I thought i’d compile a list of herbs that are great for the hair directly. Herbs are high in minerals, vitamins and other constituents that can help to condition, detangle and strengthen the hair shaft. I’ve grouped the herbs into different categories to make it easier to reference followed by suggestions on how to use them. Next, i’ll do a post on herbs for the scalp, including herbs for hair loss.
High Mucilage Herbs - Great for conditioning and detangling
Mucilage – a complex mixture of polysaccharides that form a soothing gelatinous fibre when water is added. Coats and softens the hair shaft and provides slip for detangling.
Related to the more common Marshmallow. Contains about 8% mucilage in the roots and more than 10% in the blossoms, tannins, and antioxidant anthocyanins including delphinidin and malvidin. Also used as a natural colour rinse for greying hair.
Very high in mucilage (up to 75% fructo-oligo-saccharides (FOS) including inulin), calcium, potassium, amino acids, polyphenols, arcigen, essential oil, flavonoids, iron, inulin, lactone, chlorogenic acid, polyacetylenes resin, tannin, and taraxosterol.
Contains about 8-10% mucilage (polysaccharides), flavonoids, 10% tannins, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, vitamin C, and very high in minerals such as silica and zinc. A medicated herb with an abundance of natural plant sulfur, silicic and amino acids.
Contains about 55% mucilage (polysaccharide-carrageenan), protein and abundance of minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, iodine & sulfur. Forms a thick gel like mass.
Contains about 15-20% mucilage (polysaccharides), starch (38%), pectin (11%), flavonoids, tannins, phenolic acids, phytosterols, fatty acid esters, sucrose, asparagine, and lecithin. It also contains beta-carotene, vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C and minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, selenium and zinc.
Contains a complex mixture of polysaccharides (mucilage) including pentoses, methyl-pentoses and hexoses. This mucilage is very similar to that found in linseed. it contains so much mucilage that 10 grains of the powdered bark will convert a fluid ounce (approx 30ml) of water into a thick jelly. The bark also contains high concentrations of anti-oxidants including beta-sitosterol, traces of beta-carotene and flavonoids including proanthocyanidins.
Naturally strengthens the hair, preventing breakage and split ends.
Rich in AHA’s (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) and amino acids, mucilage (polysaccharides and pectins) and acids including vitamin c (ascorbic acid). It helps to rehydrate the keratin fibres (hair’s protein) and regenerates its structure. Because of the mucilage content Hibiscus is great for conditioning and detangling and creates a film around the hair increasing body and shine.
Very rich in natural silicon conditioning silica/minerals, sulfur, amino acids (valine, paraginic acid, lucine, serine & citruline), high amounts of silicic acid, cysteine, flavone, glycosides & saponine. The high silica content naturally strengthens the hair, helps prevent split ends and increases shine.
Contains essential oils, 1,4-naphthoquinone, tannins, gallic acid, flavonoids, lipids, sugars, triacontyl tridecanoate, mannitol, xanthones, coumarins, 2-3% resins, 5-10% tannic ingredients and up to 2% Lawsone. Well known for it’s natural dying properties (due to the presence of Lawsone). Henna is also great at strengthening the hair, helping to prevent breakage and split ends as well as a great conditioning herb providing soft, silky hair.
Great for conditioning and general hair health
Rich source of vitamin C, antioxidants, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Carotene and Vitamin B Complex. Great conditioning herb for silky soft hair. Also darkens the hair.
Contains essential oils, camphor, rosmarinic acid, iridoids, tannins, iron, selenium, potassium, manganese, chromium, and moderate amounts of other minerals & vitamins. Very conditioning and softening herb. Great for dry hair. Adds a blond/light tint to hair which probably wont be seen in darker hair types.
Contains volatile oils (including proazulenes, farnesine, alpha-bisabolol, spiroether), mucilage, flavonoids, bitter glycosides, coumarins and tannins. Provides light conditioning, adds shine and silkiness. Also lightens the hair or enhances highlights.(Probably wont be seen in darker hair types).
