Wildcrafted Beauty

Explore the natural world and search for the perfect ingredients for your DIY all-natural personal care products.

Harvesting and wildcrafting plants was a necessity for our ancestors who depended on plants for everything from homesteading to medicine to personal hygiene. Today, purchasing products made with natural, plant-based ingredients is a lifestyle choice – one many person have chosen in an effort to move away from using questionable chemicals on their skin and hair. But while we may look for words like “natural” and “organic” or even “clean” on the label, there’s only one way to truly know what’s in your body care items – make them yourself. Beauty products containing wild and foraged ingredients have become more popular than ever, as more people want to use safer ingredients. These homemade items also offer an opportunity to connect with nature and enjoy the satisfaction of creating something from plants. Here are some recipes to get you started.

Wildcrafting Basics

Foraging or hunting for wild plants is fun, but it’s important to know what you’re doing. If wildcrafting is a new activity for you or you intend on exploring an unfamiliar area, make sure you study {and bring along} a local plant guide, and/or take a class or guided herb walk. A good rule to follow when it comes to using wild plants: if it’s all right to eat, it’s usually safe to use on your skin and hair.

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As with any new ingredient, do a patch test inside your arm or behind your leg before spreading something on your face and body. Many local natural food stores may have some samples of wild plants you can try ahead of time.

Finally, harvest responsibly. Never take endangered or at-risk species or forage in protected conservation areas. Don’t pull from one area, potentially decimating a stand of plants – spread out your harvest and don’t take too much. For these recipes, you will need only a small amount of wild ingredients. Finally, make sure you bring the proper tools to avoid damaging the plant.

Nettle Hair Rinse

Nettles like to grow in moist areas, so you will find them along streams or in the cool part of the forest. These plants grow several feet high and, as many of us know, have hair-like bristles on their leaves that cause a stinging sensation when touched. The young shoots and leaves are edible and lend themselves to various body care items, including hair rinse. Nettles stimulate hair follicles on the scalp, yielding healthier hair. The apple cider vinegar in this recipe also treats the skin on your scalp, keeping it clean and healthy and helping to balance its pH.

1 cup fresh nettle leaves or 1/2 cup dried nettle leaves

2 cups boiling water

2 Tbls apple cider vinegar

Place the nettle leaves {use gloves if you’re handling fresh leaves} in a ceramic or glass bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let the mixture steep until cool, then strain. Stir in the apple cider vinegar and pour into a clean container. To use: As a final rinse after shampooing, pour some of the rinse onto your head and massage into your scalp. Rinse with cool water. Yield: 16 ounces.

Juniper Berry Foot Soak

Many species of juniper produce edible berries, but the fruit of common juniper {Juniperus communis} is what most people prefer. There is some controversy over the safety of consuming the berries – eating large amounts over an extended period of time may cause illness – but applied topically, they’re safe and natural antiseptic, making them well-suited for a cleansing and refreshing soak. Fall offers the best time to collect fresh berries, and you can dry them for year-round use.

1/4 cup fresh juniper berries, slightly crushed

1/4 cup Epsom salt

2 Tbls baking soda

Fill a large tub or basin with warm water. Add the juniper berries, Epsom salts, and baking soda and stir well until the salts and soda have dissolved. Soak your feet in the fragrant water for 15-20 minutes. After your footbath, massage your feet with some natural oils or a rich cream. Yield: 4 ounces, enough for one footbath.

Wild Berry Facial Mask

Wild berries such as blackberry, elderberry, and mulberries all contain antioxidants and vitamins A and C, which help cleanse and nourish the skin. Used as a facial mask, berries soothe the complexion and also help rid it of surface impurities and dead skin cells. This not only leaves you with glowing skin but also helps your skin function more efficiently and absorb more moisture. When harvesting, make sure to gather only edible berries – if you can eat them, you can apply them topically – that are free from pesticides and herbicides.

1/2 cup fresh berries, slightly mashed

1 Tbls almond flour or white clay powder

In a small bowl stir together the berries and flour or clay until you have a smooth, creamy mixture. You may need to add a bit more flour or clay depending on how juicy your berries are. Store in the refrigerator until ready to apply. To Use: Spread the mask mixture on clean skin, avoiding the eye and mouth area making sure to cover your neck {a part of the body often overlooked}. Let the mixture sit for 15-20 minutes, then rinse off with warm water and pat skin dry. Store any leftover mask in the refrigerator, where it should last a week or two. Yield: 4 ounces.

Blackberry Leaf Hair Rinse

From July through August, the peak season for this favored fruit, blackberries pop up along country roads and in the woods, lending themselves to jams, pies, and other confections. The plant also provides some key beauty-boosting ingredients. Wild blackberry and raspberry leaves are naturally cleansing, serving as an excellent final rinse for your hair and scalp. Naturally acidic, they restore hair’s natural acid level, which is often stripped away by alkaline shampoos. To add a bit of color to your product, toss a few fresh berries in this recipe. If you don’t have access to fresh leaves, find them at natural food stores or look for herbal teas made with the leaves.

1 cup fresh blackberry leaves, washed and chopped, or 1/2 cup dried leaves

2 cups boiling water

Place the leaves in a ceramic or glass bowl. Pour the boiling water over and allow the mixture to sit for 15 minutes. Strain and pour into a clean bottle. To use: After shampooing, pour through your hair as a final rinse. Dry and style your hair as usual. Save any leftover rinse in the refrigerator; it should stay fresh for a few weeks. Yield: 16 ounces.

