‘Natural skin care’ is big business today. There’s a huge demand for skin care products and other personal care items that are ‘natural.’
It’s a logical progression for folks who become concerned with the quality of the food going into their body to then become concerned with what goes on their body.
But since there’s no legal definition for ‘natural,’ products marketed as natural can be anything a manufacturer wants them to be. Lavender shampoo might be simply commercial chemical-based shampoo with a little bit of artificial lavender fragrance.
But one way to make sure that natural products meet your personal idea of natural is to make them yourself. That way you know exactly what’s in them.
And if you’re lucky enough to have an herb garden, you’re in great shape to give it a try. Especially if you’re having trouble cooking fast enough to use up all your wonderful fresh herbs.
If you’re not so lucky, dried herbs can also be used and in the case of making herbal oils, the process is faster with dried herbs.
Herbal oils, useful for externally applied products, can be made with a stunning array of plant material and then used later as needed. You can make them yourself with fresh or dried herbs and they keep a good, long while until you need them.
Along with the standard culinary herbs, some plants usually raised as flowers are useful herbs and deserve a try. Calendula and bergamot are good examples. Even roses are useful, the petals as well as the hips. Rose hips contain far more vitamin C than oranges and are also rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin A. They’re good for you whether you put them in you or on you.
The study of herbs and which one is useful for what is a science unto itself. You could spend a lifetime learning the intricacies of herbs or you could just make some herbal massage oil because it smells pretty. Suit yourself.
Here are a few recipes to get you started or to expand your selection if you already make herbal products.
Rose Hip Mask
Dried rose hips are available in many grocery and health-food stores. Simply soak them in some warm water for 15 to 20 minutes to rehydrate them and then follow the recipe.
Makes about 1/2 cup
10 fresh rose hips from unsprayed shrubs
2 tbsp. plain yogurt
Remove the stalk and blossom ends of the rose hips. Rinse the hips, place them in a small saucepan, and cover them with water. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain, then pour the rose hips into a blender or food processor and puree. Let it cool, then mix with the yogurt.
Spread the mask on your face and neck. Leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse with cool water and pat your skin dry. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for as long as 2 weeks.
Salves can be anything from lip balm to diaper rash ointment. Herbal oil can be made from fresh or dried herbs. Recipes follow.
1/2 ounce beeswax
1 cup herbal oil
Vitamin E or rosemary antioxidant (extract)—optional
Use a double boiler, or place a glass bowl into a pot of water to gently heat beeswax and oil over low to medium heat until thoroughly combined. Do a consistency test before removing from heat: Place a few drops on a plate and allow to come to room temperature. Depending on your salve’s intended use, you may need to adjust consistency. Anything going into a lip balm tube needs to be firmer, for example, while a salve intended for diaper rash should be softer. If you discover the consistency isn’t quite right, simply add oil to make it softer, or beeswax to harden it. Once you’ve got the desired consistency, turn off heat. If using vitamin E oil or rosemary antioxidant, pour it into salve. Quickly pour salve into container—a shallow tin or lip balm tube works well. It will firm as it cools. Allow to cool completely before covering with lid. Label with herb used and date.
Fresh Herb Oil
This is the way to go in the summer when fresh herbs are abundant. The down side is it takes six weeks. if you’re in a hurry, use dried herbs. It can be ready the same day.
1⁄3 cup fresh plant material
1 cup olive oil
Place plant material into a glass jar with a lid. Completely cover plant material with olive oil, then add lid. Place jar in a cool, dark place for six weeks, shaking daily. Herb oils that steep too long can go rancid—set a calendar reminder at six weeks. After 6 weeks, strain out plant material, label and use oil (For external use only).
Dried Herb Oil
Dried herb oil can be made in one day. There’s no need to use exact measurements. The general rule is that you want an inch of oil covering the dried herbs you wish to infuse on the stovetop.
1/3 cup dried plant material
1 cup olive oil
Put double boiler on the stovetop over low to medium heat. Add plant material, then cover completely with olive oil. Simmer on stovetop for 1 to 2 hours. Make sure it never does more than simmer as it’s easy to damage herbal oils with heat. You may need to turn the heat off periodically to keep it from getting too hot. Allow mixture to completely cool, then strain out plant material. Label oil.
Gentle Herbal Shampoo
Use calendula blossoms for redheads, lavender for brunettes, and chamomile blossoms for blondes.
1/3 cup calendula, chamomile or lavender blossoms
8 oz. distilled water
8 oz. baby shampoo
Bring herb blossoms and water to a gentle boil in a stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Immediately turn off heat, cover to steep and let cool. Strain out blossoms, pour mixture into plastic container. Add Baby Shampoo and shake until mixed. Makes 16 oz.
Herbal Hair Rinse
Herbal rinses are thought to stimulate scalp tissue encouraging hair growth. Make this rinse 15 minutes ahead of your shampoo, so it will be cool when you are ready for it.
1/3 cup calendula, lavender, chamomile blossoms or sage leaves
2 cups distilled water
1 tbsp. cider vinegar or 1 tbsp. lemon juice (if using chamomile). Select the appropriate herb according to your hair color. Bring water to a boil in stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Add herbs, turn off heat, cover to steep and let cool. Strain herbs, pour mixture into glass jar or pitcher, add vinegar (blondes can use lemon juice). Pour rinse through hair several times, catching liquid in large bowl. Rinse with warm water. Makes 16 oz.
Lavender Facial Astringent
2 cups fresh lavender blossoms or 1 cup dried
2 cups white wine vinegar, or unseasoned rice vinegar
Place lavender and vinegar in a quart glass mason jar, screw on lid. Place outdoors for 3 days, shaking daily. Strain lavender and place mixture in plastic container. To use, wash face, pat dry, moisten cotton squares with astringent, apply. Makes 16 oz.
1 1/2 cups fresh lavender blossoms
1 cup almond oil
Put lavender and oil in top of a glass double boiler, and simmer mixture for 30 minutes, covered. Remove from heat. Allow to cool, with lid on. Strain lavender out of oil, then, pour oil into plastic container. Makes 8 oz.
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Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard.