Hands down, lavender is just about the best soap making herb. It’s light and clean scent is popular for a reason and it provides a sense of comfort. It is antibacterial and can help to heal wounds. Lavender is also well known for its relaxing properties and uses as a natural sleep aid. Use it whole in your herbal soap for a gentle exfoliating property or powdered for even gentler action
Chamomile is soft and fragrant. It’s a gentle healing herb and is very soothing. It can also help to remove bacteria on the skin, although not as well as lavender.
Often called pot marigold, calendula is not in the marigold family, but is in the aster family. Calendula is very healing and can help to remove redness from the skin. Many herbs turn dark after a few weeks in the soap, but calendula herbal soap will hold its colour very well for a long time.
When it’s dried, lemon balm loses some of its lemony scent, but it still works very well in soap. Lemon balm is thought to be antiviral and can help to kill germs when you wash with it. It provides a dark green colour and a bit rougher exfoliation than lavender or chamomile, while not abrading the skin.
One of the most soothing herbs for herbal soap is marshmallow root. When powdered and used in making soap, the soap becomes soothing and softens the skin very well. Its demulcent action helps to provide moisture for overworked hands. (Find organic marshmallow root powder here.)
Comfrey root, dried and ground into a powder, is added to soap to help heal the skin. It is very effective for acne and poison ivy rash, while not being too harsh. It will not dry the skin out but will help to heal the skin. You can also use the leaf, although the root has more healing properties.
Almost all of the mints are antibacterial, making them a great choice for soap making. There are several different types of mint, some having more of the characteristic minty smell than others like peppermint and spearmint, chocolate mint and grapefruit mint.
Perhaps one of the most useful herbs in herbal soap making is rosemary. It is antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral. It is also full of antioxidants. Rosemary Oil Extract, or ROE, is sold as a preservative for soap and other body care products. I like to powder my rosemary since the leaves are pointy like pine needles.
Rose petals are very soft and they can lend a softening property to soap making. Using rose petals in herbal soap can not only soften the skin but also provides gentle exfoliation. Rose petals contain a lot of Vitamin C, which is also beneficial to the skin.
One more ingredient, oatmeal, is used extensively in herbal soap making. While it is not an herb, it is worth a mention. Oatmeal provides exfoliation while soothing and softening the skin. You can use rolled or old-fashioned oats, whole or ground oats, or you can make oat “milk” by soaking the oats in water and then draining the liquid. Use the liquid as your water portion in making soap.