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 people 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.

Botany & Wildcrafting Course by Herbal Academy

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 it 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.

Enroll in the Botanical Skin Care Course with the Herbal Academy

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 it 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 it 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.

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 wildflowers

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 it 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.

 

Old-Time Herbal Beauty Tips

Before the big cosmetics companies took over, women often invented their own beauty aids. Here are a few of the herbal beauty tips my grandmother left behind.

Some old fashioned herbal beauty tips are extremely simple. For example, to bleach, your skin rub cucumber slices on your face.

For centuries, herbs were the main source of beauty aids, then along came the big cosmetic companies and the world was swamped with (sometimes dangerous) chemicals. Lately, however—as we rediscover organic recipes—herbs, fruits, and vegetables have found their way back onto milady’s makeup table.

As a matter of fact, I recently read a magazine article in which a duchess and a princess (folks who can certainly afford “the best”) recommended the use of exotic plants for beauty care. About that same time—as I searched through some old family hideaways for my grandmother’s salve recipe—I came upon a list of herbal beauty tips that Grandma had once written out for her daughter (my aunt).

There wasn’t that much difference between royalty’s road to loveliness and Grandma’s either, except the old girl didn’t buy most of her materials—she grew ’em!

Here’s the advice that my grandmother wrote down for her daughter those many years ago:

IN THE MORNING: Mix a handful of oatmeal with enough spring water to make a paste, and put this mixture on your face and neck. When it dries, rinse the paste off with whey, then with water, and dry your skin with a soft rag.

AT NIGHT: Rub a mixture of honey and glycerin onto your face, then after awhile wipe it off gently with a soft cloth.

ONCE A WEEK: Add a teaspoon of honey to one mashed apple, mix them together, and put this “cream” on your face and neck. Leave it in place for half an hour, and then rinse with whey or cold milk. (Make sure your husband will be gone awhile before you start this treatment!)

TO SMOOTH WRINKLES: Apply barley water and a few drops of balm of Gilead to your wrinkles every day.

TO BLEACH YOUR SKIN: Rub cucumber slices on your face.

FOR SOFT HANDS: Shake a half cup of glycerin, a half cup of rose water, and a quarter cup of witch hazel in a jar. Apply this to your hands after they’ve been in the water.

TO HEAL CHAPPED HANDS: Rub them with damp table salt.

FOR BRIGHT HAIR: Add vinegar to the rinse water after washing your hair, or make a rinse of mullein, nettle, sage, or burdock tea.

TO DARKEN GRAY HAIR: Boil an ounce of chamomile or sage in a quart of water for 20 minutes. Rinse your hair with this brew, and use a hairbrush dipped in strong chamomile or sage tea.

TO PREVENT DANDRUFF: Rub a tea made from the leaves and bark of willow into your scalp. Rinse the area with marshmallow tea.

FOR A RELAXING BATH: Hang a bag of dried comfrey or rosemary In the bath water.

FOR PERFUME: Fill a jar with pressed rose petals (or any sweet-scented flowers), add as much glycerin as the container will hold, and cover It tightly. After three weeks, you can pour the perfume off into a bottle.

TO MAKE A SACHET: Combine one ounce each of powdered cloves, caraway seed, nutmeg, mace, and cinnamon with six ounces of powdered orrisroot. Put the mixture in fancy bags and place them in closets and dresser drawers.

Now, some of the ingredients that Granny mentioned may not be familiar to you. Take “balm of Gilead,” for example. That’s just plain ol’ balsam. And “marshmallow tea” sounds like a sticky mess, but Grandma wasn’t talking about the soft, white candy. She was referring to the root of the marshmallow plant. “Orrisroot,” another name that may be puzzling to modern folk, Is the dried, powdered root of various European Iris plants.

Grandma foraged or grew most of her ingredients, but you can often find them in health food stores, supermarkets, and pharmacies, or even still growin’ wild along the roadside.

Naturally (no pun intended), I started to use some of these old-time recipes and found that comfrey does make a nice skin softener, while oatmeal leaves the skin silky and is especially good on oily teenage complexions.

However, a word of caution: Anyone can be allergic to almost anything, so check out any unfamiliar substance before you rub it all over yourself. To do this, just place a small amount on the tender skin of your inner arm and cover the area with an adhesive bandage. Then wait 24 hours and have a look. If the patch shows any reaction, such as redness or obvious irritation, that ingredient just isn’t for you.

My grandmother often said she didn’t feel a bit older at 80 than she did at 16, and she didn’t look her age either. Did this wonderful woman’s organic beauty rituals account for her natural glow and glamour? Well, let us just say that—after a few weeks of using some of Grandma’s “secrets”—I’ve begun to believe that they did!

bars of soap

Recipes to Make Your Own Soap, Lotion and More

You can easily make safe, effective toiletries — including lotion and deodorant — at home, using simple, healthy ingredients.

