The pleasure-seeking Romans took the art of the fragrant bath seriously, and spent much time soaking in luxurious flower-scented waters. In the Middle Ages, violet perfume was made just to cheer one up by simply smelling the fragrance, and chamomile was boiled with honey to clear up skin blemishes.
In the 17th century the American housewife treasured her "still room," which had her special kitchen where she made the family's aromatic waters and household cosmetics, gathered from the herbs in her garden. Making your own natural cosmetics by gathering these historical plants for the same purposes is the continuation of a time-honored tradition.
Renee's Garden Seed
Italian Sage "Aromatic"
Purchase Renee's Garden Seeds
Tools of the Trade:
When preparing herbal cosmetics, always use distilled or spring water and stainless steal, enamel or heatproof glassware. Do not use aluminum, copper or Teflon pans, as their chemical properties will affect the finished product. Store finished products in glass or plastic jars and containers.
In the recipes, directions are given for either an infusion or a decoction, simple ways to incorporate herb leaves and flowers into the cosmetic preparations. An infusion is made as you would make an herbal tea. Boil distilled or spring water in a non-reactive saucepan, remove from heat, and add herbs to steep for 30 minutes with the lid on. A decoction is made by boiling distilled or spring water in a non-reactive saucepan, then simmering herbs for 20 minutes to extract more of their essential oils for a stronger brew.
Proceed With Caution: All herbal cosmetics carry the possibility of creating an allergic reaction in certain people. Before using any herbal preparation, test by placing a dab on your forearm, cover with a small bandage, and leave in place for 24 hours to determine possible allergic reaction.
There are no preservatives in home-made cosmetics, so their shelf life is much shorter than commercial products. Shampoos mixed with an herbal infusion will last for about a week in the refrigerator; rinses, facials or other preparations using herbal infusions or decoctions will last up to three days or refrigerate for longer storage. Beauty products containing vinegar will keep longer. During the growing season, dry your cosmetic herbs so you will have them on hand to make up in the winter months. As a rule of thumb, double the amount of fresh herbs in a recipe specifying dried herbs.
Gentle Herbal Shampoo:
Herbal shampoos give strength, body and luster to hair, and makes it more manageable. Use Calendula blossoms for red heads, 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. mixture, 4 shampoos.
Herbal Hair Rinse:
Herbal rinses stimulate the glands and tissues of the scalp, and encourage hair growth. Make the following 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 T Cider Vinegar or 1 T 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. rinse.
Herbal Skin Care:
A gentle, cleansing facial steam, an astringent herbal mask to stimulate the skin and tighten pores, a luxurious sweetly scented massage oil are all easily made in your kitchen from your own herbs. Here are some easy ones to use:
Sage is an excellent astringent. It cleanses, tightens pores, and restores the skin's natural acid balance.
Calendula is a healing herb, especially good for oily skin.
Chamomile is a soothing herb which softens and whitens the skin.
Lavender is a tonic herb and gentle cleanser, good for all types of complexions. We suggest using only the sweet lavenders (Lavendula angustifolia).
An herbal facial steam is the easiest and most accessible cosmetic treatment with the most immediate effect. The humidity and concentrated temperature of the steam purges impurities from the skin, then softens and prepares it for the immediate application of an herbal moisturizer. (Caution: Steam facials should not be used for those with very dry skin, or whose veins are close to the facial surface; nor asthmatics, or those with heart trouble.)
1 cup Sage, Calendula, Chamomile or Lavender blossoms
4 cups distilled Water
Pin or tie back your hair, then wash your face thoroughly. Choosing one or a combination of herbs from the above list, measure 1 cup fresh herbs, or 1 1/2 cup dried, and place them in a large ceramic bowl. Bring 4 cups of distilled water to the boil, then pour it over the herbs. Cover your head with a large towel to form a tent over the bowl. Holding your head about 12 inches over the bowl, allow the steam to surround your face for approx. 10 minutes, or as long as you feel comfortable. Your face and neck will be flushed and supple.
Cool the face down by sponging it with tepid water, or an infusion of cool lavender or chamomile water. It is best to remain indoors for about an hour to let your skin adjust to its normal temperature.
A facial mask draws impurities to the surface and tightens the skin, while stimulating circulation. It nourishes and cleanses the skin, giving the face a restored, fresh appearance. After mask is removed, always wash face with warm water, followed by cool water to close the pores, then apply a thin layer of moisturizer.
Cucumber & Sage Mask
1 1/2 Cucumber (peeled & chopped)
2/3 cup Sage leaves
2 Egg Whites
1 t. Lemon Juice
Puree all ingredients in blender, pour into glass jar. With fingertips, apply mask to face (avoiding lips and eyes), leave on for 10 minutes (maximum), then rinse with warm water.
Makes 4 oz. mask mixture
Chamomile & Oatmeal Mask
1 Cup distilled Water
2 T. Chamomile Blossoms
2 T. Instant Oatmeal
Boil water in a small stainless steel saucepan, add chamomile, turn off heat, cover and let cool. Strain chamomile. Place oatmeal in ceramic bowl, add enough chamomile infusion to make a spreadable paste, using a blender if necessary. Apply mask to face (except eyes and lips), leave on for 20 minutes, remove with warm water. Makes 2 oz. mask mixture.
Our complexion has a natural acid surface, which gives the body protection against harmful bacteria, so it is essential that this protective mantle be restored after washing your face. Cider Vinegar helps to restore the skin's natural acidity, and mixed with herbs, it make a healthful, fragrant splash.
Lavender Facial Astringent
2 Cups fresh Lavender Blossoms or 1 Cup dried
2 C. 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. mixture.
Relax and refresh yourself and/or your partner with this sweetly aromatic but not overpowering massage oil.
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. mixture.