Having been oriented with Ayurveda, I have become more interested on using natural beauty and health products made from garden plants. I wasn’t really a shopper of beauty products to begin with because I feared that the chemicals contained in it would harm my sensitive skin, so I had only opted for washing my face with plain water and by drinking lots of water to moisturize my skin. Yet when my Ayurvedic healer used Aloe Vera mixture on my face and Neem oil to cure my hair loss problem, I was relieved to find that I could take better care of my hair and skin with the same plants that are tucked in my garden.
I delved deep into my garden plants’ medicinal and cosmetic properties, and to my amazement I found lots of benefits by simple procedures that can be made overnight. Not only did I find several cosmetic wonders from the Neem tree and Aloe Vera, but also from Moringa Oleiferi, a plant that my mother used to feed me with a chicken broth during my childhood.
In my research, I learned that the tree of Moringa Oleiferi, also known as Alim in Arabic and Ben or Drumstick Tree in English, is revered as a miracle tree in India, Africa and Southeast Asia due to its high contents of fatty acids and Vitamins A and C. The leaves are traditionally used as a scrub for treating headaches and fever, and as a tea to relieve gastric ulcers and diarrhea; the yellow flowers are taken as a tea when boiled with water to improve the milk flow of breastfeeding mothers, to cure urinary problems and colds, and is also thought to be an aphrodisiac; and the seeds, which are best made into oil, is a potent antioxidant that treats stomach problems and moisturizes skin and hair.
The Moringa oil is produced by collecting the seeds from its pods and crushing them with an electric grinder or mortar and pessel. Boil for 10 -15 minutes with enough water to cover the seeds and then strain through a cloth into a clean airtight container. Leave overnight to allow the oil to separate from the water and after apply it on your skin or store it inside the refrigerator. You could also follow another method by putting clean Moringa leaves with heated sunflower or canola oil in a dry air-tight jar and storing it in the refrigerator for 24 hours before use. This method is easier but produces slower benefits than the oil extracted from its seeds. Its suggested treatments are:
- As a hair scalp cleanser and strand moisturizer, wash your hair and massage the oil into the scalp for a couple of minutes, and then rinse thoroughly.
- To keep the pores of your skin tight and glowing, gently massage the Moringa oil upwards into your face with the tip of your fingers for a few minutes and rinse thoroughly. Do this every night before going to bed. This is also great for curing skin acnes, wrinkles and cuts.
- As a nutrient-rich skin moisturizer and sun-tanning lotion, apply the oil on your body and re-apply once your skin has dried.
- As a massage oil for your baby, simply massage the oil all over your baby’s skin to improve circulation and to aid in his/her neurological development.
Another miracle tree that may just be hiding in your garden is Neem. What is called Neeb by Arabs is a highly medicinal plant that is used as a main ingredient in Eastern medicine. In Ayurvedic medicine, the leaves are made into a paste for healing wounds, ulcer and skin diseases, as well as a tea for detoxification; the bark is powdered or extracted for curing stomach diseases, fever and gum problems; and the oil extracted from the seeds are applied externally to treat fungal infections, mosquito bites and hair loss, among others. You could follow the same methods for making Moringa oil to produce Neem oil, too. Here’s some beauty uses that experts have suggested:
- Apply Neem oil on areas affected by skin disorders, minor cuts, burns and wounds.
- For total skin protection, make a strong tea with the leaves and add to the bath along with a little rose water, which you can make by boiling the petals with water and leaving them covered for an hour.
- To remedy conjunctivitis and eye itching, boil 10 freshly cleaned leaves with a liter of water for 10 minutes. Cool and use as an eyewash.
- For athletes’ foot and other foot problems, make a strong tea from a handful of leaves and soak feet.
- For dandruff and head lice, massage a mixture of Neem oil and olive oil into your hair and leave for one hour. Shampoo. Repeat once weekly for 3 weeks or as long as problem persists.
- For sore throats, make a liquid solution by boiling two to three leaves with 300 ml water. Add honey and let it cool, then use it as gargle.
- For acne, pimples, skin infections, wash the leaves and dry them indoors. Crush them into pieces with a mortar and pessel until powdery. Mix the powder with water and apply it to the affected area.
- For sinusitis, use pure neem oil as nasal drops. Two drops morning and evening.
The last ornamental plant, being Aloe Vera is quite famous in folkloric healing for its nutritious contents. In fact during the Ancient Egyptian times, this plant was known as “the plant of immortality” and was one of the precious things that they buried with the dead pharaohs. Known as Sabbar in Arabic, this cacti plant excretes a transparent gel (without the yellow substance) that herbal healers use to cure baldness, arthritis, diabetes, indigestion, problems of the heart, skin, kidney, reproductive system, and so on. Its medicinal versatility spreads among 4 species, whereas 11 other species lead to devastating effects. So if you want to make your own Aloe Vera beauty concoction, choose the most potent one, called Aloe Vera Barbadenis. It works best for the following recipes:
- For weight loss, ageing and acne drink a glass of Aloe Vera juice made with a spoonful of the transparent gel and water. Drink two glasses a day, 30 minutes before your meal to activate your metabolism and expel excess water from your cells.
- As a night cream, blend 50 grams gel, 50 grams cucumber (peel removed and roughly chopped) and 50 ml distilled water. Smooth over you face at bedtime and sleep with it. Rinse it off with warm water the next day, then store the leftovers in an airtight jar inside the refrigerator. This will last for 7 days.
- As an after sun restorer, mix 2 tbsps. gel with 1 tsp. olive oil and apply on your skin right away.
- As a lip balm, simply damp the gel on your lips.
These wonderful recipes have been tried and tested already and are guaranteed safe by modern and herbal medicine experts. If you don’t have these plants in your garden or if you don’t have a garden, you can get pots of these in botanical shops all around Sharm. With these simple beauty secrets, you may just find yourself paying less money for the best.
“When nature is used in good faith, nature gives back the same way.”
For more information, browse through http://www.Miracletrees.org, http://www.discoverneem.com, http://www.mapi.com/en/newsletters/aloe_vera_ayurvedic.htm.