It's so natural column

Bath and shower products can quickly add unnecessary additional costs to the household budget, and in most cases many of these expensive toiletries can be replaced with inexpensive natural, homemade products.

If you're one of those individuals who loves to lie back and relax in a warm bath, the addition of herbs, such as mint, rosemary and lavender, will stimulate circulation, revitalise the skin and energise the body.

Chamomile and thyme will soothe and soften the skin, and bay leaf and sprig of rosemary will ease tired and aching muscles after a strenuous workout.

Add your selected herbs to a square of muslin, tie it at the top with a piece of ribbon and either hang it from the tap, so that the water gushes through it while you fill the tub, or place it in the bath itself to soak in the water.

You can also use your herbs to cleanse your skin. Just add two tablespoons of medium- ground oatmeal to your herbs, and then use the muslin bath bag to scrub your body, paying particular attention to heels, knees and elbows.

A variation of this is the soapy wash bag.

Make the bag from 25-centimetre square piece muslin, include a drawstring, and add two tablespoons each of dried herbs and ground oatmeal, and leftover soap scraps, or one tablespoon of pure, unscented, grated soap.

Use it in the bath or shower.

If you prefer to wash with a liquid soap, place leftover pieces of soap in a jar of hot water, then add some lemon juice and glycerine and shake well.

Store in a suitable, unbreakable container.

Soap scraps can also be turned back into bars of soap.

Just place them in a saucepan, cover with water and allow to soak for 24 hours, giving an occasional stir. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the soap has dissolved.

Remove from the stove and add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to each cupful of liquid.

Pour into suitable moulds and allow the soap to harden for two weeks before use.

Shampoo is another inexpensive product that you can make at home, making use of grated soap or soap scraps.

Finely grind two tablespoons of dried rosemary by rubbing it through a fine wire sieve and then mix it together with two tablespoons of finely grated, pure soap and one tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda.

Store in an airtight container.

To use the shampoo, mix one tablespoon of the shampoo mix with a small quantity of water and massage well into the scalp and hair, then rinse well.

To condition your hair after shampooing, take one or two drops of either rosemary or lavender essential oil, or a combination of both, rub between the palms of the hands and lightly apply over your wet hair.

A few drops of rosemary oil rubbed into the scalp after washing stimulates the blood and makes an excellent skin conditioner.

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