• Ministry of Health

DIY: Make your own hand cream

It's harvest season, and your hands are chapped and sore from exposure to soil and sun. Contact with the soil is inevitable, no matter how careful you are about wearing gloves, but washing the soil from your hands (and washing all that garden produce) rinses away the skin’s natural protective oils, allowing it to dry out.

Makes 2 cups

To add fragrance, try a few drops of rose, jasmine, or lotus essential oil. Men may prefer the scent of sandalwood or mint.

• 1 cup fresh rosemary leaves • 1 1/2 cups fresh comfrey leaves • 3/4 cup fresh lavender or patchouli leaves • 1/2 cup olive oil • 16 ounces anhydrous lanolin • Aloe vera gel, optional

1. With a mortar and pestle, bruise the herbs with a small amount of olive oil. In a nonreactive saucepan over low heat, melt the lanolin with the remaining olive oil. Remove the pan from the heat. Let the mixture cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then stir in the herbs and aloe vera gel. (Heat breaks down the allantoin in the comfrey, a substance that promotes new cell growth, and destroys the healing properties in aloe vera.)

2. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth and pour it immediately into heat-resistant jars. Thick blue, green, or brown glass jars protect the mixture from light and make attractive gifts. Store in the refrigerator.

3. Many of the ingredients in herbal skin creams have long histories of medicinal use. Until World War I, lavender was used as a wound disinfectant. Cleopatra is said to have used aloe vera gel to preserve her youth, and Alexander the Great used it to heal the wounds of his soldiers.

By The Herb Companion staff