Jewelweed soap is fun to make this time of year, when the plant is just starting to send up tender, young shoots full of soothing juice. Jewelweed uses lots of water to make this wonderful juice, and is often found in very wet environments near running water. Jewelweed soap is an excellent natural poison ivy remedy, one of many skin-loving jewelweed uses. It is the fresh juice that is the most active component of the jewelweed plant, so one of the major soap ingredients is an oil infusion using jewelweed and olive oil. This jewelweed infusion is then used in a batch of soap, coloring soap naturally a deep, brownish-olive color.
If you are new to soap making, learn how to make homemade soap in this article. When making jewelweed soap, there are special procedures to follow. There is the preliminary step of creating a jewelweed infusion. Next, use ice cubes to hydrate your lye instead of cold water. Also, it is best to make jewelweed soap with room temperature soap ingredients, rather than the usual soaping temperatures of 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, to ensure the soap does not overheat, I recommend that you place the finished soap into the freezer immediately after pouring into the mold. Being frozen will not affect the saponification process. Freezing soap has the added benefit of making it very easy to pop the soap out of the mold.
My best recommendation is that you have some basic soap making experience before attempting to make jewelweed soap. My experience has been that the plant matter causes the soap tracing process to speed up, and also causes the soap mixture to superheat to very high temperatures, which can lead to heat tunnels in the finished soap. This is the reasoning behind the extra precautions mentioned above. Below, the basic recipe for a three-pound loaf of soap.
Jewelweed Soap with Tea Tree Oil
Makes approx. 48 ounces of soap, about 10 large bars
- Palm oil, 20% – 6.4 oz
- Coconut oil, 25% – 8 oz
- Olive oil, 40% – 12.8 oz TOTAL, using the olive oil infused with jewelweed first
- Castor oil, 15% – 4.8 oz
- Sodium Hydroxide – 4.25 oz
- Water (ice cubes) – 12.15 oz
- Tea Tree Essential Oil – 1-2 ounces, as desired
- Optional – 2 Tbsp. dried jewelweed plant powder
First, make the oil infusion with the fresh plant matter. Chop three cups of fresh, clean jewelweed leaves and stems and place in a slow cooker on Low with three cups of olive oil. Allow this mixture to cook for about eight hours, or overnight. Strain and cool the olive oil before use. It will give the soap a deep brownish-olive color.
When you are ready to make jewelweed soap, mix 4.25 ounces of lye with 12.15 ounces of ice, stirring gently until the lye has dissolved. Sometimes there are bits of crystallized lye that are stubborn about dissolving; in that case, allow the lye water to sit for several minutes and stir again. The lye should dissolve completely. Set aside.
In a small container, weigh 6.4 ounces of palm oil. Place the oil in a large, nonreactive mixing bowl. Reuse the smaller container to weigh out 8 ounces of coconut oil. Pour the coconut oil into the larger container. Heat the solid oils in a microwave or on the stove top as gently as possible, just until melted. Allow the oils to cool once again to room temperature, about 75 degrees. To the hard oils, add 12.8 ounces of olive oil, using the infused olive oil first and making up the balance with regular olive oil. Finally, add 4.8 ounces of castor oil and mix the base oils well.
Before proceeding further, make sure your mold is ready for the pour. Weigh out the tea tree oil and set aside. With all tasks complete, finally pour the lye water through a strainer into the base oils. Use a nonreactive spoon to stir the mixture thoroughly by hand before processing with the immersion blender. Then, with the immersion blender, blend in short, one-minute bursts until thin trace is reached. Add half of the tea tree oil, stir well, and then add more as desired to achieve the scent concentration you prefer. Continue processing with the immersion blender until medium trace is reached. Check the temperature of your soap batter. Is it getting warmer? Give the soap batter another good stir and then pour into the mold. Immediately place the finished soap in a freezer for the first 24-48 hours to prevent overheating.
Allow the soap to thaw out and dry off for several hours on a piece of waxed paper before cutting into bars with a cheese wire, dough cutter or long, sharp knife. As with most soap varieties, this soap is best after a 4-6 week cure time, although it is safe to use as soon as the pH tests at 9.
Now that you have all of the information you need to make jewelweed soap, will you give it a try? Share your experiences with us!