5 Herbs for Healthy Hair

By Staff
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By Gina DeBacker

Caring for our hair can become somewhat of an obsession, but using conventional beauty products doesn’t always seem like enough. That’s when we start to seek products that will give our tresses that extra-needed boost. Supplement your hair care with these nutrient-rich herbs. Homemade hair rinses and shampoos infused with the following may give you exactly what you’re looking for.


 We all have the ability to take charge of our daily health and vitality. Whether we have room for a small pot of herbs in a sunny window or we have 100 acres, it is easy to grow a few plants that can make a difference in our health. Stabilizing blood sugar is a good goal for diabetics and nondiabetics alike, and many easy-to-grow plants can help us do just that.</p/>
<p>A number of plants have been used to help control non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes for as long as plants have been included in written history. We have come to understand that these plants help maintain healthy blood sugar levels by inhibiting the absorption of glucose following a meal; increasing the number of insulin receptors on cell walls; increasing the efficiency (sensitivity) of those insulin receptors; or simply reducing blood glucose levels. What follows is what we know today about four plants that have proved effective for supporting healthy blood sugar levels, and are also easy to grow at home.</p>
<p>Be advised that if you are taking pharmaceuticals to lower blood sugar, you will need to use caution when also using the garden as a medicine cabinet. Most of the plants that demonstrate hypoglycemic ability (the ability to lower blood sugar levels) are powerful enough to increase the effectiveness of prescribed medications. Whether you choose to work with the following plants in combination with medication or not, it’s always a good idea to communicate with a medical professional and test your blood sugar scrupulously.</p>
<h3>Holy Basil (<em>Ocimum tenuiflorum</em>)</h3>
<p>Holy basil is popular in Ayurvedic practice, where it is also called tulsi. Several good varieties of the plant include ‘Kapoor’, ‘Amrita’, ‘Rama’ and ‘Krishna’, as well as the species called holy basil, Ocimum gratissimum or Vana Tulsi. All of these basils are used interchangeably and are known as adaptogens, meaning they support the body’s response to stress. Holy basil has been researched extensively, and ample evidence suggests this high-antioxidant plant also supports the healthy digestion and adrenal function needed to allow the body to use glucose efficiently.</p>
<p><strong>How to Grow:</strong> Holy basil grows best in full sun and all varieties except ‘Kapoor’ are annuals in temperate climates. It seems possible for ‘Kapoor’ to self-seed. Seed should be barely covered with a layer of soil and is best direct-sown after danger of frost has passed. It likes richly composted soil to start and enjoys steady moisture while getting established. Just like its more common basil cousin, Ocimum basilicum, holy basil will bush out if you pinch off the growing tips often. Eat more and the plant produces more.</p>
<p><strong>How to Use:</strong> Holy basil is high in volatile oils, delicious fresh or dried, and makes an excellent tea. You will also find holy basil in capsules and tinctures. Some studies have shown good results with one to four grams of dried holy basil leaf daily.</p>
<h3>Prickly Pear Cactus (<em>Opuntia streptocantha</em> and related species)</h3>
<p>We have learned from American Indians and Mexicans how to use prickly pear cactus (also called nopales) to lower blood sugar. Modern studies have found that the plant works to reduce blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity, allowing more glucose to enter the cells, leaving less to roam freely in the blood and cause trouble. Most of the prickly pear genus is native to the American Southwest, but some varieties, such as O. humifusa and O. polyacantha, remain hardy even in Zone 3 (northern U.S. and southern Canada), where winter-hardiness is of utmost importance. Most of the Opuntias have edible pads, flowers and fruits, but only the pads are used for blood-sugar maintenance.</p>
<p><strong>How to Grow:</strong> Prickly pear likes to grow in full sun and does not like to stand in waterlogged soil. It needs to dry completely between waterings (which means if you grow prickly pear indoors in a pot, you might only water it every two to three weeks). The cactus easily roots from a pad placed cut-end down in the soil. Pads are ready to harvest when they are fresh and the spines are still rubbery. </p>
<p><strong>How to Use:</strong> Fresh prickly pear pads can be eaten raw or cooked, but drying them appears to reduce medicinal effectiveness. The rubbery spines can be cut off or simply charred on the grill, and the pads can also be juiced (with spines and pulp strained out). The plant needs to be eaten in rather high amounts to match study results, but if you can grow prickly pear, it certainly doesn’t hurt to add a pad to your daily diet. Check out these <a href=simple cooking instructions.

Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia)

The vegetable bitter melon is at home in African, Chinese and Indian food and medicine. This bitter addition to foods has a long history of use in treating type 2 diabetes, lowering the amount of glucose in the blood dramatically over a period of weeks. Bitter melon also supports healthy digestion, which is important for anyone struggling with maintaining healthy blood-sugar levels. Additionally, studies confirm that a component of the plant, charantia, behaves similarly to insulin, and the use of the plant reliably increases insulin sensitivity.

