How to Use Herbs: The squeeze on herbal goodness in skincare

Updated 10/09/20

Given our philosophy of clean and conscious beauty.

Coupled with the fact, that interest in green formulas is on the increase is a great thing.

The 2020 soil association report found, there was a 14 percent growth year on year in sales of certified organic and natural beauty and skincare products.

But how do you get all the goodness nature has to offer in a neat skincare sandwich?

Wait. Don’t panic the Naked Chemist with our ethos deeply rooted in transparency in beauty, has you covered

Herbs in Decoctions and Infusions

Many plants have skin-beneficial properties, that come in the form of flavonoids, antioxidants, tannins, mucilage, resins, acids, and volatile oils.

Depending on the plant, these components can originate in the petals of the flowers, the leaves, bark, roots, and stems.

There are several ways you can extract the benefits from herbs and other plants:

  1. Infusion: An infusion is when you steep plants in water or oil to harness the beneficial properties. One of the most common infusions is herbal tea.
  2. Decoction: Involves boiling a herb or vegetable in water, so the water contains the soluble constituents of the plant.
  3. Tincture: A solution of alcohol or alcohol and water, along with the plant that is being used for medicinal benefits. Tinctures can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months to fully saturate the liquid with the plant material.
  4. Maceration: This involves softening by soaking in a liquid. Maceration is generally used for very delicate plants and the liquid is usually cold, calendula is one such plant used in this method.

Join us here for tips on how to prepare a herbal infusion.

Advantages of Decoctions and Infusions

  • They are safe and cheap to use, especially if you grow your own herbs
  • They allow the herb to be easily absorbed
  • Many herbs have good nutritional content
  • They provide an alternative to tea and coffee
  • It’s the best way to harness the herbs potent properties

Most herbs will release their active properties in water or alcohol, there are two techniques of water release; this is known as an INFUSION or DECOCTION.

Herbs as Decoctions

This method involves boiling the roots, seeds, and bark, which helps to release the active properties of the herbs.

As a general rule, a decoction usually consists of 30 g chopped and dried woody herbs, ideally, you should be looking to use one part herb to 30 parts water:

  • First, crush or bruise the herbs
  • Next place them in a saucepan and cover with boiling or cold water
  • Place a lid on the saucepan and let everything steep overnight
  • The following morning, bring the mixture slowly to the boil
  • Then let everything simmer for around 20 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced to around 600 ml
  • Next strain the decoction through a fine sieve, or a piece of muslin and measure. If you have a ratio of less than 1:20, you can pour hot water through the muslin, to make it up to the right quantity

How to Use Herbs as a Tincture

Unfortunately, many herbs don’t release their active properties in the water, they only become active in alcohol, which is where a tincture is more useful:

  • Seal the tincture, in a container with a tight lid
  • Let the tincture stand in a sunny area, where it can get the full benefit from the sun
  • Steep for around a week and strain
  • After a week, pour off the liquid through a nylon cheesecloth strainer
  • You will know when the extract is effective because the alcohol retains the character and smell of the herb
  • Add 1% Vitamin E, to make the herb last longer

Use one ounce of crushed or powdered herbs, diluted in 12 ounces of alcohol and 4 ounces of water.

For more information on how to make a herbal tincture, this article is a good read.

The naked truth

There are a lot of reasons why you’d want to make your own herbal skincare at home for fun. Whatever the reason, learning to use herbs is a valuable and creative skill to have.

Whilst it is enjoyable, we advise against making creations for commercial use – the reason, they can be full of contaminants that can cause serious problems when you add them to a watery environment and you don’t want anyone to end up with unhealthy microbes on their skin.

2 thoughts on “How to Use Herbs: The squeeze on herbal goodness in skincare

  1. Lewis Nicholson says:

    Greetings Samantha, can you tell me the name of a reputable supplier of organic macadamian oil, I’m a grower of very pure macadamians situated in a remote part of New Zealand, my reason for asking you about the oil is I’m going to start pressing my entire crop into oil and need to build up my knowledge of that side of the industry any advice you could impart would be gratefully received
    Kind regards

    • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

      Hi Lewis, thanks for reaching out.
      Have you tried, they specialise in selling high quality oils, I find them really helpful.
      there is also a company called pure nature on the North island, they are a new company, which may also offer you some advise
      Hope that helps

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