Fresh and dried herbs used to make infusions with medical properties–applied externally or used with compresses–have been in use for thousands of years. Why would we choose to use chemicals on our skin when these lovely botanicals can be just as effective? The list below, courtesy of renown herbalist Pierre Jean Cousin, outlines the properties and benefits of the principal herbs recommended for use in herbal infusions. Several have cleansing and toning qualities that make them useful in any long-term natural skin-care program; all are suitable for any type of skin.
Calendula. Use healing calendula alone or in a half-and-half mix with lavender or chamomile for its anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic capabilities.
Chamomile Flower. Anti-fungal, soothing and cleansing, chamomile flower is the best way to reduce frequent inflammation. The infusion is especially recommended for the fragile skin around the eyes.
Elder Flower. A gentle cleanser, toner, and astringent, elder flower may also be used to reduce inflammation.
Lavender Flower. Though slightly drying, lavender soothes, reduces inflammation and cleanses.
Lime (or Linden) Flower. Similar to chamomile, lime flower is very calming. Its mildly toning, anti-inflammatory effect is beneficial for aging skin.
Mallow. Gentle anti-inflammatory properties make mallow a wonderful way to soothe and calm irritated skin.
Mint. Use to tone the skin.
Rosemary. Antiseptic, toning and vitalizing, rosemary improves blood circulation in the capillaries. Use alone or in a half-and-half mix with yarrow for a more astringent effect.
Thyme. A strong anti-bacterial herb, thyme is effective as a skin wash for acne or infected eczema. Use alone or in equal parts with chamomile and/or calendula to soothe and heal.
Yarrow. Particularly good for aging or damaged skin, yarrow is recognized as a toner, stringent and antiseptic.
To Make a Simple Infusion
Use one generous tablespoon of dried chopped herbs or petals to 9 fluid ounces (250 ml) of boiling water. Place the herbs in a mug and fill it to the brim with water. Infuse for 10 minutes, strain, reserve the liquid, and allow to cool before using. Apply with cotton pads or in a mister and leave to dry naturally.
An infusion only has a shelf life of about 12 hours, so donít be tempted to bottle large quantities. However, you can freeze a strained and cooled infusion in an ice-cube tray and keep it in your freezer for up to three months. To use, simple rub a cube directly on your face, neck and arms for a cooling and hydrating effect. This also has a toning action because it quickens the blood circulation in the capillaries of the dermis.
By Melissa Breyer, Senior Editor