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Wild Violets Cold Cream

Violets grow wild in shady areas and are a very “friendly” plant, meaning that they love to spread out and take over a patch of ground. They’re also useful in teas and add a lovely pink shade to vinegars. Some people like to candy them for cake decorations. For cosmetic use, they have a gentle, soothing, and mildly astringent effect great for facial steams, as a mouthwash, or in perfumes. In this cleansing cream, wild violets provide a delicate fragrance that soothes all skin types.

1 Tbls coconut oil

1/4 cup sweet almond oil

1/4 distilled water or pure water

2-3 tsp fresh violet flower heads

Mix together the oils in a heat-resistant container. Heat until the oils begin to melt, remove from heat, and stir until melted and well mixed. In a separate bowl, mix together the violets and water. Heat this solution until just boiling. Pour the heated oil mixture into a blender and turn the blender on low. Slowly add the hot violet infusion and continue to blend. You will have a pale-colored cream. Let the cream cool completely, then pour into a clean container. To use: Massage into your skin and rinse well with warm water. Yield: 4 ounces.

Horsetail Nail Strengthener

We can trace Equisetum arvense all the way back to prehistoric times when it grew and flourished some 200 million years ago as dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Some people consider horsetail a pesky weed since it grows profusely and is difficult to remove once established. It’s found along roadsides and in the woods. The hollow stems absorb important minerals such as iron, magnesium, and potassium from the soil, and they boast a high silica content, which can help treat brittle nails. Use this strengthening nail soak daily.

1 tsp fresh horsetail stems, chopped

1/2 cup boiling water

1 tsp pure honey

Place the horsetail stems in a glass or ceramic dish. Pour the boiling water over them and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain off the stems and discard. Add the honey and stir well. Let the solution sit for a few days, then pour into a clean bottle with a tightly fitting lid. To use: Brush the solution over your nails using a clean cotton swab or small brush and let dry. Do this every day for 10-14 days and you should see an improvement in the condition of your nails. You can also soak your nails in this solution when giving yourself a manicure. Yield: 4 ounces.

Dandelion Age Spot Oil

It seems as if dandelions may finally be getting the respect they deserve, as many homeowners have started letting these sunny plants pop up in the yard. Edible from flower to root, these “weeds” serve as useful food for pollinators in the wild. When harvesting, make sure you pick wild dandelions from an area that has not been sprayed with harmful chemicals. {Oftentimes, road crews spray for weeds, so you’ll have better luck in a known yard or out in the woods.} The name dandelion comes from the French dent de lion, “lion’s tooth,” because of the plant’s deeply jagged leaves. For beauty purposes, the yellow flower heads make a wonderful bath and hair rinse. In this recipe, the leaves help naturally fade away stubborn freckles and brown age spots. {Since this is an all-natural treatment, it will take several applications before you see results.}

1/4 cup fresh dandelion leaves, chopped, or 2 Tbls dried leaves

2 Tbls castor oil

2 Tbls sunflower oil

Make sure the dandelion leaves are clean and dry; pat with a clean towel to remove excess moisture. Place the leaves and oils in a heat-resistant container and gently warm. Do not boil. Let the mixture sit for at least three hours. Strain out all the leaves and pour into a clean bottle with a tightly fitting lid. {Those little roller bottles work well.} To use: Rub a small amount of the oil into your skin daily. It may take several weeks, but you will soon see your freckles and age spots begin to fade. Yield: 2 ounces.
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Floral Botanical Wrap

You don’t need to go to a spa to enjoy a full body wrap. For this treatment, you just need to dry brush or scrub your body, moisturize it thoroughly with natural oil, and then wrap up in herb-soaked towels to tone and hydrate the skin. You can manage on your own, but enlisting a partner can make the wrap much tighter. Depending on where you end up lying down, you may want to use an old sheet or something water resistant like a shower curtain.

Relax outdoors if it’s a nice day and you have some privacy. For the wildflowers in this recipe, choose your favorite edible ones such as elderflower, violet, dandelion, wild rose, milkweed flowers, bee balm, pineapple weed, mint, or lemon balm.

2 cups fresh wild flowers

1/4 cup dried fennel seeds

Place all the fresh herbs and flowers inside a large ceramic bowl or bucket. Fill this container with very hot tap water and let steep for 5 minutes. Then soak your sheet or cotton towels in this solution. As they soak, prepare your body by gently dry brushing your skin, then massaging in your favorite natural oil {almond, avocado, coconut}. Wring out the hot, wet sheet or towels and wrap snugly around your body. Lie down and cover yourself with a dry towel or blanket. Lie quietly for no more than 10 minutes. When time’s up, slowly unwrap. You should feel refreshed! Massage more natural oil into your skin if you wish. Yield: one full body wrap.

pineapple weed

 

Pineapple Weed Bath

Often overlooked, Matricaria discoidea is a common weed that grows in a variety of climates. When crushed, the small yellow flowers emit a fresh, pineapple aroma, making it a perfect ingredient in tea and flavored syrups. Of course, it’s also enjoyable in the bath as an energizing soak.

1 cup Epsom salts

1/2 cup pink Himalayan salt or sea salt

2 Tbls baking soda

2 Tbls pineapple weed flowers, slightly crushed

Fill a large muslin tea bag or a small piece of fabric with herbs and tie up. To use: Toss the fabric bag into your bath as you fill the tub and allow the salts to dissolve and the pineapple weed to perfume your bath. Soak for 20 minutes; you can use the cloth bag as a washcloth. Yield: 12 ounces.

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