Indulge by creating a home spa with the garden’s gifts for the hair and skin.
Plant your own beauty garden full of vegetables, herbs, and flowers that can be used to pamper yourself from head to toe. Sunflowers, cucumbers, and luffas will gently cleanse and soothe your skin, and a collection of herbs will scent, relax, and revive your body. Not only will your complexion glow with health when you use your own lotions, potions, and oils, but your spirits will instantly lift as soon as the sunflowers bloom.
One of the most enjoyable ways to take care of yourself is by relaxing in a warm bath or by massaging lotion deep into your skin. By growing your own beauty garden, you’ll have everything you need for a continuous supply of skincare treatments.
Use the plant list and recipes to get you started. Many of the plants you may already have growing in your garden. Many of them can also be grown in pots indoors if you live where garden space is limited.
The following selection of healing and aromatherapeutic plants will make a wonderful bath and beauty garden. All of these plants grow well in sunny locations. Cucumbers and luffa sponges love to climb; position them near a simple trellis or fence so they will have something to hang on to. A good rule of thumb when planting seeds is to make a hole that is double the length of the seed. Some of the herbs such as lavender, rosemary, sage, and mint can be purchased as plants or propagated from stem cuttings of existing plants.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis). This hardy annual plant seems to bloom continuously with bright, cheerful yellow or orange flowers. The flower petals act as skin cleansers and softeners when added to creams, lotions, and baths. Calendula is also a soothing antiseptic and excellent skin conditioner. Create a simple lip balm by combining equal parts of calendula petals, coconut oil, and cocoa butter. Heat gently until the cocoa butter melts, then strain into a clean container and cool completely.
Cucumber (Cucumis sativus). This vegetable has been used as a beauty aid for centuries. One classic cure is to place cucumber slices over the eyelids to soothe puffy eyes. You can also add cucumber juice to creams and lotions. It makes a soothing cure for sunburned skin and insect bites. Cucumbers tend to dislike cold soil, so wait for three to four weeks after the last frost before planting them in the garden.
Lavender (Lavandula spp.). Lavender is a perennial plant with flowers that dry easily, making it great for year-round use. The best time to gather flowering stems is in the early morning, just when the flowers open. Lavender’s antiseptic properties make it a good choice for troubled or blemished skin. By adding a few fresh lavender stems to a bottle of witch hazel you create a simple but effective, cleansing toner. Added to massage oils and bath products, lavender soothes muscle aches and eases fluid retention while providing a very relaxing fragrance.
Luffa (Luffa spp.). These vegetable body brushes belong to the same family as the cucumber. Luffa seeds are easily found at most garden shops and in specialty seed catalogs. It takes seventy-five days to produce a luffa sponge. You may want to start young plants indoors. Before picking the luffas, allow them to ripen on the vine until the skin turns brown. Then soak them in a bucket of water to soften the outer skin. Peel off all of the brown skin, remove the seeds, and let dry. The skeleton of the luffa is what becomes your sponge. They are excellent skin exfoliators. Gently rub over wet skin to remove dead skin cells and surface dirt. This rubbing also increases blood circulation and gives your body a healthy glow.
Mint (Mentha spp.). Known for its clean, energizing scent, mint comes in a number of varieties, from good old-fashioned peppermint to the more exotic chocolate and eau de cologne mints. Chew the leaves and stems to freshen the breath or settle an upset stomach. Add fresh mint leaves to a tub of warm water for a refreshing footbath at the end of a long day. Mint is very versatile and enhances a wide range of beauty products, from facial masks and perfumes to aftershaves. It can be invasive and can take over your garden if you fail to contain it. To keep mint under control, plant it in a pot and place the pot in or above the ground.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum). Rich in vitamins, minerals, and antiseptic chlorophyll, parsley is the ultimate “green.” This well-known natural deodorizer and breath freshener is also very beneficial to your hair and skin. Used as a rinse, it leaves the hair soft and clean. Added to facial masks and lotion, parsley is very soothing to dry skin. It also works as an antiseptic for small cuts and insect bites.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). In mild climates, rosemary makes a fragrant garden hedge and can be harvested year round. Dry the sprigs or branches and crush the leaves just before using to release their distinct aroma. Rosemary stimulates circulation when added to the bath. It also makes a wonderful darkening rinse for the hair. To condition dry hair, make your own hair oil by simply combining olive oil with dried rosemary and allowing it to sit for a week or two.
Sage (Salvia spp.). Sage comes in a variety of scents from cinnamon to pineapple, with clary sage being probably the most common cosmetic variety. Its leaves appear in many facial steams and astringents, as it has strong cleansing properties that deep clean your skin. You can also 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, dry sage leaves. Finish up with a mouthwash of strong sage tea.
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus). The petals of these bright flowers, when steeping in water, make an effective yellow dye for highlighting hair. The rich, natural oils found in sunflower seeds make wonderful face and body scrubs. Use sunflower oil as a light skin moisturizer that’s rich in vitamin E. Since they grow so high you may want to plant your sunflowers in the back of your garden or next to a fence. They also make a natural windbreak for the rest of your plants.
Janice Cox is a frequent contributor to The Herb Companion and author of Natural Beauty from the Garden (Henry Holt and Company, 1999), available in bookstores nationwide or on her website, www.JaniceCox.com.