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The proof of the pudding is in the eating, they say, so the best way to get to know my oils and soaps is to try them. Truly, once you have tried them you will never go back to synthetic soaps, detergents and so called “moisturizers”. Here they are, in the picture on the left you can see the buchu oils and some bars of hard soap. The rich honey colour comes from the beeswax and cocoa butter. The hard soap will have a green tinge from the soap plant I put in, it will be lighter or darker depending on what time of year the soap plant is harvested.
Buchu Body Butter is a fun oil for every day use. The qualities of the base oils are very important. I mix together certified organic oils of coconut, olive, palm and cocoa butter. Taken together these oils are emollient (meaning that they assist the skin to lock in its own moisture), conditioning and nourishing. In particular they are very rich in vitamins D and E. These nutrients can sometimes be hard to get in sufficient quantities in the diet, and so it really helps to add them through the skin. They are fat soluble and are stored in your body fat, but unless you are nicely plump and well-exercised – so that you both have the nutrients and the blood circulation needed to get them to your surface – it can be difficult to get them to the skin. To this base I add organic essential oils. Buchu (Agathosma betulina/crenulata) obviously because it is a herb that assists the skin to regenerate – let me not say it keeps the skin young, but technically it has the same effect. It is extremely rich in vitamin C. I also add rosemary which is full of anti-oxidants and phytosterols, so essentially it assists the skin to recover quickly from the stresses and strains of daily life. Then some rose geranium (Pelargonium capitatum x P. radens cultivar Rosé), which is slightly astringent (ensures that no pores are blocked) and smells nice. A few drops of lemongrass increases the astringency and ensures a slight tang to the fragrance. Organic vanilla pods are steeped in the olive oil for a few days and this goes into the mix. Vanilla is also emollient and enhances the sweet smell. I mix both emollients and astringents to get a balanced oil, this combination leaves your skin open, fresh and fed.
Lastly I add powdered orris root. Orris is a fixative, it ensures that the perfume notes evaporate at an even rate so that you do not lose the scent of your body butter within a few minutes of applying it. The body butter is fully vegan and (apart from the orris root) completely organic. I make it in two sizes, one for home use and the other a handy travel pack that you can take with you and use every time your hands get dry.
Buchu oil contains certified organic coconut oil, olive oil, cocoa butter, and natural beeswax. I steam the oils in whole herbs: a rose geranium that is not as strongly scented as the perfume one (meaning Pelargonium graveolens and not cultivar Rosé), and Khoegoed (Helichrysum petiolare). These herbs are both skin softening, and the Khoegoed adds some antiseptic qualities to the oil. I will intensify the oil with a little indigenous wormwood ( Artemisia afra), it is wound-healing and regenerative, as well as anti-viral.
I grow these herbs in my garden so they are uncertified organic. I then add organic buchu and rosemary essential oil to the mix. These are regenerative and anti-oxidant. Orris root is combined with the herbs to ensure they have staying power. Taken together, all the uncertified ingredients are less than 2% of the total weight. I like to use this oil on my face, as a lip ice or even a daily body moisturizer, especially when I travel in the very dry inland areas it really helps. I have had many people come back to me and say this oil is just the thing for stubbornly dry patches of skin.
Extra Strength Buchu Oil contains all the above ingredients, except the rose geranium. I steep the oil for longer, add larger quantities of herbs, and I also add comfrey that I grow on my plot. Comfrey is known as the wound healer, so it blends with the anti-bacterial, antiviral and regenerative qualities of the other herbs to make an oil that will promote the healing of cuts, bruises or minor burns. This is the oil to use on scars, applied twice a day for six months it will assist the scar to fade and allow the skin to restore itself. I also like it especially on the hard skin of the heels and corns after you have scrubbed them with a pumice stone. Taken together the quantity of uncertified ingredients remain below 5 % of the total weight.
