8 Powerhouse Herbs You Need To Add To Your Beauty Routine

Ditch harsh chemicals and use these herbs to smooth skin, add shine to hair, and more.

August 3, 2017
woman with flowers in hair

People have harnessed the power of nature's plants for thousands of years, so if you're not already incorporating them into your beauty routine, now's the time to start. Herbs don't just make your food tastier; they also smooth skin, add shine to hair, aid digestion, and reduce inflammation.

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"Herbs and other botanical ingredients—from gentle, emollient vegetable oils to fruits rich in skin-softening plant compounds—offer an alternative to the harsh chemicals found in many synthetically based commercial beauty and hair- and skin-care products," says Michael J. Balick, PhD, author of Rodale's 21st Century Herbal"Equally important, they provide exquisite natural fragrances that uplift the spirit, rejuvenate the body, and add to personal allure."

Oats to heal dry skin

Think oats can only be used as a delicious breakfast staple? Think again.

According to Balick, oats can be used externally to help clear up and relieve the pain and itching of skin conditions like dryness and eczema. To reap its medicinal benefits, Balik recommends taking an oatmeal bath. The trick is to put whole oats in a clean, dry sock. Seal the open end with a rubber band and drop the sock into a warm bath for 15 to 20 minutes to calm itchy skin.

Related: 5 Skin-Detoxing Herbs That Can Heal Your Acne Naturally

Jasmin Denin / EyeEm/getty
Calendula to lighten hair

This herb does double duty. "Used in hair rinses, calendula brings out gold highlights," says Balick. Use an organic calendula conditioner to make those highlights pop. Plus, for your skin, used externally in salves, creams, and ointments, calendula can help heal irritations such as cuts, rashes, insect bites, and sunburns. We love Boiron's Calendula First Aid Cream, available on Amazon and at Target stores. 

Related: 10 Tips For Growing An Organic Herb Garden On A Budget

Trudie Davidson/getty
Burdock to treat acne

Because burdock is a mild antibacterial agent, eating this root can help treat skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis (it's also been reported to help with hair loss). Balick says to use, just slice, soak, and stir-fry the roots with sesame oil and soy sauce. Eat them raw in salads or cook them like carrots. You can also take burdock root as a supplement.


bay leaves
Bay leaves to prevent dandruff

The leaves of this herb help keep dandruff at bay (pun intended!) while stimulating hair growth. To use, Balick recommends adding an infusion of bay leaves to your bathwater. Also keep an eye out for fatty oil extractions from the fruits that are used in some skin-care products and shampoos. If you're worried about sensitive skin, apply the oil in diluted concentrations.

Related: 6 Absolute Easiest Herbs To Grow Indoors


henna dye
Henna to dye hair naturally

Considered the most important herbal hair dye, Balick says henna has been used for around 8,000 years to provide hair with an extra shine and red highlights. (Here's more on how to dye your hair without chemicals.) While commercial henna hair dye comes in a variety of colors, Balick explains that only true, unadulterated henna creates the red color. (Black henna, for example, contains a synthetic black hair dye.)

Related: 6 Most Important Beauty Products To Buy Organic


gotu kola
Gotu Kola to reduce skin aging

Forget expensive beauty creams or dangerous treatments and get familiar with gotu kola. Gotu kola (or, Indian pennywort) speeds up the formation of collagen while reducing the formation of scar tissue because of its anti-inflammatory agents known as glucosides, explains Balick. It's rich in amino acids, beta carotene, fatty acids, and numerous potent phytochemicals.

Plus, it's been shown to be helpful in the treatment of varicose veins. Try a skin cream with gotu kola, like this one from Om Botanical, or AnnMarie's botanical anti-aging facial oil


nettle tea
Nettle to thicken your mane

Thicken and shine your hair by drinking nettle tea, available on Amazon or in most stores. Balick recommends steeping two teaspoons of the herb in one cup of hot water for 10 minutes before straining and, if desired, sweetening the tea.

You can also use a nettle infusion as a hair rinse or facial steam. Quick word to the wise: You can buy it over the counter or harvest it, but Balick advises always wearing gloves when harvesting and preparing the herb yourself, to avoid its notorious sting.

Related: 10 Nourishing Coconut Oil Beauty Treatments To Try

chamomile oil
Roman Chamomile to soothe puffy eyes and highlight hair

When used externally in a salve or compress, Roman chamomile helps soothe puffy eyes, explains Balick. Its essential oil can also be used in shampoos and bath oils to add golden highlights to your hair. For a soothing bath, simply pour boiling water over the chamomile flowers and steep them for a half an hour. Next, strain, cool, and add liquid to your bath.

Roman chamomile is generally a safe, time-tested herb but can provoke an allergic reaction in people sensitive to ragweed or other members of the aster family, explains Balick. Consult your dermatologist if you experience a reaction.

Related: The Natural Way To Treat Those Stubborn Red Bumps On Your Arms