From Lemon to Balm

The first time I followed an online recipe to make my own natural solid perfume, I found that the method (adding essential oils to melted beeswax and a carrier oil) worked beautifully, but the resulting product had far too little fragrance; in fact, there was no fragrance at all, except for the beeswax! Don’t get me wrong … I love beeswax. I go to health food stores and stand for minutes at a time blissfully inhaling the deliciousness of every honey-scented candle. But since the idea was to use all those lovely essential oils to make an actual perfume, I was – naturally – quite disappointed.

The recipe went wrong, I think, in calling for a lot of beeswax – already quite aromatic – and sweet almond oil, and only a few drops of each essential oil. Perhaps that was, in the words of Bilbo Baggins, like “butter scraped over too much bread.” The proportions definitely needed tweaking, and as I experimented with other recipes (see some of them here), I came to the conclusion that quite a bit more essential oil was needed to make an impact.

Around the same time, I was in the midst of researching fixatives for my post on the basics of perfume formulation. I read that, besides its benefits to perfumery, frankincense oil is a good analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic; it also soothes, calms, fades scars and wrinkles and promotes wound healing. Its ability to reduce pain and swelling is shared by several other essential oils, and that’s when the lightbulb went on.

Since I didn’t want to waste the materials I’d used in my failed attempt, I figured there was nothing wrong with digging them out of the tin, re-melting them and adding the new essential oils to make a balm – one that I’ve, ahem, sorely needed for several weeks now.

Lately I’ve been suffering from a painful flare-up of arthritis in my toes, which has led to persistent swelling of my feet and ankles – particularly troublesome since my coaching job keeps me on my feet for hours at a time, and I’ve been wearing heels to my new office job. (No longer; I’ve abandoned high fashion for ballet flats or cushy moccasins.) Whenever I’m at home, I have to sit with my feet propped up on cushions, which gives only minor, temporary relief. I don’t like the idea of using one of those rub-in analgesics that contain capsaicin, which can sting terribly if it somehow gets in the eyes or mucous membranes. (You shouldn’t put essential oils there, either.) Given the new information about frankincense et al, I finally had a way to deal with the perfume-gone-wrong!

To my re-melted mixture, I added the essential oils of frankincense, sweet orange and German chamomile, all of which are supposed to be good for arthritis and painful joints. I also added another squirt of almond oil to help make it a little softer and easier to rub into the skin.

Now, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV, so I can’t make any claims as to my mixture’s medicinal or therapeutic value, but the resulting fragrance is lovely, and it makes for a pleasurable massage. I don’t know why, but it produces a slight cooling sensation for a couple of minutes after it’s rubbed in, too, which is quite nice. I’ve used it on sore joints and dry skin, and, yes, as a perfume. In fact, of all the solid perfumes I’ve attempted, this one is my very favourite!

Gillyflower’s Orange Frankincense Balm (2 fl. oz. / 60 mL)

2 tbsp beeswax
2 tbsp sweet almond oil
up to 50 drops frankincense essential oil
up to 50 drops sweet orange essential oil
up to 50 drops German chamomile essential oil
2 oz. glass or metal container

Combine the essential oils and set aside • In a Pyrex measuring cup inside a double boiler, gently melt the beeswax and almond oil together over medium heat • Remove pot from heat and let sit for 10 minutes, then add the essential oils and stir well • Dry off the outside of measuring cup and pour mixture into balm container • Allow to cool and solidify • Yields about 2 fl. oz. (60 mL)