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Hair & Scalp Treatments
by Gillie Whitewolf

Hair comes in many different colours, thickness, strengths, and styles... with a few unwanted problems every now and then... From dandruff to headlice, greasy hair to frizzy hair, falling hair to greying hair there's always something natural to get your scalp and locks back to their natural beauty and to help keep them healthy!

Diet and Lifestyle
Diet plays an important factor in the health of your hair. For thick, healthy hair make sure your diet includes plenty of fresh foods, whole grains,
protein, silicon rich foods such as oats, garlic, seaweeds, radishes, most organically grown veg and fruit; and sulphur rich foods such as watercress, cabbage, broccoli, radishes, onions, eggs and nasturtiums [the leaves and flowers can be eaten raw in salads - they have a pleasant peppery flavour]. Sesame seeds [rich in iron, zinc and vitamin E] are a nourishing food for the scalp. You're nails will also benefit from these foods. Don't forget to include plenty of water too.
Nettles are great food for maintaining healthy shiny hair, they're packed full of nutrients and minerals. The young spring tops can be cooked in much the same way as spinach [they don't taste like spinach] and eaten as a vegetable side-dish, or added to soups and lasagnes. Save the water used to cook the Nettles in and use as a hair rinse. If you only have dried Nettles make up a strong infusion and use this as a hair rinse, or make up an infused hair oil. Nettle tea helps your body throw off toxins and cleanses the entire system - blend with Lemon Balm for a pleasant tasting cuppa.

Our scalps need to be supplied with blood, oxygen and nutrients in order for our hair to be in tip-top condition. How healthy we are inside really does matter to the outside - as those odd 'bad hair days' can show us! It's not just the physical health which matters, our emotional health is just as important.

There are many lifestyle factors which affect the condition of our hair. Stress can play havoc with an otherwise lustrous head of hair, as can pollution; lack of natural light; chemical shampoos and styling products; hair-driers and cheap brushes; washing your hair too frequently... the list could go on, but that would make for a pretty boring article - so instead, here are a few lifestyle tips you could try adopting to keep your hair healthy :

• Washing your hair too frequently strips the hair of its natural oils, whch prompts your scalp to produce more oil, which results in your hair getting greasy you wash your hair, which strips the hair of its natural oils and you're in a vicious little cycle. I wash my hair only once or twice a week at the most [which is still proably more often than I really need to]. If you're used to washing your hair everyday, you may need to put up with a few greasy hair days until your body gets back to its natural oil producing rhythm, but it's worth the wait [a scarf or bandana is a useful item to have when adjusting your hair washing rota].

• Using shampoos and styling products chock full of chemicals does no good either - try to use more natural beauty products, and less styling products. There are plenty of natural remedies you can be preparing in your own kitchen, from herb infused oils or vinegars to simple water infusions [just like making a cup of tea!].

• The dreaded hair-drier has long been known to strip the hair of natural oils and the heat can over-dry your hair, leaving it lifeless and weak, brittle or frizzy. I don't remember the last time I used a hair-drier. I pat the worst of the damp off my hair with a towel and leave to air-dry [and no - I don't have short hair, so yes, I do quite often get a slightly damp back - but my hair looks and feels great]. Using cool water for the final rinse will help to smooth down the hair shafts. If you have dry to normal hair cool water is best for the final rinse, for greasy hair try warm water, it will help dry out some of the excess oil.

• If you enjoy colouring your hair, why not try natural hair dyes, such as Henna.

• Give yourself a head massage - or better still get you partner or friend to. Stimulating the scalp will bring more blood to the follicles and encourage new hair growth. It will also help relax you!

• Brushing your hair stimulates the scalp, helps to dislodge dandruff and disributes natural oils through the hair. Try to use only natural bristle brushes, or combs, as other brushes can be too stiff and will break your hair, resulting in split ends. Split ends don't magically repair themselves, but you can help their appearance and prevent the hair from splitting further. Applying a little Jojoba oil to the ends of your hair will help improve the look of split ends, or treat yourself to a Henna treatment, the Henna will help smoothe the split ends together. For tangled hair always start combing out the knots from the ends of the hair, not the scalp, and gradually move up the hair - avoid ripping through the full length of the hair, you will only make the tangle worse and will damage the hair. A little oil applied to the comb will also help.

• And a little Moonlore - If you want your hair to grow quicker trim it on a New Moon or during the first quarter. If you don't want your hair to grow quickly trim it during the waning moon.

