Education Pindari Herb Farm
A Resource Centre for Self-Responsible and Harmonious Living

Making Creams from Natural Ingredients(161109)

    An outline on the basic principles in making cosmetic and healing creams from plant derived ingredients in a home setting.

The following information is used to instruct participants in the Medicinal Herb Seminars held at Pindari Herb Farm. It details how to successfully manufacture creams from plant derived ingredients and is based both on the author's 30 years experience as a community pharmacist working in complementary medicine and for the last 10 years in the manufacture of the Pindari Herb Farm's Skin Care Range. 

The on going positive feed back from clients for the cosmetic and therapeutic creams, and from participants of the herbal seminars who have gone on to establish their own businesses making natural skin care products is an indication that there is a place in today's market for creams produced using the procedures and ingredients outlined below. 

The acceptance of our products can in part be attributed to the use of extra virgin and where possible organic oils, our recently prepared herbal extracts from organically grown fresh herbs and the use of adequate and low irritant antioxidants, preservatives and emulsifiers, these carefully combined to produce a stable, cosmetically very acceptable, therapeutic cream.

In the information and formulations provided below, the emulsifier, preservative and Glycerin used are made by the chemical manipulation of plant derived ingredients and are thus not "natural" ingredients in the true sense.

A good reference for those wishing for further information in this area is the book "Creating Your Own Cosmetics - Naturally" by Nikolaus J. Smeh (ISBN 0-9637755-1-0)

What is a cream?
Creams generally consist of two basic components, an oil phase and an aqueous phase. A cream is formed when the oil phase is successfully emulsified into the aqueous phase, producing an oil in water emulsion of stable and solid consistency at room temperatures. 

Functions of a cream.
A cream can be successfully used to deliver and hold nutrients and medications on the skin's surface. Both the oil and aqueous components can be used as a carrier. The skin has a limited capacity to absorb many oils and some chemical compounds and is responsive to surface medications such as herbal extracts, and to vibrational energies such as Flower essences.

Efficacy of a cream
This is directly related to the quality of the added ingredients, their concentration and how suited and how well either the oil or aqueous phases deliver and hold that ingredient on the skin's surface and facilitate its absorption into the skin. How the herbal extracts are prepared is crucial in determining their efficacy in a cream. (Refer to "Practice and Principles in Preparing Fresh Plant Tinctures" and "Basic Guidelines in Making Oil Infusion," both are freely available on our web page at:

What ingredients can go into a cream?
As previously mentioned, a cream consists of two basic components being an oil phase and an aqueous phase. Into either of these two phases can be respectively added oil and water soluble ingredients according to the intended functions of the planned cream. Examples of some more commonly added ingredients are detailed below.

Aqueous phase components.
This phase usually consists of 50% to 80% by weight of a cream with water as the primary component. Water is the principle solvent on earth and is essential for life. It is a dipolar solvent and is responsive to and "holds" vibrational energies as demonstrated by Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto in his book "The Secret Life of Water." According to Masaru, the source of the water, its level of contamination by pollutants and the thoughts of those handling it can affect the water's vibrational nature and thus would influence the subtle qualities of a resultant cream. This author's personal experience supports Masaru's findings.

Water soluble and water miscible ingredients include:

Oil (and fat) phase Components.
This phase usually consists of between 15% and 30% of a cream by weight and "holds the key" to the cream's texture and cosmetic quality. The bulk of this fraction consists of the emulsifying agent and a mix of vegetable oils and fats.
The types, qualities and effects of the oils and fats that can be incorporated into this component of a cream are extensive and complex and are beyond the scope of this document. For further information on this refer to Nikolaus's book and “Fats that Heal Fats that Kill” by Udo Erasmus published by Alive Books. (ISBN 0-920470-38-6)
Below is a brief outline of the more commonly used oils and fats.

Vegetable oils - these are divided here into five basic types:

  1. Saturated or fixed oil or fat.
    E.g. Coconut oil - saturated oil from the coconut palm.
    E.g. Jojoba oil - natural saturated fluid wax extracted from the Jojoba seed.

  2. Mono unsaturated oils (omega 9).
    E.g. Olive oil

  3. Poly unsaturated oils (omega 6).
    E.g. Almond oil - oil with omega 9 and omega 6 fatty acids.
    E.g. Grape seed and Sunflower oils - oils high in omega 6 with a little omega 9 fatty acids.

