Herbal Treatments for the Hair – Part Five

“Tonics to Treat Dandruff and to Stimulate a Healthy Scalp:  Don’t Flake Out!”
Before I go on to our next set of recipes and remedies, let me describe the term tonic. Often used preventatively, a tonic is a substance used to strengthen a  system, usually in the absence of injury or disease, such as grandma’s spring dandelion tonic for scouring out a winter’s worth of  taters and gravy and not enough veggies. In the context of this article, we are talking about home-made products you can use on a regular basis to bring the scalp pH into balance, whether overactive (oily) or dry. The pH of hair and nails – on the acid to alkaline scale of 1 to 14 – is about 5, with skin being between 5 to 6.8 . Tonics can also be used prevent, or create a condition less likely to allow, scalp problems such as dandruff, psoriasis, eczema, and so on (I call it “adult cradle cap” and am having my first ever bout of such ever, truth be told… more on that in a later installment). These conditions may differ in degree of severity and/or cause, but the following tonics and treatments will  at least alleviate the symptoms, if not the causes.
If you have dandruff you might traipse over to Scarborough Faire for your first treatment. Using the method described in Part Two for making “Herbal Hair Tea”, prepare equal parts parsley for shine, sage for cleansing, rosemary for its all-around tonic properties, and thyme for the mildly medicinal effect, and use this brew as a scalp treatment. Rub it into the scalp and do not rinse. You can also make a vinegar rinse with these herbs, as described in our previous blog-posting (Part Four). This formula is more suitable for dark hair.
Another dandruff tonic combines equal parts nettle leaf, violet leaf, red clover blossom, and peppermint leaf. Red clover contains salicylic acid, and many dandruff shampoos contain this compound. I have noticed all these herbal extracts in store-bought shampoo formulas. How cool  to utilize whole plants to include its other soothing properties.
In addition to the above mentioned herbs, birch bark, hollyhock flower, rose petal, and willow bark are also good herbs to use as a dandruff tonic. Apple cider vinegar can be used all by itself too.
Some tonics have been used as “growth stimulants” but they are not the herbal equivalent of Rogaine. Rather, they are a type of tonic that has been traditionally used (along with good nutrition and exercise) to stimulate new hair growth. Rosemary is a good example of a hair tonic herb. Catnip is said to be an old Gypsy remedy for hair loss.
The inner bark of the hemlock tree (Tsuga spp.)  is another traditional remedy, briskly rubbed into the scalp. Do not confuse this hemlock tree with poisonous water hemlock… one is a tall evergreen tree, the other is a demon carrot on steroids. If you decide use the hemlock bark, be sure to take it only from a branch, and do not, don’t EVER, take bark from the actual trunk of the tree. Not only will you eventually kill it if not most certainly injure it, but you will be committing the tree-equivalent of skinning something alive… BAD KARMA!
Birch leaf or twig, horsetail (scouring rush), juniper berries, nettles, sage leaf, and yarrow flowers are all herbs that have been used as a hair and scalp tonic. Might I remind you again to use a dark towel when using these herbal treatments for your hair, as they are often dark in color and could stain.
My personal all around favorite herbal combination for the hair is nettles and mint, because I make tea with the herbs, and if I have any leftover (even a bit of honey won’t hurt), I can rub it into my scalp and away we go!
… and yes, I do it in that order, first tea, then hair, okay?!?