Grow your own herbs for healing and beauty from the comfort of your back garden
If you’ve ever drunk a cup of camomile tea to help you wind down or smoothed Aloe Vera gel on a burn, you’ll know that plants can be powerful wellbeing allies. But instead of heading to your local health shop next time you’re in need of some herbal self-care, have you thought about growing your own? Nature has kindly provided us with the tools to enhance our beauty and treat minor ailments and with more time spent at home, now could be the perfect time to nurture your very own herbal garden.
Not only are they useful but they attract bees and other pollinators too, which is great for us and the environment.
You don’t have to choose between having a beautiful garden or one filled with useful plants because more and more, the two are becoming intertwined in garden design. And the great news is, most herbs are pretty hardy and don’t need much tending to once you have chosen the perfect spot in your garden.
Ever wondered why natural cosmetics can sometimes be more effective than synthetic products? This is because plants can help gently bring us back into equilibrium without disrupting our natural bodily functions. The benefit of making your own cosmetics is that you’ll know exactly what ingredients the products contain. This can be especially empowering if you have particularly sensitive skin.
There are a few herbs which are especially useful, used both internally and externally. Calendula (officinalis), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and lavender (lavendula angustifolia) are all fantastic additions to the garden.
Rose is incredibly useful, too. Rosa rugosa, Rosa canina and Rosa damascena are the ones usually used for their volatile essential oils. It’s possible to find Rosa rugosa and Rosa canina growing wild in hedgerows.
If you spot the word officinalis in the name of a plant this means that it has been traditionally used as medicine.
With the over-use of pesticides and intensive farming our soils have become depleted in essential minerals and microorganisms. This is reflected in our health. Hans Gunther is a biodynamic gardener teaching an online course in ‘how to grow your own health’. He states: “If we don’t heal the soil, if we don’t heal the plants, if we don’t heal the animals, we won’t ever heal ourselves.”
With that in mind the most important thing to do is to prepare your ground with compost and make sure your plants have all the nutrients they need in order to grow and become as strong and healthy as possible.
You’ll need a basket and some scissors or snips to harvest your wonderful fresh herbs. The best time to harvest them is in the morning just after the dew has evaporated.
It’s important to cut your plant just above a leaf node in order to promote new growth. With calendula and roses the more you cut them the more they will flower.
You can tie them into bundles with string and leave them to dry somewhere away from direct sunlight. If you have a food dehydrator this is a great way to dry them too.
Make sure your herbs are completely dry before using or storing. This will ensure they won’t rot or spoil your skincare creations.
Brew up some tea
The easiest way to make use of your dried herbs for medicine is as a tea. Simply put a teaspoon of the herbs into a teapot or cup and pour over some hot (not boiling) water. Let it set for a few minutes before straining. Rosemary is fantastic for aiding the digestion and helps aid concentration. Lavender of course helps aid relaxation and is a wonderful soothing tea taken before bed.
Steaming with petals
Rose is one of my favourite herbs to help bring the skin into balance. My favourite way to use it is to simply place a handful of petals, either dry or fresh, into a bowl of hot water and use as a facial steam. The scent is heavenly and soothes the nerves.
Rose is also anti-inflammatory and astringent, which means it helps to promote a glowing complexion. It helps control sebum production and brings the skin into balance. I have used rose as an ingredient in skincare on clients with acne and seen fantastic results.
Creating an oil
Another wonderful way to use herbs is to infuse them in oil. Calendula is another plant known for it’s skin-healing properties. Simply fill a sterile jar with dried calendula flowers, pour over some oil, either olive or sunflower are fine. Leave the jar on a sunny window ledge for four to six weeks. Strain the herbs and use as a massage oil or base for your lotions and salves.
Make sure to store your oil in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and ideally in dark glass.
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