What Are Herbal Butters?
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Herbal butters are concoctions composed of natural butters or a combination of butters and waxes infused with the essences of other plants, and sometimes even containing tiny pieces of medicinal plant matter. Herbal butters have a twofold function in that they can be used for both culinary and cosmetic purposes, depending on the method of their creation. Herbal butters were once considered indispensable by many individuals, especially during the middle part of the Victorian Era, where they functioned as one of the primary cosmetic items in a woman’s vanity, and a handy curative aid for the medicine cabinet.
What are herbal butters used for?
Herbal butters can be used for a wide variety of things, and their use typically varies depending on the method of creation and choice of base ingredient(s). Some herbal butters that are made from a slow and prolonged infusion (in semi-solid or liquid form) of ground or bruised dry herbal matter with organic butter, and may be employed for cooking (in the same vein as garlic butter and its ilk) to add subtle nuances of flavour to the dish.
Herbal butters can also be used cosmetically - by mixing solid organic plant butters (shea, cacao, coconut) or animal butters (beeswax, rendered fat) with herbs (slow infusion) or essential oils (rapid). These butters are typically used only as a cosmetic item, whether as an emollient, a healing salve, a counterirritant, or as a warming massage butter.
Herbal butters may even be employed as a type of cosmetic, the most common being in the form of lip balms, or traditional skin creams and lotions. Herbal butters have even been employed by those who dabble in the occult, typically as a ‘salve’ that granted prophetic dreams, flight, or shape-shifting, depending upon the constitution of the herbal butter in mention. Herbal butters can even be used internally when shaped into balls or capsules, and can be made into a type of suppository, douche, or even aphrodisiac lubricant. Furthermore, some herbal butter recipes even list culinary and gustatory applications as among the many uses of this substance.
What is herbal butter made of?
Herbal butters at their most basic are made from organic plant waxes mixed with your choice of herbal matter or essential oil. Some herbal butters are made from a combination of two or more organic butters (i. e. beeswax + shea butter + cacao butter) and your choice of essential oil, herbal compound, or what have you. Herbal butters (contrary to the name) can even be made from rendered animal fats imbued with the essence or properties of herbs, although this practice is no longer as commonplace as it was during earlier times, with the only animal compound still actively employed for making herbal butter bases being beeswax.
How are herbal butters made?
Herbal butters can be made in two distinct ways. The first method of making herbal butters is in the choice infusion of a selected blend of crushed, bruised, or powdered herbal matter into your choice of butter base typically done by heating the intended base in a double boiler, and afterwards adding the herbs into the concoction while still hot, and transferring it into a container to sit and infuse for a specific period of time not exceeding a month. After this infusion period, the solid or semi-solid substance is then reheated, and the whole of which is strained – with the ensuing infused butter placed into a container to set, awaiting use. This first method is what can be surmised as a ‘traditional’ process of making herbal butters – one that can be time consuming, to say the least. Herbal butters made in this way are the safest to use for cooking, as well as for external and internal applications (i. e. as a suppository, lubricant, libido enhancer, bowel cleanser, etc.) as they do not contain high concentrations of essential oils that may prove to be allergens.
Another, faster method of creating herbal butters is to melt your choice of base butter, to which is added your choice mix of essential oils, the whole of which is transferred to a container and allowed to cool and set. Unlike the former method of creating herbal butters, this method renders the resulting butter as made strictly for internal cosmetic use mainly due to the possible allergenic properties of some essential oils.
A ‘hybridized’ method may even be attempted, wherein you choose to combine the traditional and the modern when creating herbal butters. As a rule of thumb, whenever essential oils are added to the concoction, this immediately invalidates their culinary and internal-medical purposes. As a reminder, to prevent your butters from spoiling, add at least a quarter of a teaspoon of Vitamin E to the mixture, and, if possible, refrigerate the butters or keep them in a cool, dry place when not in use.
Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt, © herbs-info.com 2013