.


We want to see your hot process soap- share your newly crafted hot process soap in the comments section of our Facebook post for this article so we can see your awesome work!

Common Scents: All About Lavender

Welcome to our new series, Common Scents! Common Scents is a series of articles exploring the history of commonly used essential oils and how they became so popular in modern day soap and cosmetic crafting.

In this edition of Common Scents, we will explore the rich and royalty filled history of (almost) everyone’s favorite essential oil: lavender! Lavender first entered documentation around 77 AD, when it was thought to be a sort of cure-all. Today, lavender has many applications in aromatherapy, soap and cosmetics. It has proven to be one of the most versatile essential oils, and was coveted by royalty and commoners alike.



            What’s in a name?

  As with most words, the word “lavender” is rooted in Latin. Lavender is derived from lavare, the Latin verb meaning “to wash”. Historically, lavender has been mistaken for a similar, related plant named spikenard, or spike lavender. The Greeks called it naardus or naarda, after the city of Naardus in Syria. No matter what name lavender has gone by throughout history, one thing stayed consistent; everyone loved it!

  History Smells Like Lavender.

 Egyptian royalty and high priests valued lavender for a myriad of reasons. One reason was embalming; if you wanted your vital organs to be well preserved and fragrant, the Egyptians had you covered! When the tomb of King Tut was opened and explored in 1923 by Howard Carter, he could still make out the faint smell of what was believed to be lavender after 3,000 years.

Greek physicians valued lavender for its healing properties. A Greek botanist named Dioscorides wrote about the soothing benefits of ingesting lavender in De Materia Medica, a comprehensive historical text used by many historical civilizations to treat illnesses and injuries. He claimed that ingesting lavender helped to relieve indigestion, headaches, and sore throats.


Around the 12th century, Hildegard of Bingen wrote about a practical use for lavender oil; she discovered that the oil was an effective treatment of both head lice and fleas, common issues in that time period. She also claimed that using lavender gave one knowledge and a “pure spirit”. She would recommend that her readers mix lavender with wine at a lukewarm temperature; she claimed that this concoction would help to alleviate liver and lung pain. In the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth used lavender to soothe her migraines and also favored the purple plant as a perfume. Henrietta Maria, the wife of King Charles I, adored lavender also and used it to scent her soaps, potpourris, and bath water. King Charles VI (France) sat on seat cushions stuffed with lavender.

The mid-16th century saw a rise in communicable diseases, such as cholera and the plague. The price of lavender was much higher during this time period as people believed that it could protect them against the Great Plague of 1665. Lavender could be found in most medicines and was touted as a “cure-all”; a promised remedy those suffering from the nightmarish plague desperately needed.

The Victorian era marked a return to lavender’s luxury roots. Women loved lavender and bought it in substantial amounts for varying uses from street vendors. These vendors bought their lavender supply almost exclusively from a town called Mitcham-the soothing lavender fields of which became popular with those affected by the plague, and had become the center of lavender oil production previously in the Elizabethan era. Victorian ladies and gentlemen used lavender to wash walls, clean their furniture and freshen their clothes. Lavender was also commonly used to repel insects, treat head lice (still very common in the Victorian era), and remained a staple in many medicine cabinets. Unfortunately, due to its gratuitous overuse as a perfume by specific female age groups, lavender lost most of its appeal and was widely considered an “old woman’s smell”.


Fast forward to modern times. Lavender was used as an antiseptic during World War I, when traditional antiseptics were in short supply. Many people still use lavender today for its proclaimed natural anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Mixing a few drops of lavender essential oil with water is said to help repel fleas and other unwanted insects when sprayed on carpets and furniture, and lavender is used frequently alongside oatmeal in soaps to help soothe irritation on the skin. Many people claim that lavender can be used to either soothe or cure the following ailments:

  • Insomnia
  • Digestive issues
  • Dementia symptoms
  • General pain
  • Immune Deficiency
  • MRSA
  • Infection of wounds
  • Venomous bites


It is important to note that these are observations and claims made by those who have used lavender; the FDA has not approved lavender in a medical capacity.            


Lavender, Soap and Cosmetics

 The lavender we use for soap and cosmetics can come in a few shapes and sizes. Lavender oil is usually used to scent soaps, while the dried buds can be used as a gentle exfoliant in the bar itself, or on top of the bar as a decoration. Today’s lavender oil comes in different variations, from blends of different types of lavender to pure French lavender oil. Lavender remains one of the most popular essential oils, and with the many types available, is easily accessible for most budgets.

Lavender has a rich and storied history that dates back to some of the earliest records known to mankind. Many historical physicians and botanists believed that lavender was the cure to everything, and could even provide spiritual benefits. Although some of these claims may or may not be true, it is imperative that you follow the FDA’s guidelines for labeling; this includes making claims that are not approved by the FDA. Our How-To Library contains a great podcast about labeling by expert Marie Gale; check it out by visiting

   Thank you for joining us for Common Scents! Be on the lookout for our next installment; Common Scents: Chamomile.