Cosmetic aromatherapy: This therapy utilizes certain essential oils for skin, body, faceand hair cosmetic products. These products are used for theirvarious effects as cleansing, moisturizing, drying and toning. A healthy skin can be obtained by use of essential oils in facial products. On a personal level, cosmetic aromatherapy of full-body or foot bath will be a simple and an effective way tohave an experience. Similarly, few drops of appropriate oil gives a rejuvenating and revitalizing experience.Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review- Babar Ali et al.
Massage aromatherapy: The use of grape seed, almond, or jojoba oil-in pure vegetable oils-during massage has been shown to have wonderful effects.This is also known as the healing touch of massage therapy.
Medical aromatherapy: The founder of modern aromatherapy Rene-Maurice Gatte-Fosse has used essential oils to massage patients during surgery, thus utilizing the medical aromatherapy knowledge of the effect of essential oils on promoting and treating clinically diagnosed medical ailments.
Olfactory aromatherapy: Inhalation of essential oils has given rise to olfactory aromatherapy, where simple inhalation has resulted in enhanced emotional wellness, calmness, relaxation or rejuvenation of the human body. The release of stress is welded with pleasurable scents which unlock odor memories. Essential oils are complementary to medical treatment and should never be taken as a replacement for it.
Psycho-aromatherapy: In psycho-aromatherapy, certain states of moods and emotions can be obtained by these oils giving the pleasure of relaxation, invigoration or a pleasant memory. The inhalation of the oils in this therapy is direct though the infusion in the room of a patient. Psycho-aromatherapy and aromacology, both deal with the study and effects of aroma be it natural or synthetic. Psycho-aromatherapy has limited itself with study of natural essential oils.
Muscle cramps, spasms
Stings and Bites
I love burning incense. I feel that it enhances my mood, lightens my spirit and provides for me a grounding atmosphere. Past that, I’ve never given it much thought.
As an herbalist, I’ve made smoking blends and aromatic herb smudges as well as essential oil inhalations. What is the difference between these herbal medicinal preparations and the incense sticks and cones we buy to make our house smell good?
At first, I began to think about the ingredients in the incense sticks and cones that you can find in local shops. Imagine the aforementioned herbal preparations, intended for inhalation, carefully chosen for their medicinal actions and benefits as compared to shop-bought incense cones marked “Strawberry”. From where did they get that strawberry fragrance? What hidden chemicals are lurking within? What exactly are we inhaling and why?
Furthermore, I asked myself what benefits can we get from burning incense; if it can be recognised and used more with the intention as an herbal healing preparation.
And then to explore that intention. What is our intention behind burning incense? Is it for creating a fragrant atmosphere? Is it a spiritual or sacred ritual to bring a sense of connectedness? Is it to change a mindset, to allow for an uplifting of mood? Can it serve a medicinal purpose alongside these other valid, yet more mainstream, ideas of the purpose of incense?
My hope is to bring another layer to herbal healing through the more purposeful and curated use of incense. I strive to connect the use of incense for fragrance with the healing constituents within the incense in order to meet my clients’ physical, emotional and spiritual needs with these precious plants.
Written in an insular script in c.800, Codex Sangallensis (csg.) 761 contains a variety of medical texts, including a collection of nearly fifty recipes and remedies covering pages 51–66 unattributed to a specific classical or late antique author. The final entry of this recipe collection is entitled Thimiama (see Fig 1). The recipe lists a handful of ingredients and quantities, but provides neither further instructions for its preparation nor information on its use:Incense in medicine: an early medieval perspective
The word thymiama is defined by Isidore of Seville as ‘incense’, a Greek‐derived synonym for incensum, thereby suggesting that this entry is a recipe for incense. 3 Since incense is intended to release fragrant smoke when burned, the recipe’s aromatic ingredients fit with this identification…As noted above, the incense recipe forms the end of the recipe collection and is then followed by an excerpt of Oribasius’ Synopsis; the manuscript also contains extensive selections of Oribasius’ Euporista as well as excerpts from the Hippocratic and Galenic corpora.Incense in medicine: an early medieval perspective
We have seen enough documentaries to know that throughout history, smudging, smoke inhalation and incense in some form has been used as ancient medicine. If I asked you to picture a shaman, I’m almost positive that you would picture someone who is burning something and waving a feather over it for his patient to inhale.There may be bones also somewhere in there, too. At least, this is a stereotype many have that is not easily altered.
