Jill’s Herbal Diary: Herbs for Natural Hair Care

Straining an herbal oil infusion. Copyright Jill Henderson - ShowMeOz.wordpressBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

When I first started studying herbs and herbalism more than two decades ago, I was fascinated by the multitude of natural ingredients used to create herbal preparations.   The following article includes interesting tidbits of information, but is by no means a complete list of their attributes or actions.  Of course, a lot more could be said about each ingredient or recipe, yet these herbal tidbits might just inspire you to look for more ways to use a particular ingredient or to try some of them in a new way!  I haven’t adulterated my herbal diary notes to include my modern-day uses of herbs for natural hair and skin care, so please feel free to add your knowledge or share your thoughts and recipes with us! Enjoy!

Here are few herbs that are well-known for use on the hair and skin.

  • Basil – Used as a hair rinse to add luster to hair, smells nice and woodsy/spicy.
  • Rosemary – Imparts dark color, controls dandruff and stimulates the scalp.
  • Stinging Nettle – Imparts body and shine, strengthens.
  • Southernwood – Imparts body, shine and promotes growth
  • Fennel – Natural conditioner
  • Horsetail – Cleans, strengthens and promotes growth
  • Ginger – Tones and adds shine
  • Buffalo Berry and Soapwort – Natural low-sudsing cleansers for face, hair or body.

To darken hair: Fresh rosemary, thyme,and sage. Dried, rosemary and sage.

For dull, lifeless hair: Fresh, stinging nettle, fennel, southernwood, parsley, rosemary. Dried, southernwood and stinging nettle.

Stinging nettle makes hair shiny. Copyright Jill Henderson - ShowMeOz.wordpressTo encourage hair growth: Fresh horsetail, catnip and southernwood. ALL TYPES: Fresh rosemary, stinging nettle, marjoram, horsetail. Dried elderberry flowers, thyme and rosemary.

Pre-shampoo treatments – (Apply to the hair, cover with a towel or shower cap and allow to soak in for 30 minutes before washing out.)

  • Avocado alone or with 1 egg and 2 tbs. wheat germ oil.
  • Egg yolks alone or with 1/4 c. yogurt, tsp lemon rind and 2 tsp. powdered kelp.
  • 1/4 c. honey, 2 tbsp. veg oil and 1 tsp. lemon juice.
  • Mayonnaise alone or with 1 egg yolk, 1 tsp. each vinegar and powdered kelp.
  • Whole milk – preferably raw.
  • Molasses alone or with 1 pack unflavored gelatin to 2 tbs. molasses, or add to that 1 tbs. each, flat beer and sweetened condensed milk.
  • 1 c. virgin olive oil warmed w/ 1/2 c. dried rosemary, wash several times after use.
  • Castor oil, warmed, strengthens and promotes growth. (Good for eyelashes too!)

Waterless Shampoos

  • Almond meal, bran cornmeal, oatmeal or sawdust, massaged in for 5 minutes and brushed out well.
  • Borax dissolved in alcohol, rubbed into well-brushed hair then toweled out.
  • Witch Hazel or antiseptic mouthwash applied to scalp and thoroughly brushed out.  Stops itchiness.
  • Alcohol and water: 1 part alcohol to 3 parts water. Massage in and towel out.

Herbs for Natural Suds – Buffalo Berry and Soapwort (Bouncing Bet) are high in natural saponins that are mild, low-sudsing cleansers for hair, face and delicate clothes.  Steep 2 handfuls of herb in 1 1/2  cups just boiled water for 30 minutes. Cool and use.

Soapwort Shampoo – Steep 2 large handfuls of soapwort leaves and /or roots in 1 1/2 cups of boiling water.  Simmer for 10 minutes, remove from heat and steep until cool.  Strain herbs out of liquid and use.

You can vary this basic recipe by combining the shampoo with any, or a combination of, the following herbs. Stinging nettle, mint, fennel seeds (conditioning), rosemary, cloves (for dark hair), lemon, lemongrass, or chamomile (for blond or fair hair).  Simply steep 1 c. of the desired herb or herbs in 2 c. just-boiled water for 2 to 24 hours, then strain. Add in a 1 to 1 ratio to the soapwort shampoo.

Hair gloss – In a pint jar, pour 1 cup of honey, 1/2 cup olive oil, and 2 tbs. lemon juice. Shake until combined.  Allow to steep for 1-2 days at room temp before using.  Keep remainder in the refrigerator for up to 14 days.

Rosemary is excellent for skin and hair.  Copyright Jill Henderson ShowMeOz.wordpresspH Balancing Rinses – (Use on clean wet hair, pour through several times, do not rinse.)

  • Combine 1 tbs. apple cider vinegar to 1 quart of water. Vinegar restores the natural acid mantle to the hair and makes it soft and shiny! Skin too!
  • Bring 1 c. red wine vinegar and 1 c. plain water to a boil and remove from heat. Add 2 tbs. dried sage and/or rosemary leaves and steep for 30 minutes. Strain and apply to hair and scalp. Do not wash out. Vinegar smell will dissipate as the hair dries.
  • Warm 1 c. of virgin olive oil and 1 c. of dried rosemary leaves and allow to steep for 30 minutes to 24 hours.  Massage into wet, clean hair and scalp.  You may allow the oil to remain as long as you like or wash it out after 15 minutes.  You may need to wash the hair one to several times.

Colorants – (For dark hair, leave on 30 min or pour through several times)

  • Chamomile tea brewed regular strength brightens dark hair w/out bleaching.
  • Rosemary and sage tea 2x regular strength.  Darkens and adds shine.
  • Green pekoe tea, regular strength. Adds reddish highlights to dark hair.

Dandruff – Massage scalp daily with one of the following:

  • Vinegar and water in equal parts.
  • Witch hazel.
  • Pre-shampoo conditioning treatments may also help.

These journal entries are notes that I took year ago from various books, journals, magazines, and other sources.  Some notes were taken verbatim while others were written in my own words or summarized.  More often than not, they were a combination of both.   My intent here is share some of the things I learned and not to plagiarize – my apologies, should the latter occur.

© 2014 Jill Henderson  Feel free to share with a link back to the original article.


THPOKH-214x321_thumb7The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs

Learn how to grow and use the world’s oldest, safest, and most medicinal herbs with this easy step-by-step guide!  From starting seeds to preparing home remedies, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs is a treasured resource that you will turn to time and time again.

Available in the Show Me Oz Bookstore.
Look inside!


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 is a contributing author for Acres USA and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac and her work has appeared in The Permaculture Activist and The Essential Herbal.


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