Herbal Treatments for the Hair – Part Two: Conditioning

Part Two of Herbal Treatments for the Hair explains how to make an herbal tea for your hair, and a conditioning pack for deep treatment. The hollyhock flower pictured above is one plant that can be used to treat dandruff and other scalp irritations; the red ones can be used as a colorant, if you’re adventurous!
Herbal Hair Tea
    One of the simplest ways to use herbs on your hair is to make a strong tea or decoction of the appropriate herbs – such as birch leaf and nettles for a general tonic – strain into a wide bowl (put the soggy herbs into the compost), and place the bowl into a deep sink or tub. Lean over the tub so that your head and hair are over the bowl, and pour cupfuls of the warm brew repeatedly over your hair until thoroughly wetted, catching what you pour back into the bowl.
Continue pouring and working it into your hair and scalp until the brew is too cold for comfort. At this point, you can either rinse your hair with lukewarm water, or wrap in a dark towel (to prevent staining), then dry and style.
    To make herbal hair tea, take 1 quart boiling water and add 1 or 2 handfuls of plant material; turn off heat and steep for about 20 minutes. You may need more water and herbs for longer hair. This potion will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 days.
    You can also use herbal hair tea as a scalp treatment by rubbing it into your scalp every day or two, depending on what condition you are dealing with. I think you can overdo it with regular shampooing, especially in the dry cold of winter. While the scalp still needs conditioning, the hair can get dry and brittle.   Most commercial shampoos are detergents that strip the hair and scalp of any natural oils and acidity it may have had; they may, in fact, overstimulate the scalp into producing more oils. So the herbal hair treatments are a good thing, restoring the scalp and hair follicles with new vigor.
Messy but Fun
    An alternative method of herbal hair treatment is especially for deep and long-lasting results, and one that requires significantly more plant material. You will use dried powdered herbs (use a blender to make your own) to make an herbal pack for the hair and scalp. Hollyhock flower, rose petal and willow bark, for example, can be used to rescue irritating dandruff, mixed with a little apple cider vinegar and applied warm to the scalp. This can also be used as a coloring technique, such as for henna (an exotic, not local, plant); we will discuss dyes and colorants in Part Six.
    Before you begin, tie your hair up, if possible, and rub a schmear of petroleum jelly on your forehead and neck at the hairline, and the backs of your ears, so your skin doesn’t take on any stain.
    To make an herbal hair pack, you’ll need 4 to 8 ounces of powdered plant material to do this, depending on how long your hair is. Use approximately 1 pint of boiling water to the herbs to make a runny paste, adding more hot water if necessary to keep it easy to work and spread. Once it’s cool enough (you still want it fairly warm), apply to the hair in sections, from scalp to ends, then roll up each section and clip it to keep it out of the way.
    Keep in mind that this is a very messy procedure, so plan accordingly, i.e., newspapers to cover the floor, old towels and grubby clothes, a helpful friend who has sworn not to take your picture with their cell phone, etc… Once the pack is in place, wrap your hair with plastic wrap, put a dark towel around your neck, and just sit tight for about 20 minutes. Keep paper towels handy to wipe up any drips. Then head to the shower to rinse and shampoo thoroughly.   Whether you choose the herbal hair tea or the hair pack method to treat your hair, you can expect your hair and scalp to feel clean and refreshed. Depending on the herbs you choose, the results will be gradual (except for dyes and colorings) and gentle. As mentioned in Part One, some herbs are used for more than one condition. Rosemary and sage are good herbs to start with for dark hair; chamomile is often used for light hair.
dried chamomile flowers

Part Three will discuss making your own tiny bubbles, that is, homemade herbal shampoo specific to your hair type.