  4. Poly unsaturated oils (omega 3).
    E.g. Flax seed oil - high in omega 3 fatty acids. The most susceptible group to oxidation.

  5. Specialised oils.
    E.g. Evening primrose and Borage seed oils - contain high levels of GLA (Gamma-linolenic Acid).

Animal oils and fats.

  1. Lard (pig fat) and other animal fats have fallen out of fashion, being mostly replaced by the more cosmetically acceptable and readily available vegetable oils.

  2. Emu oil extracted from the liver area of the Emu and is being used increasingly as a therapeutic agent for inflammatory conditions involving pain.

  3. Mutton bird oil is extracted from the gullet of juvenile Shearwater birds and consists of the oil from digested fish. It has a limited availability to southern Australia.

Fish oils.

Cod liver and other fish oils are high in omega 3 fatty acids including DHA and EPA.

Other oil phase components:

Also known as surfactants, these are usually organic salts with a linear (straight) molecular structure where one end is "water loving" (hydrophilic) and the other "oil loving (lipophilic)." They act by "sitting" on the surface of the oil globule (micelle) at its interface with the aqueous phase of the cream, reducing the "surface tension" between the two, thus providing a "platform" for a stable emulsion that forms the cream.

Emulsifiers is a complex science and in this document only the commonly available emulsifying agent called Emulsifying wax is discussed as it is easy to use in practice and is more tolerant and accepting when significant quantities of ingredients are added. It is derived mostly from the chemical manipulation of palm oil and the variations in this process result in differing properties in the Emulsifying waxes available. It is usually used in a cream at a concentration of 6% - 15% by weight. Obtain the product information on the chosen emulsifier for the optimum percentage to use and the temperature and mixing time needed to form a stable emulsion.

Antioxidants "resist" the oxidation of oils in the presence of air and especially light by sacrificing themselves to oxidation thus protecting the chemical bonds in the oil. They can extend the shelf life of oils.

They are especially needed in un-saturated oils (most vegetable oils) but are not required for oils such as paraffin oil that is used in Sorbolene cream. Virgin (unprocessed) vegetable oils contain their own natural antioxidants. These are mostly removed when the oil is processed. 

Natural antioxidants:
- Vitamin E is extracted from vegetable oils. It is available as vitamin E capsules and as a liquid concentrate.
- Rosemary frond extract is available as a commercial product called Amiox. It is used at a concentration of 2 - 4 drops per 100mL/gm of cream. 

Equipment needed for making a cream in a home based setting.

Always consider all SAFETY ASPECTS as you are heating oils and handling hot water. Keep a suitable fire extinguisher nearby and a wet cloth or towel. Have a clear and tidy working space so as to reduce the potential for accidents.

Step by step procedures in making a cream:

For beginners.


  1. Make the CREAM BASE by measuring the oil components into the larger jug and the aqueous components into the smaller jug. The oil phase must contain the emulsifier. Heat both in the water bath saucepans so they do not come in direct contact with the heating element and are thus protected from being over-heated. 

  2. Stir the components regularly with the spatula to distribute the heat and use the stick thermometer to measure the temperature. The usual temperature before mixing for the making of a stable emulsion is 80C for the aqueous component and 70C for the oils.

  3. When the aqueous and oil components are at the required temperature and any waxes have melted, mix the two together by removing both jugs out of the baths and away from the heating elements and pouring the water component into the oil. Use vigorous stirring or preferably, a hand-held Bamix type stick blender to make an emulsion. 

  4. Do this for 1-2 minutes to allow the emulsion to form. Avoid blending air into the liquid, pulse the blender and keep the blender head well under the liquid. 

  5. Quickly cool the mix to around 55C by sitting the jug in the cold-water bath as you stir the emulsion.

  6. Add the remaining ingredients including any tinctures and specialized oils, and  omega 3 and fragrance oils at this time with constant stirring. Remove any set cream from the sides and bottom of the jug. Use a little gentle water bath heat if required. Blend again and avoid blending air into the emulsion..

  7. Allow the liquid emulsion to sit for a minute or two and tap the base of the jug to remove air bubbles.

  8. When at 44C or showing signs of thickening (i.e. starting to set, usually around 42C) pour into ready, uncapped jars. Attention is needed as the cream can set quickly and a little hot water bath heat may be required to finish the pouring.

