For as long as women have wanted to enhance their beauty, they have gone to the garden for help. There are all sorts of beauty secrets to be unlocked in the potager and the flower beds.
The slice-chop-or-mash-and-apply secrets are easy to use, but those who enjoy stirring and brewing can have hours of fun in putting together recipes that can be bottled and sealed for future use.
We have probably all heard of the magical skin properties of cucumbers which are rich in vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and cafeic acid both of which reduce swelling, soothe irritation and prevent water retention.
The easiest way to use them is to cut two fat slices from a cold cucumber fresh from the refrigerator and lie back for a relaxing 10 to 15 minutes while they drain the puffiness from your eyes.
The skin of the cucumber also has useful ingredients being rich in silicas, potassium and magnesium and offering both hydrating and relaxing properties to potions.
Try this one as a toner.
Cucumber skin toner
½ cucumber with skin, chopped or grated
3 tbsp witch hazel (available from some drugstores)
2 tablespoons distilled water.
4 tablespoons mint (optional)
1 teaspoon vodka (optional)
Put chopped cucumber & mint through the blender and then a fine sieve to remove all chunks. Add witch hazel and distilled water. To keep for up to one week, add a teaspoon of vodka. Pour into an airtight bottle. The vodka will help the toner keep for up to 10 days in the refrigerator. The mint adds a cooling effect to the concoction.
Strawberries are rich in vitamin E, a natural anti-oxidant, and they contain alpha hydroxyl acids (like salicylic acid, which dissolves blackheads). Strawberries also contain a host of other minerals such as copper, calcium, iron, magnesium and they are full of vitamins A, B5, B6, B8 or biotin which contains sulfur to help contain acne (maybe you should just eat them . . .), anyhow, strawberries are a wonderful pick-me-up for that last minute rush to look great.
Slice a strawberry in half and apply to the puffy area under your eyes. Rest quietly for 10 to 20 minutes and let them do their magic. For a quick facial tonic, just rub the cut side of a strawberry over your face.
To whiten teeth and remove stains, simply rub strawberry pulp over your teeth.
Strawberry foot scrub
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Mix it all into a paste and massage into your tired feet. Rinse off and dry. It softens and removes dead skin.
Strawberry acne treatment
1/ cup sliced strawberries
1 tablespoon sour cream
Mash & apply to face. Leave for 10 minutes. Rinse off.
Glossy, silky hair
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
Mash strawberries and mayonnaise and then massage into damp hair. Leave 10 minutes. Shampoo.
Potatoes may seem like an unlikely candidate for the beauty pot, but both the juice and slices of potato can remove dark circles from under eyes and help soften dry skin. Potato juice or potato slices are also frequently used to reduce acne and deal with other blemishes.
Potato juice is also a skin lightener if mixed with lemon juice or with cucumber. Simply grate the raw potato and mix with lemon juice. Leave on for 30 minutes. Potato juice can be used to lighten dark spots or freckles.
Potatoes can also be mixed with cucumber to reduce puffiness.
Potatoes and their juice are an excellent sunburn treatment and can help ease the itching of eczema.
For your hair, potato juice is said to aid in retarding hair loss. Mix it with egg white and honey and leave on your hair for two hours. Shampoo and rinse. Potato juice will also help to darken graying hair.
Sage, rosemary and olive oil
Use sage as a toner for oily skin. It is an anti-bacterial and has an astringent action as well.
Counterintuitively, olive oil is an excellent treatment for oily skin; it actually dissolves the oil, leaving skin soft and non-greasy. Use it to remove makeup.
Rosemary, with a little witch hazel added, is good for increasing circulation in the face to give you a rosy glow.
Tomato paste, honey and calendula
Tomato paste combined with olive oil will help rejuvenate skin and prevent sunburn. Eaten, tomato paste helps to reduce cellulite.
Honey mixed with brown sugar is a great exfoliator.
Calendula is good for just about anything to do with the skin. Dry the petals and use them mixed with milk as a lovely facial. Calendula heals wounds, reduces inflammation and soothes eczema.
Avocado has many great properties and is full of potassium and vitamins B and E.
¼ ripe avocado, peeled
1 egg white
2 tablespoons rolled oats
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Mash the avocado. Mix with egg white, rolled oats & lemon juice. Apply to hand & leave for 20 minutes. Rinse.
Avocado and egg white face mask
1 egg white slightly whipped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Combine and apply to face, avoiding eyes and lips. Leave on 20 minutes. Rinse. Tightens skin and reduces large pores.
Dorothy Dobbie is the publisher of the Manitoba Gardener magazine, now in its 20th year of publication. Call 204 940 2700 for a subscription. Listen to Dorothy on CJNU 93.7 FM Sunday mornings at 8:00.