Botanical beauty

We take a look at some of the health and beauty benefits of botanicals

Chamomile

“Chamomile was used by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans to treat wounds and promote healing,” explains naturopath and energy healer Britta Hochkeppel (vitaserena.co.uk). “It is very high in antioxidants, is anti-inflammatory, rich in essential oils and is very calming.

It helps to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines and scars and helps to speed up cell regeneration. Like aloe vera, it can be used on the inside and the outside of the body.

For example, you can brew up some fresh chamomile loose leaf tea to drink and afterwards you can use the residue as a face mask. There are lots of recipes for how to do this online. Chamomile can also be used as a make-up remover as it is gentle and nurturing. Chamomile works on the inside to help soothe stress – a lot of skin imbalances come about as a result of stress. So working from the inside to calm the nervous system is fantastic for the skin. Organic chamomile tinctures are really great and you can also look for it in skincare products.”

Calendula

More commonly known as pot marigold, calendula can often be found as one of the ingredients in natural beauty products, and for good reason. “Calendula has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and wound-healing properties,” says Britta Hochkeppel. “It has a very high level of flavonoids and carotenes and it is primarily used to heal damaged skin. It is particularly helpful for people who suffer with acne and it is proven to help with dry skin. You must be careful if you are sensitive to ragwort and ragweed, however, and it should not be used during pregnancy. Creams containing calendula are both soothing and antibacterial, so very good for eczema and acne.”

Rose

“There’s a timeless nature to the use of rose,” says Louise Westra, a naturopath with a Master’s degree in Western herbal medicine (www.louisewestra.com). “This is perhaps due to that fact that the list of beautifying benefits of rose is seemingly endless: antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, aromatherapeutic … Let’s start with the scent, which is well known for its ability to soothe stress and uplift to promote a more positive outlook. It’s always helpful for our skin to have us feeling under less duress! Rose is renowned for its skin-soothing, calming properties, making it a common feature in redness, rosacea and eczema treatments. Rose also naturally combats bacteria, which makes it perfect for those susceptible to blemishes and breakouts. It also retains moisture so it can provide instant relief for dry and dehydrated skin types. Chock full of vitamin C, rose provides some protection from the daily environmental rigours of life and helps protect us against the ageing effects of free radicals.”

Aloe vera

“The aloe vera plant is an amazing all-round tool for beauty and health,” explains Britta Hochkeppel.

“It is high in antioxidants, enzymes and vitamins A and C. It is anti-inflammatory, which helps to stimulate skin renewal, and it activates wound-healing so it is very useful for minor burns. Aloe vera is also good for boosting collagen and slowing down the ageing process. It has been shown to have amazing results with acne-prone skin because of the fact that it accelerates cell renewal. If people have acne the skin can become irritated and get clogged up, so you want to exfoliate naturally rather than aggravating the skin. This is where aloe vera works so well because the enzymes gently dissolve the top layers of the skin.

The best way to use it is to have it cold pressed in gel form and apply it to the area of concern. You can also drink aloe vera juice because it acts as a beautifier from within through its ability to cleanse the gut.”

Green tea

“A more recent arrival on the beauty front is a natural component of green tea called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG),” says Louise Westra. “This polyphenol has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity. It has also been shown to improve acne and oily skin as it seems able to reduce the excess sebum excretions in the skin that can lead to acne. According to a small 2013 study, green tea has also demonstrated an ability to reduce skin damage from sun exposure. In addition, research has suggested that green tea extract has anti-inflammatory activity and thus may prove useful for a variety of skin disorders such as psoriasis.”

Ginger

“Fresh ginger is a super-powered botanical used to treat colds, nausea, arthritis, migraines and bronchial issues,” says holistic health and beauty expert Stella Ralfini (stellaralfini.co.uk). “Ginger helps your gut move food through the intestine so it does not sit and ferment, thereby creating bloated discomfort. To build a strong immune system, grate half a teaspoon of fresh ginger into one teaspoon of honey, chew and swallow on a daily basis.

Due to the anti-inflammatory properties and bioactive components it contains, when used on skin, ginger minimises discoloration, evens out skin tone and brings forth a youthful, radiant glow. Here is a beauty mask which achieves multiple tasks in one application. Mix together one teaspoon of freshly grated ginger, one teaspoon of honey and two teaspoons of rosewater. Apply to the skin. As the liquid dries, you can literally feel the ingredients dissolving dead skin cells. Twenty minutes later when you rinse off is the minute you make a conscious decision to bring ginger into your life.”

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