Friday, July 30, 2010

Alcohol free Herbal Toner, Splash, & Spritzer - How to Make & Use Traditional Herbal Vinegars

Our Handmade Herbal Vinegar, with some of the herbs...
One of the most oft used remedies in the ancient and medieval still room books is the herbal vinegar. Considered vital for all forms of beauty and health regimes, this humble concoction has fallen out of favour today, but it is the answer to so many of the pharmaceutical and chemical varieties that have replaced it. Women in the Western world have largely abandoned this traditional part of their regime entirely, thanks in large part to the modern burning alcohol based versions. But our grandmothers swore by it, and there was good reason. I have spent many years researching and experimenting with this marvellous product and with hair down to my knees and the clear, tone skin of a woman half my age, I can attest to it's healing and anti-aging properties!

The cosmetic type of vinegar of the past would be imbued with herbs that were more closely associated with beauty and skin conditions. This would then be diluted, usually with rosewater, then a splash of the final mixture would be added to rinse water after washing the face, hair, or body. It can help cure everything from dandruff to acne, and makes an excellent mild alcohol free toner. Used full strength in the final washing rinse, it was the original fabric softener.  It removes static and freshens clothes better than any commercial perfumed conditioner.  Try pouring it on a rag or new paper coffee filter and pop it in the dryer.  Instant dryer sheets, with no chemicals!

Another kind of vinegar I'm experimenting with is medicinal and culinary herb and fruit vinegars. Almost the same as herb wine, the mixture is further encouraged to vinegar, and it's taken a tablespoon in water for a refreshing medicinal beverage, or used in the cosmetic applications. For example, a calcium tonic with eggshells steeped in vinegar or wine is much cheaper and more bio-available than most pharmaceutical brands on the market. A traditional assistance for bone loss and nerves, you get far more useful calcium and other minerals than you could with most expensive mineral supplements! 1

If anyone's interested in using these but doesn't want to make their own at the moment, I'm currently selling these in our on-line stores. Let me do all the work!

For those that want to try these at home, here is an all-purpose cosmetic vinegar recipe based on traditional methods. (If you don't have all of these, try the common skin herbs you may already have around, like rose petals, lavender, rosemary, or chamomile.) We're supposed to have a slightly acid mantle on the skin. It helps retain moisture, is a better environment for our healing surface bacteria while preventing infections like acne and excema, and helps with tone. Harsh soaps in particular remove this mantle, and it can take hours to rebuild. Traditional toners after cleansing restore the pH acid mantle to the skin, leaving it softer and more youthful, the hair bouncer with less residue, and can help virtually eliminate dandruff.

Body vinegar:
one tablespoon each of dried or fresh:

lady's mantle
white willow
lavender flowers
red clover
rose petals
comfrey root
heart's ease

Add enough apple cider or white wine vinegar to fill jar, stir or shake to remove bubbles, add lid, and set in the sun. Always make sure the herbs are covered to the top, to prevent rancidity, and invert every day or so to shake it up.

Filter out in a week. I put a funnel in a jar with a bit of cheesecloth and just let the herbs filter out by gravity without pressing or squeezing. You'll already see and smell in the difference in your vinegar! Now add equal amount of filtered water or hydrosol of your choice. I use rose, lavender, orange blossom, lime blossom or chamomile hydrosols. (Each one has different healing properties. Please see my links above for more information on the healing properties of some of the hydrosols.) Always dilute for use on person. Use few dashes in cool water to rinse skin, hair, or scalp after cleansing. Restores pH and acid mantle of skin, tones and helps cures eruptions. Helps with skin conditions of all kinds. Keep some in the fridge as a refreshing face and body spritzer on hot days. Safe for babies and children.

Don't forget to purchase real, brewed vinegar. Ordinary white vinegar now is just lab-created Acetic Acid diluted to 5%. It is certainly not nearly as beneficial to the environment to buy chemically made vinegar than simply white wine that's gone off, and it doesn't have the same richness of composition or balance of acids. Apple cider vinegar contains Malic acid, and has very different healing properties. Try different kinds of natural brewed vinegars, like rice and mead, and see if you can feel a difference!

And remember: If you are making healing teas, baths, soaps, or other projects, always get the finest quality, and protect the Earth, our Mother, by using organically grown where possible.

Please visit my shop for more traditional handmade cosmetics, tips, and still room products!