Herbal Treatments for the Hair – Part Four
“What Condition Your Conditioner is In”
Herb-steeped vinegar is a very good final rinse for the hair after shampooing. Even plain ol’ apple cider vinegar will do. You can use it straight, or dilute with water by half. If your hair is very coarse or dry, the following conditioner can be used sparingly, after shampooing but while your hair is still wet, to give it some shine.
To make Almond Oil Hair Conditioner, boil 1 cup of water, add a pinch each (fresh or dried) rosemary and lavender leaves, remove from heat, then cover and steep for 15 minutes. Strain, then funnel into a bottle and add 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of almond oil. Shake, shake, shake to disperse, then pour a small amount into your hand and gently work into your wet hair, especially the ends. Wrap in a towel until dampened off, then comb your hair with your fingers and let air dry. You might try using a spray bottle for this application, but I think the oil might clog up the nozzle. This conditioner keeps about 1 week, so if more than one person will be using it, the recipe can be easily doubled.
For deep conditioning, you can give your hair and scalp a hot oil treatment. The best oils for this are avocado and almond, although you can use sunflower or jojoba oil, like many of our Native American grandmothers did. Jojoba oil is very similar to our own skin and hair oils, and it has a long tradition in American and Mexican grooming as a hair restorative. Indigenous people of the Pacific Islands and coastal Asia traditionally used fragrant coconut oil on the hair, scalp and skin. You can add a few drops of essential oil such as rosemary or lavender to the oil treatment, or you can plan ahead and make a compound oil, such as for herbal salves, without the beeswax. (You might want to check out my book, The Wild & Weedy Apothecary for more complete instructions on making an herbal oil, or check back into the blog for Mother’s Tummy Rub, for information on how to steep herbs in oil.)
To prepare the Hot Oil Treatment, take about 4 ounces (1/2 cup) oil, a little more if your hair is longer, and heat gently in a double-boiler fashion; I usually place the oil in a small canning jar inside a small saucepan filled with just enough water so the jar doesn’t float. Slowly heat until warm, remove from heat, and add 2 or 3 drops essential oil if using. Dip your fingers in the oil, then rub into your scalp, a small section at at time. Continue until the whole scalp is treated, then go ahead and do the strands, especially the drier ends. (No oil or contidioner will “repair” split ends, these must be trimmed.) Now for the fun part, and it sounds worse than it is: wrap your hair in a plastic bag and then an old towel, and hope nobody takes your picture! After about 15 minutes, rinse as much as you can with plain warm water, then shampoo with your homemade herbal shampoo. Finish with a vinegar rinse.
Another plant used by Native Americans of the Sonora region is creosote bush (Larrea tridentata). This plant is also known as chapparal and has a very strong aroma. It was effectively used for dry skin, dandruff, and brittle hair. Researchers have uncovered an isolate of this plant that apparently “was found to suppress HIV-1 replication in human cells”. [Krompegel, Karla. “Ethnobotany of Two Contrasting American Ecosystems: Amazonia and the Sonoran Desert” (www.colostate.edu/Depts/Entomology/courses/en570/papers_2000/Krompegen.html)]
Here are a couple formulas for vinegar-herb rinses that are very refreshing and, might I say in spite of or maybe because of the vinegar, very fragrant as well. The vinegar aroma disappates (mostly!) and some of the other aromas remain. Dilute the vinegar in water by half. These recipes require you to heat the vinegar to near-boiling before using, and be sure to use heat-proof glass for steeping, such a canning jar.
Herb-Vinegar Rinse for Dark Hair
Using 1 cup fresh or 1/2 cup dried, combine at least 2 of the following herbs, plus a pinch of ground clove, take rosemary, sage (especially good for grey hair), nettles, plantain leaf, red clover, or maybe even a bit of exotic sandalwood or henna powder, place in a 1 pint jar, then cover with hot vinegar. Cover, label and date. Let steep a few days, then strain into a decanting container. To use, simply squirt a little over your cleanly shampooed hair and scalp, and massage in. Rinsing isn’t necessary, although you might want to use a dark colored towel.
Herb-Vinegar Rinse for Light Hair
Follow the same method as above, but instead, use at least two of these herbs for light or reddish hair: calendula petals, chamomile flowers, marigold petals, mullein leaf, rhubarb root, lemon or orange peel. Use the same as for dark hair.
I hope you find these recipes & remedies useful, if not amusing and experimental; there are other herbs you can use, and I will offer a book list at the end of this series of articles for further reading. These are the ways of our grandmothers, making our own cosmetics and body care potions. I realize not everyone has access to, or the desire to use, these kinds ingredients; some are messy, or a bit oily, but they’re real. If you can meet your most immediate needs with ingredients found in your pantry and garden or the forests and fields around you, you’ll gain a deep inner satisfaction from knowing you can create remedies for common complaints, if not at least a bit of olde-ways glamour to your personal charisma…
Hey, you can make your own shampoo and conditioner! doesn’t that just kick ass?!?