Hair HerbsBy Sharon Brown (Sharran)
March 2, 2010
The curls of my youth have returned. Oh, I encouraged them to return sometime in the '80s when the style was big and curly, but then straighteners appeared on the market and I got hung up on having straight hair. I had already devised a straightening method of my own once long ago, but it involved the iron and my long hair and the ironing board, and since I don't want to encourage something that can turn into a disaster, we won't talk about that one. Honestly, I am fortunate to have any remaining hair, curly or straight. Through the years, manipulating my hair became a full time job. About two years ago, I decided to just let it go to do what it wanted to do. I threw away the chemical straighteners, the gels, the irons, all those things guaranteeing straight glossy locks, and simply let it go. Well, that worked reasonably well as long as I kept it short. The problem began when the aging process took over, those curls of my youth began to resemble and feel very much like a wavy blondish grayish brillo pad.
A very good well meaning friend said: "Hmmmmm, I think I have something you might like for your hair."
Another said: "I found this wonderful hairdresser, she is taking new clients."
Now I don't mind my hair the way it is, but if it begins to cause concern among my friends, then it might be time to take a look at the situation. I wasn't sure exactly what about it was troubling them since I don't look at it very often; and other than being a magnet for twigs, leaves and an occasional hummingbird, it didn't give me much trouble. Wash and drip dry. I don't even own a comb or brush, well, I do, but they are somewhere in the backside of a drawer, because my fingers are still nimble enough to push it away from my eyes while it dries.
After some days of self consultation in the mirror, I called upon my ancient memories, and devised a means of controlling the uncontrollable. So far it seems to be working, since no one has dropped by with anymore suggestions. Among all my memories and all the writings about herbs that I inherited from all the little old ladies in my past, I have a treasure trove of wonderful combinations for hair care. I thought you might like to know a few of them.
Herbs have long been associated with hair care, and today we even find them listed in contents of commercial shampoos and conditioners. The most highly regarded herb for the hair is rosemary, reputed to be a good general conditioner that leaves the hair silky, shiny, fragrant, and very slightly darker. Two other hair herbs that have had many devoted fans over the centuries are sage, also prized as a darkener and conditioner, and chamomile, believed to brighten fair hair and soften all hair. Mullein's golden flowers are also supposed to intensify blond highlights. Trust me on that one, it really does work.
Tradition also asserts that parsley thickens hair and enriches its color, burdock root controls dandruff, and stinging nettle conditions hair as well as helping to cure dandruff. Any number of plants will supposedly curb hair loss and stimulate growth, though I doubt there is scientific evidence to support that. The evidence does support the cleansing and conditioning, as well as the highlighting, however. Other herbs such as lavender, simply leave the hair with a delightful scent.
As I said, I have been using these basic recipes often over the years, during various stages of my particular hair and now I find myself depending on them. The suggested recipes that I am giving you are just starting suggestions, meant to show how you can use herbal preparations. Experiment to find the best combination of ingredients for your hair, and if you notice, I am staying with only the most common herbs. One word of caution I'd like to insert here, if you have ever had an allergic reaction to any herb mentioned, then please assume that you will have the same reaction if the herb is in a hair care product that you make. It would be wise to stay away from that herb.
I'll start with a very simple natural shampoo:
Bouncing Bet Shampoo
3 tablespoons dried Bouncing Bet root
1 1/2 tablespoons dried chamonile flowers
1 teaspoon pure grade borax
2 cups boiling water
Put the Bouncing Bet herb, chamomile flowers, and borax in a heat-proof jar or other container that you can cover tightly. Pour in the boiling water and stir well. Let the mix steep, loosely covered, until cool. Cap the container and shake well. Let it stand for a day or so, shaking every few hours, strain and use. If you have dark hair, you might want to substitute sage for chamomile.
The fastest and easiest way to make an herbal shampoo is to mix a strong infusion of a hair herb with a mild shampoo:
Quick Herbal Shampoo
1 heaping teaspoon dried sage, rosemary, stinging nettle, or 1 tablespoon dried chamomile flowers
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup mild shampoo, I use baby shampoo
Add herbs to the water, and turn off heat. Steep for about 30 minutes, strain, then mix into shampoo.
So now you have nice clean hair, what's next? Here are a couple of ideas for after shampoo rinses:
Blond Highlighting Rinse
2 cups water
1/2 cup dried chamomile flowers
2 tablespoons dried mullein flowers
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
Juice of half a lemon
For best results, use this rinse regularly and dry your hair in the sunlight. Shampoo and rinse well with plain water first. Bring the water to a boil; then lower the heat and stir in the chamomile and mullein flowers. Simmer for 30 minutes, then cover and steep for several hours or overnight. Strain, squeezing the liquid from the herbs. Stir in the orange blossom water and lemon juice. Pour the rinse through your hair several times, catching the liquid in a large bowl.
Here is a rinse for dark hair:
2 cups boiling water
2 tea bags of regular beverage tea
1/4 cup dried sage leaves
2 tablespoons dried rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon dried stinging nettles
Pour the water over the tea bags and steep covered for 15 minutes. Remove the tea bags, squeezing out the liquid, reheat the tea to the boiling point, then pour it over the dried herbs. Cover and steep for 30 minutes to an hour. Strain. Pour the rinse through your hair several times, catching the liquid in a bowl.
Actually, any infusion made with a hair herb as mentioned earlier in this article can be used as a quick rinse. Let the infusion cool to lukewarm before using it. Dried sage, rosemary, or stinging nettle added to a couple of cups of boiling water is great. Let it steep for about 20 minutes, strain, then pour through your hair several times. If your hair is light, of course, use chamomile and mullein instead of sage and rosemary.
I don't have a problem with thin limp hair; if anything mine will wave around until it braids itself into a multitude of knotty corkscrews if given a chance. But I have shared this idea with friends, and they tell me it helps thin hair problems. Crush a half cup of flaxseeds with a spoon. Bring one cup of water to a boil then reduce the heat and stir the crushed flaxseeds into the simmering water, a teaspoon at a time, until the mixture thickens. Strain out the seeds and thin the mixture to the desired consistency. It does not have to be rinsed out of the hair, it acts more as a setting lotion and simply gives it body. With all these recipes, it's very important that you remember to strain the herbs before using the liquid on your hair. It's no fun at all trying to pick tiny pieces of dried herbs from dry hair. It isn't very pretty, either. That little fact of life comes straight from my childhood.
So there you have it, Sharon's Simple Hair Solutions. I did check a few herbal sources to make sure my measurements and mixtures were in agreement with others. I found very nearly the same information that I already had. That's a good thing because I would hate to have my hair start falling out or doing something disgraceful. It's for sure my friends would probably be telling me about it, long before I realized it for myself. Friends are like that. Sigh...
Photos are from Plant Files, and thanks to these photographers: Yarrow, Gabrielle; Rosemary, Saya; Sage, Marilynbeth; Chamomile,Weezingreens; Mullein, Htop; Parsley, Rebecca101; Burdock, Baa; and Lavender, Calif_Sue.