It’s a well know fact that gardening can help relieve the stresses and strains of daily life. The garden is also for many a sanctuary for relaxation and quiet moments. But have you ever thought of your borders as containing all the ingredients for your good looks and well-being?
Beauty expert, Angela Lopez of Belle-Toi (angelasbelletoi.com) in Bournemouth, says that since time began plants have been valued for their pain relieving and beauty treatments. However, whilst it’s not always a good idea make your own medicines you could, providing you’re not pregnant or receiving medical treatment, mix a few potions to get rid of nasty flatulence or bad breath and refresh your pasty face or hair with a herbal tonic.
You don’t need a great deal of skill or time to give your hair a fabulous sheen, simply steep a mixture of herbs such as camomile flowers, rosemary, bay, sage and southernwood in water and use it instead of hair conditioner
Natural beauty treats can be plucked straight from the garden. Dry hair problems can also be eliminated. All you need do is rub an oily mixture of rosemary leaves and olive oil into your scalp 10 minutes before you wash your hair. Weeds too can work wonders. Try boiling nettle tops and using the water to rid dandruff and make the leftovers into soup or beer.
Lettuce has been used in beauty treatments for centuries. Boil surplus salad leaves in water and use it to clean and condition your skin or try your old granny’s favourite anti-wrinkle wash made from an infusion of poppy flowers
Bathing in rosemary is said to make the old young again and a quick gargle after cleaning your teeth will make bad breath a thing of the past. Now what more could you ask from your garden?
To get to know your plants refer to an Herbal that’s packed with country wisdom and sound practical information such as Jekka McVicar’s New Book of Herbs (DK £19.99) and you’ll soon be cooking up all kinds of cures in your kitchen. One of my own treats is an elderflower bath, which is great for soothing sunburnt skin. You can also use the flowers to make a tea that will help relieve coughs and colds or turn them into a refreshing ‘champagne’.
Herbal teas are easy to make and drinking them can save you many an embarrassing moment!
According to herb expert, Jekka McVicar, wind and bloating can be eased with a tea made from sprigs of fennel or peppermint. Bergamot too can also work wonders against nausea and flatulence as can a handful of lemon verbena leaves, which also have the added bonus of solving insomnia and nasal congestion.
More or less all herb plants thrive in sun and almost any soil and can be squeezed in-between shrubs and flowers or grown in pots on the patio – consider planting those that are used for making teas in a giant tea cup!
For those new to foraging, wild garlic is easy to spot emerging in the just-wakening undergrowth. It has vivid green leaves and pungent scent. You will find it growing in most woodlands, where bluebells grow. Wild garlic has also been proved to be anti-bacterial and anti-fungal and is successfully used to treat yeast-related infections and normalise gut flora. Use it in recipes but add it towards the end of cooking to preserve its freshness, or even better, eat it raw. And remember, you can eat the flowers too, so add them as a garnish and ingredient to salads
Because of normal garlic’s superior antibacterial properties, it’s the perfect ingredient for your face and body. It can also be taken 5 hours before intense exercise – it’s widely shown to increase blood fluidity and oxygen/nutrient delivery to working muscles and improves endurance. You can also ake advantage of this superstar plant in your beauty routine.
Here are some of our favorite recipes I’ve picked up for keeping your complexion clear
Use garlic to spot-treat pimples. Cut into a clove of raw garlic and rub it onto your blemish. You’ll see a reduction in redness and swelling within the day.
Bust blackheads by mixing 2 cloves of crushed garlic with 1 tablespoon of ground oatmeal, a drop of tea tree oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, then slowly add a tablespoon of runny honey until the consistency is viscous. Spread a thin layer of paste onto clean skin. After letting it sit for two minutes, gently exfoliate your face for one minute, then rinse with warm water. Use this mask three times a week to see a visible reduction in blackheads.
As tomato and garlic both have fantastic antiseptic qualities, they are superb ingredients for clogged skin. Combine mashed tomato and garlic, then spread a thin layer onto your face. After 20 minutes, wash your face with lukewarm water and seal your pores with a final splash of cold water.
Grow a herb garden
Growing herbal remedies couldn’t be easier. You can also dedicate a bed solely to herbs. You can buy timber herb planters or go for a traditional herb wheel and make it the hub of your garden. Cut out a small circle in the lawn and edge with reclaimed bricks. Divide the circle into segments with spokes made from similar bricks.
Plant each segment of your planter with a different herb, combining plants that are used together in the kitchen
On a larger scale you can use plants such as lavender to make the spokes of the ‘wheel’ and run a ring of lettuce, thyme or camomile around the perimeter. A layer of grit around the base of each plant will help to keep the foliage clean and dry. Mulching with gravel will also improve drainage.
Regular harvesting will encourage bushy plants and lots of fresh new growth to plunder in months to come. Feed plants every week with a liquid feed during the summer to keep plants strong and healthy. And finally, to keep the herb wheel turning, propagate plants by seed in spring or by cuttings taken now and again in September.