Showing posts with label natural cosmetics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label natural cosmetics. Show all posts


Sweet Violet Milk Cleanser (Viola odorata)

Sweet Violets are starting to appear. Today I picked a large handful. Young fresh leaves are a great salad addition, you can also add a few flowers. Violet petals are good for the skin, as they have emollient and demulcent properties.
This recipe for a simple skin cleanser, comes from "the Secret World of Herbs Fact File" (a ring binder full of herb information, tips and recipes), which my mum gave to me years ago.
It's a soothing skin cleanser, good for blemished or irritated skin. The recipe uses milk. If you have greasy skin you can use skimmed milk.

There are two colours of sweet violets growing here at the moment. I used both. Their sweet scent is the same.

60 ml (4tbsp) milk 
10 /15 violets                                                               
Wash the violets and tear off the petals. Add them to the milk. Heat the milk gently and simmer. Heat for a few minutes until it is scented. Leave to cool and filter. Keep in the fridge and use within 4 days. 



My Elderflower Scrub in the Shade of a Cactus

In February I picked a winner for a mini giveaway I held to celebrate my first "blogoversary".
The prize was a bottle of handmade elderflower/sugar/oatmeal scrub (link to the recipe is at the bottom of the page).
Yesterday I was delighted to receive some kind feedback and an amazing photo from the winner, Beth Jillette. The photo was taken in Green Valley, South of Phoenix, Arizona.
Beth said  "Love love love the scrub.....and living in very dry Arizona it is perfect. I was thrilled to get a beautiful prize from an English lady in Italy and I wanted to share little of Arizona with you."

Thanks again, Beth.

 Making connections with other people all over the world, who share the same interests, is what I really love about blogging.

How cool is that?
I had no idea that cactus could reach such epic proportions.
I have a Linden/Basswood tree in front of my house.
Are you lucky enough to have a plant/tree in front of yours?

The buds of  Elder in this neck of the woods have just recently burst open, so not long to wait for elderflower. I will be making more syrup and elderflower scrub and hopefully trying some more recipes.

elderflower-hugo cocktail-recipe
elderflower-lemon-oatmeal-sugar-scrub recipe


Fresh Hip, Honey and Yoghurt Face Mask (Rosa canina)

Heavy rain has arrived here, but it's still very warm for the time of the year. A few days ago while walking I came across a group of Wild Rose bushes. They were a tangled mess of branches and fruit with bolting offshoots reaching for the afternoon sun.

Rosehips are rarely harvested here in Italy. A few people  make jam or a type of paste, but I've rarely
 come across it, in this region at least.
I think it's more common to use them in England.

My parents still remember picking bagfuls of rosehips during the the Second World War.
Due to rationing and lack of fresh fruit and vegetables the British government paid a few pennies to children to collect rosehips. The children also competed for badges for the best collectors. The hips were collected at schools and health centres and sent off to Newcastle to be made into syrup to be given to babies and young children.

 When collecting rosehips it's a good idea to have a pair of work gloves or some garden snips. Rosehips don't come off easily and if you pull to hard the branches catapult backwards. The thorns can be very irritating. Look at my poor thumb!! I only collected a pocketful as I didn't have anything with me or even a bag.

I was lucky to spot one bush with both a flower and rosehips. It must have been a bit confused due to the warm weather.

Rosehips are packed full of goodness, fatty acids and have  a really high vitamin C content. As the hips were quite soft I  decided to make a fresh rosehip facemask with honey and yoghurt.

I got the idea from an old magazine "Le erbe" printed in the 1970's. I love thrift shops and really miss UK charity shops, but there are a few good second hand shops here where I often pick up old herb, cookery or gardening books for next to nothing. The magazines  I found have lots of recipes for herbal remedies. Listed under "Cosmetic Uses" it says that fresh blended rosehips are a very effective way to brighten, smooth and tone the skin.