How to Grow: This tropical vine can be grown like an annual, in well-composted, evenly moist soil in full to partial sun. It is best trellised, as the fruits rot easily when lying on the ground. Pick bitter melon when it’s green with just a hint of yellow. 

How to Use: Bitter melon is often used as a food. The green melons are sliced open and the seeds removed, leaving just the bitter outside flesh. For those who wish to use the plant for blood-sugar control, studies have shown that either a decoction (a medicinal tea made by boiling the plant for 20 minutes and then straining) or juicing yields the best results. Most of these studies suggest starting with 50 ml daily.

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)

Aromatic fenugreek has long been used to treat diabetes, and its abilities are recognized by numerous clinical trials. The seeds of this plant seem to affect fasting glucose levels, and are able to impact the amount of glucose entering the system after a meal.

How to Grow: Fenugreek is in the bean family and can be used as a cover crop, increasing the nitrogen content of the soil while you wait for its useful seeds to develop in the fall. If you have recently turned over new soil that has been heavily fertilized, you may want to add an innoculant (a helpful bacterial preparation you can buy in powder form) during seeding. Grow fenugreek in full sun in well-drained, slightly acidic soil. This traditional Indian plant is best grown indoors from seed four to six weeks before your last frost. It doesn’t care much for being transplanted, so it is best to grow it in individual pots or use a biodegradable one if you plan to later plant them outdoors.

How to Use: Dried fenugreek seeds can be chewed or cooked, though a recent study suggests that when made into a tea (as a decoction, as discussed with bitter melon), fenugreek is most effective at lowering blood sugar. You can also find fenugreek tinctured, encapsulated or even sprouted. For best results, you need to consume fenugreek seeds (or preparations made from seeds) two to three times a day.

” width=”550″ height=”355″ data-tw-width=”” data-align=”alignnone” />Calendula

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is rich in falconoids, plant-based antioxidants that protect the body against cell-damaging free radicals, and the scalp from bacterial growth. Use this sunny flower to soothe sensitive scalps, as it is also rich in antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. You can even use calendula to brighten blonde hair. To use calendula on your hair, steep 1/4 cup calendula flower petals in 1 cup boiling water overnight; strain, then use directly on your scalp as a final rinse post-shampoo.

Chamomile

Appreciated worldwide for its calming effects, chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is rich in antioxidant, cleansing and moisturizing properties. This daisy-like herb is wonderful for conditioning the hair and soothing an itchy, irritated or sensitive scalp. You can also use chamomile to lighten tresses, which is probably its most popular beauty use. If your hair is already blond, it will brighten your hair; if your hair is brown, it will lighten your hair by a couple of shades. To soothe your scalp or give your hair a golden hue, treat your hair with a chamomile rinse. Simply steep 1/4 cup fresh or dried chamomile flowers in two cups boiling water, then strain. To use, pour the rinse over clean hair as a final rinse; do not rinse.

Sage

Another herb rich in antioxidants, as well as astringent and antibacterial qualities, sage (Salvia officinalis) is excellent for soothing dry, itchy scalp. Use it to curb dandruff and eliminate buildup from the hair and scalp. You can also use sage leaves to darken hair and cover gray hairs. To use, combine sage with apple cider vinegar, a great product for hair that has a high natural pH and can help get rid of styling product residue. Mix 4 ounces of apple cider vinegar with 4 ounces cooled sage tea. Pour the mixture on your scalp, wrap your tresses into a towel or plastic cap for 20 to 30 minutes, then rinse and shampoo as usual.

Hibiscus

Promote hair growth with hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa). This beautiful, vibrant flower can do a lot for hair. It can treat scalp conditions such as dandruff and hair loss. It can also seal in moisture as well as promote shine, aid with tangles and promote healthy hair growth by feeding the follicles with nutrients. Finally, it can also give red highlights to light or dark hair. To use, steep 1/4 cup fresh or dried hibiscus flowers with 2 cups boiling water; strain. Then pour over clean hair as a final rinse and do not rinse out.

Horsetail

Nourishing and hydrating, horsetail (Equisetum arvense) contains high concentrations of silicic acid. Silica strengthens weak, brittle and damaged hair at its core and may even restore body and luster. Horsetail is also great for treating oily scalps and remedying troubling skin ailments such as dandruff, eczema and psoriasis. Finally, it has been used for centuries to stimulate hair growth. Care for your hair with homemade horsetail shampoo. To make, simply steep 2 to 3 tablespoons dried horsetail in 1/2 cup hot water, add the mixture to your favorite chemical-free baby shampoo, and use to wash hair as usual. Because horsetail has antiseptic properties, excessive use could dry out your hair. You can also take horsetail orally (in capsule or tincture form, found at your local health-food store) to boost your hair health. Horsetail is not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing.

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