PLANTS HAVE LONG BEEN USED TO HEAL THE BODY, BUT CAN THEY WH WORK WORK WONDERS FOR SKIN? JULIET TE WINTER FINDS OUT WHY COMMON GARDEN FLOWERS ARE THE LATEST BEAUTY BUZZ.
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.”