Elderberry Spice – Soap Challenge Entry for October 2015

102015_17871wpIn order to make soap, you need three ingredients: oil, sodium hydroxide (lye), and a liquid (water, milk, etc). A lot of soap makers use milk, beer, coffee, and teas instead of just plain water. Each of these various liquids can lend different properties to soap, like a boost in lather or actual skin care benefits. The soap challenge this month focused on the liquid we use. The challenge was to use an alternative to water and discuss the benefits, if any, to the skin. We had to use all natural colorants and only essential oils for fragrance, too. This was a very interesting challenge and a lot of fun to research.

The very first idea that popped into my mind – Elderberry  :)

Every fencerow on our farm is just solid with Elderberry bushes. In the past, I’ve read a lot about how to make use of this plant. Everything I read centered mainly on taking Elderberry internally for everything from reducing the duration of the Flu to helping arthritis pain. But in researching for this challenge, I wanted to know if or how it helped the skin. I discovered that Elderberry is thought to be a powerful antioxidant and has been used to treat skin conditions going back thousands of years.

From an article on About.com titled Ancient Native American Eczema Treatments:
“The bark, leaves, flowers and berries from Elderberry were used in medicinal remedies. The flower water was used as an eyewash because of mild astringent qualities and also to relieve symptoms of eczema, acne and psoriasis. Poultices were made from the leaves and flowers. Elderberry leaves are still used in topical creams to treat eczema and other inflammatory skin disorders.”

I also discovered that one of my favorite natural skin care companies refers to Elderberry as one of the “superfruits” and even uses it in many of their products for both aging and damaged skin. Another organic skin care company blog article refers to Elderberry as the “Superfruit of the Season for Natural Face Masks.” And, lastly, here’s a quote from an article by Mercola on the skin benefits:

“Other traditional uses of elderberry flowers are as external antiseptic washes and poultices to treat wounds, and as an eye wash for conjunctivitis and eye inflammation. It’s been used for cosmetic purposes for millennia due to the reputation of distilled elderberry flower water to soften, tone, and restore the skin and lighten freckles. The flowers can also be steeped in oil to make a lotion that relaxes sore muscles and soothes burns, sunburn, and rashes.”

I have no idea if Elderberry can really do all these great things. It sure sounds good though, and I’m a big believer in natural remedies. But I’m really not sure what, if any, of those properties actually remain in a finished soap after going through the process of saponification. But, either way, I decided to try Elderberry Tea as my alternative liquid for the soap challenge this month.

If you’re interested, I used the same slow moving recipe from my Embracing Opposites soap challenge post. Since I wanted to try out a spicy essential oil blend with this soap, I decided to go with a recipe that is really slow to trace. I also wanted to do a hanger swirl with my natural colorants, and this recipe has always been good for that, as well.

Because we’re heading into October, I really wanted to use an essential oil blend that smelled like Fall. And because I was using Elderberry tea for my liquid (which is rumored to be sort of a natural cold remedy), I decided to go with an EO blend that I put in my diffuser when I’m sick. I really love the final scent in the soap, too.

  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Sweet Orange
  • Rosemary
  • Eucalyptus
  • Patchouli (just a bit)

I added Kaolin Clay to the EO blend at 2 tsp per pound of oil in the recipe.

In keeping with the Fall theme, I used warm earthy colors to make a swirl in the soap. The Elderberry tea turned the soap a nice tan color, which worked well with my colorant choices.

  • Rose Clay
  • Paprika Infused Olive Oil
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Activated Charcoal in Sunflower Oil


First, I made Elderberry Tea using organic dried Elderberries and distilled water. I added about 1 tablespoon of Elderberries for every 500 grams of distilled water needed for my recipe.

ElderberryTea1wp         ElderberryTea2wp

I brought the water and berries to a boil, then I let it simmer for about 10 minutes. I let the tea sit until it was cool, then strained it into a container and placed it in the refrigerator.

As you can see, the cold Elderberry tea was very dark reddish-purple in color. It smelled really good. Well, until I added the lye, that is.


I made a video of the rest of my soap making process. In the video, you’ll notice that the Elderberry tea went through a very fast color change when I added the lye – from reddish purple immediately to greenish-black, then to brown, and finally a brownish purple color that wasn’t so different from the original tea.

102015_17853wp           102015_17849wp


Thank you for reading my post!


22 thoughts on “Elderberry Spice – Soap Challenge Entry for October 2015

  1. Your soap is beautiful, Holly! I’d never thought of using elderberries in soap and have a huge tree right outside my kitchen window – but missed the berries this year ( greedy birds!). Definitely an idea for next year though!


  2. Holly, that I you for the detailed explanations. I also love using elder (berries, flowers and leaves) but had never bought about using them in soap! Thanks for the great idea. I love your color combination and the swirl – somehow they make me imagine the fence rows on your farm. Lucky you! I wish I had a lot of elder plants around me, too :-)


  3. Your are so creative! My very 1st idea for this challenge was to use Pokeberry fruits (if seeds and skins are removed from the product it is safe to use once cooked) However, even tho they seemed to produce a fantasticly vivid pink/purple – the color absolutely disappeared in the soap batter. So sad. I’m happy for your beautiful designs – really pretty!


    • Thank you! What a great idea you had with the beautiful pink Pokeberry fruits. It’s too bad the color changed in the soap. I had the same thing happen with the purple Elderberry tea. Thank you again! :)


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