Capping and labeling

  1. Allow the cream to cool until "cold to touch" before capping as condensation can occur on the inside of the lid and drop onto the surface of the cream and lead to mould growth.

  2. Before capping, check both the cream in the jar and the cap for any surface contaminants.

  3. When the cream has set, apply a label including the name for the cream, date of expiry, storage advice, batch number and it is best to include details of the ingredients and how the cream is to be used.

Factors that affect the stability of a cream.

The strength and texture of the emulsion forming the cream is influenced by:

The stability of the emulsion once it is formed can be affected by:

Adding ingredients to the base cream.

  • Medicated oils - Herbal oil infusions may be added separately to around 5% of the cream. As a cream is mostly aqueous, it is only able to "accept" the addition of further oils up to a certain percentage and then the oils will "fall" out of the emulsion forming a cracked "oily" cream.

  • Herbal tinctures - May be added to around 20% of total volume of the cream (less for high alcohol tinctures). They are best added slowly and separately.

  • Fragrant (essential) oils - Usually added from 0.1% to 1% of total volume of the cream depending on the need. They should be added to the cream base at the lowest temperature practicable.

  • Flower and homoeopathics vibrational energies - These are optimally added by energising them into other water containing liquids that are to be added to the cream. e.g. Herbal tinctures. This is best achieved in a clean and empty jar or bottle by adding around 10 drops of the essence and 25mL of the water containing liquid and then banging this vigorously (succussing) on a firm surface around 50 times. Then add the remaining liquid and succuss again. This potentises the vibrational energies of the essences into the water in the liquid which is then added with stirring to the cream base.

  • Creams containing highly unsaturated oils e.g. Flax seed oil, should be added to the cream base at the lowest possible temperature. This resultant cream should be stored in dark tightly capped containers and stored in a cool place away from light.

  • To add Aloe vera gel. - Make a glycerotract of the Aloe gel by scraping the gel from the fresh leaf and then blending it with a stick blender to liquefy the mucilage. Add an equal amount of Glycerin by weight and blend this mix well, pass this through a fine mesh filter and store ready for use. The Glycerin acts to preserve the gel and stores successfully in a refrigerator for future use. It also allows the gel to be successfully added to the cream base. Aloe vera gel is sensitive to heat and should be added to a cream at a low temperature.

  • Note: Cream formulas with added ingredients are uniquely individual in their stability. It is a case of trial and error until you have a formula that is stable and can successfully be repeated.


    Cream Formulas using natural ingredients

    Below is a standard formula for 200 gm of a "natural" moisturizing cream using a plant derived preservative and antioxidant. You are reminded again to record the formulation used and to plan the manufacturing procedure. Measure the ingredients carefully.
    The bolded "oil" and the "aqueous" phase components below make the base cream. To this may be added either the MOISTURISING or MASSAGE or ECZEMA ingredients. Below these formulas are three suggested fragrances. With the massage cream, the fragrances are already included in the formula. If making the cream at home, add the fragrances you wish.
    The formula below is enough to completely fill three 60gm amber glass cream jars.
    Have fun.

    "OILS"   Quantity- 200gm %   % total
    Emulsifying wax (mp. 52C) 24gm  12
    Calendula infused Olive oil 20gm 10
    Almond oil  16gm 8
    Apricot kernel oil 4gm 2
    Beeswax (mp. 62C) 6gm 3
    Amiox (antioxidant) 4drops ___ 35
    Glycerine (vegetable derived) 18mL/gm 9
    Citrus seed ext. (preservative) 2mL/gm 1
    Rain water 70mL/gm 35 45
    Calendula fresh tinct 20mL 10
    Marshmallow root tinct 10mL 5
    Comfrey leaf tinct 10mL 5 20
    Arnica tinct 20mL 10
    Ginger tinct 10mL 5
    Eucalyptus oil - these are the added fragrances. 4mL 2
    Rosemary oil 4mL 2
    Marjoram oil 2mL 1 20
    Chickweed succus 20mL 10
    Calendula tinct 10mL 5
    Comfrey leaf tinct 10mL  5 20
    "FRAGRANCE choice" (excluding massage cream)
    Lavender oil and or  6drops total
    Rosemary oil and or 6drops total
    Lemongrass oil 6drops total ___ ___
    200gm 100 100

    Ken Atherton Phc
    Pindari Herb Farm
     200 Norwich Drive LONGFORD Tas. 7301
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