Buchu Soap Many people like hard soap, one can have fun with lather and of course it stores better, lasts longer and is less wasteful in the packaging. I use the hard soap for my hands and body, especially when I am travelling, because quite honestly I get so spoilt with my organic soaps that I find it quite a shock to adjust to hotel and restaurants soaps on the road. It also makes a nice shampoo which restores the hair if it has been over-treated, returning shine and bounce. I have to wash my hair every working day so I can guarantee that buchu soap is mild and gentle on the scalp. You should use my soap because it is good, not because the competitors are bad, but I cannot resist mentioning that commercial soaps are processed to remove all the glycerin from then. You are then sold this glycerin separately when your skin needs moisturizing. Natural soaps retain all the glycerin and so are softer and friendlier.
In my buchu soap I mix certified organic coconut oil, olive oil, palm oil and cocoa butter. I superfat it with castor oil and beeswax, blending the whole with sodium hydroxide, which is hard lye. Then I enrich it with organic buchu, rosemary, vanilla, rose geranium, lavender and orris root. All in all, this soap contains less than 5 % natural ingredients.
Lavender is an ancient skin restorative, it is also useful in today’s age because it softens hard water. I also mix in some soap plant extract. This soap plant (Saponaria officinalis) is Ethiopian in origin, although it spread to Europe in the Middle Ages, and was often planted along rivers. The sap of soap plant is a natural soap, if you rub the leaves, stems or roots between your hands you will see the soap emerging and your skin getting clean. I grow it in quantities in my garden because, being a natural soap, it is the mildest cleanser ever, and in particular softens the skin in a way that has to be felt to be believed. I boil it in water and mix the extract in every batch of hard soap. This will give the soap a slight green or yellow tinge. If I have some calendula blooming in my garden, that is, in winter and spring, I will also add a few flowers to the soap plant pot. Calendula adds to the mildness of the soap and helps your skin cope with stresses and strains.
Buchu Baby Soap is exactly like my buchu soap, except that it is enriched with additional organic olive oil and cocoa butter to make it very gentle. I suspect this may give it a slight chocolately aroma. Otherwise it is completely fragrance free, babies do not need any addition to their natural sweetness.
Buchu Liquid Soap is the closest you will get to a traditional KhoeSan soap today. The Khoesan made soap with the ashes of the ganna bos (Salsola aphylla) which is an interesting plant in that it contains a constant 37 % potassium. So you would always know exactly how much lye you were putting into your soap. Potassium hydroxide is still used today for liquid soap, although not from the ganna bos, more’s the pity. When making liquid soap I stick to my base oils: certified organic coconut oil, olive oil, palm oil and cocoa butter. I also add some castor oil the mix, castor oil is a wonder oil for the skin and, so much better than taken internally. I am still battling to obtain organic castor oil, in the meantime it makes up about 3 % of the total. Then I have fun with fragrance. I make two liquid soaps:
Buchu Liquid Soap Extra Moisturizing contains buchu, rosemary, vanilla, rose geranium, lavender and orris root. Lavender is an ancient skin restorative, and softens hard water. Since so few of us are privileged to bathe in rainwater this is really important. This is the soap for every day use and especially for those who have to wash their hands often. It is superfatted, meaning there are more oils than lye, so it moisturizes as it cleans.
Buchu Liquid Soap Mildly Antiseptic: I am not a big fan of antiseptic soaps, thinking that it is better to strengthen the body’s ability to resist infection then trying to rid the world of bacteria. I use some herbs which are antiseptic or anti-viral, like buchu and wilde als, but I am not using them for those qualities and my products become slightly anti-septic by default, as it were. Also chemical antiseptics tend to dry out the skin horribly and one of the commonly used ingredients have been accused of being a quite severe health threat. (I am not taking sides, simply saying that if you stick to herbs you are safer.) Lastly, there are parts of our body where we depend on good bacteria for health, such as the digestive tract, our mouths and our genital organs. So one really needs to be careful not disinfect too far. That is why I make a point to ensure that my soaps are mild enough to not threaten the good bacteria on your body. Nonetheless I make this soap, and I find it incredibly useful in the kitchen or after changing nappies. I especially like to use it after I have washed meat, or chopped onions and garlic. It leaves the hands very clean and rids them of both bacteria and odor. I superfat this soap too, and then I fill it with organic buchu, rosemary, grapefruit and tea tree essential oils, as well as orris root. It is the natural, softly softly approach to antiseptic soap.