03 March 2010

soapy, sultry.

Earthy ingredients come naturally at Amber Hills
By Jennifer Hetrick

Officially in December, Tammy Abraham, owner of Amber Hills Herbs & Gifts, relocated her nature-geared health and beauty care shop to 105 Fisher Mill Road in Oley just across the bridge from Glick’s Greenhouse.

Abraham initially created Amber Hills Herbs & Gifts in 1998, claiming a storefront area on East Philadelphia Avenue in Boyertown for just two years in the mid 2000s.

Having recently moved to a more rural, picturesque setting, Abraham decided that she’d found the perfect spot for her shop.

As she plays gently soothing music, customers eye up her shelves full of herbal soaps, essential oils, lotions, body butters, aromatherapy candles, lip balms, lip glosses, potpourri, and much more she’s collected in the way of cozy décor.

“I cannot buy anything over the counter because I’m allergic to just about everything,” Abraham said about commercially distributed soaps and other hygiene and skin conditioning products.

“I figured if I knew what was in it,” she said, “it wouldn’t be harmful.”

This propelled her interest in the soap-making process, especially since she was tired of dealing with itchy skin.

Abraham learned through much self-driven research that most soaps sold in chain grocery and department stores have the naturally-occurring bi-product, glycerin, taken out of them so that they’re actually drying to skin.

She said this provokes consumers to buy glycerin-made creams and lotions to compensate, leading to increased profit for the higher ups.

“With smaller batches, you have more control over the ingredients and their volumes,” Abraham said.

“The ingredients I use are all natural,” Abraham said. “I infuse herbs into different essential oils and use those in the soap.”

Abraham’s Native American father taught her about the diverse uses and benefits of plants when she was young. She also spent some time working for a local wholesale perennial nursery.

These two factors explain part of her affinity for gardening and reaching for natural ingredients like herbs and essential oils instead of corporately produced body care products.

Blackberry Amber, Be Happy, Cranberry Fig, Butterfly Orchid, Caribbean Coconut, Today’s the Day, Chamomile & Neroli, Clary Sage & Vanilla, Sandalwood, Cucumber Melon, Fresh Snow, and Grapefruit & Bergamot are a few kinds of soaps she handcrafts.

Some new scents Abraham is working on are Twilight Woods, a very unisex aroma, Raspberry Lemonade, Patchouli & Orange, Heaven Scent, and Chocolate Cherry.

“I love earthy scents,” Abraham said, with her favorites as Honey & Oatmeal and Patchouli.

Two top sellers at the moment are Lavender and Nag Champa, with the latter based on an East Indian meditation.

Lavender is very calming, has a sedative effect, and is antifungal, Abraham said.

Abraham has at least 50 different kinds of handcrafted soaps in her line with another few dozen in the developing stages, as she is constantly experimenting with new scent combinations.

The lotions and body butters Abraham mimics after her line of scented soaps. At the moment, Abraham is testing out how to create shower gels.

Abraham also makes and sells teddy bears, with a wittily named Aromabearapy line slated to hit the shelves in April. The material of the jointed teddy bears will be soaked in essential oils that tug at the senses in promoting relaxation, de-stressing, and sleep.

Huggable and of course soft, the scents of the oils will release with each squeeze.

A big seller are kitty blankets, which are four-sectioned patches of fabric Abraham sews together after dropping two cups of a more potent, Canadian grown catnip (known as the perennial “catmint”) into the separated squares.

During last week’s snowstorm, Abraham said while her road was barely drivable, a woman from Emmaus came knocking anxiously at her door asking merely to buy a kitty blanket for her cat.

A walking book of knowledge concerning natural healing methods, Abraham suggested calendula and lavender oils as a quickly effective remedy for summer sunburn.

Abraham added that calendula, a small daisy-like flower often sold as an annual in springtime, is edible, delicious on salads, and has a slightly peppery taste.

Someday, Abraham said she hopes to host an educational workshop explaining the varied uses and advantages of leaning toward natural ingredients in home remedies, especially for nurturing skin health.