Mother Earth Living

Body & Soul: Natural Hand and Nail Care for Gardeners

By Janice Cox
August/September 2002
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• Natural Tips: Total Hand Care 

Hand Care Recipes:

• Gardeners' Hand Cream
• Horsetail Nail Strengthener 

Green thumbs and rough, dry hands no longer need to be the result of a day spent working in the garden. In fact, the term “green thumb” has nothing to do with the condition of your hands, but rather it refers to a person’s ability to grow and care for healthy plants. It is possible to have both healthy, well-cared-for hands and beautiful plants.

Eating a proper diet is essential, as too little protein can make your nails brittle and your skin dull. Keeping your hands well-moisturized is also important; the nails are extremely porous and expel 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 full of moisture. This is especially critical to lock in moisture and prevent your hands from chapping after washing your hands. Garden soil and constant washings rob your hands of precious moisture. The cream or oil will form a protective barrier, locking moisture into your skin. Massage your cuticles as you apply the cream—this will increase your circulation and encourage new nail growth. Here are a few more essential tips for healthy hands.

• Never use your nails as a tool. They 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 your skin heal quickly, apply a bit of vitamin E oil or honey to the affected area.

• To keep your nails clean while gardening, scratch a bar of soap before going outdoors. Let the soap get under your nails so dirt won’t.

• Keep all of your nails the same length and shape them into squared-off ovals. This not only looks best; it is 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.

Weekly Treatments

Once a week, treat your hands to a manicure. This is important for men and women to keep hands looking and feeling their best. Rough, cracked hands are not only unsightly but can also be painful and hard to work with. Follow the steps outlined on page 51 for “Total hand care.” Healthy, well-cared-for hands will be the result.

It is very easy to make your own natural hand-care products at home using basic household ingredients such as oil, honey, herbs, and flowers. Use the recipes included to create your own rich hand cream and strengthening nail bath.

Removing Garden Stains

Follow these simple tips to remove garden stains from your hands. They work well to clean and refresh your hands. Remember to moisturize well afterward, as the treatments can be drying to your skin.

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 from the Garden (Henry Holt and Company, 2002). For more information, visit her website at . 

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