Fresh Hip Mask
Handful of Hips(Rosa Canina)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons plain yoghurt
2 tablespoons green clay(for oily skins)

for mature skins
Cut the hips in half.
Remove the hairs and seeds
Wash carefully to remove any remaining hairs
Dry on a paper towel
Blend with honey and yoghurt
Apply to skin and leave for 10-15 mins
(Try not to eat it)

for young skins
Add the clay to the above mixture
Apply for 5-10mins

Keep remaining mask in the fridge for up to a week only

We all tried it and had a laugh. It also definitely brightened our pallid Autumn complexions a little.

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Horsechestnut Varicose/Spider Vein Gel

 If you have visited this blog before, you may have realised that I have a bit of a soft spot for horsechestnuts or conkers as they are known in the UK or buckeyes in the US. I have an old horsechestnut tree outside of my kitchen window and love to watch it changing through the seasons.
I like it a bit less in Autumn when I have to pick up all its leaves and seeds, although I'm still facinated by them. Look how the shells are pre-programmed to split into three. Most of the conkers actually drop off at the same time in a matter of days, maybe a week. It's not a good idea to stand under the tree during these days!

I'm not sure if the horsechestnut tree got its name from the fact that it was used as a medicine for horses or that the leaf scars on the branches look like horse shoes, maybe both.

 Horse chestnuts contain aescin which tones  and strengthens the walls of  veins and capillaries , so promoting better blood circulation, and preventing  the seepage of fluid from the veins that can cause swellings in the legs. For this reason it's often used in herbal varicose vein  treatments.
 Luckily I don't suffer from varicose veins, but I do have a couple of spider veins on one leg which appeared after my second pregnancy.
OK, they've been there a long time now!

My son also has some spider veins on the back of  his leg after an injury and I'm hoping this simple remedy might help to strengthen our weak veins...
I came across this recipe and bookmarked it ages ago (before pinterest) and then forgot about it. It was featured on a TV programme called "Grow your own drugs"  aired in 2010 in the UK.
I've still got lots of conkers (buckseyes) left and after making, viking soap moth-deterrents and holiday decorations, I was pleased to find another use for them.

Horsechestnut Tincture(not to be consumed)
10 conkers/buckeyes
250ml vodka

Soak the conkers in the vodka in a sterilised, sealable jar, when they have softened blend them.
If they are too hard you could smash them in a plastic bag with a rolling pin.
Leave in a dark place for 10 days, lightly shaking now and then.
Strain/Filter-the tincture will keep for at least a year.

Varicose/Spider Vein Gel
1 sachet vegetable gelatine(12g)
75ml filtered cold water
75ml of above tincture
3 drops lavender oil

I halved the ingredients for the recipe. I only used one sachet, but it was enough to give a thick gel consistency. Add the vegetable gelatine to  the cold water in a pan and whisk until dissolved. Heat for about 2 minutes, whisking constantly. When it starts to thicken, slowly pour in the Horse Chestnut Tincture a little at a time. Add the lavender oil.  Pour into small sterilized jars and keep in the fridge (for up to 3 months). Try it on a small area first, as some people can have a reaction horsechestnuts.
Apply the cooling gel and allow to dry. You may want to wash it off later as it's rather sticky...


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"NO TIGER" Yarrow Mozzie Spray

(photo from
 I have always hated mosquitos, they drove me crazy when I first came to Italy. Yes, I was one of those pink English types covered in swollen bumps of various shades of angry red and purple. I usually resorted to cortisone/anti-histamine creams to help calm my body's indignant reaction and tried to avoid  being bitten.
However, after some time here my body seemed to get used to"Mozzies"(UK) or "Zanzare"(Italian) and the irritations began to be less noticable, that is, UNTIL the Asian Tiger Mosquito manged to stowaway in truck tyres, take up residence  and thrive here.

Tiger Mosquitos are tiny, striped black and white and very aggresive.
They bite you at all hours and often pass through clothes. If I go outside to water the plants they get me, if I hang out washing they are waiting for me, if I run to my car they come with me and gorge on my legs while I am accelerating. If I stay indoors they are often lurking in the corners and can  bite several times. Their bites welt up immediately and it  takes great will power not to start scratching. If you start it's difficut to stop until there is a hole.

