11 Awesome Herbs
Some of my favorite herbs that work great for skincare
If you’ve been following along since the launch of this journal, you know that I’ve embarked on a mission to make premium quality holistic skincare products using my own organic medicinal herbs. This way I can be exactly sure of how my ingredients are made, so that I know that what is in my bottles is not only high-quality, but also sustainably grown, harvested, processed, and stored. All this from our family-run farm in Burgundy, France.
This first year (2018) will be a season of gathering intelligence (building our own materia medica). We are planting a number of different herbs and will be observing them over the course of the growing season in order to see how they react to the land, their potency, and how we can use their vibrant powers towards wholesome, well-balanced skin.
Below is a list of some of our favorites that we will be planting and why:
1. Calendula (Calendula officinalis) – Native to Southern Europe and North Africa, Calendula is a classic plant with a rich history of nutritional and skin care around the world. It is gentle and great for just about all skin types and conditions: soothing and nourishing, anti-inflammatory and toning, healing and anti-microbial. Most importantly, it makes the skin healthier and stronger, and what more can you ask for from a botanical, really.
2. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – The most timeless, harmonizing herb of all. Probably the most well-known botanical that you can think of, and for a reason. It has potent, complementary effects both topically and emotionally. It is calming and anti-inflammatory, supporting and uplifting, skin purifying and regenerating. And when in full bloom, its flowers form a soothing lilac blanket that I can’t wait to throw over myself!
3. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – Known in the herbal folklore as the “cure-all” plant, yarrow’s creamy white flowers and leaves accumulate impressive healing, anti-inflammatory and purifying powers that I can’t wait to incorporate in my skincare products. Even though it can be used in many different ways on the skin (i.e. powders or infusions), this potent herb is most commonly distilled to create a deep-blue essential oil abundant in chamazulene, an ultra-soothing and restorative volatile compound.
4. Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) – This plant’s gotten a bad rap for a specific kind of constituent it has (mainly in its roots), namely the pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which if taken internally can negatively affect the liver. But when used mindfully and topically, the leaves can significantly boost the skin’s ability to heal and regenerate itself quickly (hey there allantoin!). It is also anti-inflammatory, smoothing and improves elasticity.
5, Nettle (Urtica dioica) – Often mistaken for a large mint, nettle is a weed, but an impressive one. It is literally food for the body, as it is for the skin: it is considered one of the most nutrient-dense plants available. Nettle leaves are a rich source of most regular minerals as well as trace minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, chlorophyll, vitamins A and B, beta-carotene and flavonoids, which can help build healthier skin and hair.
6. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) – Dandelion is a unique plant. It naturally thrives everywhere. How strong and nutritious must it be to be able to do that? “Its tenacity is part of its beauty”, says the renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar and I couldn't agree more. It’s been my go-to herb for years now. I just gravitate towards it and I love that the whole plant is edible and healthy. I infuse the dried leaves to make tea and eat the fresh greens in my salad, but I also use it in all kinds of ways in my beauty formulas. Dandelion is a great source of vitamins A, B, C and D, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, copper, sesquiterpenes and carotenoids.
7. Blue Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) – A vibrant, blue wildflower with a rich history for herbal use throughout Europe and an affinity for eye skin-care, cornflowers are a source of many phytochemicals, such as flavonoids, tannins and protocyanins, which provide powerful anti-inflammatory, firming and antioxidant properties. Unfortunately, this plant is not easily found because it has been a victim of field weed clearings and pesticide use, so I’m determined to give it a home on the farm!
8. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) – Everybody knows and uses echinacea for its immune boosting properties. A pretty great thing to be know for as an herb! But echinacea’s vigorousness doesn’t stop there: it is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, hydrating and rejuvenating. Enough reasons to grow it, aside from just the spectacle of those beautiful purple flowers.
9. Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis) – Once a very popular food among the ancient cultures (the Romans and the Greeks), in more modern times it was converted into fluffy candy (then later for mass-manufacturing its plant juices were swapped for gelatin and sugar), but what welcomes marsh mallow in the garden is its mucilage content, which has impressive soothing and anti-inflammatory effects on the skin.
10. Arnica (Arnica montana) – Another timeless herb for the skincare kit, it is praised for its anti-inflammatory and healing action on swollen and tired muscles, which benefits the face in reducing redness, puffiness, and tired eyes.
11. Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) – A white-flowering plant with an array of therapeutic properties, it was one of the precursors of aspirin for its salicylic acid, a potent anti-inflammatory. Meadowsweet is also astringent, antioxidant, and soothing.
Let us know what you think of our list, and if you think we are missing any that you would love to see, we are all ears!
Moore, M. (2003) - Medicinal Plants Of The Mountain West
Gladstar, R. (2012) - Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs. A beginner’s guide