From Seed To Skin: Home Grown Herbal Skin Care

Lavendar-flowers
Lavendar flowers. Photo by Rob Evans

Kay Saarinan grows medicinal herbs, creating a range of organic skincare products in a purpose-built lab on her six-acre property on the NSW far South Coast. She started her business Saarinan Organics ten years ago, selling five products at the local markets. Kay now has 37 different products in her range, including facial cleansers, calendula ointment and moisturising creams.

Kay grows what medicinal herbs she can, right outside the door to her lab. These include calendula, echinacea, comfrey, aloe vera, nettle, borage, chickweed (wild harvest), rosemary and elderberry, to name just a few. These are then harvested at the optimal time, dried and made into the medicinal skin care range.

‘What we can’t grow on the farm, we source as locally as possible,’ says Kay. ‘As farmers we know how important it is to be supported locally. We source local low-heated beeswax and honey, lavender, echinacea, olive oil and chilli. What we can’t, we’ll buy Australian certified organic.’

Kay has previously worked as a chef, run a market garden on her property and studied permaculture, horticulture and naturopathy, so she has a broad range of knowledge that informs her work. ‘It’s perfect because I can mix the scientific side of me with the earthy hands on side,’ she explains.

Kay and her husband Gregg bought their property 15 years ago when it was just blackberries and tussocks, fallen trees and rocks. With a lot of hard work and passion, they have slowly transformed it into what it is today: a thriving and very productive permaculture property. Besides the medicinal herb garden, they also have a well established orchard, extensive vegie garden and a motley crew of farm animals, all organised using permaculture design and systems thinking.

Kay shares some of her most useful and easy to make recipes for us to create at home. Remember to always test patch before use if you are unsure of any herb allergies.

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Echinacea. Photo by Rob Evans

ANTI-INFLAMMATORY WATER TONIC

You will need:

  • 6 fresh stinging nettle stems with leaves
  • 1 litre of boiled rainwater
  • Large pot
  • Sieve
  • Clean bottle with a lid

Method:

Pick fresh stinging nettle

Have your pot of rainwater boiling and add the stinging nettle, poking them down

Turn the heat off and put the lid on to steep for 20 minutes

Strain and pour into the bottle

Refrigerate

Run a bath and pour half the infusion in to help relieve sore muscles.

Relax and enjoy.

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Kay harvesting calendula flowers with her daughter, Emma. Photo by Rob Evans

COMFREY LEAF HERBAL COMPRESS

You will need:

  • 6 fresh comfrey leaves
  • Psyllium husk (enough to make a paste)
  • Stick blender/blender
  • Clean jar with a lid
  • Cotton pad
  • Medical tape

Method:

Pick fresh comfrey leaves

Chop well

Blend until they have a soup-like consistency

Add psyllium until it becomes a workable paste

We want to keep the liquid, so don’t strain

Pop the mix into a clean jar with the lid on

Refrigerate

When needed, put half a cup onto a cotton pad and wrap around a bruised area, securing it with medical tape.

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The skincare lab. Photo by Rob Evans

ALOE VERA GEL

You will need:

• Two leaves of aloe vera

• 1 Tbsp honey

• A peeler

• Spoon

• Stick blender/blender

• Sieve

• Clean jar

Method:

Cut a couple of leaves of aloe vera (the plumper the better)

Using a peeler, peel away the spikes

Lay the leaf flat and run your knife along the middle to separate the top and bottom leaves

Now using a spoon, simply scrape out all that yummy gel

Scrape into a small pot and slightly warm it with a tablespoon of honey

Blitz with a blender

Strain through a sieve

Pop it into a clean jar

At this stage I like to put a round makeup remover pad onto the gel before I put the lid on, so that as soon as you need it, you can just pull out the soaked pad and apply.

Depending on how sterile your work area and jar is, the gel will last a month in the fridge. This is great to have in the fridge, ready to go. Aloe vera is very soothing for both sunburn and heat burns.

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Kay in the lab. Photo by Rob Evans

CHAMOMILE INFUSION FOR PUFFY EYES

You will need:

• A handful of chamomile flowers (or organic tea bags)

• 500 ml rainwater

• Sieve

• Pot

• Clean jar with a lid

• Cotton eye mask

Method:

Pick a good handful of chamomile flowers, with a selection of old and new

Bring 500 ml of filtered rainwater to the boil

Add the flowers and let sit for 20 minutes to infuse

Strain well

Pop the infusion into a clean jar with the lid on

Refrigerate

Pop a thin cotton eye mask into the infusion and let soak

Put the eye mask on your eyes, lying flat for about 20 minutes, letting the chamomile do the work

You can add a wheat bag onto your eye mask if preferred for extra weight.

You can also experiment with other herbs, such as calendula, for puffy eyes.

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