Majoring in Curls

Being home from college for the summer can be slightly tedious, especially when you have a job that doesn’t require you to be an early riser. Unfortunately. I’m one of those crazy people who gets up at the crack of dawn and doesn’t have to be at work until the afternoon. So what do I do with all my time? I cook. Most of the time I bake, but when I decide to cook a vegetable casserole or stew, I need my herbs. And don’t even get me started on the dried ones that come from the store. Yes, they’ll do in a pinch but things taste (and smell) so much better with fresh herbs.

That got me thinking about how much herbs benefit us. We use them in cooking, of course, but they also have huge medicinal potential as well as aromatherapy benefits. They can be taken internally as teas, or externally as rubs or rinses.

I started looking at the ingredient lists on my hair products. More often that not, I found one -- and sometimes a handful of different herbs were listed. I decided to do a little research to figure out the hair benefits of some of these herbs. There are way too many to go into detail (probably a book’s worth), so I chose three of my all-around favorites: basil, rosemary, and lavender.

I was surprised to find out that they’re all part of the mint family, despite their very unique scents. Because of this, they all tend to be refreshing and invigorating for the skin and hair. Historically, all three were considered aphrodisiacs. Married women would wear sprigs of basil in their hair to entice and arouse their husbands. Upper-class women once combined lavender and basil in a pomade and combed it through their hair. Forget the Chanel No. 5.

Basil is one of my favorite herbs of all time. The scent alone does wonders for me. I can’t resist sticking my nose in bunches of it whenever I go to the grocery store. Basil adds shine to the hair when it's used as a rinse. When combined with rosemary, it can be used as a color treatment for brunettes, or with chamomile for blondes.

Of the three herbs, rosemary is the closest to pine. With its needles, it slightly resembles. Like the others, it can treat itchy scalps and reduce flaking and dandruff. As I mentioned, it can darken hair slightly over time, lessen premature hair loss and graying, and promote strong hair. Because it also has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, it’s is a key ingredient in many children’s natural hair products. It can prevent and treat lice and other little bugs that kids pick up.

Lavender has the same antiseptic properties as the others, but historically has been used more as a medicine. Lavender water was used to treat numerous diseases and ailments, especially migraines. My guess is that it was the aroma that healed, rather than consuming the plant itself.

When using these herbs as hair products, the best way to apply them is as a rinse. You boil a handful of fresh (not dried) herbs in a pot full of distilled water. Tap water isn’t the best choice because want the purest product possible. Let it simmer for 20 to 30 minutes and then strain. You really don’t want to be picking leaves and flowers out of your hair for days. After conditioning, simply pour the cooled brew over your hair and comb through. If it sounds like making tea for your hair, that’s essentially what it is.

If you feel a little unsure about making concoctions on your own, just look for products on the market that include these ingredients. The higher up on the list it is, the more of the herb or oil they contain.

It's been an educational summer already!