Monday, October 7, 2013

Saponification Sunday/Monday...Which Witch? Bark or Leaf?

I like experimentation. In the old days several decades ago, that meant hoping into a semi with an unknown driver and traveling to unknown worlds. Dangerous yes, and fun, but really kids it was as I said, DANGEROUS. Now, my wild experimentation is limited to...


For example, when it was dark at night and my husband was fast asleep I dug deep into my bag of tricks ( a basket filled with bags of suspicious looking powders and clays) and pulled out a heaping zip lock filled with with hazel powder.

Witch Hazel BARK Powder On a very cool piece of Granite given to me by
a friend (Thanks CK!)

Can't even remember buying it, let alone what I was going to use it for but details like that are meaningless when one is an artist and the  creative bell is slamming around in a dazed and confused cerebellum .

Headaches? What headaches?

An interesting powder, even though rather bland in appearance, it's earthiness was appealing to me. I'm not a blue glitter kind of gal so this bag of silty fine debris did beckon to me. I did some research

Seems  the Witch Hazel Powder can come from the bark or the leaves of the plant. I had the bark variety. It is known to possess  stringent, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, and anesthetic properties.

 Over time it has been used to treat everything, including: backache, hemorrhoids, (by injecting the powder mixed with water into the rectum) wounds, tumors, insect bites, eye inflammation, nosebleed, vaginitis, venereal disease, and skin ulcers externally; and internally (as a tea) for colds, heavy menstruation, diarrhea, and anxiety.

Today, the bark powder is most often used externally to treat bruises, cuts, bedsores, sunburn, poison ivy, other skin ailments, sore muscles, and minor swelling. As a nurse, I cannot imagine treating any decubiti (bedsore) with something this scratchy or worse yet putting it in an inflamed eye (Ouch!!) but would be cool if it works.

Would tick off the pharmacy companies though, since a 4 oz bag  of this powder is less than $5 . But due to strict FDA laws I can make no such claim on my soap labels, in regards to any of the above.

 Nor would I want to. Imagine my grief knowing that my soap failed to fix your hemorrhoids. I would hate even more, the visual that would give me.

Too late.

And, for those of you who enjoy a nice fairytale, some people believe Witch hazel is a strong protective charm which is powerful in spells to end love and mend a broken heart

Now, as a soap, I can tell you this. The addition of just 1 tsp to 2 pounds of oil colored it only slightly as you can see. It made the soap a bit  scratchy but did not interfere with bubbles at all. I did add Tussah silk to my lye water which might have helped the bar feel less rough.

10 minutes after rinsing my skin felt very good and so although it did not make the prettiest soap, even with a few small pieces of leftover white soap added, it did make a good, usable  soap. I scented it with Pink Grapefruit, Eucalyptus and Lavender Essential oils which was quite pleasant. And the powder did cause the soap to thicken well and made it easy to create waves on top.

Would I use it again? Not sure. Will give it a few weeks to see how my skin likes it. In the meantime I think I'll stick to my regular orange pekoe tea and I certainly won't be injecting it anywhere the sun don't shine.



  1. I've never heard of this stuff! Right on! Now I want to try it...
    I absolutely LOVE the way the texture on top of these bars turned out. They look wonderful. The scratchiness aside, which can sometimes be a good thing, they turned out lovely.
    I keep looking for something that would represent very small brown flecks in soap that is not witch hazel is out...drat.

    1. Lindsey, the brown flecks are very nice in this soap and the scratchiness is very minimal. I wonder if I used less would I still keep the looks but with the scratch. Now you have me wondering...

  2. Thanks for enlightening me on the many uses of witch hazel, but me here will stick to its use as a skin toner or astringent. I love the swirls on your soap, but most of all, I love your wicked humor. :-)

  3. Soapjam, my wicked humor is a combined country hick sarcasm (my mother) and the raucous laugh out loud belly laugh from my father. Which means my husband is a saint to stay married to me.

  4. I love the waves, too, and bet this soap is a good, cleansing soap. I keep a bottle of witch hazel in the fridge. When i waitressed, my feet would be hot and sore at day's end. An older waitress told me to keep a bottle of witch hazel in the fridge, and when i got home, dump some over my feet and put my feet up for about five minutes and let dry.

    I was too cheap to waste the witch hazel by sloshing it over my feet, so used cotton balls and daubed it on. Bracing, and sure enough after several minutes of propping my feet up on a hassock and allowing them to dry, they felt very much better. Ambient witch hazel is not nearly as effective.

    And this has nothing to do with soap, but as you are a busy farmer's wife and farmer in your own right, i'm sure there are times where your feet are sore and tired and could do with a pick-me-up.

    1. Megan, I had an old nurse teach me that trick too! But I forgot about it until your comment. I may have to try that again. I wonder if I took a little of the Witch hazel bark and made a thin poultice, if it would work as well? Might be messy though. Hmmm

  5. I'd be nervous if you ever found saltpeter in your bag of tricks! ;-0

    1. Well, now there's a thought! All the moms of teen boys would probably scoop it right up!

  6. I love all that Earth Magic. I enjoy reading about your soap making and wish I could smell it over the internet too.

    1. Paula, I used to love bright colors and fake smells but since I started using all natural items in my soap it has worked its way into other household products. Leftover bar soap becomes laundry and dish soap. I make my own body and bath oils from the essential oils that are left, I use coconut oil for tons of things beside cooking but I still have been unable to find any "Earth Magic" that cleans toilets as well as The Works

  7. I just love the way you started this post! How could I not read it! But now I want to know moer of those adventures! As for witch hazel I might have to plant some!