Herbal Recipes for Beauty and Health
Look to your garden, author Amy Jirsa says, to find plants to improve your body, mind and spirit.
2015, Courtesy of Storey Publishing. Photo by Winnie Au
If you’ve ever used peppermint to freshen your breath, sipped a cup of chamomile tea to relax, or treated a cold with an echinacea supplement, you’ve been practicing herbalism, says Amy Jirsa, the author of Herbal Goddess.
Jirsa, a yoga instructor and Master Herbalist, says that shouldn’t be surprising, since many of our ancestors, lacking modern medicines, looked to plants to heal their ills and keep them well.
Botanically speaking, herbs are plants with non-woody stems that bear seeds and die back after flowering, But Jirsa explains that to an herbalist, any plant with aromatic, culinary or medicinal "mojo" counts as an herb. Her book explores twelve such plants, including lavender, ginger, calendulas, turmeric and even roses.
If you've only tried herbs as teas or seasoning, you'll discover many other ways to use and enjoy them in Jirsa's book. She includes recipes to make your own foods, tinctures, cosmetics, soaps, salves and more, while also encouraging readers to invent their own creations.
If you're not quite ready to craft your own herbal products, start with Jirsa's recipe for a hair rinse that also stimulates the scalp; it's made from dried nettle leaves and apple cider vinegar. Or follow her directions for stirring a bit of turmeric into a family recipe to whip up a hot mustard for gift-giving (she shares the recipe).
You might opt to simmer rose petals on the stove for a bit of aromatherapy. (Then again, you might want to save those flower petals to make Jirsa's Rose-Infused Buttercream Frosting or Rose-Infused Bourbon Balls, both of which sound delicious.)
Each chapter discusses one of the 12 herbs in detail, and includes recommended yoga poses to help unite the body, spirit and mind. The self-contained chapters make the book easy to read, so you can dip in and out of it as time allows, and the directions for blending beverages, scrubs, vinegars, soaps, lotions and more are clear and easy to follow.
You may not agree with Jirsa's holistic approaches to health and well-being, or share her belief that some herbs can be used for what she calls magic, such as ensuring success or finding love. But you'll find much to enjoy in her beautiful images, useful yoga practices, and delightful recipes.
If you're new to herbs—or at least, using them outside the kitchen—give Jirsa's facial mask, shown below, a try. It's simple to whip up and fun to use. Of course, if you have or may have allergies or reactions to any of the ingredients in her recipe, do not use it or consult your physician before using it.
Courtesy of Storey Publishing / Photo by (c) Winnie Au
Amy Jirsa's Honey-Cinnamon-Nutmeg Facial Mask Recipe
By Jirsa's definition, cinnamon and nutmeg fall under the herbal umbrella, and she combines them with honey to make this spicy-sweet cosmetic mask. Cinnamon has antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial and astringent properties, and Jirsa recommends it for spot-treating troubled skin and tightening the pores.
“…(H)oney draws moisture to the skin and nutmeg gently exfoliates while also drawing blood to the surface of the skin. What does that mean? You end up with a glowing, healthy, radiant complexion void of pore-clogging oils and environmental toxins. This makes enough for one (maybe two) treatments. Since honey is a wonderful preservative and since this cleanser is gentle enough for daily use, feel free to mix up a week’s worth (or more) and keep it right in your bathroom."
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder
1. In a small bowl, combine the honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add just enough warm water (or almond oil if you have very dry skin) to make a spreadable, cleansing milk–like consistency.
2. Wet your face, and, using small circles, massage the cleanser into your skin. Rinse with warm water and moisturize, if needed.
Makes 1 treatment.
(Excerpted from Herbal Goddess (c) Amy Jirsa. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.)
Editor's Note: This article is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a professional healthcare provider before trying any form of therapy or if you have any questions or concerns about a medical condition. The use of natural products can be toxic if misused, and even when suitably used, certain individuals could have adverse reactions.