Growing fruit and veg is a wonderful way to reduce your food bill, but with a bit of imagination, you can cut your shopping bill even further. At this time of year, you may well only have herbs to play with, particularly if it’s your first year of gardening, but that doesn’t mean you’re limited to using them purely for cooking.
If you’re after posh toiletries, use the herbs you’ve grown to make them, rather than spending a fortune.
I’ll be posting about making soaps, bath bombs and moisturisers from scratch at some point in the future (I first did it about 10 years ago and I’m only just running out of the first batch of soap now.) but today I’ll be focussing on ways that you can cheat and make your own toiletries in half an hour at most.
To make your own herbal shampoo, simply boil up a mug of water with a handful of fresh herbs. Once it’s boiled, take off the heat and let it steep for 20 minutes, then strain the herbs out using a sieve and mix the herb water with an equal amount of cheap baby shampoo.
If you’ve got dry hair, mint, sage and elderflowers (in season) are a good addition (assuming you’re not using the latter for elderflower champagne). If you’ve got greasy hair, opt for rosemary, or foraged nettle or burdock. Chamomile is great if you have fine, blonde hair as it’ll help enhance your natural colour and bring out any highlights, and it’s also good for calming scalp irritations, as are pine needles.
Dandelion is also great for fighting dandruff and scalp irritations (OK, it’s not a herb but there’s a good chance you’ll have a fair few in the garden about now – and you need to make sure you control them at leasy a little to avoid a full-on dandelion invasion. Unless, of course, you have a very itchy scalp indeed).
On the subject of weeds, you can also use nettles to make a rinse for hair that’s lifeless, greasy or generally sulky. Simply follow the instructions as above but, rather than adding to baby shampoo, just add a tablespoon of vinegar. Use this to rinse your hair after washing and it’ll help enhance shine. Rosemary, camomile and parsley also make great vinegar rinses (the latter leaving your hair particularly soft).
If you’re after herbal baths, you have two easy options (and a host of more complicated ones I’ll go into at a later date).
The first entails putting a handful of herbs that you like the smell of into a piece of muslin, tying it firmly and putting it into the bath as it’s running to allow the herbs to have time to steep. You can add a handful of oatmeal into the muslin before tying if you want something that’s a bit more moisturising.
Alternatively, mix a generous handful of fresh herbs with bicarbonate of soda, if you want a fizzing bath (again, tie it into muslin if you don’t want to spend hours rinsing herbs out of the bath).
For face masks, mix together honey, oatmeal and finely chopped herbs of your choice – I put the whole lot through the blender to make a thick paste, and add a little water or almond oil if it’s too thick.
For oily skin, go for dandelion leaf, lemongrass or lavender flowers. For dry skin, elderflowers, comfrey or yarrow are good. And if you just want a generally cleansing mask, opt for sage, nettle or mint.
If you’re lucky enough to have a greenhouse, you can even grow your own loofah – though it does look like rather a lot of effort so I’m not sure I’ll be going quite that far. That said, it would be good to be able to give someone an entire basket of toiletries that are home-grown and hand-made – and even better if that includes making the basket too.