Homemade Herbal Bath Potions With Magical Properties
A potion is defined as, simply, “a liquid with healing, magical, or poisonous properties.” They show up time and time again in fairytales, legends, myths, and stories, altering fates and transforming characters. The beautiful thing about potions is that you can devise your own! The more wild plants I become familiar with, the more names I recognize in movies, books, and even TV shows; mugwort, wormwood, yarrow, hawthorn, and valerian, to name a few. There’s a reason these plants make their way into our modern-day fairytales; their various properties have been exalted for centuries in all manner of uses.
I was inspired to develop a series of bath potions while reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling, where the main character Harry enters a special bathroom reserved for the student elite:
“It was softly lit by a splendid candle-filled chandelier and everything was made of white marble, including what looked like an empty rectangular swimming pool sunk into the middle of the floor. About a hundred golden taps stood all around the pool’s edges, each with a differently-colored jewel set into its handle… He could tell at once that they carried different sorts of bubble bath mixed with the water, though it wasn’t bubble bath as Harry had ever experienced it. One tap gushed pink and blue bubbles the size of footballs. Another poured ice-white foam so thick that Harry thought it would have supported his weight if he’d cared to test it. A third sent heavily-perfumed purple clouds hovering over the surface of the water. Harry amused himself for a while turning the taps on and off, particularly enjoying the effect of one whose jet bounced off the surface of the water in large arcs.”
While the recipes listed here may not create quite such extraordinary effects, they’re pretty magical. From a single base recipe you can design bath potions that shimmer, change colors, and even glow - each infused with the healing properties of foraged plants. Make the presentation extra fancy by gluing a clear glass drawer knob to the top of lids fit onto recycled bottles, then use a permanent paint marker to label and decorate each bottle.
A note about infusions: the benefits of herbs and spices can be captured in a wide variety of substances, including vinegar, alcohol, glycerin, oil, syrup, honey, or salt. Most of the recipes below use an infused glycerin, which is not only very nourishing to the skin, it also helps to create bubbles. Look for a natural, plant-derived form. To infuse glycerin, let fresh plant material wilt a bit, then place it into a clean, sterilized glass jar. Top with glycerin and let sit for 4-6 weeks, or place the well-sealed jar into a warm water bath for an hour or two, being careful to keep it from simmering.
Infusions to make ahead of time for the recipes below:
1/4 c. st. john’s wort tincture
st. john’s wort tincture
glycerin with honeysuckle and jasmine
Base Recipe: 1 1/2 c. liquid castille soap
1/2 c. vegetable glycerin
This recipe uses liquid castille soap, which is a natural liquid soap made from various vegetable oils and sodium hydroxide (lye.) The lye goes through a chemical reaction with the oils, creating a safe and gentle soap. For more bubbles but a less gentle or natural option, you could also use clear unscented dish soap.To make this recipe, gently stir the ingredients together with a spoon or chopstick, being careful to avoid vigorous whipping that produces bubbles. Add the extra ingredients from your chosen potion and stir again, then pour into a bottle. Be sure to invert the bottle a few times before using to mix the ingredients, since some of them naturally separate out. Once a potion is mixed, use it within 4 months.
Phoenix Blood: For warming you to the bone and bringing light to dark situations
2 Tbs. powdered ginger
2 Tbs. powdered mustard
1 Tbs. powdered freeze dried raspberries
1/4 c. St. John’s Wort tincture
1 tsp. sea buckthorn seed oil
10 drops clove essential oil
10 drops ginger essential oil
St. John’s Wort tincture can be made by covering fresh (it doesn’t work with dried) blossoms with vodka and letting it sit for 4-6 weeks. The yellow flowers and green foliage will produce an unexpected dark crimson colored tincture, which is also taken internally for treating seasonal depression (but should be used only under the care of a doctor as it interacts with other medications.) Sea buckthorn seed oil is an orange or red oil pressed from the seeds of the sea buckthorn berry. It is very healing to the skin. For extra magic, infuse the glycerin in the base recipe with St. John’s Wort too.
