Herbs in the Home

Herbs can be used in many ways around the home, not just for cooking, but for cleaning, brewing, personal and beauty care and many others. Here are a few tasters (you can read more in my books Hearth Witch and Hearth Witch’s Compendium (forthcoming)

The dried or fresh leaves and flowers of thyme can be used in stews, soups, stuffings, marinades, pasta sauce, egg dishes, and with bean dishes.  Eating the raw leaves helps with the digestion of fatty foods. Use an infusion as a mouthwash. Hang up thyme and lavender as a moth repellent, and use the two dried herbs in sachets for the linen cupboard and clothes drawers.  Use a thyme wash as an antiseptic cleaner for floors and kitchen surfaces.

Herbs for Beauty

Aloe Vera treats burns, soothes irritated skin, moisturises and reduces wrinkles. Using fresh aloe is better as commercial products lose some of the vital properties during processing, and may be adulterated with alcohol.

Basil detoxifies the skin and promotes the circulation. In hair products it helps hair grow and reduces tangles.

Bay fights wrinkles, treats many skin conditions and makes a stimulating scalp treatment.

Birch tones the skin and increase elasticity.

Blackberry leaves can be used as an astringent and toner.

Burdock (Arctium lappa) is an effective skin detoxifier and helps dry, flaky skin.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is good for any skin type but can help dry, acne-prone and aging skin, soothing, cooling and plumping it up.

Carrot is revitalizing for mature skin and wrinkles, stimulating the formation of new cells.

Chamomile has soothing properties and is especially useful for sensitive, mature, irritated and chapped skin. It is an excellent skin softener which improves the texture and elasticity of the skin.  

Cinnamon is filled with antioxidants and nutrients that stimulate hair growth, plump the skin, stimulate collagen growth and tighten loose skin.

Coltsfoot promotes blood flow in the scalp which has a positive effect on greasy hair and reduces dandruff.  

Cowslip reduces blemishes and wrinkles

Cucumber is a gentle astringent which can be used on sensitive skins, cooling, healing and soothing.

Dandelion flowers can be used for large pores, age spots, blemishes, sunburn and chapped skin.

Elder flowers are calming, healing and soothing, and can be used in astringents, toners, moisturisers and aftershaves.  

Evening Primrose is very moisturising, high in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and helps prevent the premature aging of the skin.

Eyebright is a natural astringent effective in tightening porous oily skin and healing acne. It also brightens the eyes.

Gotu Kola fights wrinkles, keeps skin smooth and supple, stimulates new cell growth, and can help repair connective tissues and smooth out cellulite.

Horse Chestnut conkers, are used in bath oils and bath foams to make the skin soft and supple as well as reduce cellulite.  

Horsetail is high in silica, a constituent of collagen, and has a firming and tightening action on the skin. It can help with sagging skin, wrinkles, and aging skin. It promotes hair growth and repair.

Lady’s Mantle helps heal sore skin and prevent wrinkles.

Lavender helps skin to heal and renew itself, fights wrinkles and helps prevent acne. It is a natural deodorant.  

Lemon promotes new cell generation and regulates sebum production. It softens the skin, diminishes wrinkles and fades freckles and age spots.

Lemongrass is an astringent which minimises the pores and tightens the skin. It is useful for oily skin and acne.

Lime can help remove dead cells from the surface of the skin.

Myrrh is useful for mature skin, balancing and hydrating, promoting tissue repair and making it look healthier and more vital.

Nettle, stinging, contains many minerals useful for cell regeneration and promoting youthful looking skin.  It is an astringent beneficial for oily skin and blocked pores. It is also good for dry scalps and dandruff.  

Oatmeal soothes irritated skin, and is a gentle exfoliant. It can also be used to help fade age spots.

Patchouli is useful for aging and chapped skin, and dandruff.

Peppermint has a cooling effect on the skin. It nourishes dull skin and helps balance out oily skin. NB: Do not use the essential oil during pregnancy.

Pine helps balance, smooth, and renew skin.

Plantain (Plantago major) has emollient and moistening properties in anti-aging and dry skin formulas.

Rice  flour is good for blemishes, wrinkles, and uneven skin pigmentations. It has soothing and softening properties.

Rose is astringent, toning, anti-inflammatory and regenerative, promoting new cell growth. This makes it excellent for aging, dry and sensitive skin, rehydrating and smoothing.

Rosemary prevents hair loss and strengthens the hair, adds lustre to dark hair and smooths damaged hair shafts. It is also useful for treating acne. NB. Avoid the essential oil during pregnancy

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is astringent and also useful for wrinkles. NB Avoid the essential oil during pregnancy.

Spearmint  is good for acne, dermatitis and congested skin.

Spruce (Picea spp.) is antimicrobial, high in vitamin C and useful for anti-acne formulas, enlarged pores and oily skin.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial and useful for acne, rosacea and eczema, as well as being a great cleanser. NB It will temporary tinge your skin yellow.

Violet (Viola odorata) is emollient, mucilaginous and anti-inflammatory, and the leaves are used in dry skin care and to assist in healing wounds.