I use Deet based sprays if I want to stay outside (which I would prefer not to), but the effect doesn't last long and needs to be reapplied after an hour or so.I have tried Avon SkinSoSoft which works pretty well, but I hate the oily feel and the last time I used it in the bathroom and then nearly broke my neck slipping on the residue on the ceramic tiled floor!
The natural citronella type sprays feel better but last even less time.

I recently came across a recipe for Yarrow Bug Spray (yes Pinterest again) that I thought was worth trying at Herb Mentor by Learning Herbs Link which I adapted slightly.

"No Tiger" Yarrow Mozzie Spray

Yarrow dried
8/10 drops essential oil (sage, clary sage, lemon eucalyptus, tea tree etc)

Chop or cut up dried yarrow flowers, leaves and top part of stems.

A handful of dried calamint or catnip.

Fill a jar with the herbs (I filled just over half and pressed down gently) . Cover with vodka, close and leave in a dark place for a week (I forgot about it for nearly two weeks).
Strain and add the same amount of filtered water. I also added 8 drops of clary sage essential oil. Pour into spray bottles and label.(I used a travel spray bottle and an old deoderant bottle) and had some left over from a small jam jar.
Label (There is a downloadable one at the link above)

I tried the spray this afternoon and thought that the odour was quite pleasant much better than Deet-based products.
I'm also bite free, but that may well be due to the drop in pressure and temperature  today and strong wind that is blowing. They don't like wind.
I'm really hoping it will help when the wind dies down.
It's quite refreshing and cooling when sprayed, but be sure to wash it off before any romance( or you will taste bitter) and I wouldn't spray it on children or before sunbathing.
I will update to say if it's effective or not.

Tiger Mosquitos can spread disease such as Dengue Fever and Chikungunya (a flu-like fever with aching joints). There was an outbreak not too far away in 2007, fortunately such occurences are rare.

Further reading


Saint John's Wort Oil (Hypericum perforatum)

There is suddenly lots of St John's Wort (Iperico or Erba di San Giovanni in Italian) growing here, especially along roadsides and on the edges of fields. St John's Wort has a rich history and has been used since ancient times. It's common name comes from the fact that it usually blooms on or just before  the 24th of June (The feast/birthday of John the Baptist).The Latin " Perforatum" means punctured, due to the fact that the leaves are covered in tiny holes (actually glands).

In Italy St John is San Giovanni. The 24th of June is traditionally the day in Italy for picking St John's Wort to make St John's Oil and also to pick immature black walnuts to make a  liqueur called "Nocino".

 However it seems the seasons are changing because the flowers are now blooming and if you wait to gather your walnuts until this date in this region of italy you will find the walnuts very difficult to cut.

St John's Wort has been used and is still used for treating depression and as a skin oil to help heal burns/sunburn , skin problems  and cuts.It was also used to ward off evil spirits, witches and to keep the devil away

St John's Wort Oil

Gather the top part of the flowers on a sunny day. Let the flowers dry on a tea towel overnight (freshwilting). Chop the plant into small pieces and lightly fill  a clean/sterilised jar.(About 20 g. Don't pack the flowers too tight).

Cover the flowers with Olive Oil. Push the plant material down.
Top up with more oil if the level goes  under the plant material in the next few days .
Place a piece of clingfilm on the jar and screw down the lid.
Place in the sun (or warm place) for two weeks. Shake gently every now and then.

The oil will turn deep red.
After two weeks filter out the plant material and place new flowers for another two weeks.
Filter with muslim/gauze and bottle, if possible in dark glass bottles. It should keep at least  for a couple of years.
Use on irritated skin, mild burns and sunburn.
 I also find it great for muscular pain  (frozen necks/shoulder/lower back ache) and nerve related (sciatica) pain.
Don't use it  just before going out in the sun as it  has been linked to photosensitisation (when taken internally, but better to be safe than sorry).


