Tag Archives: skincare

Summer of Herbs: Shades of Green Facial Toner

Of all the treasures and wonders of the summer season, for me, the most revered are the colorful, aromatic, fresh herbs and flowers. Roadsides, railways, gardens, and mountainsides are all alive with wild flowers and plants and dragonflies, butterflies, bees, and winged creatures of all sizes delight in their presence. After months of using their dried counterparts, fresh herbs remind us of the true vitality and essence of herbalism.  photo 3(2)There’s nothing quite like waking up, going out into the sun, and bending down to pick a few leaves of mint, lemon balm, sage, or verbena and making a fresh infusion. A cup of fresh Lemon Balm leaf tea makes the dry version pale in comparison. Working with fresh herbs and flowers is one of the sweetest experiences one can have, and now is the time for these moments. Naturally, we seek to preserve the fresh herb experience much like one seeks to preserve memories through photographs, feelings through a journal, keepsakes through a time capsule buried in the earth for future discovery. This season, I have enjoyed the blessing of a bountiful little herb patch that began with only a few small starter plants and seeds, and has blossomed into a thriving plant community regularly visited by dragonflies, butterflies, and the like. I am astonished each time I visit at the rapid growth and the incessant offering of Calendula blooms, lavender buds, basil, thyme, sage, lemon balm, parsley, and rosemary. The garden’s growth exceeded my wildest dreams and it seems every day the leaves have multiplied once again, and even after leaving behind plenty for other visitors, I am left with an abundance of plant material to take home. One of my favorite recipes that I developed inspired by my own garden is the follow facial toner, called Shades of Green because as it brews, it goes through stages of greens, leading ultimately to a deep, forest green that alludes to its powerful natural healing gifts. I believe the parsley lends a deep glow to the skin, while calendula can heal past damage. The lavender was added for beauty and inspiration, and also lends a cleansing, astringent effect.

ImageRecipe for Shades of Green Face Toner

You’ll need: 1 pint size mason jar, organic witch hazel or vodka, distilled water
Gather enough Calendula blooms and leaves, lavender buds and leaves, and parsley leaves (you can try root here too) to fill the jar to the top, but not over-stuffing completely (there should be enough space for the herbs to move around freely when the liquid is added.) Fill 3/4 of the jar with vodka or witch hazel, and the rest with water. Swirl the herbs around, and leave in a sunny spot for 2-3 weeks. At first, the liquid will turn a bright emerald green, then watch it daily as it absorbs the vitamins, minerals, and magic of the plants – changing to a deep forest green. When the leaves and flowers look as though they have given all their color away, you can begin to use the toner. I like to leave the plant material inside while I use it, then eventually I strain it and store it in a small jar with a spray pump for easier application.
Use: I like to apply a small amount to an organic cotton ball and use it to clean my face – great when camping! Feel free to experiment with the ratios of the herbs – I used more calendula and parsley, and a few lavender sprigs. Go with what you have on hand and let your garden’s supply inspire you. Be well and be beautiful.

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Books: 6 Great Herbal Reads for Homemade Cures

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Would you be quipped to handle a poison ivy breakout, or cure a migraine using household ingredients? Brush up on your herbal know-how with the classics and some of the less common herbals, all available at Better World Books:

Grandmother’s Secrets: her green guide to health from plants, by Jean Palaiseul (*classic!)
I am just reading this one now and using it as a reference in my herbal research. I love it because it is translated from the French and the rich folkloric spirit remains vibrant. Reading it makes me feel like I am cuddled up next to a rustic hearth listening to a wise French grandmother tell the olden tales of herbs we still use today.

Common Herbs for Natural Health, by Juliette de Bairacli Levy (*classic!)
Anyone who knows anything about herbalism has come across this legendary herbalist’s works. She was a pioneer woman who travelled with the gypsies, farmers, and mountain people, and lived in countless countries across the world, collecting herbal wisdom from wherever she stepped foot. This volume is the first you should own, as a general guide to common herbs. Her other works include special herbals for children, pets, and the endless stories of her travels infused with herbal lore.

20,000 Secrets of Tea, by Victoria Zak
I really love this book. I use it often for inspiration for tea blends and for its index which lists ailments and the various herbs that heal them. For such a small book, Zak has managed to fit in an impressive materia medica section, recipes for delicious teas, all sprinkled with lots of clever ideas and tips for making the most of your herbal endeavors.

How to make your own Herbal Cosmetics, by Liz Sanderson (*vintage!)
This book was written in 1977 and it totally looks like it. The illustrations are so retro that you’d imagine this was the herbal that Rhoda from the Mary Tyler Moore Show had on her nightstand. It’s filled with hundreds of recipes for every type of lotion, potion, cream, rinse, perfume, and tonic for light hair, dark hair, thinning hair, thick hair, zits, freckles, and of course, wrinkles. The tone of the book is delightfully informal (like the decade it was born of), sort of  like an old girlfriend giving you a makeover.

Herbal Remedies in Pots, by Effie Romain + Sue Hawkey
One of the first herb books I ordered on BWB, what I like is how the authors laid out the book according to various maladies and which herbs to grow together in pots for all-in-one cures. For example, you might plant a pot of English Lavender, Milk Thistle, and  Mugwort to banish hangovers. The book gives directions for planting, cultivating, and formulating remedy recipes for all the tummy aches, tooth aches, ear aches, and well, whole body aches you can think of.

Native American Wisdom, compiled by Alan Jacobs
Though this is not an herbal book per se (it just so happened to be atop my current stack of herbals), it is relevant as the Native Americans derived much knowledge and wisdom from the green world. This book is a compilation of various writings and sayings from different tribes’ chiefs, medicine men, and women. It is a very small book, but like a simple poem, entire universes and lifelong lessons are held within its words.

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Herbal salve: red clover + comfrey

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Ingredients: organic red clover, beeswax, coconut oil, and mint leaves.

I just made this wonderfully soothing salve for lips, dry skin, cuts and scrapes.

To make the salve:

1. Using a double boiler, infuse 3 tablespoons of coconut oil with a few fresh mint sprigs and a handful of red clovers.

2. Let the oil infuse but make sure it doesn’t burn for about 15 minutes.

3. Add in about 1/4 cup of beeswax, and let it melt into the oil.

4. Test the consistency by taking a spoonful and putting it into the fridge for a minute.

5. The salve should be hardened but soft, like chap stick.

6. Pour the mixture into containers.

This can be used on lips or any other dry skin. The red clover has cancer fighting properties and the coconut oil is soothing, while the mint tastes good and refreshes.

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