Rose Laundry Rinse

2 pt. rose water

1 oz. fresh lavender flowers

2 oz. orris root

4 drops clove oil

Place in a large glass jar and leave on a sunny windowsill for 14 days. Strain and add a teaspoonful to the final rinse water of your clothes.

Rosewater makes an excellent skin toner for dry or mature skin. Rose petals can be added to a relaxing bath. Rose water can be incorporated in lotions and creams. Make your own rosewater by using rose petals. Place them in a large glass jar and cover them with one part distilled water to three parts vodka or witch hazel.  Leave in a cool, dark place for several weeks and strain into a clean jar.  Use diluted rosewater as a final rinse for your hair. Used chilled rosewater in a compress to refresh tired and puffy eyes.

Rose petals can be dried and added to potpourri, used fresh to makes jam, tea, and crystallised for cake decorations. Rose hips are used for wine, tea, jam, soup, and made into syrup. Fresh rose petals can be baked into cakes and cookies. Rose vinegar can be made placing rose petals in a jar and filling with white vinegar. Leave on a sunny windowsill for 2-3 weeks, strain into a clean jar. Use in salad dressings, for wiping down surfaces, or dab on your forehead to relieve headaches. Spritz rosewater on your pillow and bed linen to freshen it and ensure a good night’s sleep. Rosewater can be used to make sophisticated cocktails, and add a few red rose petals for decoration.

Yarrow Wine

1 gallon boiling water

4 lb. white sugar

1 oz. yeast

1 slice toast

3 quarts yarrow flowers

Rind and juice 4 lemons

Pour the water over the flowers and soak for 5 days. Strain the liquid into a pan with the sugar and orange rind. Simmer for 20 minutes. Slice the rest of the oranges into a brewing bin and pour the liquid over. When cooled to lukewarm (20oC) spread the yeast on the toast and float this on the top of the liquid. Ferment for 14 days, then strain into a demijohn and fit an airlock.

Yarrow is one of the sacred herbs of Midsummer and makes a suitable drink at the solstice ritual. It also promotes clairvoyance.

Conkers contain saponins, a soapy substance which can be used for washing natural fibres. Peel and grate the conkers, simmer in hot water for ten minutes. Strain. The soapy liquid can then be used for washing, though it may add a slightly blue tinge to the cloth.

Use a fennel seed infusion to cleanse and tone the skin, remove grime, excess grease and dead skin cells, as well as combatting acne. It will firm the skin, tighten pores and reduce wrinkles. Dab on closed, puffy eyes. Use as a hair rinse to cleanse chemical residues, revitalise hair, strengthen hair follicles, and to treat dandruff and scalp problems. Rub cellulite patches with a paste of ground fennel seeds and water or use the paste as an exfoliant. Use in a facial steam for acne. Chew the seeds to freshen your breath.

Elder flowers are used to make elder flower water, an astringent good as a skin toner. Make your own by using flowers you know have not been sprayed with pesticides. Place them in a large glass jar and cover them with one part distilled water to three parts vodka.  Leave in a cool, dark place for several weeks and strain into a clean jar.  The flowers made into a cream are good for all skin types but especially for mature and sallow skins. They soften the skin, smooth wrinkles, fade freckles and soothe sunburn. The Romans used the berries to make a black hair dye.

Elderflower Hand Cream

4 tbsp. almond oil
2 handfuls fresh elderflowers

3 tbsp. grated beeswax
In a double boiler, warm the almond oil (do not boil) and add the almond flowers.  Remove from the heat and steep for 45 minutes.  Strain through a fine sieve and return to the double boiler and warm gently, adding the wax until it has melted. Pour into wide necked jars or pots.

Anti-Dandruff Scalp Treatment

Cider vinegar

½ oz. fresh marigold flowers

½ oz. fresh nettle

½ oz. fresh sage leaves

2 tsp wheatgerm oil

Place the herbs in a jar and cover with the cider vinegar. Leave on a sunny windowsill for 14 days, shaking daily. Strain into a clean jar and add the oil. Massage the mixture into the scalp regularly.

A fresh nut is oily enough to polish furniture beautifully. Cut it in half and rub over the surface. Walnuts work particularly well and a single walnut is enough to polish a coffee table, but you can use hazels, almonds, chestnuts and beech nuts.

Lemon is widely used in cooking, as a garnish, and for flavouring drinks. Sprinkle lemon juice over apples and other fruit to prevent them going brown while standing.  Lemons are rich in pectin, and can be used to help set jams made from pectin-poor fruits. If you are juicing lemons, put them in the microwave for 30 seconds, and this will make them juicier

Lemon juice is also a useful household cleaner, disinfectant, deodoriser and degreaser. Dipping half a lemon in salt can be used to clean ceramic and enamel baths and copper pans. Mix with baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) to remove stains from plastic containers. Prick half a lemon and put it in the fridge to remove odours. The oily peel can be used to clean, polish and scent wood. The peel can be dried and added to potpourri or hung in closets as a moth repellent. Lemon oil is also an insecticide.

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