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We re­veal the bene­fi­fits of com­mon garden flflow­ers and list our pick of plant-based beauty prod­ucts.

WHEN GWYNETH PAL­TROW de­clared that her heart skips a beat when she sees a zuc­chini flflower in the garden, it prompted a frenzy of mock­ery. In hind­sight, it was the fi­first bud­ding sign of what is now a trend in full bloom: the beauty of com­mon garden flflow­ers. Not just their vis­ual beauty, but the pos­i­tive bene­fi­fits they offf­fer our skin and body. There is no doubt that flflow­ers can lift the spir­its — they are proven, po­tent mood el­e­va­tors. Sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered that breath­ing in the scent of jas­mine, for ex­am­ple, re­leases feel-good brain chem­i­cals that boost en­ergy, im­prove fo­cus and re­duce anx­i­ety. The flflower’s power doesn’t end there; it is also used to help soothe a dry com­plex­ion and, thanks to its an­tibac­te­rial qual­i­ties, aids in skin im­mu­nity. Ac­cord­ing to Reece Carter, au­thor of The Garden Apothe­cary (Har­lequin Books, $29.99), com­mon garden plants nat­u­rally have medic­i­nal prop­er­ties. “Wher­ever pos­si­ble, we should put on our body the ex­act same things that we put in it,” says Reece, whose nat­u­ral beauty recipes have a huge on­line fol­low­ing. “Both the skin and the lin­ing of the gut have ab­sorp­tive ca­pac­ity… chem­i­cals, both nat­u­ral and syn­thetic, can pass into the lym­phatic cir­cu­la­tion and the blood stream. It’s for this rea­son that I pro­mote the idea of us­ing ed­i­ble in­gre­di­ents in your skin­care. You never have to worry about what nas­ties might get through!” Reece nom­i­nates cal­en­dula, a pretty golden-coloured daisy va­ri­ety, as his favourite skin-heal­ing flflower. “Cal­en­dula has been stud­ied for its resin, which not only seems to be an anti-in­flflam­ma­tory, but also stim­u­lates the re­pair and re­gen­er­a­tion of healthy skin,” he says. “This makes it use­ful in con­di­tions like eczema, and der­mati­tis.” You may recog­nise cal­en­dula by its more com­mon name, marigold. Al­though pot marigold ( cal­en­dula of­fif­fic­i­nalis) and French marigold ( tagetes pat­ula) are both part of the daisy fam­ily, they are difff­fer­ent plants. “Pot marigold is the va­ri­ety used in her­bal medicine, and I don’t rec­om­mend try­ing any other types of marigold,” says Reece. Cal­en­dula of­fif­fic­i­nalis is na­tive to the Mediter­ranean and has been used as a medic­i­nal herb since an­cient Greek times, while French marigold is na­tive to Mex­ico. “French marigold may have limited medic­i­nal use but it is ex­ten­sively used as an in­sec­ti­cide, food colour­ing and per­fume,” says Liezel Barnard, natur­opath and trainer for Weleda Aus­tralia. If you hap­pen to have this va­ri­ety in the garden, it is a handy sub­sti­tute for safff­fron, but it won’t do much for your skin (other than stain it yel­low). Cal­en­dula is the star in­gre­di­ent in Weleda’s baby range be­cause of its skin-sooth­ing, anti-fun­gal and anti-bac­te­rial prop­er­ties. “Cal­en­dula also con­tains carotenoids, which speed up the heal­ing rate of skin, and flflavonoids which re­duce cel­lu­lar ag­ing and strength­ens the in­tegrity of cell walls,” says Liezel. Its daisy cousin, chamomile, is also a gen­tle anti-in­flflam­ma­tory and is bene­fi­fi­cial for sen­si­tive skin. An­other wide­spread garden flflower with skin bene­fi­fits is the pansy, com­monly cred­ited as one of the world’s old­est cul­ti­vated flflow­er­ing plants. It has long been favoured for its mois­tur­is­ing prop­er­ties as much as for its pretty vi­o­let petals. “In­fu­sions or tinc­tures of pan­sies were tra­di­tion­ally used for skin in­flflam­ma­tion, es­pe­cially for hives,” says Liezel. “Se­verely dry skin will of­ten be­come in­flflamed and cracked. It is thought that the bioac­tive cy­clotides in pan­sies are re­spon­si­ble for its anti-in­flflam­ma­tory ac­tion on the skin.” If you don’t al­ready hap­pen to have chamomile, cal­en­dula, pansy or jas­mine in the garden, they are sim­ple to cul­ti­vate. “I’ve never had trou­ble rais­ing my chamomile or cal­en­dula on or­ganic pot­ting mixes and mulches,” says Reece. “Aloe vera, an­other great plant to grow for skin, thrives when left alone. So many ex­pen­sive prod­ucts con­tain botan­i­cal ex­tracts of things we can eas­ily get our hands on, so why not do it your­self cheaply at home? It’s a lost art ready to be re­learned.”

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