Herbal Treatments for the Hair, Part Seven – “She’s So Unusual”


Oh Yes! You are in for a visual treat here, as well as some interesting results. I found the following concoction referenced in more than one place, most notably THE COMPLETE HERBAL GUIDE TO NATURAL HEALTH & BEAUTY by Dian Dincin Buchman. Even though this book was written in the early ’70’s (1970’s that is) it has a very down to earth approach, with many personal ancedotes by the author as well as traditions from her grandmother. This recipe is so unusual that I had to include it here.

Parsnip Hair Conditioner
Take 1 parsnip root, scrub clean, trim, then chop small and simmer in 1/4 cup almond oil; toss in a pinch of parsnip seed if you have it. (What I actually did was chop up a few small roots and covered with plenty of oil, because I wanted to save some for later.)

Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.

It is my first impulse to add garlic to any simmering oil, but this is neither the time nor the place!

After simmering, strain and press out as much oil as possible from the root.

Since I didn’t do the treatment right away, I decanted the cooled oil back into the oil bottle and refrigerated it. The small amount of oil that didn’t fit  and didn’t get refrigerated (I used one-and-a-half bottles) went rancid after a month. So let that be a lesson to you.

When I was finally ready to apply the treatment, I placed the opened bottle of oil into a small pan of water on simmer for maybe 15 minutes, just to take the cold out of it. The method for applying to the scalp and hair is as a “hot” oil pack – the oil isn’t really hot, just a bit warm. Part your hair as you go, getting the scalp most importantly.

Wrap your hair in plastic wrap and then a towel. How glamorous!

What do you think of the results?
When I do the oil treatment again next time (which is likely since I have been experincing a bout of “adult cradle cap” and the oil feels soothing) – and what I didn’t say in my book THE WILD  & WEEDY APOTHECARY – I will definately concentrate on the scalp more, and less on the hair… Why? I washed my hair three times with Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap, to try and be more “natural”, and still had oily hair. Then I used Nature’s Gate Tea Tree Shampoo, and the oil was gone from my hair… which made me wonder…
Other books I use as reference for my work include Jeanne Rose’s Kitchen Cosmetics, and A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve and originally published in 1931.  You could certainly simmer other herbs in oil and apply the same way. Please refer to earlier blogposts in this series, or get a copy of my book for this and other ways to use herbs and other plants for safe and readily available body care.
This blogpost is dedicated to Gramma Lil, with whom I will forever associate the rare and humble Parsnip.

This is where I get my parsnips:

Part Six – Herbal Treatments for the Hair

“Color Me Pretty”

There are several plants, in addition to Persian, Indian or  Egyptian henna, that add subtle coloring and highlights to the hair, some for blondes, some for brunettes, and some for redheads and gray or silver hair. Some henna formulations are neutral and do not add any color but do bring shine and elasticity to the hair; it actually coats the hair shaft.

I wouldn’t recommend using any of these plant dyes on white hair  unless you are very adventurous!

Following the methods described in Part One for making Herbal Hair Tea, make a brew out of perhaps three of the following suggested herbs and repeatedly wash or brush through the hair over a large tub to catch and re-use the coloring brew. You could also use the powdered herb pack method as well, which is how henna is applied. As I said in Part One, “messy, but fun” !! Please wear gloves and old clothes, and have lots of towels ready as well.

I listed these herbs in the Introduction, but here they are again for your convenience.

chamomile flower – light hair
elderberries – very dark hair (experiment with this on a hidden strand first, this may dye your hair blue!)
grape leaves – dark
green walnut husks – brown (this definately stains)
henna – red tones to dark; these are storebought, but very traditional
hollyhock flowers – according to color
marigold petals – light and golden (this includes both common marigolds and calendula or pot-marigold)
mulberries – see elderberry, above, except they’re more purplish-black
mullein leaf and flower – golden
poppy petals – red or golden
raspberry leaf – dark
rhubarb root – golden
rose petals – according to color (doesn’t get very dark)
sage – for dark or grey, more for lustre than dye
St. John’s wort flowering tops – red or golden

I have used the golden herbs for adding highlights to my brown hair, but my hair is graying now, so I need to take a different approach. As a fun finale, Part Seven will feature a very unusual hair and scalp concoction for which yours truely will model LOL, and which I dedicate to my Grandma Lil and her luscious Ox-tail Soup…

… now I gotcha wonderin’, huh?

Herbal Treatments for the Hair – Part Five

Tonics to Treat Dandruff and to Stimulate a Healthy Scalp:  Don’t Flake Out!
Before I go on to our next set of recipes and remedies, let me describe the term tonic. Often used preventatively, a tonic is a substance used to strengthen a  system, usually in the absence of injury or disease, such as grandma’s spring dandelion tonic for scouring out a winter’s worth of  taters and gravy and not enough veggies. In the context of this article, we are talking about home-made products you can use on a regular basis to bring the scalp pH into balance, whether overactive (oily) or dry. The pH of hair and nails – on the acid to alkaline scale of 1 to 14 – is about 5, with skin being between 5 to 6.8 . Tonics can also be used prevent, or create a condition less likely to allow, scalp problems such as dandruff, psoriasis, eczema, and so on (I call it “adult cradle cap” and am having my first ever bout of such ever, truth be told… more on that in a later installment). These conditions may differ in degree of severity and/or cause, but the following tonics and treatments will  at least alleviate the symptoms, if not the causes.

If you have dandruff you might traipse over to Scarborough Faire for your first treatment. Using the method described in Part Two for making “Herbal Hair Tea”, prepare equal parts parsley for shine, sage for cleansing, rosemary for its all-around tonic properties, and thyme for the mildly medicinal effect, and use this brew as a scalp treatment. Rub it into the scalp and do not rinse. You can also make a vinegar rinse with these herbs, as described in our previous blog-posting (Part Four). This formula is more suitable for dark hair.

Another dandruff tonic combines equal parts nettle leaf, violet leaf, red clover blossom, and peppermint leaf. Red clover contains salicylic acid, and many dandruff shampoos contain this compound. I have noticed all these herbal extracts in store-bought shampoo formulas. How cool  to utilize whole plants to include its other soothing properties.

In addition to the above mentioned herbs, birch bark, hollyhock flower, rose petal, and willow bark are also good herbs to use as a dandruff tonic. Apple cider vinegar can be used all by itself too.

Some tonics have been used as “growth stimulants” but they are not the herbal equivalent of Rogaine. Rather, they are a type of tonic that has been traditionally used (along with good nutrition and exercise) to stimulate new hair growth. Rosemary is a good example of a hair tonic herb. Catnip is said to be an old Gypsy remedy for hair loss. The inner bark of the hemlock tree (Tsuga spp.)  is another traditional remedy, briskly rubbed into the scalp. Do not confuse this hemlock tree with poisonous water hemlock… one is a tall evergreen tree, the other is a demon carrot on steroids. If you decide use the hemlock bark, be sure to take it only from a branch, and do not, don’t EVER, take bark from the actual trunk of the tree. Not only will you eventually kill it if not most certainly injure it, but you will be committing the tree-equivalent of skinning something alive… BAD KARMA!

Birch leaf or twig, horsetail (scouring rush), juniper berries, nettles, sage leaf, and yarrow flowers are all herbs that have been used as a hair and scalp tonic.

Might I remind you again to use a dark towel when using these herbal treatments for your hair, as they are often dark in color and could stain.

My personal all around favorite herbal combination for the hair is nettles and mint, because I make tea with the herbs, and if I have any leftover (even a bit of honey won’t hurt), I can rub it into my scalp and away we go!

… and yes, I do it in that order, first tea, then hair, okay?!?