Mother Earth Living

Body & Soul: Nature's Healing for Garden Hands

You can have healthy, well-cared-for hands and a beautiful garden with these practical techniques.
By Janice Cox
August/September 2005
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Working all day in the garden can take a toll on hands. But with just a few ingredients and some easy steps, you can create creams and soaks to reinvigorate overworked hands.
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Hand Care Recipes:

Green thumbs and rough, dry hands no longer need to be the result of a day spent working in the yard.

It’s possible to have both healthy, well-cared-for hands and a beautiful garden. It doesn’t take any extra time or fancy skin-care products — just a bit of common sense and a few kitchen and garden ingredients. It’s important to practice preventive maintenance, such as wearing gloves and using rich hand creams, along with some special treatments to keep your hands clean and moisture-rich.

Eating a proper diet is essential, as insufficient protein can make your nails brittle and your skin dull. Keeping your hands moisturized is important because the nail is extremely porous and gives off moisture 100 times faster than the skin. Massaging a rich cream or natural oil, such as sunflower oil, into your hands and nails will keep them soft and moist, a step that’s especially critical to prevent chapping after washing hands. Garden soil and constant washings rob your hands of precious moisture, and cream or oil will form a protective barrier that locks moisture into your skin. Keep a jar of your favorite hand cream next to all your sinks and outdoors next to the garden hose. Massaging your cuticles as you apply the cream will increase circulation and encourage new nail growth.

Here are a few more essential tips for healthy hands:

  • Never use your nails as a tool. Our nails are not knives, screwdrivers or pruning shears.
  • Push back your cuticles every time you wash your hands or apply hand cream.
  • Soothe cuts and scrapes by making a strong tea from fresh calendula petals or lavender flowers. Use the fragrant water to wash and soothe your hands.
  • To help skin heal quickly, apply a bit of vitamin E oil or honey to painful areas.
  • To keep nails clean while gardening, scratch a bar of soap before going outdoors. The soap under your nails keeps dirt from taking up residence there.
  • Keep nails the same length and shape them into squared-off ovals. This technique is not only cosmetic; it’s also the strongest shape for active hands.
  • Use sun protection on your hands when working outdoors.
  • Wear the right gloves for the job to protect your hands.

Make Hands Pretty and Pain-Free

Once a week, treat your hands to a good all-over grooming. This is important for men and women to keep hands looking and feeling their best. Rough, cracked hands are not only unsightly, but also can be painful and hard to work with. See "Total Care for Happy Hands" for an all-over treatment. If the weather is nice, set up a table and chair in your yard and enjoy the beauty of your garden as you care for your hands.

Making your own natural hand-care products at home is easy using basic household ingredients, such as oil, honey, herbs and flowers. Our recipes provide rich hand creams and nail treatments. You’ll want to make extras because they make wonderful gifts to share with fellow gardeners and family members. Store your products in clean containers and keep them in a cool, dry, dark place.

Total Care for Happy Hands

  1. Clean hands with soap and water.
  2. Put some fresh flower petals or herb leaves in a bowl of warm water and soak your hands for 10 minutes. Try lavender, calendula, mint or rosemary. Use a gentle nailbrush and clean under each nail.
  3. Massage a rich hand cream or natural oil into your hands and cuticles. Gently push back your cuticles with a cotton swab. Never cut your cuticles — they are there to protect your nailbed. Cutting can damage them and lead to infection.
  4. File your nails with a paper emery board into squared ovals, making sure all are the same length.
  5. For extremely dry hands, make a simple hand mask, using plain yogurt or sour cream with a teaspoon of honey mixed into it. Spread the mixture over your hands and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse off the mask with warm water, followed by cool water. Massage more hand cream or oil into your hands. Work from the base of your palm to your fingertips, one finger at a time.

Removing Garden Stains

Forget to wear your gloves? It’s easy to do — often you find yourself reaching down to rid the garden of a few pesky weeds and before you know it you have a pile of weeds and a pair of dirty, stained hands. These simple tips using fresh lemons and green tomatoes really work to remove garden stains and refresh your hands. Remember to moisturize well afterward, as the treatments can be drying to your skin.

Fresh lemons: Lemons are natural astringents and disinfectants that will leave your hands clean and fragrant. Cut a lemon in half and rub the fresh juice all over your hands. Leave the juice on your hands for 5 minutes, then rinse well with warm water.

Green tomatoes: Working around tomato plants can give the skin on your hands a yellow-green tint. Use a green tomato to remove these stains. Cut the fruit in half and rub the fresh juice all over your hands. Leave the juice on your hands for 5 minutes, then rinse well with warm water.


 Janice Cox is the author of Natural Beauty at Home (Henry Holt and Company, 1994). For more information and recipes, visit her website at www.JaniceCox.com.  


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