Herbs and oils: their effects
The effects of herbs and essential oils can be extremely powerful, and should you have any side effects, you should immediately consult a medical herbalist.
Essential oils (EOs)
Essential Oils are the aromatic essence of a plant, generally expressed as a light, highly fragrant and extremely potent liquid by a variety of means: pressure, steam, CO2, or solvent (usually alcohol). We opt for pressure or steam to avoid any possibility of They have a wide range of actions; most are antiseptic, and many are anti-inflammatory, have a beneficial effect on the circulatory system, improve the skin's tone and healing ability. All essential oils have a profound effect on the nervous system. Hydrosols are the distillate residue produced from steam distillation - literally, distilled water infused with tiny particles of the essential oil.
Herbs and plants:
Arnica (Arnica Montana) This herb promotes healing and stimulates circulation. Used as an anti-irritant in scalp products. NEVER use internally.
Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum) Used as a culinary herb and in liqueurs, here at Great Elm we do not use it in skin care preparations but it smells delicious, has some antiseptic properties and fends of insects and bugs, so it’s been included in the Herbal Shoe Refreshers.
Bay (Pimenta Racemosa) One of the traditional uses of bay is as an aphrodisiac: as it is a stimulating and energising oil, this could be true. Bay is excellent for easing the muscles after sporting activity and its a good hair tonic. Native of the West Indies.
Bay Laurel (Laurus Nobilis) A common herb in cooking, often just called bay leaves. A good tonic for the liver and kidneys when used internally; also said to help clear the lymph, being especially useful for premenstrual breast tenderness. Avoid if pregnant. Laurel's antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti fungal properties can be helpful with scars as well as acne pimples, boils, scabies, etc. It is reportedly a tonic to the hair and scalp stimulating hair growth and aiding with dandruff. It smells good too, so we use it whenever we can.
Borage (Borago Officinalis) Also known as Starflower, borage seed oil is high in unsaturated fats, especially essential fatty acids, and is a strong antioxidant.
Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) Marigold is one of the all-time great skin herbs, it is a true ‘vulnerary’ or skin tonic, with strong anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and healing actions.
Carrot Seed (Daucus carota) The expressed oil from the wild carrot is particularly useful in improving elasticity and tone to mature skins.
Chamomile German (Chamomilla recutita) An excellent anti-inflammatory and skin softener. It is also very calming and soothing to jangled nerves. It is particularly useful for young, tender skins. Can cause sensitivities in some individuals.
Chamomile Roman (Anthemis nobilis)
As Chamomilla recutita.
Clove bud (Syzgium aromaticum) Super useful, well known in dentistry as a pain killer and germ killer. It is antimicrobial, antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral, never mind being, some say, an aphrodisiac. A dab in the bath is quite nice. Effective against minor pains and aches (particular dental pain), and is helpful when battling flus and colds.
Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) Delicate, rich blue, beautiful and useful too, mildly astringent, anti-septic and anti-inflammatory: famously good at soothing sore eyes or irritated skin. We put an extract of it in our Cornflower & Jasmine hydrating cream. http://bit.ly/ZbNNd8
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) A powerful healer, stimulating the regeneration of healthy new skin cells. It is the wound healer of choice for medical herbalists. A toner with astringent characteristics.
Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) Like mallow is an excellent skin conditioner, with stimulating, antiseptic qualities.
Fennel - sweet (Foeniculum vulgare) Good skin cleansing properties, and reputed to keep wrinkles at bay. And very delicious baked or raw!
Geranium (Pelargonium odoratissimum) Very useful for all skin types as it helps keep the skin stay supple.(see also Rose geranium)
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) A great warming, stimulating yet grounding oil. Externally ginger helps reduce bruising by increasing local vascular activity. Also effective in dealing with colds and other upper respiratory conditions, and very good for digestive problems.
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) Has a strong reputation for clearing, stimulating, and cleansing skin.
Immortelle (Helichrysium Augustifolia) Has a long traditional usage for repairing and nourishing more mature skin. Herbalists regard it as effective for abscesses, acne, bruises, boils, burns, cuts, dermatitis, eczema, irritated skin and wounds. It is also reputed to be an uplifting, spiritual oil.
Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum) A fresh, delicately balancing oil and hydrosol with toning, rejuvenating, and clearing actions. Jasmine carries a clear and sensual floral top note.
Juniper (Juniperis communis) Both oil and hydrosol are considered clearing and cleansing, great for skins that are prone to the occasional spot.
Lavender (Lavendula augustifolia) One of the best known essential oils and hydrosols, and rightly so. Lavender is the great Roman ‘cleaner’ (hence its name from lavandre, to wash) It has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and healing actions. It is generally calming and soothing, both to skin and mind.
