Consider gifts this Christmas that encourage relaxation

By Betty Ann Deobald
Colourful bath bombs and bath salts are fun to make, give as gifts or enjoy on your own as a part of a personal health routine. They can encourage relaxation, soften the skin and ease sore muscles and joints.
 
Epsom salts, a key ingredient in bath salts and bath bombs, has an interesting history. Back in 1618 a farmer’s cows in Epsom, England, thus the name, refused to drink from a specific well. The farmer discovered the water had a bitter taste but seemed to heal scratches and rashes on his skin.
 
Oral history, personal experience and many athletes support the use of Epsom salts to ease sore muscles and joints, aid in healing cuts and scrapes, and ease splinter removal.
 
There is debate regarding these benefits and the detoxifying effects of Epsom salts because they have not been proven scientifically. It is generally accepted that adding Epsom salt to a bath can be a part of a healthy relaxation routine.
 
Epsom salt is a naturally occurring chemical compound made up of magnesium, sulfur and oxygen. It is likely termed “salt” due to its crystalline structure that is similar to table salt, but it is a completely different compound than table salt.
 
For human use, the Epsom Salt Council recommends using only Epsom salt with the USP designation on the package.
 
Handcrafted Bath Salts
 
Combine Epsom salts with essential oils to create handcrafted fragrant bath salts. Creatively package these bath salts to make unique and inexpensive gifts for teachers, family, friends, co-workers or as stocking stuffers.
 
Layer different colours of scented bath salts in a mason jar, unique-shaped bottle, plastic jar or clear plastic Christmas ornament.
 
General mixing instructions for the following bath salt mixtures:
 
For one colour bath salt, place all of the ingredients in a large jar, secure the lid and shake well to mix essential oil and colour. When using two colours, divide ingredients between two jars, or make two separate batches and add essential oils and colours as stated in recipe. Shake well to blend.
 
To ease filling containers use a funnel or roll a piece of paper into a funnel. For two colours alternate pouring mixtures into desired container. Secure lids and top of ornaments with clean tape.
 
Decorate the container with ribbon or garland. Add a hanger and ribbon to the ornament.
 
Add a note identifying the fragrance and include these instructions: “Add half a cup to bath as tub is filling. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes.”
 
Adapted from: thefrugalgirls.com.
 
Orange vanilla swirl
 
1 c. Epsom salt 250 mL 
1/4 c. baking soda 60 mL
12 drops vanilla essential oil in half of the mixture
5 drops orange or citrus essential oil
3 drops red food colouring 
3 drops yellow food colouring
 
In second half of mixture, add orange essential oil and red and yellow food colouring and mix well.
 
Candy cane bath salts
 
2 c. Epsom salt 500 mL
1/4 c. baking soda 60 mL
5-6 drops peppermint or eucalyptus 
essential oil
5-6 drops red food colouring 
to tint half of the 
bath salts
 
Lavender bath salts
 
1 c. Epsom salt 250 mL
1/4 c. baking soda 60 mL
3-6 drops lavender essential oil 
4-6 drops blue food colouring 
to slightly tint all or half of the bath salts.
Lemon bath salts
 
1 c. Epsom salts 250 mL 
1/4 c. baking soda 60 mL
3-6 drops lemon essential oil
3-6 drops food colouring to 
slightly tint half or all 
of the bath salts
 
Warming Mustard Bath
 
This is a popular English recipe, Use at the first sign of a cold. The mustard opens the pores and encourages sweating it also relieves sore muscles and improves sleep.
 
1 c. Epsom salt 250 mL
2 tbsp. powdered 
mustard 30 mL
2 drops rosemary essential oil
2 drops eucalyptus essential oil
 
Mix ingredients and pour into a clean, dry container.
 
Add a quarter cup to the bath under running water.
 
For a footbath: Add one tablespoon of the mixture to a basin of hot water, then soak feet for 15 minutes.
 
Adapted from epsomsaltcouncil.org.
 
Homemade Bath Bomb
 
Yields six 2 1/4 inch (6 cm) bath bombs.
 
The intent of a bath bomb is two-fold: first is the fun of watching the fizzing action of the bomb as it dissolves in a tub of warm water, and the other is the relaxing and cleansing benefits of the baking soda and Epsom salt.
 
There are many different recipes for bath bombs, some using citric acid and others using coconut oil.
 
Both of these ingredients are expensive. This adapted recipe uses kitchen ingredients and is kid friendly to make and use.
 
1 c. baking soda 250 mL
1/2 c. cornstarch 125 mL
1/2 c. Epsom salts 125 mL
4 tbsp. cream of tartar 60 mL
2 tbsp. canola oil 30 mL 
3 tbsp. water 45 mL
1/2 tsp. essential oil 2 mL
food colouring (optional)
essential oil (optional)
 
Collect plastic or metal bath bomb moulds, plastic Easter egg, muffin/tart tins or silicone moulds.
 
In a glass bowl, combine baking soda, cornstarch, Epsom salts and cream of tartar and mix with a whisk to thoroughly combine.
 
In a small bowl, mix well oil, water, food colouring and essential oil. 
 
Very slowly add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, whisking continually to avoid the liquid starting the fizzing action. Mix until the mixture forms a crumbly texture, similar to wet sand and just wet enough to hold its shape when moulded together. The mixture will feel cold.  
 
Generously over-fill mould with the mixture and press firmly in the middle and up the sides to pack into the mould. Add more mixture, press in, then add more for joining with the other half.
 
Repeat the process with the other half of the mould then quickly press the two halves together to create a ball or egg shape.
 
Continue to press together until mixture appears to be firmly packed.
 
Tap the mould with the back of a spoon to loosen from mould. Place bath bomb on a towel to dry. Quickly repeat with the rest of the mixture to avoid it drying out. 
 
If the mixture begins to dry out add 1/2 teaspoon of water and mix.
 
The mixture could also be firmly packed into muffin/tart tins or silicone moulds. Allow to dry eight  hours or overnight before un-moulding. 
 
To make a two or three colour bath bomb, omit the food colouring from the liquids.
 
Prepare the mixture and then divide between two to three containers, add food colouring and mix to combine the colouring. Alternate the colours in the mould.
 
It is best to use bath bombs within a few weeks because they lose their effervescence over time.
Adapted from www.honestlymodern.com.

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