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The root of the soapwort plant (Saponaria officinalis) lathers naturally when immersed in boiling water. It can be used to make a mild but deeply cleansing shampoo which leaves your hair soft and light. For an alternative herbal shampoo, try mixing 15g dried or 25g fresh rosemary, nettles or elderflowers to the soapwort; or use chamomile for light coloured hair and sage for dark hair.
The basic shampoo
You will need:
15g dried soapwort root, crushed
600mlwater (use spring water or boiled rain water)
stainless steel or enamel pan
sieve lined with muslin
jar or wide necked bottle
1. Put the crushed soapwort root and water
into the saucepan. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for four minutes.
Leave to cool, still covered.
2. Strain the liquid through the muslin - lined sieve, pressing the root to extract all the moisture, and then bottle. Use 200ml for each shampoo
Natural plant oils make simple hair conditioners. They give shine and body to all hair types and can improve the quality of coarse, dry hair. The best oils to use are olive (best for dark hair); sesame; coconut (for dry hair only); safflower; sunflower; and almond. The oils can be used straight from the bottle, but are enhanced when scented with essential oils or infused with hair herbs. To scent with essential oils, put 150ml plant oil into a bottle and add 1tsp essential oil, such as rose, lavender or rosemary.
Herbal conditioning oil
The best herbs to use in a herbal conditioning oil are southernwood, chamomile and rosemary. They can be used singly or mixed together in equal proportions.
You will need
300ml plant oil
450ml jar or wide necked bottle
50g fresh or 25g dried herbs of your choice
sieve lines with muslin
1.Put the oil into the jar or bottle and
add the herbs. Cover tightly and leave the container in a warm place for
2. After three weeks strain the oil through the muslin lined sieve and bottle it
To use the conditioner
After washing your hair, massage the plain or herbal oil into your scalp and hair. Cover your hair with a polythene cap and wrap a hot towel around your head. Leave the conditioner on for 15 minutes, replacing the towel as soon as it begins to cool. Then rinse out the oil with warm water and finish the treatment with a herbal rinse
Before conditioners were readily available, rosemary was the herb most frequently used to bring health back to the hair. Rosemary can be used on its own or mixed in equal proportions with other 'hair herbs'. Rosemary and vervain give shine to the hair and help to promote growth. Rosemary and chamomile enhance the colour of blonde or light brown hair, while rosemary and sage enliven dark hair. A lotion made from rosemary and southernwood gives life to lank hair
The basic lotion
The lotion is made from rosemary leaves and water. Boiled rain water or bottled spring water is best - either will help to improve the softness of your hair.
You will need
50g fresh or 25g dried rosemary leaves
enamel or stainless steel saucepan
1.Put the rosemary into the saucepan with
the water and heat to just below boiling point. Cover and keep the water
at the same temperature for 10 minutes.
2. Take the pan from the heat and cool the liquid. Then strain it through a sieve into a bowl
To use the lotion
Wash and rinse your hair as normal. Then, with your head over a basin, pour the lotion through your hair, completely saturating it. Massage into your scalp. Towel dry your hair, then leave it to dry naturally. For the best results, repeat treatment once a week.
Alternatively, make up the lotion and add 1 tbsp of eau de cologne or for an unscented lotion, vodka. This helps to preserve the lotion for several weeks: store in a dark, tightly capped bottle. To use, massage about 4 tbsp into the hair as for the basic lotion.
Nettle hair rinse
This is very good for hair that has become dried out in the summer by the intense heat of the sun.
You will need
25g fresh nettles, chopped (wear rubber gloves)
600ml boiling water
4 drops essential oil of either lavender, lemon or orange (these are optional but do help to improve the 'green' scent)
1. Wearing rubber gloves to protect your
hands, put the nettles into the bowl and pour on the boiling water.
Cover the bowl with cling film to keep in the steam. Leave to cool
2. When the liquid is cold, strain it through the sieve and add the oil. Use in the same way as rosemary lotion.
General tonic rinses
If you have been ill or are feeling 'run down', your hair can feel dull and lifeless. A simple herbal tonic treatment will help to give it bounce and shine and will therefore improve the way you look and feel. Tonic rinses can be made in the same way as the nettle rinse, using the following herbs:
Yarrow: use 25g fresh or 15g dried. Either use as a rinse or brush through the hair with a bristle brush night and morning to give bounce.
Lime flowers: use 15g dried. Softens and cleanses hair
Southernwood: use 15g dried. Gives life to lank hair - but only use on dark hair
The juice and outer zest of a lemon will help to give bounce and shine to lank and greasy hair.
You will need
1 litre water
enamel or stainless steel saucepan
1. Thinly pare the outer zest from the
lemon. Put it into the saucepan with the water and bring the water to
the boil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes
2. Strain the liquid into the bowl. Cool it to lukewarm, then add the lemon juice
Wash your hair in the usual way and rinse thoroughly. Pour the lemon rinse through your hair, several times if possible. Towel dry your hair and leave to dry naturally.
Treatments for dandruff
Use a herbal rinse made from any of the following: thyme and rosemary; southernwood; nettles; or a mixture of southernwood, nettles, lime flowers and elderflowers.
Pour the rinse through the hair after washing. Or add a pinch of borax to 300ml water and massage the mixture into your hair roots after washing and rinsing. Alternatively, make a vinegar treatment for dandruff. Put 300ml light coloured cider vinegar into a jar. Add 6 tbsp chopped fresh stinging nettles and leave for one week. Strain and bottle. Rub 2 tbsp into your scalp twice a week after washing.
Thinning hair tonics
Southernwood - is reputed to be good for encouraging hair growth. Make a herbal rinse using southernwood alone or southernwood mixed with rosemary, marjoram or sage. Massage into the hair night and morning.
Nettle hair restorer
Use a juicer to extract the juice from the tops of fresh nettles. Dilute the juice using 150ml water to 1tsp nettle juice. Brush or comb the mixture through your hair, close to the scalp, every day.
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