Using plants and flowers topically might seem like the new trend. Companies are including chamomile, lavender, salts and clays in products to 1. bring us back to nature, and 2. create a more healthy product.
In fact, using ingredients from nature goes way back. Think of Cleopatra and her milk and honey baths with a sprinkling of rose petals. Having access to these luxurious ingredients was a sign of wealth. In the ancient Roman baths, prior to the invention of soap, olive oil was used all over the body and scraped off with a rounded metal spoon-spatula to remove dirt from the skin.
These ingredients were used because they were available, yes, but also because they had purpose. Plants contain constituents that soothe, nourish, stimulate and coat. Some plant oils are extracted in the form of essential oils and used in aromatherapy for their healing properties. Some plants are steeped in tea form and ingested or used topically. Either way, our internal and external self can reap the rewards of nature’s gifts.
Here are my 5 top plant picks that work wonders on the skin:
- Oats (Avena sativa): Oats are warming overall. Eating a big bowl of oatmeal soothes the digestive tract, calms the nervous system and topically is a demulcent and emollient. Mix up some ground oats with honey for a weekly face mask, or add oats to your bath to help relieve itching or rashes.
- Rose: Roses were grown traditionally for medicinal use but are wonderful in skin care as they are high in vitamin C and aromatic. Rose essential oil has antibacterial and antifungal properties, making it useful in skin toners and cleansers. Try making rose infused face oil or use rose petals in a weekly facial steam.
- Aloe Vera: Internally, aloe juice can aid in digestion with it’s anti-inflammatory properties. Topically, aloe contains constituents that aid in wound healing by stimulating the growth of skin cells. If you have a live aloe plant, simply break open a leaf and apply to wounded skin. Otherwise, you can purchase aloe juice or gel and use directly on skin. For sunburned skin, keep aloe refrigerated and apply directly as needed.
- Calendula (Calendula officinalis): From the pot Marigold flower, Calendula has a purpose in skin care from baby to adult. Topically, it’s major uses are for burns, wounds, skin infections, and reducing inflammation. A cold infusion compress works well on burns and calendula-infused oil is my favourite addition in salves.
- Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana): A plant with astringent, anti-inflammatory, and healing properties. Traditionally, it is used in skin care to tone the skin, tighten pores, reduce inflammation and protect against UV damage, with antioxidant properties. Apply directly onto cleansed skin, or mix with steeped herbal tea as a face toner.
Get back to basics. Try incorporating one or two herbal remedies into your daily routine to help reduce some toxins, and naturally clean and protect your skin. Experiment with infusions, salves, compresses and even try mixing them together for a synergistic effect. You can grow your own and dry the leaves, or purchase organic plants and flowers at organic markets, dispensaries, wellness clinics and DIY soapmaking/beauty suppliers.