Glowbug Juice: To get bright for something special
6 crushed B-vitamins high in Thiamene
1/2 tsp. matcha powder
Infuse the glycerin with honeysuckle and jasmine
12 drops lemon essential oil
3 drops ylang ylang essential oil
If you’ve ever wanted to bottle up the sweetness of summer evenings, this is the potion for you. The honeysuckle and jasmine imbue the glycerin with a gentle floral essence, and the crushed b-vitamins make the liquid glow in the presence of a black light!
Mermaid’s Tears: When you need the water to heal you
4 capsules blue algae
1 Tbs. dulse flakes
1/3 c. corn syrup
20 drops geranium essential oil
10 drops peppermint essential oil
This blend has strong, lasting blue bubbles thanks to the algae and corn syrup. It’s for times of uncertainty or grief, when you want to stay in the tub a little longer than usual. The blue algae is full of nutrients that are great for the skin and the dulse adds iodine, magnesium, and other sea minerals to the blend.
Chameleon: For days when you want to emerge anew.
1/4 c. dried butterfly pea flowers
1/2 c. water
15 drops yarrow essential oil
6 drops cardamom essential oil
Small bottle clear white vinegar
11 drops cardamom essential oil
This potion is very special because it changes color halfway through! It’s perfect for times when you want a new start or to encourage a transition. Steep the butterfly pea flowers in the hot water until it has taken on a very deep blue color. Strain, and add to the base recipe along with the yarrow and cardamom essential oils. Add the remaining cardamom essential oil to the bottle of vinegar and mix well. When you take your bath, wait until the bubbles have gone down a bit, then hold in your mind the change you wish to embrace. As you picture those changes, sprinkle the “change elixir” over the top as you utter how you’d like to change. Then watch the bathwater change color before your eyes!
Bottled Sunbeams: To nourish dry skin and sink into the slowness of summer
1/4 c. light almond oil
1/4 c. honey
Big pinch saffron threads
1 Tbs. vodka
2 Tbs. dried calendula petals
1/2 tsp. gold luster dust
7 drops grapefruit essential oil
5 drops bergamot essential oil
5 drops frankincense essential oil
Whether your skin is dried from late summer sunbeams or midwinter cold, this bath is like sinking into a soft golden pool of sunlight. Almond oil and honey nourish, calendula soothes, and saffron gives the brew a lovely golden color and heady scent. The final addition of luster dust gives your bath (and your skin) a luminous glow. To make this recipe, steep the calendula in the almond oil overnight. Steep the saffron in the vodka overnight. Then mix it all together (don’t strain) and add to the base mix. Mix well.
Pensieve: A soothing way to sink into magical dreams
1 tsp. silver luster dust
2 Tbs. dried mugwort to brew into a strong tea
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 c. mugwort tea or water.
20 drops lavender essential oil
This blend has extra large bubbles, thanks to the cornstarch and baking powder. It’s the perfect “before bedtime” bath to promote restful sleep and intense dreams. The lavender relaxes while the mugwort promotes lucid dreaming and a gentle dream state. Silver luster dust gives the brew a lovely silvery shimmer. To make this brew, infuse the mugwort into the glycerine in the base recipe for a few weeks. Strain, then make a tea with the mugwort and water. Let steep for 20 minutes, then strain. Mix the mugwort tea with the cornstarch and baking powder and mix well until dissolved. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and pour into the bottle. The contents of this potion tend to settle, so be sure to gently swirl the bottle around before your bath to get it all re-mixed.
If you’d prefer to design your own magical bath potion, here are some other optional additions you might want to consider:
1/4 c. light almond oil - smooth and moisturizing
1/3 c. corn syrup - strong, lasting bubbles
1/4 c. cornstarch + 1 Tbs. baking powder - large bubbles
2 crushed B-vitamins high in Thiamine - glows yellow under a black light (quinine glows blue)
fluorescent tempera paint also glows under a black light
color-changing butterfly pea
sparkling edible luster dust for shimmer
mustard powder and/or ginger - warming
If you’re looking for a little more down-to-earth activity to do on Halloween, why not light some witchy candles and have yourself a magical bath? Indulge in a few of the fun recipes featured here and sink into the experience. (Also a great way to warm up after a cold adventure trick-or-treating, for both kids and their parents!)
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