Jill’s Herbal Diary: Natural Ingredients for Herbal Preparations

Herbs - Mortar and Pestel (3)By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

When I first started studying herbs and herbalism, I was fascinated by the multitude of natural ingredients that are used alone or combined with other ingredients to make herbal preparations like lotions, salves, soaks, and compresses.   The following includes interesting tidbits of information for each ingredient, but is by no means a complete list of their attributes or actions.  Of course, a lot more could be said about each ingredient, yet this list might just inspire you to look for more ways to use a particular ingredient or to try some of these in a new way!  As always, please feel free to add your knowledge or share your thoughts!

  • Aloe Vera – Gel.  Fresh, slightly astringent, slippery.
  • Arrowroot Powder – Drying properties, odor control similar to baking soda.
  • Baking Soda – Odor eater, mild bleaching, light abrasive, skin soothing.
  • Beeswax – Natural waxy emollient and emulsifier.
  • Benzoin – Fixative (alone it is an irritant!).
  • Borax – Stabilizer, drying agent.
  • Camphor – Clears nasal passages, tonic, massages for soreness.
  • Castile Soap – Gentle, low sudsing cleanser, foaming base.
  • Citrus Peels – Anti-aging and burn healer.  Fresh oil or dried peels.  High vitamin C content.
  • Cocoa Butter – Soothing, moisturizing, light emulsifier, melts at body temperature.
  • Cornstarch – Odor eater, moisture absorber, soften effects of acidic ingredients, increase viscosity, cooling, drying, soothing. Body powder.
  • Epsom Salts – Anti-inflammatory, skin softener.
  • Ethyl Alcohol – Grain alcohol like vodka, rum and brandy. Used as a preservative.  In tinctures to dissolve resins, tannins and other medicinally potent properties from plants.  Caution: Never use isopropyl “rubbing” alcohol for these purposes.
  • Fuller’s Earth – As a masking or binding agent.
  • Glycerin – Humectant (draws moisture to itself).
  • Honey – Emollient, moisturizing, anti-bacterial, vulnerary (heals wounds).  Used to thicken or emulsify oils – heat first.
  • Lecithin – Waxy emulsifier.
  • Loofa – Dried and peeled gourd.  Used whole as a sponge or finely ground and added to herbal body care.  An excellent, gentle exfoliant.
  • Lye – Used primarily to make soap.  Extremely caustic until mixed with fat.  Can easily be made from running water through wood ashes.
  • Menthol – Tingling, warming, cooling.  Mouthwash, gargle, hair preparations, etc.  The pure essential oil of mint can be a severe irritant and should never be taken internally in its pure form.
  • Paraffin – Petroleum product for sealing corks and bottles (use beeswax for emulsifier).  Beeswax would be the “all natural” counterpart.
  • Powdered Milk – Soothes, softens, lightly bleaches, and tones the skin.
  • Pumice – Natural stone used as an exfoliant for calluses on feet, etc.
  • Rice flour – Similar to cornstarch.  Very silky.  Face, foot and body powders.
  • Rose Water – Infusion of rose petals.  Soothing, but slightly drying.
  • Salicylic Acid – The active ingredient in conventional aspirin. Antiseptic, dandruff control.
  • Sand – Super-fine sand used as an exfoliant – use cautiously.
  • Soap Flakes – Grate a bar of simple castile soap.
  • Tea Tree Oil – Antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, natural body deodorant.
  • Vitamin E Oil – Moisturizing, nourishing, a natural preservative which extends shelf life of products..
  • White or Cider Vinegar – Toner, acidic balance restorer for skin and hair, antifungal.  Replacement for alcohol in some tinctures and herbal preparations.
  • Witch Hazel – Cleansing, astringent, anti-inflammatory for insect bites and rashes.

I have followed and been fascinated by plants and nature my entire adult life.  Learning the healthful ways of wild and cultivated plants and passing on what I have learned over the last 25 years has been among my life’s greatest passions.  Entries for Jill’s Herbal Diary originate from notes taken in my very earliest study journals.  So enjoy, be kind, and feel free to share with a link back to this site. ~ 

These journal entries were taken from various books, journals, magazines, and other sources over the span of about 15 years.  Some of the notes were copied verbatim, while others were written in my own words or summarized, or a combination of both.   By posting sections of my herbal journal, my only intent is to share some of the things I learned during that time and not to plagiarize – my apologies, should the latter occur.

© 2013 Jill Henderson – Feel free to share with a link back to this site!


THPOKH-214x3211532Love Herbs?  Check out my book,
The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs

The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs is a no-nonsense guide jam-packed with no-nonsense information on growing, harvesting and using 35 of the world’s safest and most flavorful herbs. In addition to the 35 detailed herbal monographs are entire chapters on growing, harvesting and using kitchen herbs to spice up your favorite dish or create healing herbal remedies. This is one book you will turn to time and time again!

Available in the Show Me Oz Bookstore


Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore.  Jill’s work has also appeared in The Permaculture Activist, The Essential Herbal, Acres USA, and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac.


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