An annoying problem which can usually be dealt with fairly swiftly. The most effective herbs I tend to use to combat dandruff are Sage and Rosemary. The fresh or dried leaves of either plant can be infused in water, as though making a strong cup of tea, and used as a post-shampoo hair rinse; or prepare a Sage infused oil, warm the oil gently before use and then coat your hear and scalp and leave in for half an hour or so before shampooing out; or infuse the leaves in Cider-Vinegar for a few weeks and use as a scalp friction. Cider-Vinegar is itself an old folk remedy for dandruff, and also imparts a healthy shine to your hair. A few drops of Rosemary essential oil can be added to a carrier oil such as Olive oil and used to massage into the scalp before bedtime - leave in overnight and rinse with lemon juice in the morning.
Cloves are wonderfully antiseptic and antibacterial. Try simmering several bruised/crushed cloves in some water for 15 minutes or so, strain and use the water as a hair rinse. The cloves can also be infused in a vegetable oil, or if you make your own home-made shampoo-bars try including some crushed cloves. Cloves also stimulate the scalp and will leave it feeling fresh, clean and awake. Ginger is another useful spice for treating dandruff, and falling hair - try freshly pressed ginger root juice mixed with Sesame oil and apply all over the scalp. Use a towel to wrap your hair up and keep the warmth in and leave for as long as desired before shampooing out.
Tea-Tree is a superb anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, and is an excellent oil to include in your hair treatments, especially helpful for treating itchy, scaly scalps. If you have some Tea-Tree essential oil to hand try adding a few drops to a mild shampoo, or add to the final rinse water.
Lavender is one of those oils every first-aid kit should have. An excellent oil for a range of skin problems - dandruff being one of them, although it is best suited to tackling dry, flaky dandruff as opposed to the oily variety of dandruff. If your dandruff is a result of stress I would suggest including lavender in your hair-care, it will help to relax you, and will give your immune system a boost. Add a few drops of the essential oil to a mild shampoo; make an infusion of the dried or fresh flowers and use as a hair rinse; or infuse a carrier oil and use as an oil treatment as described above.
The allantoin containing Comfrey and Plantain leaves can both be used as a treatment for dandruff. Make up a strong infusion of either herb and use as a hair rinse.

Lavender and Tea-Tree essential oils are extremely effective at tackling the problem of headlice. Add a blend of both of these oils to a carrier oil and coat the hair and scalp liberally. Any lice which aren't suffocated by the oil will make their way to the edge of the hairline where they can be picked off easily. Any left in the hair can be combed out easily with a nit-comb.
Neem is another traditional oil for treating lice, you will probably be able to purchase a natural lice hair treatment containing Neem from your local healthfood shop, or if you have the oil it can be used in the same way as the Lavender or Tea-Tree [above]. Eucalyptus, Rosemary and Geranium essential oils may also help.

Thin or Falling Hair
Parsley is a great herb for thickening up the hair. To make up a parsely cold-infused hair oil place some parsely in a glass jar and add enough carrier oil so that the herb is completely covered. Leave the jar in a warm sunny spot for a week or two. Strain the oil through a piece of clean natural material [muslin or cotton is great]. If you use fresh parsley check the appearance of your oil, if has separated out into two layers pour the top layer off and throw away the bottom layer, unless you are to be using your oil immediately - if left, the oil will spoil very quickly.
Nasturtiums, rich in sulphur, have a long history as a remedy for falling hair. Simmer up a handful or two of the leaves, flowers and stems for about 15 mins, strain, cool and use as a friction and/or final rinse. To make a longer lasting friction oil macerate the Nasturtiums in Vodka for at least a fortnight. Strain and bottle. You could add a few drops of your favourite essential oil if you like - Grapefruit has a tonic effect on the scalp, as does Rosemary.
Rosemary is an excellent hair tonic and has long been used as a folk remedy for falling hair. Infuse the fresh or dried plant in oil, cider vinegar or use as a herbal infusion for a hair rinse, or add a few drops of Rosemary essential oil to a mild shampoo.

Dry and Frizzy Hair
I love finding enough time to treat myself to a hot hair oil treatment from time to time, and you don't have to wait until your hair is crying out for some moisture, taking time out to pamper yourself can help prevent your hair reaching the frizz stage. For my favourite hot oil treatment I use my own blend [which I've called Sagemary Moon] which includes Rosemary and Sage infused Almond oil blended with Jojoba oil and a few essential oils. I find Sage particularly conditioning, and Jojoba is an excellent oil for calming frizzy hair. Warm Olive or Coconut oil can be massaged in to the scalp and smoothed through the hair before bedtime and wrapped with a warm towel - leave the oil in overnight. You could add a little Wheatgerm oil for extra nourishment, or a few drops of Lavender essential oil. Oil treatments can be a little stubborn to wash out - try adding Lemon juice to the rinse.
To make a hair friction treatment for dry hair add several drops of Rosemary or Lavender essential oil to a small bottle of Vodka [or Gin]. Shake well and use at least an hour or two before you wash and shampoo your hair.
An old remedy I remember from my school days if the use of beaten Egg Yolks [good source of sulphur and protein] as a hair mask. One note of warning - only use COLD water when you rinse it out, otherwise you'll end up with a scrambled-egg-head! I have seen recipes which include the whole egg whisked up, experiment and see what works best for you.
If you suffer from brittle hair you could try the [slightly smelly] old folk remedy of rubbing raw onion in to your scalp. Alternatively just include plenty of onions in your diet - they're a rich source of sulphur!

