Our cabin is on the edge of the wilderness, nestled in an evergreen forest. In the spring and summer, the forest floor is covered in native medicinal plants and just outside my door there is an abundance of arnica, uva ursi, wild roses, and red root.
But the warm weather is long gone in these woods and wintertime provides a stark contrast to the diversity of summer. The forest floor is now covered in snow. The woods are quiet. Shrubs like elder and chokecherry poke out from the snow, sometimes dripping in icicles or with a carefully balanced layer of snow on their branches.
It would be easy for me to whine and complain about the scarcity of plants during these frigid months (…in truth, I sometimes do). So, instead, I try to mimic the plants and their slumber. Now is the time to slow down. This time of year also gives me the opportunity to revel in the gifts of the one medicinal plant group that continues to shine: evergreens.
Aptly named, evergreen trees retain their green needles throughout our winter. In my forest we have an abundance of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). Both of these trees offer many gifts. Their wood keeps us warm through the winter and many trees from this property were used to build the cabin that we call home. Evergreen trees can also be used as medicine. When the tree is wounded, it exudes a thick, resinous pitch which makes an antimicrobial and pain-relieving salve that is also reputably good for drawing out splinters.
In this recipe we are going to learn how to make lip balm using the green needles. High in vitamin C, they make a delicious fresh tea (I am partial to Douglas fir tea) that is also a great stimulating expectorant for congested mucus in the lungs.
They also simply smell wonderful. Because of holiday wreaths or Christmas trees, you may equate the resinous balsam smell of conifers with the season. For me, it’s simply the smell of home and the forest that has surrounded me for the past seven years. The festive lip balm in today’s recipe is attempting to bottle up that heady scent so that you can slather your lips in it any time of year.
This homemade lip balm recipe makes a red or pink tinted lip balm. It’s not a pronounced red like the Red No. 5 artificial dye lipstick you would pick up at the drugstore. Unlike commercial lipstick, however, it is completely safe and is full of nourishing oils, butters, and waxes to protect your lips from the harsh winter elements. You can omit the alkanet root (Alkanna tinctoria) if you don’t want a red tinted lip balm.
You can use practically any evergreen needles for this homemade lip balm recipe, with a few cautions. While most evergreen needles are safe to use, the needles from the yew tree (Taxus spp.) are not. Be sure to know the identity of your needles to make sure they are safe. If you would like to use the needles from your Christmas tree or holiday wreath, check with your supplier to make sure the trees or boughs weren’t sprayed with any strange chemicals.
Red Tinted Evergreen Lip Balm
Nourish your lips with this festive holiday lip balm. This slightly tinted homemade lip balm will protect your lips from the harsh elements of winter while smelling like the rich and resinous boughs of an evergreen tree. For the carrier oil you can use jojoba oil, almond oil, grapeseed oil, or apricot kernel oil.
What you’ll need…
- 4 ounces carrier oil (measured by volume)
- 1 tablespoon alkanet root (cut and sifted)
- 1/2 cup chopped evergreen needles
- 30 grams shea butter (roughly 1 ounce)
- 45 grams beeswax (roughly 1.5 ounces)
- 20 to 30 drops Douglas fir essential oil
- 20 drops peppermint essential oil
- 1/2 teaspoon vitamin E oil
- 1/4 teaspoon rosemary antioxidant
Place the carrier oil, alkanet root, and evergreen needles into a double boiler (or a pot with a metal bowl sitting on top of it).
Heat the ingredients until they are fairly warm to the touch. Turn off heat and let stand. Every couple of hours, re-heat the oil, and then let stand. Continue this for 24 to 48 hours.
Strain off the evergreen needles from the oil using a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Compost the needles.
Place 3 ounces of the infused oil, the shea butter, and beeswax into a double boiler. (If you don’t have enough infused oil, then add more carrier oil.) Heat slowly until the butter and wax melts completely. Add the essential oils, vitamin E, and rosemary antioxidant and stir well.
Immediately place the mixture into something with a spout (such as a glass measuring cup) and carefully pour the mixture into lip balm tubes or small glass jars.
Let stand to cool.
Label and enjoy.
These make a great gift! This recipe makes approximately 3/4 cup. I filled 10 lip balm containers and three (1-ounce) glass jars.