On every continent, ancient peoples used the smoke of burning plants to treat patients for countless ailments and illnesses. The original application of plant smoke therapy was to burn aromatic herbs or medicinal tree resins on hot charcoal from a fire, and “bathe” the patient in smoke by fanning it towards them and around their bodies, or allow the patient to take deep inhales of the fragrant fumes for a certain period of time…In these holistic treatments, practitioners cater to internal healing through ingested herbs, teas, topical treatments, medicinal foods, or other applications, while also prescribing medicine through the airways (also internal medicine) in the form of incense. This approach adds another layer of depth, treating the root cause and symptoms together from every possible angle.Incense As Medicine- Evan Sylliaasen
When I was in Japan a few years ago, I fell in love with so many aspects of the culture as have many other Westerners like me. I long to go back there and study Kampo (Traditional Japanese Medicine) as I love their approach to learning and sacredness that elevates the seemingly mundane. With this in mind, I hoped to find some thoughts from the Japanese culture of elevating the mundane regarding the burning of incense.
Kōdō (香道, “Way of Fragrance”) is the art of appreciating Japanese incense, and involves using incense within a structure of codified conduct. Kōdō includes all aspects of the incense process, from the tools (香道具, kōdōgu), to activities such the incense-comparing games kumikō (組香) and genjikō (源氏香). Kōdō is counted as one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement, along with kadō for flower arrangement, and chadō for tea and the tea ceremony. The “Ten Virtues of Kō” (香の十徳, kōnojūtoku) were formulated, which is a traditional listing of the benefits derived from the proper and correct use of quality incense:
1. 感格鬼神 : Sharpens the senses
2. 清浄心身 : Purifies the body and the spirit
3. 能払汚穢 : Eliminates pollutants
4. 能覚睡眠 : Awakens the spirit
5. 静中成友 : Heals loneliness
6. 裏愉閑 : Calms in turbulent times
7. 多而不厭 : Is not unpleasant, even in abundance
8. 募而知足 : Even in small amounts is sufficient
9. 久蔵不朽 : Does not break down after a very long time
10. 常用無障 : A common use is not harmful
Join me on this path of uncovering the medicinal benefits of incense. I am currently compiling recipes and remedies for specific issues and ailments and experimenting with creating these beautiful natural herbal incese cones. It is both science and art. And, I can’t express in words how gloriously fragrant both my workshop and house currently are thanks to these experiments.
The commercial production of incense has created a problem for the healing and medicinal intentions of incense burning. I intend to make my incense cones and sticks by hand from materials I have grown or curated and processed myself. I have spent many hours in the past month grinding resins, barks and woods by hand in my marble mortar and pestle.
But what of these ones marked “Strawberry”?
Incense burning emits smoke containing particulate matter, gas products and other organic compounds and causes air pollution, airway disease and health problems. When incense smoke pollutants are inhaled, they cause airway dysfunction. Incense smoke is a risk factor for elevated cord blood IgE levels and has been indicated to cause allergic contact dermatitis. Incense smoke also has been associated with neoplasm. However, several conflicting reports have also been documented. The effect of incense smoke on health and the mechanism behind it needs to be further studied in an animal model. To obtain further conclusive results, more epidemiological studies with better controls and a longer time period are needed. Meanwhile, it is a good practice to keep the room well ventilated when burning incense. It will effectively dilute the indoor air pollutants and hence reduce the risk of exposure.Incense smoke: clinical, structural and molecular effects on airway disease
Ta-Chang Lin, Guha Krishnaswamy, and David S Chi
In 1413, as the bubonic plague decimated France, a group of merchant sailors was arrested for robbing dead and dying plague victims – a crime punishable by burning alive. The judge offered them leniency for their terrible crimes if they would share the secret which enabled them to expose themselves to the plague without contracting it. The sailors explained that they were spice merchants who were unemployed due to the closure of France’s seaports. They had prepared a special herbal infusion which they applied to their hands, ears, feet, masks, and temples and this protected them from infection. As promised, the judge did not burn the men alive – he hanged them instead.