Elderflower & Lemon Oatmeal Sugar Scrub

Waste not Want not....

When I had finished filtering the Elderflower syrup  a few days ago, I was left with sticky, sweet elderflowers and lemon rind. Not sure why, but I had the urge to grab a piece of elderflower and rub it over my hands. I gave my hands a good scrub and rinsed them, afterwards they felt soft and smooth with a sweet scent. I've seen quite a few recipes for sugar scrubs lately and as the Elderflower syrup recipe is half sugar I decided to experiment with the leftover elderflowers and lemon peel.

I lay the elderflowers and lemon on baking trays lined with foil and put in a low oven at 100°C (unfortunately I forgot to check the time) But I think I left them there about 90 minutes until they were very dried.

elderflowers from syrup 

lemon rind from syrup

The smell from the oven was delicious, my son was really miffed when he realised it was only another of his  mum's mad creations and not at least a  jam tart or  even  a lemon meringue pie.

Recipe(measures approx.)

60g ground elderflowers/lemon rind/sugar
40g ground oatmeal
40ml sweet almond oil or olive oil
40ml coconut oil

Then I ground the elderflowers and lemon in a blender for coffee to a fine powder. The small amount of powder weighed 60g.
ground dried eldeflowers and lemon rind

 I added 40g of of blended oatflakes and passed it all through a fine seive.

with added oatmeal

Next I added 40ml Extra Virgin OliveOil and 40ml Coconut Oil(warmed) and mixed everything together.
The consistency was perfect, but perhaps sweet almond oil would have been better than olive oil, as the strong olive smell masked the delicate elderflower/lemon scent a little(olive oil is more economic).

The scrub was then poured into containers and used liberally in the shower(5/10 mins). I even used it on my face. It really helped to smooth and soften my dry, flaky, winter skin,especially my legs. I was really pleased with the results and felt like I had had a professional  pampering treatment. I also smelled good enough to eat.

As the summer beach weather rapidly approaches I'll need to scrub a few more times.
I'm not sure how long it will keep for, but natural hand-made products should be used as quickly as possible.(Keeping it in the fridge should prolong the shelf life).

Happy Mother's Day! (in USA & Italy)



Rosehip oil is supposed to be good for dry skin and wrinkles (all those fatty acids), so this is my version of blend .

I have been applying it every night for three weeks now and I'm very pleased with my concoction. My wrinkles have not magically vanished, however my skin does feel softer and well moisturised. I have combination, sensitive, mature skin and rich face creams sometimes make me break out, since using this blend,  I've only had a one  small spot on my chin.

Recipe (organic ingredients if possible)

100ml jojoba oil
100ml wheatgerm oil
1 cup rosehips ( I used wild Rosa canina-washed, top and tailed and dried in the dark for a couple of days)
 30ml extra virgin olive oil 


Put the ingredients in double boiler or pan in larger pan of boiling water (bain marie method) and boil gently for 6/8hours (topping up the water when necessary). You could also use a crock pot for 12 hours. After about 7 hours I could see small red blobs of oil floating in the other oils.

After the oil blend has cooled strain through muslim or fine gauze (twisting the corners together tightly to squeeze out as much oil as possible). Pour  the oil into small dark glass bottles (e.g., essential oil bottles) and store in a cool dark place  for future use or give to your friends. Rub on  your face gently before bed. Keep out of direct sunlight and shake before use.

Update 9 nov 2012- there are lots of rosehips here now. I'm going to make some more of this, I wouldn't be without it. It's really improved by skintone and keeps it moisturised, therefore  the wrinkles are less noticeable.  It hasn't got rid of my wrinkles, but they definitely aren't any worse!
Rosehips contain 77% fatty acids -great for cell regeration. Wheatgerm and Jojoba are also great oils for the skin. (Rosehip oil is an ingredient in  LIA therapy treatment, which is popular with the likes of the Duchess of Cambridge, Gywneth Paltrow and Victoria Beckham).

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