Go wild with nature’s harvest

It's summer and therefore harvest time for many of the ingredients founds in our natural beauty products. To celebrate the season we look at the traditional wisdom of some of our favourite plants.

It's no secret – we all love a good whiff of our beauty products and often base our beauty regime on our favourite aromas. Whilst most mainstream beauty products add synthetic perfumes to their products, natural raw ingredients offer an altogether holistic experience – from their authentic scent right through to their naturally beneficial properties.

Raw beauty

To create safe, effective natural beauty products, the easiest method is to harvest and then extract the oil from useful raw plant material such as flowers, leaves, bark and peel in order to produce essential oil. This method has been a part of our culture since ancient times.

Favourite herbs can give us a feel-good kick to our day whether it is to wake us up with refreshing citrus or relax with lavender or rosemary.

During World War Two a French physician found that essential oils also offered medicinal properties, using them to treat wounded soldiers after discovering in his lab that lavender oil could even help cure gangrene.

Essential oils can be absorbed through the skin and with their own unique healing properties can assist our bodies. Oils can have some pesticide residues left in them so organically produced oils are always a better bet for your body as much as the planet.

Photo credit: Karen Roe

Natural beauty products that include biodegradable and more environmentally considerate vegetable oils or physical extraction methods - such as the way coconut and olive oils are produced - tend to have a shorter shelf life, so always make sure you keep your bathroom cabinet tidy and your tubs and tubes used prior to the best before date.

Feeling blue? Get purple: lavender

In folklore, lavender was believed to attract love and not just the sweet, floral scent of your granny! Lavender flower buds offer wonderfully relaxing properties and are perfect to use when you're stressed out, have a headache or feel a little blue.

Try Balm Balm's Relaxing Bath & Body Oil, Dr Bronner's Lavender Castille Soap or Hedgerow Herbals' Sweet Lavender Bath Mix for relaxing tired, inflamed muscles and to help aid sleep. With its powerful effects on the nervous system lavender can also used to help calm tantrum tots.

With its antiseptic, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, lavender has the power to prevent dandruff and reduce hair loss – try Bentley Organic Shampoo or Faith in Nature's Lavender & Geranium Shampoo

These bright purple flowers are harvested from July to September and each stalk provides a few harvests. Native to the Mediterranean, English Lavender grows easily in Britain and promotes biodiversity across the British countryside, for example Neal's Yard Remedies sources its organic lavender from a farm in Hampshire.

Photo credit: Aiden Morgan

Let the sunshine in: sunflowers

Native to the Americas, sunflowers have been grown domestically for thousands of years and the Aztecs and Incas chose them to symbolise their sun god. This sun-worshipping plant is fairly easy to grow wherever the weather's fine.

Blooming in summer, harvest doesn't usually take place until sunflowers look dead in the autumn but this is when the seeds are at their juiciest.

Sunflowers are packed with Vitamin E and Vitamin F, the stuff our skin just loves to protect itself in summer as they help retain moisture within the skin. More natural beauty companies are using sunflower as an ingredient in their make-up ranges as it prevents the skin from drying out.

Studies of sunflower oil usage suggest that it limits infection in infants, so try Bentley Organic Baby Oil, Neal's Yard Remedies Baby Barrier and Burt's Bees Baby Bee Buttermilk Lotion for your little ones.

Softly, softly: chamomile

One of the friendliest looking herbs, the daisy-like flowers of chamomile is an incredibly gentle choice for natural beauty, which is why it is an ingredient used on fragile areas, such as around the eyes, in feminine wipes and in make-up remover.

This plant is a gardener's dream as it aids the health of any garden. Chamomile can soften and whiten the skin and so is popular in moisturising creams, cleansers  and toners as well as in hand creams. Like lavender, chamomile also helps the mind and body to relax, soothe any tension and aids sleep.

Spiritual healing: calendula

Photo credit: Dylan Parker

Native to Asia but well adapted to the British climate and harvested from July until late autumn, calendula is another wonderfully gentle herb that has been thought to raise the spirits and warm the heart and, like sunflowers, is associated with sunshine.

Calendula has antiseptic properties and so is a great ingredient in natural toothpaste, deodorant and soap. It's been connected with reducing skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema and is a popular feature in creams for treating varicose veins and inflamed areas, as well as in baby products to treat nappy rash. Calendula is fantastic against chapped or cracked lips and so is the ingredient of choice in many lip balms.

Memory kicking: rosemary

With its revitalizing and invigorating properties, shower and bath gels and oils containing rosemary provide a wonderful wake-up call. Rosemary can switch on your brain and help boost your mental clarity and memory. It's also fantastic for the health of your hair and scalp as it boosts circulation and promotes hair growth, so you can find it in many shampoos, conditioners and hair lotions.

Rosemary can relieve your skin from any undesired puffiness or swelling and assists in reducing varicose veins, cellulite and improving poor circulation. It's a useful ingredient for anyone who suffers from rheumatism, arthritis and muscle pains.

As a perennial plant rosemary is harvested all year around, however it's a slow and difficult herb to grow.

Disclaimer: Skin types vary depending on the individual, and you should contact your GP or a professional dermatologist for expert advice. Never use pure essential oils directly on the skin without prior consultation.

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