Soon after, plague doctors began to wear beak-like masks stuffed with absorbent material soaked in the sailors’ blend to protect them from the disease (the beak is how doctors got the long-lasting nickname “quack”). The sailors’ original blend, containing vinegar and garlic, was known primarily as Vinaigre de Marseille
This specific vinegar composition is said to have been used during black death epidemic of the medieval period, to prevent the catching of the plague. Similar herbal vinegars have been used as medicine since the time of Hippocrates.
Early recipes for this vinegar called for a number of herbs to be added into a vinegar solution and left to steep for several days. The following vinegar recipe hung in the Museum of Paris in 1937, and is said to have been an original copy of the recipe posted on the walls of Marseille during an episode of the plague:
Take three pints of strong white wine vinegar, add a handful of each of wormwood, meadowsweet, wild marjoram and sage, fifty cloves, two ounces of campanula roots, two ounces of angelic, rosemary and horehound and three large measures of camphor. Place the mixture in a container for fifteen days, strain and express then bottle. Use by rubbing it on the hands, ears and temples from time to time when approaching a plague victim.Museum of Paris 1937
Plausible reasons for not contracting the plague was that the herbal concoction contained natural flea repellents, since the flea is the carrier for the plague bacillus, Yersinia pestis. Wormwood has properties similar to cedar as an insect repellent, as do aromatics such as sage, cloves, camphor, rosemary, and campanula. Meadowsweet, although known to contain salicylic acid, is mainly used to mask odors like decomposing bodies.
Another plausible reason for its effectiveness may be the antimicrobial properties of its constituents. Scientists have found wormwood, meadowsweet, wild marjoram, sage, cloves, campanula, angelica, rosemary, horehound and camphor to have antimicrobial properties.
Another recipe called for dried rosemary, dried sage flowers, dried lavender flowers, fresh rue, camphor dissolved in spirit, sliced garlic, bruised cloves, and distilled wine vinegar.
Modern-day versions include various herbs that typically include sage, lavender, thyme, and rosemary, along with garlic. Additional herbs sometimes include rue, mint, and wormwood. It has become traditional to use four herbs in the recipe—one for each thief, though earlier recipes often have a dozen herbs or more. It is still sold in Provence. In Italy a mixture called “seven thieves vinegar” is sold as a smelling salt, though its ingredients appear to be the same as in four thieves mixtures.
Theives oil can be used in many ways, if you have ideas or suggestions please let me know.
Clove bud (Syzygium aromaticum): analgesic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antihistamine, carminative
Lemon (Citrus Limonum): astringent, anti-inflammatory, tonic, carminative, diaphoretic, febrifuge, antibacterial, antioxidant
Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): Aromatic digestive stimulant, astringent, carminative, styptic, anti- H. Pylori
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus): Antiseptic, antispasmodic, expectorant, stimulant, febrifuge
Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinale): Carminative, antispasmodic, antidepressant, rubefacient, antimicrobial, antioxidant, circulatory stimulant
Our new (super old) farmhouse comes with a barely functional septic tank (cesspool is actually the right term here). If we want the thing to work, which we do, we can’t use any chemicals in the house or it will kill the good bacteria that we want. It seems step three of my all-natural, plastic-free journey came sooner than I expected.
Reevaluating how we clean the house, how many plastic bottles and how many chemicals we use has been really interesting and making the switch from chemical cleaners to all-natural ones isn’t easy. Our expectations of what cleaning is, how clean something should be and what it all will smell like in the end are deeply ingrained within us and it is a process that we can delicately, respectfully and gently flow through and the results will be discovered along the way.
The whole family must be considered when taking on this challenge. Not everyone in the family will be fans of the all-natural cleaning experience in the beginning. Or ever. Be prepared for a little cynicism from the more vocal of your family members.
I began by researching natural cleaning products. The ones in our bio/organic shops here are so super expensive and are still often in plastic spray bottles. I found recipes online for vinegar based cleaners, but my family hates the smell of vinegar, and I really was skeptical if it could clean all the surfaces that need cleaning.
What motivated me though, was the idea that I could make the cleaning concentrate myself, it could be actually edible, wouldn’t harm anything, could be put into repurposed plastic spray bottles that once held our “normal” cleaning products and could be effective.
Fill the jar 2/3 full with orange peels
Roughly chop up the herbs
Fill the rest of the jar with the herbs
Fill to the brim with the vinegar
Cover with baking paper and a rubber band
Let sit for 8-10 weeks
Check occasionally that all of the plant material is covered with vinegar
Decant into clean spray bottles
Fill spray bottle 1/3 with the cleaning solution
Add 10 drops of essential oil
Fill to the top with water
Shake well before using
I have now used this cleaner exclusively for 4 weeks. It does take a bit getting used to the vinegar smell. I am still looking to rework the recipe to help lighten that particular scent.
