We grow plants for many reasons — for food, for flavoring, for insect protection, and for the beauty they provide. Certain garden plants also have been used for medicinal purposes for many centuries, but did you know you could also make your own balms and ointments with some of them?
Herbs and plants are an important ingredient of many beauty products, so it should come to no surprise that you can use your own garden to create many homemade products. Not only will you save money, but you also will have the satisfaction of using what you grow to benefit your family’s health and well-being.
Here are 10 plants to get you started!
Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis Miller)
Aloe vera grows wild in tropical locations around the world, but it also does well as an indoor potted plant. The gel inside this easy-to-grow succulent has been used for centuries to treat burns, eczema, and other skin irritations. In fact, Ancient Egyptian pharaohs were often entombed with aloe vera, which was known as the "plant of immortality."
Arnica (Arnica Montana)
Arnica, a daisy-like herb, provides relief for sore muscles and reduces inflammation and pain caused by sprains and strains.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Also known as pot marigolds, calendula can form a salve that promotes the healing of rashes, minor cuts, and burns. It also is effective on chapped lips.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
Chamomile’s delicate white petals provide several healing benefits for the skin, including softening, deodorizing, and disinfecting.
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
Once they learned of its abilities to treat skin wounds, crusaders brought comfrey home to England from the Middle East. When used in a salve, it stimulates cell growth and is useful in treating both dry skin and swelling.
Cucumber (Cucumis sativus)
Cucumbers offer hydrating and healing properties for the skin. A facial mask made with fresh cucumber helps clear clogged pores, relieve blemishes, and moisturizes dry skin. Cucumber slices also help relive eye puffiness and under-eye circles; it's not just a weird thing done in movies and TV!
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
A North American species in the sunflower family, echinacea can soothe swelling and dry, irritated skin and fight the bad germs responsible for persistent acne.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Simply inhaling the lovely fragrance of lavender is therapeutic, but it also has antiseptic and antibacterial properties when used in a salve. As a face wash ingredient, lavender helps clear acne and can promote the healing of skin wounds.
Mint has anti-inflammatory properties that makes is useful as a skin cleanser. It also soothes inflammation and can help teat acne and rashes.
Plantain (Plantago major)
Historical records show that the Ancient Greek doctor Dioscorides used plantain to treat inflammation and burns. Today, natural health advocates use it to soothe and to help heal insect bites and stings, poison ivy, and sunburn.
Homemade Healing Salve
For those of you unsure about where to start using some of these plants, here is a recipe for an all-purpose, homemade healing salve! It offers antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal benefits, and, unlike many commercial ointments, it does not contain petroleum. Use it for treating minor burns, insect bites, and other skin irritations in the future.
2 cups almond oil or olive oil
1/4 cup beeswax pastilles
1 tsp echinacea root
2 Tbsp. dried comfrey leaf
2 Tbsp. dried plantain leaf
1 Tbsp. dried calendula flowers
1 tsp dried rosemary leaf
Combine both the herbs and oil in the top of a double boiler and warm them over low heat to infuse the oil. The oil should be very green when finished. Afterward, strain the herbs out with a cheesecloth. Squeeze them gently to drip any remaining oil into the pan before discarding.
Heat the infused oil in the double boiler with the beeswax until it's completely melted and fully mixed. Pour this mixture into small tins, glass jars, or lip balm tubes.
To learn how to make other salves on your own, here are a few helpful videos:
After you get used to growing your own plants and making your own healing salves, you will find that they make great gifts, too! Your friends will appreciate both your green thumb and your creativity!