In the second episode of this six-part series exploring plant-based natural remedies and beauty treatments, ethnobotanist James Wong turns the spotlight on flowers. He reveals the historical use of marigolds, violas and elderflowers as ways to help relieve the symptoms of everyday ailments such as sore throats, acne and eczema.
Viola cream for eczema
Makes one 150 ml pot
2 tbsp (20 g) viola flowers, stripped from their stems
2 tbsp (20 g) Roman or German chamomile, dried
1 tsp beeswax
2 tbsp almond oil
1 tsp vitamin C powder
1 tsp glycerine
2 tsp emulsifying wax
- 1. Place the violas and chamomile flowers in a glass bowl. Pour over the water to cover. Leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Put the infusion into a medium-sized pan (this will form the bottom of your double boiler or bain-marie).
- 2. In another glass bowl, add the beeswax, almond oil, vitamin C powder, glycerine and emulsifying wax. Place on top of the infusion pan, and warm over a gentle heat, stirring until melted. This takes about 10 minutes.
- 3. Strain the infusion, then slowly whisk it into the oil mixture until incorporated – the texture should be smooth, like mayonnaise.
- 4. Pour the mixture into a sterilized dark glass ointment pot, then seal.
USE: Apply to affected areas morning and night. Ideally, apply within a few minutes of bathing, to keep moisture in the skin.
STORAGE: Keeps for up to 6 months in the refrigerator
Marigold gel for acne
10 rose geranium flowers, with leaves and stems
8 marigold (Calendula officinalis) flowers
20 lavender flowerheads
200 ml water
1 sachet vegetable gelatine
5 tsp vodka
20 drops tea tree oil
- 1. Roughly chop the flowers, leaves and stems of the rose geranium and place with the marigold flowers and lavender flowerheads in a large glass bowl.
- 2. Bring the water to the boil and pour it over the flowers to make an infusion. Leave to infuse for 10 minutes, or until the water has taken on the colour of the flowers. Place the infusion, including the plant material, into a blender and whiz. Strain the mixture through a piece of muslin into a clean bowl.
- 3. Now, in another bowl, dissolve the gelatine in 2 tbsp cold water. Gradually add the flower infusion, stirring to separate lumps. Add the vodka and tea tree oil, stirring until a gel is formed. Using a funnel, pour into a pot with a pump dispenser.
USE: Apply to affected areas 2 times a day, or as frequently as needed.
STORAGE: Keeps in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.
Lavender bath bomb
5-6 fresh lavender sprigs
1 tbsp citric acid powder
3 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
10 drops lavender essential oil
1 tsp plant-based oil (vegetable or almond oil)
- 1. Heat the oven to 180C. Once it has reached that temperature, turn it off and place the lavender, hanging upside down, in the oven to dry for about 2 hours. When dry, remove the flowers from the stalks and set aside.
- 2. For the next stage you need to make sure that the bowl you are using, and your hands, are completely dry – otherwise the bomb will start fizzing. In a glass bowl, mix the citric acid and bicarbonate of soda together. Add a few drops of lavender oil and 1 tsp dried lavender flowers, along with the vegetable or almond oil. Mix everything together with a metal spoon.
- 3. Place the biscuit cutter on top of a sheet of baking paper. Put the mixture into the biscuit cutter and press down with the back of the spoon. The oil now needs to evaporate so the bomb can set as a dry, hard block – leave for a minimum of 30 minutes and preferably overnight.
STORAGE: Store in tin foil to keep out moisture.
Grow your own drugs:episode 3