Massage Balm

Almost every night I take a warm bath with magnesium chloride flakes and a few drops of rose absolute essential oil. This alone is luxurious enough but why stop there? Self-massage anyone?

Are you familiar with the Ayurvedic practice of abhyanga? It’s a form of massage done with warmed oil and is a soothing way to not only move tension out of your muscles but to also increase circulation, hydrate joints, and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (aka the ‘rest and digest’ system). And for all you somatic wonks out there, self-massage with your eyes closed is a highly effective way to increase proprioception.

If you’re curious for more in-depth information about abhyanga then Banyan Botanicals has a very thorough article on their website with suggestions for the different doshas and massage techniques.

I turn on a portable heater to get the room nice and toasty. As the tub is filling, I like to dry-brush my skin. Are you familiar with this practice? Using a stiff bristled brush rub your skin in a circular pattern. Begin at the soles of your feet and brush towards your heart. Then the palms of your hands and again brush towards your heart. Be aware of the pressure on your skin and adjust as needed. Dry-brushing sloughs off dry skin, increases surface blood flow, and stimulates your lymphatic system. It’s quite invigorating!

And then the bath. I enjoy listening to a dharma talk or audiobook as I soak. How about you? Do you prefer silence? After my bath, and while before towelling off, I massage myself with either oil or this simple balm made out of shea butter, cocoa butter, and oil. I tend towards oils, balms, and salves because they are made without water and are far more shelf stable. Let your after bath massage also start from the soles of your feet and palms of your hands with circular movement towards your heart. Go slowly and languish in the sheer simple sensuality of rubbing oil into your damp skin.

Massage Balm Instructions

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons shea butter
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa butter
  • 1/2 cup oil of your choice and one that is liquid at room temperature

Equipment:

  • 32 (liquid) ounce heat-resistant bowl (glass or stainless steel)
  • pot or saucepan to create a bain-marie for the bowl
  • electric beater
  • spatula
  • container(s) for your cream

Process:

Combine the oil and butters in the bowl. Heat this mixture in a bain-marie over medium heat until the butters are melted and the mixture is clear. Alternatively, you could heat the oil and butters in the bowl of a double boiler. Remove from heat and place in the fridge (uncovered).

(You could completely skip the following chill and whip stage. Your balm will be less fluffy yet just as luxurious. Decant into your container after melting and let it cool completely before covering with a lid.)

Let the melted mixture sit for a few hours in the fridge until it’s opaque. You’re looking for it to be soft to the touch rather than a solid block. If it’s solid then let it sit on the counter to soften up a bit. Don’t try to speed up the chilling process by placing it in the freezer because that will turn the shea butter grainy.

After the long patient wait of letting it chill, remove the bowl from the fridge. Whip it (ha!) with the electric beater until it turns brilliant white and becomes a fluffy massage balm. You could use a whisk, although it will take significantly longer to get the whipped texture. Don’t use a stick blender because it just makes a shea butter smoothie. Add any essential oils as you’re whipping.

Decant into your container and you can put the lid on right away because the mixture is cool and there won’t be any condensation. There are no stabilizers or preservatives in this whipped balm and don’t be alarmed if it looses some of its fluff, however if the aroma changes or the texture turns grainy or if it begins to discolour then toss it out and make yourself a new batch. I find balms work best in smaller quanities for this reason. Your mileage may vary.