$50 off the Botanical Skin Care Course for a limited time!

If you’ve ever read the labels on health and hygiene products, you know it can be a challenge to find a product that doesn’t contain long lists of ingredients you can’t even pronounce, let alone know what they are or what they’re for. Plus, there are the occasional headlines that yet another standard ingredient in the products we use every day turns out to be counter to the very health and cleanliness the product is supposed to promote. Sometimes the easiest way to ensure that you’re using the best, healthiest products — from soap to toothpaste — is to simply make your own. You can easily make safe, effective toiletries — including lotion and deodorant — at home, using simple, healthy ingredients.

Try your hand at one or all of these basic recipes and rest assured that your body is getting the best care you can give it. You should be able to find the basic ingredients listed below at your local pharmacy or health food store.

Shea Butter Soap

2 cups glycerin soap base, melted in a double boiler
2 tbsp shea butter, melted separately
Several drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)

Mix well, pour into molds (you can use regular food storage containers), and cool.


Whitening Sage Tooth Powder

Mix together 1 tsp each of baking soda, table salt, and dried sage.

Scoop onto a dampened toothbrush and brush as usual.


Body Butter

1/4 cup grated cocoa butter
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp avocado oil
1 tbsp grated beeswax

Combine all the ingredients in an ovenproof glass container. Place the container with the mixture in a pan with a 1- to a 2-inch water bath. Melt the oils and wax gently.

Pour the melted mixture into a clean jar and allow to cool. Stir the cooled mixture.

Spread the butter on your body and massage into the skin. Yields 4 oz.


Basic Deodorant Powder Formula

1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup cornstarch
Antibacterial essential oils such as cinnamon, rose, birch or lavender, as preferred

Place the baking soda and cornstarch in a glass jar. Add the essential oils; stir and cover. Dampen a powder puff, cotton ball or sea sponge and dab into the mixture (or sprinkle the mixture on the sponge); pat underarms. Makes 1 cup.

herbal infusions

 

Discover over 200 herbal recipes in the Botanical Skin Care Course

Herb Infused Waters for Summer Hydration

Hydration is key when summer hits, and while I love ice water, sometimes a hint of flavor can make the water feel a bit more special. Plus, herb-infused water is an easy upgrade when entertaining, your guests will be impressed!

You can use any combo of herbs, fruits, and edible flowers that you like, here are some of my favorite combos:

1. Lemon Balm and Mint: lemon balm has a sweet lemony flavor that adds brightness while mint will add that refreshing cooling effect. Lemon balm is known to relieve digestive problems, anxiety, lower blood pressure, aid in concentration and is antiviral (1). Mint is known to also relieve digestive bloat, upset stomach, and vomiting (1). A lemon balm and mint water infusion would be great on a hot day when you might need a mood lift or feel extra stressed.

2. Watermelon and Basil: cubed watermelon adds a touch of sweetness while basil pairs well with summer fruit. Basil improves circulation and soothes headaches while being antimicrobial (1). The contrast of pink plus green makes a great spring and summer refresher. Watermelon can also be substituted with strawberries for a fun twist.

3.Mint and Cucumber: cucumber water is a classic ‘spa water’. Add sliced cucumbers to impart a touch of flavor and add mint, which can relieve upset stomach and cools you down at the same time.

4. Chamomile: alone, chamomile has a sweet apple flavor, pair it with lavender, lemon balm or stevia leaves for a sweeter twist on herb water. Chamomile is known to promote relaxation and relieve stress, ease stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea (1) and is also loved by children. The cute white flowers will give this infusion a feminine look, great for a girls day or night.

5. Strawberry and thyme: strawberries add vitamins, sweetness and a pale pink hue. Thyme adds a distinct herbal flavor and brings benefits such as soothing sore throats, stimulating the immune system and can help fight urinary infections (1). Together they make a tasty pairing fit for any summer entertaining, or as a treat after an afternoon working in the garden.

Water infused with herbs is a healthy, sugar-free alternative for any time of the year, but especially refreshing during the warm months. When infusing waters, roughly chop, tear or bruise the herbs to release their oils and scent. In a pitcher or large mason jar, infuse water and herbs for a least 2-4 hours before serving for the best flavor. Throw in a few edible flowers such as calendula, pansies, borage, rose petals or chamomile for an extra layer of color and interest. There is no wrong or right combination when it comes to infusing water with herbs- use the flavors you like and use the herbs you have on hand!