I find this cleaner super effective, it has cleaned up the kitchen, bathroom, floors, cat vomit, carpets, cat vomit again and mirrors. I was really surprised how well it cleaned glass and left no streaks. It has anti-bacterial and degreasing properties.
My family is using it as well, with varying degrees of annoyance at the vinegar scent. It doesn’t last, the aroma is surprisingly short-lived, but it is something to think about when making this change.
It feels good to use this natural cleaner. I feel like it is making a difference for our family and in some small way, for the planet. I encourage you to give it a try, and if you have any ideas about how to improve this recipe, please share them.
I am currently in the hospital. I had a nervous breakdown. After childhood trauma and many years of unending stress and suffering that increased in intensity, I broke…into pieces.
I had a powerful vision earlier this week:
It was of a precious ming dynasty vase that had been broken into many many pieces and clumsily taped together forming a vase that looked like a vase but couldn’t hold water. The tape was taken off piece by piece and those pieces freed from the tape gently floated swirling slowly in the air until all the pieces had been freed. Nothing remained of the shape of the vase, only the pieces scattered swirling in the air. I am that broken taped-up vase. The tape is now being released and the pieces are drifting apart. It is uncomfortable and frightening. What if I lose one of the pieces? What if they drift too far away? Can I hope to be whole, not taped up haphazardly, but standing strong and complete, beautiful and precious, able to hold the waters of my spirit and the tears of others without leaking?České Budějovice, Psychiatric Hospital 21.2.21
After sharing my vision with a few people whom I love, they all pointed me in this direction: Kintsugi, the Japanese art of precious scars. I wanted to share this with you, because I believe many of us find ourselves in this broken space wondering if we will ever be made whole. The idea of Kintsugi resonates with me on a very deep level. We can and will be made whole, more beautiful and functional than ever before. Our Creator, our Potter if you will allow, will make from our pain and suffering something wholly new and devastatingly lovely.
Read on, I promise, it’s worth it….
Kintsugi is a Japanese art form in which breaks and repairs are treated as part of the object’s history. Broken ceramics are carefully mended by artisans with a lacquer resin mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The repairs are visible, beautiful, and an antidote to the culture of disposability.
Kintsugi means “golden joinery” in Japanese. (Sometimes the process is called kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair.”)Treehugger.com
In my vision I felt sad that the vase was coming apart and a bit scared that some pieces might be lost. I was also hurting from the beauty of the vase, I felt a need to protect it because it was so beautiful and precious. I wasn’t terribly scared about losing the pieces once I saw that they were floating slowly surrounding the space the vase once occupied. I was concerned that it couldn’t hold water, that what was meant for it to do it couldn’t do in its current state and maybe would never be able to.České Budějovice, Psychiatric Hospital 21.2.21
I am deciding to engage in this process instead of trying to keep it together. The result will hopefully be a breakthrough but it is a weighty challenge.
In terms of idiom, the vision can suggest having been “cracked up” (crazy) already but keeping yourself together in artificial ways (tape is plastic, provisional, a weak bond, a temporary fix etc.). It can suggest also a lack of truth (ie ‘your story doesn’t hold water’). We can live in a way that is not true and sound. In this vision you were taking off the tape. This is necessary even though it means you lose your “shape” and can not be “useful” at the moment. I think that you may decide to lean in to this evisceration and debridement process in order to remove the tape. The floating particles strikes me as a magical, spiritual surprise that boded well for you. You didn’t fall to the floor and become sullied and discarded as a below worthless object that has been spent. In a way, your essence was liberated. The wholeness is there all along and freed from the tape, every particle of you can soar and fit into place perfectly and freely when it is time. There is another secret revealed here. You actually know your worth deep down. You are a priceless treasure.České Budějovice, Psychiatric Hospital 21.2.21
Read on, my friends…
I’m happy to introduce to you two new buddies in Krista’s Herbs Muddy Buddy Range:
Pure Buddies are for those with extremely sensitive skin or allergies who can or shouldn’t use products with fragrances. This Buddy is made with the most gentle of ingredients, including gorgeous Avocado Butter and loads of good intentions and love. It has the same cleansing and moisturizing effect as the other buddies in the range.