Rich in vitamins E, A, C, iron, acetylcholine, sulfur, histamine, chlorophyll, carotenoids, calcium, potassium, silica, lectins, lecithin, sterols, choline, coumaric acid, fatty acids, polysaccharides, lignans, linoleic acid, linolenic acid, palmitic acid, pantothenic acid, chlorophyll & folacin. Great addition to any herbal hair mix.
There are other herbs that are great for the hair. These are just a few.
How To Use
Tea Rinses – Used as a final rinse
You can use one or a combination of herbs for your final rinse. I like marshmallow, coltsfoot, burdock and/or blue mallow. Use Henna separately as a treatment (see below).
Make an infusion (just like making tea). Combine the herbs and use 1-2 teaspoons of the herb mix per cup (250ml) of distilled (or at least filtered) water. My personal advice if you want to use slippery elm or Irish moss is to use no more than 1/4 teaspoon of the dried herb per herb mix, otherwise you’ll end up with a thick gel that you can’t pour over your head! Put herbs into a heat proof cup/dish or jug. Pour freshly boiled water over the herbs, cover and allow to infuse until the water becomes cool. Strain through muslin or cheesecloth. Pour over your hair as a final rinse after shampooing/cleansing as a natural conditioner and detangler. Do not rinse out.
Tougher, more fibrous herbs such as the stalks, roots and bark will need to made into a tea by making a decoction. Use about 30-60 grams of herb (single or a combination) to 750ml distilled water. Use a non metallic pot with a tight lid. Add herbs and water to pot and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for between 15 and 40 minutes depending on how tough the herbs are. Do not uncover. Allow to cool before straining. Proceed to use as a final rinse.
Herbal Hair Spritz
Follow the instructions above to make a herbal infusion or decoction. Once cool, pour into a spray bottle. Use daily as a conditioning spritz for your hair to help soften and detangle. Seal in moisture with oil/butter of choice. Make small batches at a time, keep refrigerated and use within a few days.
Herb Infused Oils
Great for making your own conditioning/strengthening hair oil.
There are two ways of making infused oils. One is fairly fast and the other is a slow process. For either of them you will need to choose your herb or mixture of herbs and a carrier oil of your choice such as Coconut oil, sunflower oil, sweet almond oil, olive oil, Jojoba Oil (££) or any other oil that you like for your haircare. The usual ratio is 1:2, 1 part herb to 2 parts oil. 50g herbs to 100g/ml oil for example. You can make it stronger if you like by doing 1:1 equal amounts of herb to oil. Just make sure the oil is enough to cover the herbs.
Warm Method – Put your herbs and oil into a heat proof dish and put in a warm oven for 3-4 hours until the oil has changed in colour. Allow to cool, strain through muslin or cheesecloth into jars and label.
Cold Method – Put your herbs into a sterile jar. Pour the oil over the herbs and cover. Label and date the jar. Leave to infuse in a dark place for 4-6 weeks (give it the occasional shake) or until the oil has changed colour. Strain into another jar through muslin or cheesecloth.
You can make double or triple strength infused oils by straining the oil and adding more herbs and repeating the process.
Henna Hair Treatment
Using natural henna powder. Not henna dyes or other commercial henna products. Mix 100g (up to 200g for shoulder length or longer hair) with 300-400ml boiling water. Mix into a paste, cover and let sit for for a few hours or until you see the natural dye releasing (up to 24 hours). Apply to hair in sections to ensure even coverage. Leave for 15 minutes up to 2 hours. Rinse well and maybe follow with conditioner to help remove any leftover residue. If using henna for hair dying purposes, it is best to add in a splash of something acidic such as ACV or touch of lemon as the acidity will help ‘draw’ the colour out better. Also consider adding Hibiscus and Blue Mallow into your mix for added colouring and conditioning benefits. If you only want the conditioning benefits than use the shorter time frames given. PLEASE NOTE – Henna will change the colour of your hair. Maybe not by much but you will get some kind of red tint at least. Consider using other conditioning/strengthening herbs if you don’t want this.
As i said earlier, there are other herbs that are good for the hair. These are just some of them. Feel free to add your favourite conditioning or strengthening herbs in the comments box below.
Join me next time for Herbs For The Scalp!