Herbs for Great Skin

Grow your own healthy-complexion garden with our handy plant list.

Whether you have a pot full of fresh herbs or a whole yard full of produce, green plants are beneficial to your well-being. We benefit from spring and summer days spent outdoors tending to our growing plants. Gardens are places where we can clear our minds, exercise our bodies, and fill our tables with an assortment of fresh vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

Many of us have gotten back to our roots and planted gardens or expanded our existing plots. This year, you can expand your plantings with a “healthy-complexion garden.” This collection of common garden plants will give your complexion a boost and can be used to create your own bath and body products. If you don’t want to plant a garden or don’t have space, you can still reap the benefits of fresh produce by visiting your local farmer’s markets or “you-pick” farms.

Try these seven favorite beauty plants for a harvest of complexion-boosting products.

Complexion Garden Plant List.

This collection of common garden plants can be used to make your own beauty products and treatments. When you are ready to prepare your garden, keep in mind that all of these plants grow well in sunny locations. Also, cucumbers and luffa sponges love to climb. They will be happiest positioned next to a fence or trellis.

* Calendula {Calendula officinalis}: This bright annual flower has colorful, cheerful blooms that are perfect skin cleansers and softeners. Fresh or dried calendula petals can be added to creams, lotions, and baths. Calendula also is a soothing antiseptic and an excellent skin conditioner.

* Cucumber {Cucumis sativus}: This green vegetable has been used as a beauty aid for centuries. You can add fresh cucumber juice to creams and lotions. The pale green liquid makes a soothing cure for sunburned skin and insect bites because it is naturally cooling. To make fresh juice, simply process in a blender or food processor until smooth and strain off all solids.

* Lavender {Lavandula spp.}: This aromatic perennial plant is a garden staple that can easily be dried and enjoyed year-round. Lavender has strong antiseptic properties, which makes it a good choice for blemished or troubled skin. Add a few sprigs of fresh lavender to a bottle of witch hazel for a simple yet effective cleansing toner.

Fresh herb plants can be purchased at garden centers, and many, such as lavender {above}, can be propagated from stem cuttings. You can host an afternoon cutting party for an easy way to share plants with friends.

* Luffa {Luffa spp.}: These easy-to-grow vegetable brushes belong to the same family as the cucumber. The plants love to climb, and they thrive in hot weather. The skeleton of the luffa is what is used to scrub your skin. Harvest when the skin has turned brown, then soak them in a bucket of water to soften the outer skin. Peel and allow the inner skeleton to dry completely. Gently rub over wet skin to remove dead skin cells and surface dirt. You also can add bits of luffa to melted soaps for added scrubbing power.

* Mint {Mentha spp.}: Known for its energizing scent, mint comes in a number of varieties, from old-fashioned peppermint to the more exotic chocolate mint. Chew fresh mint stems and leaves to freshen your breath and settle an upset stomach.

* Parsley {Petroselinum crispum}: Rich in vitamins, minerals, and antiseptic chlorophyll, parsley is the ultimate “green.” This well-known natural deodorizer and breath freshener also is very beneficial to your hair and skin. Used as a rinse, it leaves the hair soft and clean. Added to facial masks and lotions, parsley is very soothing to dry skin. It also works as an antiseptic for small cuts and insect bites.

* Sage {Salvia spp.}: Like mint, sage comes in a variety of scents, from cinnamon to pineapple. Clary sage is the most common cosmetic variety. Its leaves appear in many facial steams and astringents, as it has strong cleansing properties that deep-clean your pores. You also can try making a hair rinse with fresh sage leaves; with regular use, the rinse will help darken gray hair. To whiten your teeth, rub them with a fresh leaf or brush with a powder of ground, dried sage leaves. Finish up with a mouth rinse of strong sage tea.

4 Complexion Garden Beauty Recipes

Soothing Cucumber Splash

Makes 8 ounces

This splash has a cool scent that will lift your spirits and tone your skin. Cucumber juice is a natural astringent that also is cleansing and refreshing. It can be used all over your body and works wonders to soothe a sunburn.

1 medium cucumber, chopped

1/4 cup witch hazel extract

1/4 cup distilled water

1 teaspoon aloe vera gel

1. In a blender, process cucumber into a smooth puree and strain.

2. Mix cucumber juice with remaining ingredients and stir well. Pour into a clean spray bottle.

3. To use: Spray onto clean skin after bathing or whenever your skin could use a boost. It can spoil easily, so store in the refrigerator between uses.


Relaxing Lavender Bath

Makes 12 ounces

For easy cleanup [and to preserve your plumbing}, tie your mixture in a bit of cotton fabric {or use a tea ball}. Relax and enjoy.

1 cup lavender flowers, dried

2 cups oatmeal

1/2 cup baking soda

1. Place all ingredients in food processor or blender.

2. Grind to smooth, fine powder the consistency of whole-grain flour. Pour into clean, airtight container.

To use: Pour 1/2 cup into your bath as you fill the tub or place inside a metal tea ball or piece of cotton fabric.

Herbal Body Scrub

Makes 16 ounces

Salt scrubs have been used since ancient times. This recipe combines exfoliation, moisturization and light massage, plus the benefits of your favorite garden herbs.

2 cups sea salt or kosher salt

1 cup sunflower oil

1 teaspoon vitamin E oil

2 tablespoons chopped herbs OR 1 tablespoon dried herbs {use parsley, mint, lavender or a combination}

1 to 2 drops lavender essential oil {optional}

1. Mix together all ingredients and pour into a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid.

2. To use: While standing in the tub or shower, take a handful of the scrub and, starting with your feet, gently massage into skin. {Be careful; the oil will make them very slippery.} Massage salt all over the body, rinse with warm water and pat dry. Do not use soap or other cleansers, to preserve the moisturizing effect. Store any leftover scrub in a cool, dry place.

Pineapple Sage Facial Mask

Makes 2 ounces

Pineapple sage adds a fresh, uplifting scent. The oatmeal and honey rid your pores of any surface impurities and the egg white is astringent. If you have very dry skin, you can add a teaspoon of olive oil.

1/2 cup boiling water

1 tablespoon fresh pineapple sage leaves {or any sage variety}

3 tablespoons oatmeal

2 tablespoons honey

1 egg white

1. Pour boiling water over sage leaves and allow to cool completely.

2. Strain and pour the sage liquid over oatmeal, honey, and egg white. Mix well until creamy and smooth.

3. To use; Spread mask on face and neck; let sit 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse well with warm water and pat skin dry. Follow with moisturizer. Store leftover mask in the refrigerator.