Buddleja and butterflies
Buddleja davidii is known as the ‘butterfly bush’ because butterflies so often flutter around it gathering nectar. It’s also attractive to bees and moths. It’s possible that the nectar is so good because its packed full of benefits from the buddleja – what is it that those insects instinctively know? Another name we give buddleja is ‘summer lilac’. Just like lilac it has a heady, sweet scent, but there’s so much more than this making buddleja a pretty incredible skincare plant.
I’m sure you’ll have a buddleja not far from you. If you’ve travelled anywhere by train you’ll have passed many of their purple blooms. It’s believed the seeds are either carried on the trains or blown and drawn along in the slipstream created by the trains – whichever, it has certainly enabled them to spread right across the railway network.
Buddleja has amazing ability to adapt to all sorts of environments and it grows and spreads very quickly. They’re particularly good at colonising dry ground, enabling them to make the most of any accessible growing medium. It’s not unusual to see them growing out of the walls of buildings. Gardeners are being asked by Defra to remove seed heads after flowering to prevent its spread before it becomes “ubiquitous”.
Is buddleja’s staying power a clue?
When a plant is tenacious and ubiquitous, it’s often worth examining closer. Chances are it has properties that have given it that ability to enudure. Sometimes these are gifts that can be shared with us by incorporating extracts from the plant in our skincare.
Buddleja for skincare
On closer examination, buddleja is packed with skincare benefits. It is potent with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and photo-protective properties plus phytosterols, amino acids and polysaccharides, which contribute moisturising properties. It has been clinically proven to protect against UVA damage, promote detoxification, prevent the breakdown of collagen and boost the skin’s natural antioxidant defences.
What science now tells us has long been accepted in traditional medicine. Buddleja plants are widely used for their wound healing, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, often by applying dressings or compresses soaked with the leaves. Native to China, where the flower bud is called “Mi Meng Hua”, it has been in the repertoire of healing plants in Chinese medicine for centuries, often used for painful or swollen eyes or sensitivity to light. In Korean medicine buddleja flower buds are used to treat people with inflammatory conditions and headaches.
It’s a great plant to turn to when skin needs soothing and its particularly recommended for mature skin. Some call it the ‘natural DNA bodyguard’ it is so good at stimulating skin’s self-repair functions1.
Get to know buddleja
There are four national buddleja collections in Britain, one of which is just up the hill from me at The Lavender Garden near Tetbury www.thelavenderg.co.uk and well worth visiting at this time of the year.
Introduced as an ornamental plant not more than a century and a half ago, buddleja has certainly made its presence known. Whether you delight in seeing the butterflies it attracts, or find yourself constantly cutting back or pulling up the straggly growth, take a moment next time you’re near a buddleja to think of the incredible qualities it offers. Its ubiquitousness may lead us to think of it as ordinary but, on the contrary, its powers are extraordinary.
Buddleja is one of the plants recommended in August’s ‘5 to forage’ – a blog series in which each month 5 plants are recommended as local ingredients that you can forage for blend it yourself skincare.
There’s lots more about how to bring the vitality of plants into your own blend-it-yourself skincare in the book Vital Skincare.