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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.