Happy Scalp Shampoo Bar

If you live in the U.S., chances are you’ve been stuck inside your house for the past three months. Social distancing has been tough for me: it’s hard not to see my clients and know that many of them are in jail or out of work, I hate not seeing my friends and family, and my emotions have been all out of whack. But isolation has also been a quietly joyful time where lots of people have rediscovered the power of domestic pursuits. Seeing everyone trying out sourdough and home haircuts gives me hope that work that has traditionally been relegated to women, especially Black women, will experience a renaissance, complete with the appreciation it truly deserves.

For those of you stretching your DIY muscles for the first time in a while, welcome! I’m here to tell you that making soap and shampoo is not as scary or as complex as it might initially seem.

Today’s recipe is a shampoo bar – perfect for those of you who want to cut back on plastic, wish you didn’t have to pack tiny bottles when you (eventually are able to) travel, or want to avoid using sodium laurel/laureth sulfates on your tresses.

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Making Tinctures and Liniments With the Weight to Volume Method

Tinctures or liniments are medicines made by extracting the constituents of plants in a liquid. While they’re made using the same process, they’re used differently. Tinctures are taken internally, liniments are applied externally. Extractions of some plants can be used as both tinctures and liniments. For example, yarrow is used as a tincture to reduce a fever and as a liniment to cleanse wounds and stop bleeding. Tinctures and liniments are particularly beneficial in the winter because they preserve plants’ medicinal properties long after the growing season is over.

If you’ve ever cooked with vanilla or had a cocktail with bitters, you’ve used a tincture. Some tinctures don’t taste so great. Motherwort tincture is almost unbearably bitter. However, this is precisely why we make these plants into tinctures. Can you imagine having to sip a cup of bitter tea?

Tinctures and liniments have two main components: the marc and the menstruum. The marc is the plant material and the menstruum is the liquid that dissolves the plant constituents.

The weight to volume method sounds a little finicky at first, but is easy to master. I like this method because it lets people know exactly what they’re getting, dosage-wise, and can be remade over and over again.

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Easy, Wheezy! Decongestant Salve

Even though it’s officially spring, both the weather and my lungs are holding on tight to winter. It’s all kinds of rainy and cold outside, and I can’t quite shake the stuffy nose I picked up last week.

Easy, Wheezy! Decongestant Salve - MamootDIY.com

I whipped up a little homemade VapoRub (Viva Peru!) to get me through the next few days of this cold, and – BONUS – to help me take on the spring allergies I know are coming as soon as everything starts blooming.

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En Lo Pequeño Radica La Fuerza: Herbalism for Quiet(er) Revolutionaries

For as long as it’s existed, A-Camp has been one of my favorite places. It’s also been a place that turns the worry knob in my brain up to full blast. I worry that I’m too small or maybe pretending to be big but what if I’m too big and then everyone can see right through me and what if seeing through turns into looking past and and and and and.

So this year, after a winter that was more cold than cozy, I wrote a love letter to myself in my application and planned to lead nothing but arts and crafts for four days. Y’all! We made tiny grills, sewed coptic-bound books, and made jewelry out of recycled beer cans, but my favorite activity was the herbalism knowledge share I hosted. We were a ragtag group of queers and damn if every single person there didn’t have something to teach me.

I came home from camp with a low humming calm that my body had known before but forgot the year it first knew blood. I’m not saying I came back perfect or fixed, but I stopped confusing devastation with depth and started to feel the whole way around things. Like maybe the earth is a warm place. Like maybe I make it warmer.

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Sore Muscle Salve

Last February — fed up with the stress and meanness of law school — I started playing capoeira as a way to work out all my negative energy.

Now, seven months later, I’m hooked and am helping my group plan for our annual batizado. We’re flying in mestres and profesors from all over, hiring samba teachers, and trying to convince our friends and family to come watch the event. Everyone in my small but mighty little group is doing our part to raise money so, naturally, I decided to whip up something crafty and sell it at the event.

Chilly Pepper Salve - Mamoot

I’ve been wanting to play with cayenne pepper for a long time, but hadn’t gotten around to it between making wintery salves for runny noses and summery bug sprays. But now I’ve got dozens of capoeristas to appeal to and it seems like the perfect time to tackle the pain-relieving powers of cayenne.

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Things I Learned In Summer Herbalism Class

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been taking herbalism classes at the Neighborhood Farm Initiative’s urban farm in Washington, D.C. I got to talk to other plant nerds, ate all kinds of weeds, and learned LOADS. I loved it so much that I’m already planning to sneak back down to D.C. in October to get my season’s worth of herbal info in the autumn classes.

