Baths are an essential part of my week. They make my head feel clearer, warm my bones, and help me relax. (Yes, I can be pretty tense.) They also give me an opportunity to make and try inventive bath products. Products that are fun to pass on to others. In this article, I’ll tell you how to make Effervescent Bath Balls that are packed with seriously good things for your health and playful at the same time.
Years ago I got a gift from one of my music students. It was a package of balls called Bath Bombs-a name I found offensive. Who wanted to bomb their bath? Regardless, I wanted to know what these were. That night, I filled the tub to try one out. As I removed a food color purple ball from the package, the stench of synthetic fragrance wafted my way. Unappealing as this was, curiosity won, and in the tub it went.
The ball hit the water and immediately exploded into a fizzing mass. I was intrigued. As I watched it dissolve into effervescent nothingness, I thought, “I can make that.”
After making note of a few active ingredients, I began to play. After some failed attempts at consistency, I had bath balls. Unlike the others, these were all natural, free of additives, preservatives, food coloring, and synthetic fragrances, and they were easy to make.
What you’ll find below is the recipe and instructions for making the bath balls, a Materia medica of a few essential oils to help you make medicinal choices, and local stores from which you may purchase the ingredients. So get your mixing bowls, measuring cups and kids (this is a kid friendly project), and brew up some bath time fun.
Materia medica of Essential Oils for Bathing
Below are brief descriptions of some essential oils that are appropriate for bathing and full body application. If you use one that is not on the list, please take my advice, and remember that some essential oils should not be employed for bath use due to the fact that they are skin irritants. There are also some that may be used but only in small amounts.
Oils to exclude: black pepper, camphor, peppermint, spearmint, wintergreen, cinnamon, ginger, citrus (if you have a citrus allergy, sensitive or dry skin)
Oils to use in small amounts: clove, cardamom, rosemary, eucalyptus (use only a few drops per bath), citrus
If you have very sensitive skin, be sure to do a skin test before using essential oils in your tub. Take 1 drop of an essential oil you plan to use in the tub and add it to a teaspoon of carrier oil. Apply it to a place on your body that tends to be more sensitive or rash up-for some it’s the back, for others the arms or a small unnoticeable place on the face or neck. If there is no irritation then the oil is safe for bath use.
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia): cooling, sweet, sour and citrusy; analgesic, antispasmodic, mild antiseptic, astringent, deodorant, nerve tonic that balances the emotions
Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea): warming, sweet, floral and woody; anti-anxiety, mildly anti-fungal, anti-spasmodic, aphrodisiac, astringent, emmenagogue, hypo-tensive, sedative, nervine tonic
Clove (Syzygium aromatica): warm, sweet and spicy, analgesic, mild anti-fungal, anti- viral, broad spectrum anti-bacterial, stimulant
Frankincense (Boswellia carterii): warm and calming; lymphatic, sedative, diuretic, anti-septic, nervine tonic, anti-inflammatory, anti-asthmatic
Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens): warming, analgesic, mild anti-bacterial and anti-viral, anti-septic, anti-fungal, balances the water and oil content of the skin, diuretic, stimulates adrenal cortex, emotionally sedative or balancing
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): analgesic, Anti-spasmodic, antiseptic, carminative, cell regenerating, nervine; flu, spastic cough, headaches, appropriate for migraines, nervous tension, insomnia, muscle aches and pains
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus): warm, earthy, citrusy, sour and herbaceous; calms the nervous system, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, sedative, astringent, great for oily skin, anti-bacterial, headaches
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): warm and stimulating with an herbaceous and menthol scent; adrenal cortex stimulant in large doses, analgesic, anti-spasmodic, anti-septic, astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, supports the liver, hyper-tensive in large doses, nervine that relieves tension in small doses and stimulant in large doses, excellent tonic for muscles and nerves
Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides): cooling, lymphatic stimulant, nervine tonic, strengthens circulation and a weakened immune system, insect repellent, aphrodisiac
With so many good choices, it can be difficult to pick which oils to use. Just remember to keep bath formulas simple by using 1 or 2 essential oils per recipe. And take the following into consideration:
1. What do you need? Warming and relaxing, warming and stimulating, calming, improving immunity…there are many options here.
2. What scents do you like?
3. The season, and if you need to warm up or cool off.
Warming and stimulating (not for before bed): rosemary and clove
Anxiety Relieving: lemongrass and lavender
Immune Support/Emotional Harmonizer: lavender, lemongrass and vetiver
Feet on the Ground: Frankincense and vetiver
Intoxicating: geranium and clary sage
PMS relief: clary sage, lavender and bergamot
Respiratory Health: frankincense and clove
Anti-fungal: geranium and clove
The Ingredients, Recipe and Instructions
What you will need to make your bath balls:
citric acid, baking soda, corn starch, coconut oil (or another solid fat, like shea butter), apricot oil (or a liquid carrier oil of choice, such as jojoba, almond or grape seed), essential oil of choice*, measuring spoons and cups, a receptacle for heating the solid fat, and a container to store the bath balls in (glass is best).
Effervescent Bath Balls
1 cup of baking soda
½ cup of citric acid
2 tablespoons of corn starch
5 tablespoons of coconut oil (or shea butter)
2 tablespoon of carrier oil of choice (almond, jojoba, apricot seed, etc.)
40 drops total of essential oil (1 to 2 oils)
These get used up pretty quickly, so there is little worry of rancidity. But if you are concerned, remember the trick of using jojoba oil as the carrier oil. Because it is a wax, it does not go rancid and will act as a natural preservative.
1. Warm the coconut oil on low. I usually use my glass Pyrex or stainless steel measuring cup for this. While it melts, do step 2.
2. Put the baking soda, citric acid and corn starch together in a stainless steel bowl. Mix them together well.
3. Once the coconut oil is liquefied, add your carrier oil of choice to it. Let them sit together while the two reach the same temperature. This will prevent the coconut oil from hardening too quickly when you add the fat to the dry contents.
4. Add the liquefied fat to the dry ingredients. Mix.
5. Add the essential oils and mix well. At this point, if more liquid is needed mix in some carrier oil in 1/2 teaspoon increments (and don’t add more then 1 1/2 teaspoons total). The goal is that balls should pack together and hold thier shape without falling apart.
6. Now make the balls. Take a tablespoon of the mix and work it in your hand until you have formed a ball. Set them on a plate or stainless steel tray to dry and harden. This recipe makes approximately 25 balls.
Once made, store them in something. Glass is best, but use what works well for you in your bathroom situation.
Instructions for use: add 2-3 balls per bath, and stay in the tub for at least 20 min.
Where to purchase supplies? All the ingredients in this recipe can be found at The Willy Street Co-op on the East and West side, and at Community Pharmacy on State Street. That, of course, is in Madison, WI. For other areas call your local health or natural food store, or check online.
Besides the fact that this product is excellent to have around, the recipe itself can serve many purposes. It can be a slumber or birthday party craft project, something to fill a rainy day, or be made to inhabit an interesting box and given as a gift, as I had experienced them.
Baths are an excellent remedy for what ails you. And when combined with a homemade product that is fun and secretly therapeutic everyone benefits. Whether it’s an anxious, ill or exhausted child or adult, the positive effects can change our mind about our world and vibrate into our environment. So give these bath balls a try. You’ll be surprised by how easy they are to make, and by how lovely they are to use.