Herbs for Topical Skincare

Maintaining healthy skin at anytime of year and at any age is both an inside and an outside job. For tips to keep your skin healthy from the inside, out, check out our recent post, Tips for Radiant Skin from the Inside, Out.

In today’s post, however, we’re going outside. I’d like to introduce you to herbs you can use on the outside, that is, topically for radiant skin. These nourishing herbs can be easily incorporated in your own DIY skincare products. You can make these safe, natural, organic skincare products at home to optimize all the other good things you’re doing to take care of your body and skin from the inside, out.

HERBS FOR TOPICAL SKINCARE

When it comes to topical skincare, medicinal plants offer a wide range of properties that promote healthy skin. In this post I’m going to introduce you to four unique herbal actions for your skin and four plants that I frequently incorporate into my skincare products.

Calendula: An Herbal Vulnerary

An herbal vulnerary describes a medicinal plant that promotes healing of wounds and soothes irritated tissue, including the skin. Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is one of my favorite vulneraries. This bright orange-gold flower reminds me of a warm summer day. If sunshine has a fragrance, it’s Calendula. These medicinal flowers aid in healing wounds, burns, boils, rashes, and support normal connective tissue, making Calendula an excellent topical remedy for most skin conditions and all skin types. It also relieves itching and can reduce the swelling and pain of bee stings. For daily skin care, Calendula helps to soften and smooth skin, reduce pore size, and clear acne.

For topical use, Calendula is typically infused in oil, which is then applied to the skin or incorporated in a salve, lotion, or cream. A strong tea made with Calendula flowers can also be incorporated in a cream or lotion or used in the bath tub. You can make your own Calendula Oil with this recipe and then use it to make a Calendula Salve with these instructions. Calendula Oil can also be incorporated in DIY lotions and creams—another recipe coming your way soon. We sell beautiful organic Calendula flowers in the shop and you can purchase organic Calendula Oil in the shop or online.

Keep in mind that Calendula is just one of many herbal vulneraries. Others that work well in skin care include Aloe Vera juice or gel (Aloe spp.), Comfrey leaf and root (Symphytum officinalis),Chickweed (Stellaria media), and Plantain (Plantago spp.). 

German Chamomile: An Herbal Anti-Inflammatory

Herbal anti-inflammatories reduce inflammation in various ways. Some reduce inflammation because their mucilaginous content is directly soothing. Others contain salicylates (like aspirin) or steroid precursors. Many essential oils are also anti-inflammatory, including the essential oil found in the familiar herb and cheerful little flower we call German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita).

Better known for its relaxing effects and for its ability to easy indigestion, German Chamomile is actually one of my favorite anti-inflammatories for topical use.  Its antispasmodic effects also make it a good choice for topical use on sore muscles. Diluted, German Chamomile essential oil can also be applied to  sprains and sore tendons and joints.  Its relaxing and anti-inflammatory effects also help ease headaches and soothe allergies. Incorporated in skincare products, Chamomile is good for all skin types and especially for sensitive skin, puffiness or inflamed conditions.

You can find organic German Chamomile essential oil and German Chamomile Hydrosol in the shop and online. Hydrosols, sometimes called flower waters are created during the steam distillation of essential oils. They possess many of the same qualities as the essential oil, but are much less concentrated, making them well suited for topical use. Hydrosols make great skin toners, alone, or in combination with other ingredients.

German Chamomile essential oil is easily incorporated in your DIY skincare products. You can also use Chamomile Hydrosol or a strong Chamomile tea in creams and lotions. The tea also makes for a relaxing, skin-soothing bath. Other herbal anti-inflammatories for topical skincare include Calendula, discussed above, Comfrey leaf and root (Symphytum officinalis),Chickweed (Stellaria media), Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia), Licorice Root (Gylcyrrhiza glabra), which is also used to lighten dark skin spots, and Plantain (Plantago spp.).