Calm Buddies are for those with irritated or worn out, damaged skin. These would be suitable for problems with rosacea, eczema or highly sensitive and troubled skin. Made with Kaolin and Bentonite clays, Chamomile hydrosol and delicate Blue Chamomile essential oil, they are calming and nourishing with a heavenly fragrance.
Every time I want to clean my face, here’s how it goes: I squeeze some gel from a plastic bottle and wash my face. Then, I squeeze some face scrub out of a plastic tube and exfoliate my face. After my shower, I take out a moisturising cream from a plastic tub and smear some on my dried out skin (dried out from too many soap products). In total, I’ve used at least three products with three plastic containers and I’ve managed to harm my face in the process because I’ve dried out my skin with soap and chemicals, tried to replace that moisture ineffectively and failed to really clean my skin.
I searched for soap-free facial cleansing products that were all-natural, super cleansing and moisturising and which didn’t come in plastic packaging. Even better if there was no packaging at all.
All package-free facial cleansing bars that I found were still soap-based. So I decided to make my own.
Using the natural drawing power of clays which cleanse by drawing out toxins and dirt from the skin, mixed with the deep hydration of natural butters and oils, my skin is clean and moisturised for the whole day, not greasy and I find that no extra creams are necessary.
Muddy Buddies are amazing to me. I think they might be one of my favourite products that I make.
Each Muddy Buddy is made of Shea Butter, Coconut oil, Natural Clays, Aloe Vera, Floral Water, Beeswax, Vitamin E oil and Essential oils.They are nutrifying, cleansing, regenerating, moisturizing and all-natural, made from locally-sourced ingredients.
Different Muddy Buddies suit different skin types and conditions.
How can I express my love for the Muddy Buddy? The rustic charm of this product is so appealing to all my senses! It is one of my favourite products and I have used mine so many times and I still have loads left!!!!! Genius product dearest Krista -Vicky
THE CLAY MASK IS OFF THE CHARTS! Last night my face felt like it was at a spa that I cannot afford! I rubbed it on my cheeks but then it was on my hand so I put the bar down and spread it with my hands around my face. I loved removing it with hot water and feeling cleansed yet deeply moisturized- Pamela
In a double boiler (or a pot nestled in a larger pot filled with a bit of water) over medium heat, add the oils, butters and beeswax.
Stir until the beeswax and butters melt and are fully incorporated.
Whilst the butters and wax are melting, in a seperate bowl mix together the clays.
Add the essential oils, aloe juice, hydrosol and Vitamin E oil to the clays. Stir.
Remove the melted wax and butters from the heat. Add this liquid to the clay mixture.
Mix well until fully incorporated.
The mixture should be smooth, yet like wet clay.
Form the mixture into smooth cookie-sized patties (this will be messy) and put them on baking paper on a prepared baking tray.
Let them dry in a warm, dry area for 2-3 days. (I use a dehydrator on 35 degrees Celsius)
I am on a challenging quest, and it is two-fold: to replace my current health and beauty products by making them myself with natural, responsibly-sourced plant materials AND to reduce the amount of single-use plastic that comes into my house.
My dream would be that my workshop would be a place where people would come and get their facial bars, shampoo bars, herbal soap concentrates, refill their deodorants and cleaning sprays and grind their grains into flour or perhaps make oils that they need. This already functions at my herbarium on a small community scale, but I see this as a service that more people could benefit from.
So, little by little, step by step, I am pushing forward to realize this dream. Here is my next piece of the puzzle: Krista’s Herbs Herbal Deodorant.
For right now, it is in a plastic, refillable deodorant tube. My next step will be to make the deodorant in a small glass jar so that it can be applied with your fingertips. I’m curious how many of you would be willing to take that big leap from a normal store-bought deodorant to a natural one that you apply with your fingers? Please let me know. I’d like to start working on it right away!
This deodorant is easily applied, smells great and works well. It is suuuuuper good for your skin and is easily refillable.
A small anecdote: I am currently in hospital (more on that in a later post) and all of us on my ward played ping-pong yesterday for an hour. It was quite vibrant and my herbal deo didn’t let me down.
My recipe is made with sustainably-resourced plant materials, beeswax from our village beekeeper, locally made essential oils and butters and loads of good intentions and love!