Greasy Hair
Jojoba is a useful carrier oil to include in your oil blends - research has shown it has an abillity to inhibit excess activity of the sebaceous glands. Try adding a few drops of Bergamot, Geranium, or Grapefruit essential oils to some Jojoba oil, warm the oil and massage in to the scalp and smooth through hair. Leave in for as long as desired and shampoo out.
Lemon juice has so many applications for both health and beauty - it's excellent at tackling greasy hair, and will impart a beautiful shine too. Comb lemon juice through your hair, or make up a solution of lemon juice and cider vinegar and use as a post shampoo treatment, massaging it into your scalp. Leave in for 5 - 10 minutes before rinsing out.

Natural Colouring
With all the dangers associated with chemical hair dyes [especially of the black variety] why not stick with natural colouring plants such as Henna - not only will you be able to acheive a natural multi-shaded colour, but you'll receive the benefits of the plant - conditioning, thickening, scalp stimulating etc... depending on the herb in question.
Blondes and Fair Hair : The pretty Chamomile flower comes to the aide of all fair headed souls who want to add a little sunshine and highlights to their hair.
Saffron will impart a rich golden tint [but is expensive to buy], whilst Calendula petals are good for strawberry--blondes.
Mullein will give blonde hair a rich golden shine, and will also strengthen hair.
Lemon juice is another friend used for lightening hair - and not only fair hair, it can be combed through all colours to help obtain highlights.
Red Heads : Calendula will help bring out highlights, or go all the way and reach for the Henna. Henna will help impart shades from pale marmalades and coppers to rich burnt sunsets and vibrant orange reds. It can also be mixed with other herbs to vary the colouring [see below].
Brown Hair : Sage can be used to darken hair [and will help condition the hair too] as can Rosemary.
Walnut leaves are an old Italian remedy for keeping hair rich dark and glossy - simmer up a few handfuls of Walnut leaves, strain and use as a hair rinse. Another dye comes from oil obtained by distillation of the nut, which is jet black and has been used for centuries to colour hair and add gloss. The green outer husks of Walnuts can be boiled in water and strained after about 15 - 20 minutes. Use the liquid as a hair rinse to darken hair.
Black Hair : Eastern women have for centuries used the dried leaves of the Indigo Plant to colour their hair a blue-black. It can be mixed with an equal amount of Henna and made into a paste with hot water. Massage well into the hair, particularly at the roots and leave in for about an hour. Rinse off with lukewarm water.
Oak Galls feature in folk recipes as a black hair dye - a large handful of the freshly gathered galls can be infused in 1 pint of boiling water for about 10 minutes, before being strained and applied as a hair rinse, working it well into the hair and roots. [Not a recipe I personally fancy trying...]
Grey Hair : Rosemary and Sage can both be used to darken hair and impart a brown tint. If you fancy turning grey hairs into vibrant copper / fire strands pluck up the courage to henna your hair - but be ready for the colour to be bright!!

How to make a Herbal Colouring Hair Rinse : Add a few handfuls of dried or fresh herb to a pan of water and bring to the boil, simmer and watch the water take on the herb dye. The stronger the colour of the infusion the more effect it will have on your hair - but don't expect bottle-dye drastic changes, you'll need to build up the colour with repeat applications [over time, not all on the same day!].

Using Henna : Add dried / powdered Henna to just boiled water - plus any additional herbs you may wish to affect the final colour. Mix in well - the amount of water you use will determine the thickness of the solution - a smooth flowing paste is a good consitency. Applying Henna can be a messy job, it's better if you can get someone to help you. Protect the edge of your hairline with vaseline to avoid staining, and wear gloves or you're hands will be stained for days! In fact, cover surfaces and clothes, it doesn't take long for the Henna to dye things. Apply the Henna whilst still warm and ensure that the roots are covered well and the Henna worked through the hair. Leave on for as long as you like - I usually try at least a few hours if not overnight [protect the bedding with towels!]. Wrapping your hair up in clingfilm will help redden the final colour, whereas leaving the hair open to the air will result in a browner shade.

Do not use Henna on hair which has recently been permed or treated with metallic dyes. If you don't get the shade you want, do not try to bleach the Henna out - the bleach will only open up the hair shafts and force the Henna deeper into the cortex.
Use glass or cermaic bowls when preparing your hair treatments - metal implements can react with the natural chemicals in Henna.

Additions for varying the colour of a Henna treatment : For golden or copper highlights add Cider Vinegar or Lemon Juice; For interesting red shades substitue Beetroot juice or cranberry juice for the water - various berries can be used to create red and plum shades - black grape juice imparts a slightly blue tint; To impart an auburn tint add Tea or Red Wine, Tea will also help set the Henna colour - use a strong Tea infusion in place of the water when mixing up the Henna paste. To deepen the browns use strong Coffee in place of the water. The Indigo Plant will yield a blue-black dye, try varying the amount of crushed Indigo Plant leaves and powdered Henna to get the colour desired,

The herbal remedies mentioned in this article are not intended to replace professional advice. Any medication you are on should also be taken into consideration - always check with your healthcare professional if you are on prescription drugs before taking herbal remedies.


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