Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is an herbal toner that most people are familiar with. It is astringent and great for removing soil from the skin and tightening facial tissues in its own right. I decided to punch up the effectiveness of my witch hazel by adding herbs!
My facial skin is very oily and I don’t find plain witch hazel effective enough for my oily face. I added dried yarrow flowers (Achillea millefolium) and leaves to commercial Witch Hazel to add to the astringent effect. Yarrow is a skin tightening plant that has anti-microbial properties and a long history of use for the skin. It is said that Achilles used the plant to staunch the bleeding of his soldiers’ wounds. External uses also include use as a wash for hemorrhoids and as a mouthwash to tighten the gums. In this case I wanted to use Yarrow’s astringency and tightening to rid my face of excess oil and dirt that is attracted to the oil. Witch hazel with yarrow steeped in it makes my face feel clean and taught without feeling stripped and itchy. I have also used this on my skin to help repel bugs in the summer although I find that an alcohol tincture is much better suited for that purpose. Yarrow witch hazel is also good at reducing inflammation from bug bites and minor abrasions.
I also made a Rose (rosa damascena) witch hazel. This is also an astringent herb but rose is cooling and much gentler than Yarrow. Roses are used in beauty preparations for mature skin to soften the skin and the anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce redness and irritation. I like to keep rose Witch Hazel around in the summertime because it can help soothe a mild to moderate sun burn when sprayed on the skin. I also look to the cooling aspect of Rose to help me manage the occasional hot flash I get now that I am a certain age. The Rose witch hazel is also gently scented with the rose petals and imparts a nice mild scent without being overwhelming to others or so expensive I need a second mortgage.
Here I am experimenting with Calendula (Calendula officinalis) for irritated skin. I have a friend who is having trouble with the skin on his scalp from shaving his head and I thought that calendula might be helpful. Calendula is known to soothe irritated skin and it has mild anti-fungal and anti-septic properties and encourages skin cell regeneration and has a history of being used to prevent scaring. This preparation has a few more weeks to steep then I will mail it to my friend and see how it works for him.
External use of herbs is often the gateway for people to explore plant-based healing. Minor skin troubles can be helped successfully with plants at a minimum cost and can give one the confidence to try to use plants for other health concerns. Please see a doctor if you have a serious health concern as the information provided here is for informational use only and has not been evaluated by the FDA.