We all want beautiful, healthy skin, as proved by the overwhelming array of skin products available to us in the shops. But did you know that man has been using herbs for centuries to improve the appearance of our skin and treat skin problems? Here we have listed 21 botanicals that have long been attributed to benefiting our skin, and are readily available to many of us - in fact all apart from 3 on our list I can collect from the garden or surrounding countryside.
A botanical is defined as a substance derived from plants that is used for a medical or cosmetic purpose, and as such contain active ingredients. Applying herbs to your skin can potentially cause negative effects as well as the positive ones you are looking for, so as with any skin product if it does cause unwanted side effects the advice would be to stop using it. Many herbs are only available for a short season each year, check out our post Drying Wild Herbs and Flowers so you can have them available to you all year.
Just about everyone can identify a blackberry bush, but less people are aware of the curative properties of it's leaves. Used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory both externally and internally, the astringent leaves have been used to treat wounds, bruises, swelling, eczema, burns and insect bites. Recent studies suggest it may help fight skin aging due to it's elastin and collagen promoting properties - time to get gathering those leaves!
The anti-bacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties of burdock root make it a fabulous herbal remedy for a whole range of chronic skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis and acne. Also believed to benefit dry and mature skin, it is another herb which is hailed as having ant-aging skin properties, and is used both externally, and internally to treat a whole host of health complaints.
Calendula, more commonly know as the Marigold is a beautiful, edible flower which has a long history of being used in skin preparations. Believed to brighten the skin, and prevent blemishes, it is also used in wound healing, treating bruises, and burns, as well as skin infections and is known to be both nourishing and moisturising to skin. It has antiseptic, antibacterial and antiviral properties, and is believed to discourage the formation of scar tissue. Said to be one of the best herbs for healing problem skin. It is also often added to hair rinses, where it brings out golden highlights.
Chamomile is well known for it's calming properties, and these extend to the skin. It has the power to reduce redness, itchiness, puffiness and swelling, and reportedly reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory herb is perfect to add to bath products where it will also help to ease muscle tension and stress. Traditionally used to whiten skin, and to add golden highlights to hair.
Known traditional as Knitbone, Comfrey has been used for centuries to promote rapid healing of wounds, burns. broken bones and rashes. It is also said to be useful topically in the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as gout, rheumatism and arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory, soothing and healing properties. Said to be great for the treatment of rough and dry skin, it would be a great herb to add to a foot scrub. Please note, although traditionally Comfrey was taken internally for some conditions, the current advice is to only use externally, on unbroken skin due to some suggestions of it being toxic.
Elder Flowers are mildly astringent, and are said to be of particular benefit for mature skin and people suffering from problem skin. Used for centuries to reduce skin inflammation, it is also used to fade freckles, skin blemishes and age spots. It is also reportedly a great herb to use to treat sunburn.
Green tea is said to promote the thickening of the epidermis (in a good way), promote healing of the skin, and prevent uneven pigmentation in the skin which leads to age spots.
Hibiscus is considered a fabulous herb for mature skin, having emollient and mucilage properties which soften and hydrate the skin. The flowers also contain a firming agent which is said to smooth out wrinkles, and lift and firm. The flowers also look divine, and are the most wonderful colour - hibiscus bath soak anyone?
Honeysuckle is a nourishing and healing herb that has been long used to treat irritated skin due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, and is said to be helpful in treating psoriasis, eczema and in particular acne.
Anti-inflammatory, analgesic and calming by nature, hops are a fabulous herb for your skin and are said to promote a youthful glow. Used to decrease surface blood vessels, hops are found in many skin preparations and are even used to treat leprosy. Just like beer, hops make a fabulous rinse for hair.
As if it's wonderful scent wasn't enough, Lavender is considered anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic, making it a fabulous herb to use on problem skin. It has the ability to calm stressed skin, balance oil production in greasy skin, and promote new cell growth, encouraging healing.
Meadowsweet is one of my favourite herbs, and I have talked about it's health benefits before in our cordial recipe. It is a natural analgesic, anti-inflammatory and an astringent, and is believed to have fabulous anti-aging properties. It also smells divine!
Nettles are traditionally used as a treatment for chapped skin, eczema and acne and are believed to reduce scarring caused by both acne and chicken pox. Also makes a fabulous tonic for hair. Nettle is another herb with an amazing list of health benefits, some of which we touched upon in our Stinging Nettle Cordial recipe.
Oatmeal baths are a traditional remedy used to treat dry and itchy skin. A natural cleanser, and mild exfoliator, oats can replace soap for those with sensitivities to it, and are naturally anti-inflammatory and moisturising. Oats can be used to treat sunburn, are said to have anti-aging properties and have a restorative affect on the skin barrier.
Great for all skin types, Peppermint makes a great astringent, due to it's ability to cool, refresh and revitalise. It is believed to restore skin elasticity, tone tissue and clarify the skin.
Plantain is another herb which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is believed to draw out impurities from the skin, and revitalise tired skin. It also helps nourish, sooth and calm itchy, inflamed and irritated skin. You can even use it on fresh wounds as a natural plaster.
Red Clover has long been used to treat the unpleasant symptoms of eczema - and is said to soothe itchy, scaly skin that it causes. Believed to act as an anti-inflammatory, it has been used for centuries to treat many different skin complaints.
Rose Petals have cleansing, astringent, toning, stimulating and soothing properties. Although their nourishing and moisturising properties benefit all skin types, they are considered particularly useful for dry, sensitive skin, as well as mature skin due to decreasing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Rosemary is an astringent that is useful for treating oily skin, having a balancing affect on both the skin and scalp. Antimicrobial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory it it is considered useful on broken skin and for treating most skin conditions, as well as encouraging cell renewal and protecting against ageing. Known as the anti-aging herb it is even said to boost memory!
Sage is believed to have anti-aging properties and also acts as an anti-inflammatory, making it great for reducing puffiness. Used for it's cleansing, pore tightening and stimulating properties.
As it's name suggests, Self Heal has long been used to treat skin conditions such as acne, eczema, rashes and scarring. It is believed to have anti-inflamatory, anti-bacterial, antiseptic and astringent properties - and it grows in our lawn!