Things I Learned In Summer Herbalism Class

This one is fennel. You might have eaten it as a spice or had the bulb as a vegetable. It’s a member of the carrot family and can help stimulate the production of breast milk. Fascinating, right?

Since it’s summer (and, as everyone in New York reminded me before I can here: summers in D.C. are brutal. (although I hate to burst your collective bubbles, NYC people, but here in D.C. we have air conditioning and trees and sky which makes summertime nine-hundred percent more bearable)), we talked about and touched and smelled and ate cooling herbs – the little guys that help with heat-related ailments like sunburn, bug bites, agitation, nerves, and insomnia. The classes were taught by Holly Poole-Kavana, an herbalist who, in my book, is the perfect balance of woo and evidence-based practices.

This plant is called cheeses. Yep, just like the dairy product. It's got little pods that look (but don't taste) a lot like cheese wheels. It's related to marshmallow, okra, and hibiscus and can help with dry eyes, mouth, and skin.

This plant is called cheeses. Yep, just like the dairy product. It’s got little pods that look (but don’t taste) a lot like cheese wheels. It’s related to marshmallow, okra, and hibiscus and can help with dry eyes, mouth, and skin.

How much is there really to say about plants? Ohmylord, SO MUCH. I took notes and I know that I still missed gobs. Here are my six favorite things that I learned.

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Materia Medica: Burdock


  • Botanical Name: Arctium lappa
  • Other Names: Arctium (from Greek arktos, bear), Bardana (Portuguese and Spanish), Beggar’s buttons,  Clot-bur (bur comes from Latin, burra, a sheep’s wool, which refers to how sheep’s wool became entangled as sheep passed by the plant), Cockleburr, Cockle buttons, Fox’s clote, Gobo (Japanese), Happy major, Hardock, Hareburr, Lappa (from Greek lappa, to seize, Celtic llap, hand), Love leaves, Orelha-de-gigante (refers to how to leaves look like giant ears), Niu Bang Zi (Chinese), Personata, Philanthropium, Poor man’s potatoes, Thorny burr

Burdock, Lesser. (Arctium minus) Grace Road Sapcote SP 4915 9359 (taken 5.7.2006)

  • Appearance: Burdock is a large plant with gigantic leaves that can grow up to a yard long. The leaves are soft underneath and are oval- or heart-shaped. The plant flowers through the summer and the prickly seed pods mature in the fall.
  • Cultivation: Burdock is considered by many to be a weed and is harder to stop growing than grow. You name it, burdock can grow in it: poor soil, rich soil, hot weather, cold weather, drought, flood. To keep burdock from spreading, cut off the seed pods before they ripen in the fall. Burdock roots and leaves should be dug in July.
  • Parts used: Leaves, root

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  • Innovation: Burdock’s prickly burrs were the inspiration for velcro. After the inventor came home from a hunting trip in the Alps, he wondered how all the burrs managed to stick to his pants and went to his microscope to investigate.
  • Traditional uses: Both traditional Chinese medicine and European medicine have used it as a blood purifier


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Medicinal and Practical Uses

*I write about uses for plants as a novice herbalist, not a doctor or scientist; this isn’t medical advice. If you want to use plant-based remedies, find a doctor you trust and respect who also trusts and respects you so that you can work together to make sure you’re the healthiest version of you.

  • Safety: Contact with the green, above-ground potion may cause contact dermatitis
  • Characteristics: Cool, permanent
  • Primary actions (Secondary actions): Alterative, diaphoretic, diuretic, tonic, (anti-inflammatory, nutritive)
  • Constituents: Inulin
  • Wound healing: Applying a poultice of burdock leaves to bruises and wounds may help speed healing.
  • Indigestion relief: Burdock root can be used to help with “hot” conditions like indigestion.
  • Diuretic: Burdock is a diuretic; it rids the body of excess water by increasing urine.
Immune system
  • Lymph nodes: Drinking burdock root tea can calm swollen lymph nodes.
Skin and Hair
  • Rash relief: Burdock can be used internally and externally to treat eczema, psoriasis, rashes, and other skin conditions. It’s anti-inflammatory properties ease itching while it’s other properties speed healing. Burdock root can be taken as a tea or applied topically as a salve.
  • Acne: Burdock leaves can help with acne when applied as a poultice or drank as a tea.

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  • Vegetable: The taproot is used as a root vegetable in many Asian cuisines
  • Tea: Dandelion and Burdock is a British soft drink that has been around since the Middle Ages
  • Beer: Burdock was used by European brewers before hops became popular


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