Everyone I know is sick, getting over being sick, or coming down with some form of sickness.
Hacking, coughing, sneezing, snotting, fever...the pox is upon us!
When this happens, I always want to scour every surface, crack, crevice, and dirty little hand within my sight. And don't even get me started on contamination and the spread of nasty little germs, or this post will turn into a novel. Instead, let me share with you a soap recipe and a bit o' 14th century history...
In the 14th Century, at the height of the Black Plague in Europe, people were trying to find ways to avoid contamination. At the time, most common folk, and even the physicians of the time, had no idea how illness and diseases were spread. The concept of microscopic wee little buggers wasn't completely conceptualized yet. Illness was either thought to be brought about by the wrath of some God, who was, of course, exacting his punishment upon you, or by an imbalance of one of the four "humors" of Hippocratic medicine: black bile, yellow bile, blood, or phlegm (mmm, now there's a nice thought for ya!). Humorism, as it is known, or The Four Temperaments, is an interesting concept all on it's own...but I digress.
The Bubonic Plague, or The Great Pestilence or The Black Death as it was commonly known, wiped out an extraordinary amount of people during it's pandemic reign which peaked in Europe between 1348 and 1350. It is estimated that between 75 million and 200 million people lost their lives to this painful and fatal illness that is now thought to have been spread by rodents.
Now those of you that know me can see why I hate rodents!
Snakes? No problem. Spiders? Ok. Rodents? ACK! I barely survived my younger son owning Robo-Hamsters, who were cuter than I expected, alas, they are still "rodents". I'm convinced that just holding that tiny ball of fur in my hands for two seconds caused long term heart arrythmias. Just the thought makes me want to go wash my hands (with my Four Thieves soap)...be right back...
As the tales go, in the midst of such miasma, and of course necessity being the mother of invention, thieves were believed to brew an herbal vinegar-concoction to ward off the plague so that they could scavenge the corpses and properties of plague victims without contracting the illness themselves. Another version of the tale surrounding "Thieves Vinegar" is that the thieves, in punishment for previous crimes, were dispatched to collect and bury the bodies of plague victims, and in order to avoid contracting the disease, brewed this herbal concoction. The actual recipes were clandestine, and only revealed as a bartering tool against punishment when the thief got caught. The ingredients varied, but most included mint, along with either rosemary, sage, rue, wormwood, or thyme, and of course, garlic.The ingredients varied, but the purpose was the same: Avoid the illness that killed half the population.
In modern times, through the wonders of science, we have found the herbs used in Four Thieves recipes do indeed contain chemical constituents that act as antivirals, antibacterials, antifungals, antiparasitics, and antiseptics. It is with this in mind that I formulated my own "Four Thieves" concoction, and translated it into a cold process soap recipe. I am not the first to do this, nor the last...and you may very well be the next to attempt the process after reading this post!
So without further adieu...
FOUR THIEVES ~ 14th CENTURY SOAP
I will give this recipe in percentages, instead of actual amounts, so that you can calculate oz/grams/lbs to accomodate your mold or batch size. I also gel all of my Cold Process soaps, but that is just my personal preference. This recipe will work with a gelled or ungelled soap, but will be easier to unmold sooner if you allow it to gel due to the high Olive Oil content. I allow all of my Cold Process soaps to cure for 6 weeks prior to use or sale, and encourage you to use a 4-6 week cure period.
Please make sure to use proper WEIGHT measurements, even for essential oils (not fluid measurements) and run your recipe through a lye calculator, such as the one at http://www.soapcalc.net
I used Aloe Vera Juice for my entire liquid amount with a 30% Water:Oil ratio and a 5% lye discount/superfat, but you can use whatever ratios you are comfortable with.
45% Olive Oil (infused with Nettle, Dandelion, Comfrey, Rosemary, or any herbs of your choosing based on their beneficial properties)
30% Coconut Oil
20% Sustainable Palm Oil (or Tallow if you prefer Animal Fats over Palm Oil, considering the ecological controversy)
5% Castor Oil
ADDITIVES - Total Essential Oil Rate of 5% of Base Oils Weight:
Essential Oils of:
Tea Tree 2%
Rosemary 1% (You could use Lemon Myrtle in place of the Rosemary)
If you are making a 100 oz batch of the above base oils, use 5 oz TOTAL essential oils in the percentages mentioned above.
For 100 oz batch, you would use 1 oz Peppermint, 2 oz Tea Tree, 1 oz Eucalyptus, and 1 oz Rosemary.
If you are using the Cold Process Method, you can add the Essential Oils to your base oils prior to mixing them with your lye solution or at trace. If you are using the Hot Process Method, you should add them at the end of the cook.
Peppermint Essential Oil is used in Aromatherapy for relief from inflammation, nausea, indigestion, fever, headaches, and is a stimulant with antiseptic properties.
Tea Tree Essential Oil is used in Aromatherapy as an Antiviral, Antifungal, and Antibacterial. It provides relief from colds, influenza, and inflammation.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil is used in Aromatherapy as an Antiseptic and Antiinflammatory and provides relief from sore throats, cough, sinusitis, and bronchitis.
Rosemary Essential Oil is used in Aromatherapy for relief of headaches, fatigue, rheumatism, and muscle aches and pains. It is a stimulant, an analgesic, a decongestant, and antiseptic.