Like I said on the scrubs-basics post, herbs can be a bit tricky to use properly, I’ve combined what I feel is the relevant information for using herbs yourself – if you feel I’ve missed anything key then drop me a comment 🙂
Be wary of where you buy dried herbs them from (always find a reputable organic source, they could have pesticides which will harm your skin if used in the scrubs/hand cream or be poisonous if ingested.
Picking your own
If you want to pick your own herbs and dry them, be wary of a few things;
- Laws of ownership – who owns the land and plants you are picking – do you have permission?
- The quantity you pick – make sure the plant is able to regenerate what you have taken because you don’t want to kill the source – be sustainable
- Be Sure of what you have – Only pick plants you are certain of because a lot of the species look alike – one poisonous plant could look exactly the same as a safe one (I found there were so many different sub species of certain plants there was no way of telling which was the one I wanted.
Generally hanging plants is the easiest natural way to dry them out but it takes space and time, so in a pinch you can place them on grease proof paper in the oven. (You can find out how to dry them in the oven from Sanctuary Gardner here.) I’ve tried both methods and there are only some minor differences. Be careful not to burn them!
Aesthetically pleasing – rose petals or dried flowers look nice in scrubs (make sure you cut quite small though so there are no plug blockages – yes that is from experience). You can also use natural colorants such as raspberries, blueberries, strawberries to add some colour to your creations if you prefer to be completely organic.
Invigoration – citrus smells/fruits – check out the basic scrubs page for more info on this.
Relaxation – lavender, chamomile, elder flower are all great for soaps/hand creams/scrubs/bath oils
Smellies – peppermint smells lovely (and is a good decongestant when its inhaled), I love lime and vanilla too, I use lavender a lot and enjoy that smell – fruits (citrus/berries/avocado ) are also some of my fav’s
*Oregano – has been linked to helping ease the symptoms of arthritis (since I don’t have arthritis I’ve never tried it but in my research it popped up a lot and was worth a mention. Simmering 1 part oregano to 4 parts olive oil will create a nice rub to try out. Once it’s cool apply liberally to joints and let me know how you get on !!*
I personally find jars are the best (yes I love a good jar) – after sterilizing them make sure they are completely dry otherwise the dried herbs will go damp and mouldy (which defeated the point of drying them). The more air tight the better. I keep mine in a cupboard (away from cooking ingredients so not to get confused
When labeling your herbs make sure you have the correct name, in clear view, and when they were picked/dried so you have a rough estimation when they go off. Try to label those that are irritants (a few examples below) or that are immediately dangerous. Don’t use jars for different herbs because not only will it cause cross contamination you’ll probably forget to update the label and be using the wrong herb altogether!
Cinnamon – although it smells amazing cinnamon can cause nasty rashes if in contact with the skin in larger quantities – even smaller quantities can upset sensitive/broken skin. But it does smell nice so check out my other recipes for ones utilizing the cinnamon smell.
Raw Nettles (I’m putting it here because of the nettle tea recipe is posted. And I don’t want someone thinking it’s fine to eat or touch them raw (there’s always one).
Pepper – can irritate skin (especially the sensitive kind) so try not to season yourself
Mistletoe is poisonous – be wary near Christmas when making gifts
Mustard – the powder is a nasty irritant to the skin
It is best to avoid adding herbs if you are/or are making gifts for those who are pregnant/breastfeeding, it is better to be safe than sorry and unless you are an expert (which I’m certainly not) you never know what the cross contamination might be (even something usually safe like lavender could have come into contact with nasties e.g. cat wee there I said it!)