In a double boiler (or a pot nestled in a larger pot filled with a bit of water) over medium heat, add the oils, butters and beeswax.
Stir until the beeswax and butters melt and are fully incorporated.
Remove from the heat.
Add the essential oils, and Vitamin E oil. Stir.
Add in the arrowroot powder. Mix well untill fully incorporated.
Pour into clean deodorant containers.
Recipe fills 4 deodorant tubes
Recipe: 10 drops each of rosemary, lavender and sage
Recipe:15 drops each of yuzu (or lemon) and lemon verbena
Recipe: replace mango butter with avocado butter and do not add any essential oils
I gave a small eulogy at my Nana’s memorial service. I talked about a sense memory that has never left me though it is over 40 years old. Whenever I smell freshly squeezed orange juice, I am instantly transported to my Nana’s breakfast nook, I am 4 or 5 years old and she is serving me breakfast, as always with a small juice glass of orange juice. One of those juice glasses from the 70’s that had the brown and orange dots or stripes on them. Do you remember those?
Scent is so powerful. For each of us there is some scent that resonates with us so deeply, as a memory, as a spiritual or sacred connection, as a communication with a loved one here or gone, or as part of our healing path. Instinctively, we know we are somehow connected to this scent, or need to be connected to this scent. It is sometimes said in herbal writings that if a plant smells foul to you, it may be that that plant won’t work for you. The opposite being also true, that if a plant smells good to you, it is possible that it may be a good match for you. The sense of smell should be taken into consideration on your healing herbal journey.
Citrus: bright and cheerful scents to energize and perk you up
Floral: floral essential oils are evocative and transport one to gardens of childhood
Herbal: fresh and healing, they invigorate, calm and improve focus
Spicy: sensual and warming, a little goes a long way with these
Woodsy: earthy scents that are grounding, strengthening and balancing
This fragrance wheel by renowned fragrance expert Michael Edwards can help you organise scents into categories and keep the information clear.
Bright– 2 drops bergamot, 4 drops sweet orange, 1 drop grapefruit, 3 drops rosemary
Sweet– 2 drops neroli, 6 drops Damascus rose, 2 drops ylang ylang
Grassy– 3 drops rosemary, 2 drops mint, 4 drops lavender
Sensual– 3 drops cardamom, 2 drops cinnamon, 1 drop clove, 5 drops patchouli
Earthy– 3 drops patchouli, 4 drops hinoki wood, 1 drop vanilla, 2 drops cedar
Forest– 1 drop mint, 2 drops rosemary, 2 drops lemon, 2 drops sage, 6 drops pine
Heaven– 2 drops lemon, 3 drops lime, 5 drops vanilla
One day, I would love to make soap from scratch. You know, get out the lye, the safety goggles and the industrial gloves and get to work. But I have so many projects going right now that soap making from scratch is on the back burner, as is making my own essential oils in a copper distiller…..sigh….
For right now, I use a much simpler method for soap making. Using ready made soap bases allows for anyone to make soap anywhere and anytime you like. I appreciate that I can still come up with amazing recipes for soaps with zero stress.
This season’s soaps are full of hopes for spring gardening, for when the blossoms start to pop out and the bees again buzz around. I spent the day in my workshop just adding things to these soaps that came to mind and I really like how they turned out.
My absolute favourite from these is the Green Tea-Hinoki soap. The scent comes alive in warm water and I find that I am using it exclusively now. I will make a few batches just for myself, I think.
This recipe will make 12-15 soaps depending on your mold shape and size. I use a common silicone muffin mold for some of mine and a proper silicone soap bar mold for others. It really depends on you and your taste and access to materials. I started with the muffin mold because it was what I had at the time. This is so cool that you can use what you have in the kitchen and not have to buy many extra things.
I try to steer clear of molds that are small, seperate ones for individual soaps. I find them too fiddly and inefficient for large batches.
Silicone molds need no perparation save for whatever plant material you would like to add to your soaps. If you would like plant material only floating at the top of your soap, put the material in the bottom of the mold before you pour in the soap. If you would like plant material running throughout the soap, you must pour in the soap and add the material to each mold after the soap is already in, slowly stirring while it is cooling so that it is evenly distributed. If you would like to add material to the soap only as decoration, simply sprinkle it on directly after pouring the soap into the molds.