Green Tea: An Herbal Antioxidant

Skin damage occurs as a result of oxidation, a chemical process in which unstable molecules called free radicals steal electrons from healthy cells. On the skin, oxidative stress may show up us as wrinkles, thickening, discoloration and loss of elasticity. Antioxidants are the best defense against free radical damage or oxidative stress.  As the name suggests, antioxidants combat oxidative damage by sacrificing their own electrons to feed free radicals, but without turning into free radicals themselves. A diet rich in high quality, organic fruits and vegetables will give your body a daily dose of antioxidants. Personally, I like to up my daily antioxidant intake with the regular consumption of Green Tea (Camellia sinensis), truly my favorite antioxidant!

Drinking Green Tea daily is not only great for your skin, also improves mental clarity and promotes an increased sense of well-being. It contains more than 50 anti-inflammatory compounds and possesses anti-carcinogenic properties that may help explain why cancer rates are much lower in Japan where Green Tea consumption is high. Green Tea also has a pronounced effect on the cardiovascular system, helping to lower blood pressure, lowering cholesterol levels, specifically “bad cholesterols” (LDL) and serum triglycerides, while raising “good cholesterols” (HDL). It also acts as a blood thinner or anti-coagulant and has been shown to inhibit abnormal blood clot formation as effectively as aspirin. Whew! I think I need a cup of Green Tea.

Green Tea is a common ingredient in many skincare products and it can also be incorporated in DIY skincare. Consider using powdered  Green Tea in a mask in combination  with a French Green or White Kaolin Clay. A strong tea can be incorporated in lotions or creams and I’ll be posting a recipe for that very lotion later this month.

There are many varieties of Green Tea and we have offer many organic choices online and in the shop. Green Tea also features prominently in many of Super Salve/Sister Creations Power Repair skincare products including Skin Serum, Vitamin C Solution, Skin Therapy Oil, Lighten & Brighten, Nourishsing Face Cream, and Eye Cream, all 20% off in the shop during the month of June.

In addition to Green Tea, most green leafy herbs contain significant levels of anti-oxidants. Among these, Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Sage (Salvia officinalis), and Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) offer other unique benefits for the skin and can be also be incorporated in DIY skincare products from masks and toners to cleansers and lotions.

Helichrysum: An Herbal Skin Regenerative

Rare are compounds that promote regeneration of healthy connective tissue immediately following an injury and restoration of healthy skin even after scarring has developed. Sometimes referred to as Everlast or Immortelle, the small flowers of Helichrysum italicum (syn. angustifolium) produce an essential oil with these rare and potent skin regenerative effects. This essential oil also possesses vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, anti-bruising, and analgesic properties. Topically, the essential oil is a great first aid remedy for sprains, strains, bruising, swelling, cuts, open wounds, and radiation burns.  Applied immediately after injury, it can help prevent swelling and bruising.

In skincare products Helichrysum essential oil helps reduce and prevent scars (including keloid scars and stretch marks), old or new, resulting from surgery or injury. The essential oil is easily incorporated in DIY skincare products to reduce inflammation and to soothe chronic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, acne and acne scarring. It is an ideal choice for repair of mature, sun damaged, or couperose skin.  Helichrysum hydrosol makes an excellent toner and can also be used to incorporate the amazing properties of Helichrysum in a lotion or cream.  You can purchase Helichrysum essential oil (in a base of Jojoba Oil) and the Hydrosol in the shop or online.

An alternative to Helichrysum is an herb called Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica). Gotu Kola lacks the beautiful fragrance of Helichrysum, but offers many of the same benefits when it comes to wound repair and tissue regeneration. Gotu Kola also has the advantage of being safe for internal use and promotes wound healing and tissue regeneration when used internally. It’s even helpful for varicose veins and cellulitis. A strong tea of Gotu Kola can also be incorporated in your DIY skincare products.  For more about Gotu Kola visit our blog, Tips for Radiant Skin from the Inside, Out.

There are many excellent herbs for radiant skin. Consider your age, skin type, and the current health of your skin. Visit this blog throughout the month for DIY skincare recipes incorporating a variety of herbs and essential oils, including those discussed here. If you’re eating a skin-healthy diet, getting plenty of rest and water, then incorporating herbs in your topical skincare routine is like icing on the cake!

Thanks so much for visiting us online. Our mission is to support you in making informed decisions about the use of herbs for a healthier, happier lifestyle. Please let us know how we can support you and serve you better.

Wishing you a beautiful summer and radiant health inside an out,
suzanne

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