The window of time to gather holiday gifts for our loved ones seems to fly by faster than the blink of an eye, and the pressure is on to stuff stockings with the most perfect and thoughtful treasures. To thwart the stress, I’ve curated a list of five simple, eco-friendly gifts that you’ll be proud to give to all the special people in your life. Nothing says “I love you” like a handmade gift, and these all-natural goodies for bath, body, and home are made with minimal ingredients that are all available at local health food stores. They couldn’t be easier to put together, even if you’re feeling pinched for time.
1. Relaxing pillow spray
This three-ingredient elixir is wonderful for setting the mood for the best night’s sleep. Fill a 1- or 2-ounce spray bottle most of the way full with distilled water. (If you don’t have distilled, use spring water plus 1 teaspoon of unscented, alcohol-free witch hazel.) Add 10 to 15 drops of lavender essential oil and 10 to 15 drops of clary sage essential oil. This potion is perfect for spritzing on pillows or sheets before jumping into bed and floating away to mystical dream lands.
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2. Clean-burning beeswax candles
For these candles, you can really get creative by using any glass or ceramic container you want, like mason jars or vintage tea cups and saucers. They look elegant and smell heavenly in any room of the house. Using a double boiler (or placing a heatproof bowl over simmering water), melt together 1 pound of beeswax shavings and 1 cup of virgin unrefined coconut oil, stirring every few minutes until the mixture is completely liquefied. (You can find beeswax in smaller quantities at local health stores; I sometimes buy mine in bulk online). With a hot glue gun, secure a metal based wick to the bottom center of a glass container. Mix together a variety of essential oils (about 15–25 drops total) to add fragrance to each candle – I used pine, camphor, orange, and cinnamon for the one you see above – then carefully pour the molten wax into each glass. To keep the wick upright, either wrap it around a pencil or secure it with a clothespin that rests rest across the lip of the jar. Allow candles to set overnight.
Tip: It’s safe to use your regular pots for this recipe. I use a large spouted Pyrex cup, which makes pouring molten wax much easier. When cleaning, using very hot water is imperative, since the oils and water don’t mix. Any dish soap will work, but you’ve got to put in a little elbow grease to remove all the wax.
3. Herbal bentonite clay soak (or steam)
This herbal mix is perfect in a hot bath to soak away winter chills or it can be used as an invigorating steam. Simply combine 2 heaping tablespoons of bentonite clay and 1 teaspoon each of eucalyptus leaves, nettles, rose petals, and hibiscus. As a soak, the bentonite clay works deep to remove toxins from the body and relaxes tired muscles, while the herbs simultaneously refresh and soothe the skin. To use the mixture as a steam, add the ingredients to a large bowl of hot water. Immerse your face in the steam and cover your head with a large towel, letting the herbal steam work its magic for 15–20 minutes.
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4. Herbal healing salve
This mixture of oils and herbs makes the perfect secret weapon for achy muscles as well as thirsty winter skin. Break out the double boiler and simmer 1 ounce of shaved beeswax, ¼ cup cold pressed olive oil, and ¼ cup virgin unrefined coconut oil. Once melted, add 1 tablespoon each of comfrey, chamomile, and calendula. (Optional: Add 1–2 tablespoons of arnica oil for pain relief.) Allow the mixture to soak for 2–4 hours, so that the oils can absorb the herbal extracts. Distribute into airtight glass jars and rub into the skin as needed. (For pouring and cleaning advice, see the tips for candle making above.)
5. Exfoliating coffee scrub
The caffeine in this scrub enlivens the skin while simultaneously soothing skin imperfections. Using ¼ to ½ cup of your favorite medium-fine ground coffee, mix in ¼ cup coarse Himalayan pink salt, 3 tablespoons almond oil, and 10 drops orange essential oil. Store the coffee scrub in an airtight glass jar and gently massage into damp skin to buff away winter scales and reveal soft, exhilarated skin. Leave the scrub on for about 20 minutes before gently washing off.
Photos by Caroline Goddard.