5 TO FORAGE IN JUNE
June is a fantastic month to forage for natural skincare ingredients. There are many flowers and leaves in both hedgerows and gardens. If you can, pick in full sun and then use fresh right away, or alternatively dry for later use.
To dry your plant material, either hang in bunches (it’s useful to do this over a tray or with a paper bag loosely wrapped around to catch any material that falls) or lay flat – ideally on a wire or muslin sheet stretched over a frame to get maximum air circulation. Leave until completely dry before packing into a jar, labelling and storing in a cool, dark place for future use. To speed things up you can put your plant material in a very low oven for a few hours but do watch it carefully. It’s worth spending a bit of time sorting the material you want to dry, its only worth drying the best quality material so don’t be afraid to be a bit picky.
The absolute star of the June hedgerows is elderflower. The big white panicles of flowers are easier to spot, and even easier to identify by their slightly ‘catty’ smell. Don’t let this put you off, elderflower has long been considered a dressing table staple. Elderflower water is known as Aqua Sambuci. It is used for refining the skin, reducing freckles and keeping skin blemish free.
The flowers are around for just a few weeks. Traditionally the time for gathering is in the 3 weeks that straddle midsummer, but I find the best blooms are available from early June. They are becoming very popular now to gather for cordial and wine making. In comparison, for skincare you need to gather just a few.
Take a look at our elderflower gathering video here
Once gathered, use your elderflowers to make an infusion by pouring over boiling water and leaving to cool before straining. This can be used right away added to the bath, as a hair rinse, cleanser or incorporated into lotion or cream blends.
To make an elderflower water that will be stronger and last longer use the two-part infusion method. Take 100g of elderflowers and cover with 500ml water in a pan, heat to boiling and then turn off the heat, cover and leave to infuse. Once cool (or having left it overnight), strain off the flower and return the infused water to the pan with a further 100g fresh elderflowers. Repeat the heating and cooling process before straining and bottling.
You’ll probably catch the scent of honeysuckle in the air before you spot its spidery blooms. This is a plant whose flowers are the beneficial part, not the leaves, berries or stem. Just coming into flower now it will be with us through the summer. Sometimes you may find it wrapped around, even engulfing, trees and hedgerows – hence one of its alternative names, woodbine.
Gather the flowers and then make immediate use of them in infusions or, alternatively, macerate them in sunflower oil (or another plant seed oil) to capture their fragrance for future use. They were thought by the 16thCentury herbalist John Gerard to bring warmth to a blend. You can also dry honeysuckle flowers, as soon as you introduce hot water to the dried flowers the hit of aroma is like them coming back to life.
Honeysuckle is good to use against skin infections or to calm sore or inflamed skin. It is also useful to restore complexion and treat skin blemishes.
There’s a recipe here for Blackberry and Honeysuckle Lotion, fresh from the hedgerow.
Rose is the classic June flower in many gardens and in its wild form through the hedgerows. It’s one of the most fundamental skincare ingredients, the basis of cold creams and included in nearly all women’s fragrances and about half of male fragrances too.
Rose petals can be put to immediate use in infusions or thrown into the bath. However, to ensure you can benefit from roses year round, it’s worth taking time to create your own rosewater through condensing or making a double infusion. Here’s how. This can be used on its own as a toner (beautifully refreshing after oil cleansing); added to a bath; or incorporated in products from spritzers to lotions and creams. You can also dry rose petals for future use.
As well as their astringent and anti-bacterial properties, roses are well-loved for their ability to lift spirits, calm tensions and refresh.
Here you’ll find lots of rosey inspiration for blend it yourself skincare.
ST JOHN’S WORT
St John’s Day is 24thJune, making this the traditional time to collect the flowers and leaves of St John’s Wort. Herbalists will often take their oils and jars to the field to create macerations in situ. Alternatively, you can gather your flowers and leave them to dry for a day or two to minimise the moisture being added to your oil when macerating.
As you gather, notice the tiny spots on the leaves. These are actually perforations (hence the latin name Hypericum perforatum) or small holes which contain the oil. This has a habit of staining hands if the plant is crushed while picking, so do take care. It can add a glorious red tinge to your macerated oil.
Your macerated St John’s Wort oil can be used neat to treat age spots and keep skin smooth and supple, or combined into creams and lotions for a similar purpose. It’s also considered to help burns, bruises, cramps and sprains.
Marshmallow is the traditional skin softener. The plant has mucilage in its stem that is humectant, bringing moisture to the skin. This also makes it an easy ingredient to incorporate into blends.
In my experience, marshmallow seems to grow alongside busy roads and down central reservations – a glorious sight of pink blooms, but not ideal foraging conditions. It can be tricky to seek out marshmallow from an unpolluted site. However, it is possible to gather a few seeds and plant them for cultivation in your own garden.
In skincare typically the leaves are used in infusions while the roots and stems can be used in decoctions or macerations. Marshmallow is softening, soothing and conditioning as well as being anti-inflammatory and antiseptic – a real boost to cell immunity and a calming influence on skin.
Ideally use your infusion, decoction or maceration in a blend-it-yourself cream or lotion. It can be used in products for all skin types, including mature and sensitive skin. It’s also a great ingredient for hair products helping nourish and detangle hair and condition to counteract hair loss.
Field Fresh Skincare’s award winning Marshmallow Dream Cream (winner of ‘Best Facial Moisturiser’ in the Janey Loves Awards) has a double dose of marshmallow: it starts with a marshmallow leaf and lavender infusion which is added to a blend including marshmallow root oil. No wonder it softens and soothes so well.
LIKE THE IDEA OF GATHERING YOUR OWN SKINCARE INGREDIENTS? …
… you might like to read some more.
For everything you need to know to get started with Blend-it-Yourself skincare using the plants that grow around you, see Vital Skincare by Laura Pardoe. This book takes you through the techniques and ingredients you’ll need to know to make your own natural skincare.