Lemon (Citrus limonium) Historically known as a great cleaner and bad-smell-eradicator, it is antiseptic, anti-bacterial and as having refreshing and cooling properties. On skin and hair it can be used for its cleansing effect, as well as for treating cuts and boils.
Lemon verbena (Lippia citriodora/Aloysia triphylla) A clear, clean, sweet-ish citrus scent which is uplifting, mood-enhancing and invigorating. One of the greats.
Linden blossom (Tilia europaea) Externally used to clarify, soften, and cleanse the skin. Traditionally employed as a tea to help ease tension and bring on sleep.
Mallow (Malva officinalis) Mallow and elderflower are both emollients: soothing, healing, softening and easing to the skin. They are excellent in reducing inflammation.
Marjoram Sweet (Origanum marjorana) A slightly spicy middle note oil with marked clearing and cleansing properties. Antiseptic and refreshing.
May Chang (Litsea Cubeba) A native of south-east Asia and long used in Chinese medicine, it known for its anti-depressant qualities, as well as anit-fungal, anti-septic, astringent properties. Litsea cubeba is also a very effective deodorant that helps to reduce excess perspiration, so it us useful in body products. Can be an skin irritant if used in too great amount.
Melissa (Melissa officinalis) One of the most expensive of all essential oils, Melissa is often known as lemon balm, it is generally uplifting and cleansing, a refreshing, stimulating, heart-lightening oil and hydrosol.
Myrtle (Myrtus communis) Known for its cleansing properties. It has a piercing, clean and slightly woody fragrance.
Orange - Bitter (Citrus Aurantium) Shares the cleansing, clearing properties of all the citrus family. It has a more complex, deeper, flowery scent than common orange.
Oregano (Origanum vulgaris) Has a mild antimicrobial action and acts as a gentle astringent.
Paeony (Paeony lactiflora) Paeonies are named for ‘Paeon’, the Greek god of healing who soothed the Ancients’ wounds. Certainly Paeony is an anti-inflammatory that stimulates and tones the minute capillaries which feed the skin.
Parsley seed (Petroselinum sativum or crispum) Has a reputation for clearing and refining skin tone. And it is splendidly soothing for the stomach.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) The mint family provides a stimulating, cleansing, mildly antibacterial action when used externally. Peppermint has the strongest action of all the mints.
Rose (Rosa centifolia or Rosa damascena) Extremely expensive, efficacious and precious oil with the truly gorgeous scent of freshly blown roses. Rose is anti-inflammatory, healing, soothing. It is known as the ‘cherishing’ oil. Rose hydrosol is produced at the same time as the essential oil and is impregnated with tiny droplets of the precious essential oil.
Rose geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) The essential oil has a lovely strong fragrance with and a harmonising, balancing action. Helps keep skin supple, helps to heal scarring. It is also an excellent insect repellant.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) Has a woodsy and warm quality. With many culinary uses, it is also uplifting, relieves mental fatigue and is reputed to be good for stimulating memory. Its astringent and antiseptic nature stimulates metabolic processes in the skin’s dermal layer.
Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) Known also as Bouncing Bet or Bruisewort, suggesting a healing action on broken capillaries. Soapwort contains high levels of saponins which act as foaming and mild cleansing agents. It is indeed used in museums to clean fragile fabrics. Here at Great Elm we use Soapwort as a very gentle, thorough cleanser.
Sage (salvia officinalis) Spicy scent, combining an ability to inhibit persperation with a mild antimicrobial action, making it effective for skin disruptions and hair imbalances. Sage essential oil. Antiseptic and stimulates circulation. It has a tautening effect making it ideal for ageing skin.
Summer Savoury (Saturea hortensis) Summer savoury is a very powerful antiseptic, very useful for helping formation of scar tissue. Also aids insect stings and bites. A soothing oil that can help with burns too. Reputed to be an aphrodisiac.
Winter Savoury (Saturea montana)
See Summer Savoury above
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) Used externally it can help repair damage to local nervous tissue. It is useful for burns, including sun and windburn.
Vetivert (Vetiveria zinzanoides) Considered an ‘earthing’ oil, making it perhaps a good oil to use just before a job interview or taking an exam. It is reputed to help improve the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood, and could help with muscular aches and pains. May help with clearing acne.
Sweet violet (Viola odorata) Contains saponins which act as a mild skin tonic alongside mucilage which is soothing and anti-inflammatory.
Violet leaf (Viola odorata) Sweet violets contain saponins which act as a mild skin tonic alongside mucilage which is soothing and anti-inflammatory.
Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) A simple and wonderful cleanser. Especially useful for cleaning the skin of the face before and after massage on the face.
Yarrow (Achillea millefollium) An effective healing oil for wounds; it is a circulatory stimulant that helps to ‘deliver’ nutrients to the skin. It also has a wonderful pungent, grassy scent.