Herbs for Healthy, Beautiful Skin and Hair

The following herbs have properties that can protect, heal, and beautify your skin and hair. Depending on their effects, you can use them to make gentle cleansers, stimulating rinses, soothing salves, and much more. (For how to make healing salves for skin, see “Herbal Preparations“.)

Some plants have had special significance for hundreds of years. One introduced to Europe from the Middle East during the Crusades was the damask rose. Roses and the fragrant oils they produce have been supremely important in the Muslim world since the time of Mohammed (570–632). As early as the 7th century, Arab alchemists used roses and their fragrant extracts to purify mosques, infuse prayer beads with fragrance, sprinkle guests as they entered houses, and flavor foods ranging from sherbet to candy. In fact, one of the books by the Arabic herbalist Abu ‘Ali al-Husayn ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Sina, known in the Western world as Avicenna (980–1037), was devoted entirely to roses. Today, rose oil continues to be an important ingredient in beauty products, as well as aromatherapy.

Aloe (Aloe vera) Antifungal, anti-inflammatory, emollient; helps heal wounds and burns
Bay (Laurus nobilis) Antibacterial, antifungal; used in shampoos, hair rinses, and hair tonics to treat dandruff and possibly stimulate hair growth
Burdock (Arctium lappa) Antifungal, anti-inflammatory, emollient; used externally and internally for acne, eczema, and psoriasis; good for oily skin
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) Antifungal, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, styptic; helps heal wounds and burns, relieves sunburn; good for normal, dry, and sensitive skin types; good all-purpose hair rinse
Chickweed (Stellaria media) Helps relieve itching
Citrus (Citrus spp.) Antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, astringent; helps heal insect bites and wounds; good for oily skin
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) Emollient; stimulates cell growth, helps in wound healing; good for dry skin
Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) Fights infection, helps in wound healing
Elder flower (Sambucus spp.) Anti-inflammatory, astringent, emollient; good for both dry and oily skin types
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) Anti-inflammatory, aromatic; good for dry skin
German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) Anti-inflammatory and antiseptic; used for minor burns, cuts, eczema, and other skin irritations; good for normal, dry, and sensitive skin types
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, astringent, stimulating; used to relieve bruises, muscular aches and pains, and poor circulation
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) Helps promote wound and scar healing, encourages production of collagen
Grand Fir (Abies grandis) Antiseptic, astringent, deodorant, stimulant, tonic; good for burns, cuts, muscle aches and pains, and wounds
Henna (Lawsonia inermis) Enhances hair color
Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum) Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, tonic; soothes irritated skin
Kelp (Laminaria spp.) Emollient, nutritive; good for dry skin
Lavender (Lavandula spp.) Antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, aromatic; good for normal and sensitive skin types
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) Antiseptic, aromatic
Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) Anti-inflammatory, emollient; good for sensitive skin
Neem (Azadirachta indica) Antifungal, anti-inflammatory; helpful against dandruff
Nettle (Urtica dioica) Astringent, nutritive; helpful against dandruff; used in hair rinses
Oats, oatstraw (Avena sativa) Emollient, nutritive; good for dry and sensitive skin types
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) Sedative; relieves irritated skin; can be used to make a relaxing bath
Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) Antiseptic, astringent, cooling, stimulating; good for oily skin
Plantain (Plantago major) Antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, emollient; helps with wound healing
Red clover (Trifolium pratense) Anti-inflammatory; used externally and internally for acne, eczema, and psoriasis
Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic; used to treat burns, cuts, insect bites, and other skin irritations; adds shine to hair
Rose (Rosa spp.) Antiseptic, aromatic, astringent, emollient; good for normal, dry, and sensitive skin types
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) Antiseptic, aromatic, astringent, stimulating; good for oily skin and hair
Sage (Salvia officinalis) Antiseptic, aromatic; used to treat acne; good for oily skin and hair
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) Analgesic, antiseptic, astringent, stimulant; good for oily skin and hair
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) Anti-inflammatory; helps heal wounds and burns (avoid sun exposure after applying to skin)
Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) Antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic; used to treat fungal infections, acne, dandruff, and eczema
Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) Anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, styptic; helps relieve itching; good for oily skin
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) Anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, styptic; good for oily skin
Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) Antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic; used to heal insect bites, scars, and wounds