For centuries, women and men have benefitted from the medicinal and culinary properties of herbs and botanicals. In fact medicinal herbs have been found in the personal effects of an ice-encased human specimen in the Alps, believed to be 5,300 years old. And celebrity chefs like The Food Network’s Ina Garten have devoted entire shows to the fresh herb factor, while others promote using edible flowers in festive salads.
But what about using herbs and botanicals in their purest forms to cleanse, soothe, and beautify in our daily skin and hair care regimens? Used cosmetically in their raw form by cultures from ancient Egypt, for religious rituals, to ancient Greece, which reportedly expanded the cosmetic use of herbs and plants from ceremonial to personal. During the Renaissance recipes for soaps, creams, and herbal beauty products were increasingly recorded and handed down from generation to generation.
In the mid-19th century, Theron T. Pond was among the forerunners of the modern skincare industry, manufacturing and marketing his Pond’s Extract to highly receptive consumers who could then opt for convenience over clarity. Marketed today under such monikers as “natural” or “organic,” manufacturers can charge characteristically big bucks for herbal products that famously promote shiny hair, wrinkle reduction, or smooth skin, many of which contain the same time-honored herbs you can grow yourself, find at farmer’s markets, or purchase in garden centers or health food stores. In fact, with many beauty products, herbs, plants, and flowers are often used in very small amounts or extremely diluted forms, with synthetic perfumes, chemical preservatives, fillers, artificial colors, and even animal testing part of the package.
To bring out the best in hair and skin, why not simplify and try the following herb and/or botanical treatments as an alternative to costly products which could contain ingredients you may not need:
To soothe and cleanse oily skin: use chamomile and thyme infused into a strong tea; apply with cotton ball.
For an astringent, yet soothing, facial toner: use cornflower infused into a tea; apply with cotton ball.
To help heal blemishes, chapped lips, dry skin, burns, and even eczema: make comfrey oil by packing a jar of olive oil with soft comfrey leaves. Allow to infuse for six weeks before using.
To detoxify and restore skin’s luster: crush a handful of basil leaves and let steep in hot water. Cool and splash on face or apply gently with cotton ball. Leave damp and apply light moisturizer.
For dry, sensitive skin: make a mask out of four to five drops of geranium oil (available online or at many health food stores), oatmeal, water, and a teaspoon of warm honey. Leave on for 20 to 30 minutes.
For a cleansing, whole body skin conditioning treatment: add fresh or dried calendula petals to a warm bath.
To cleanse hair: chamomile in a cooled chamomile tea can be used as a final rinse (especially good for light-colored hair).
To condition and detangle dry, coarse naturally curly hair: burdock root, marshmallow root, nettle leaf, blue malva, chamomile, hibiscus, Irish moss, or coltsfoot steeped hot water and cooled for a final rinse.
To naturally prevent dandruff: horsetail, burdock root, chamomile, white willow bark, or coltsfoot steeped in hot water and cooled for a final rinse.