Our featured herb on HerbMentor.com during the months of March and April was Self-Heal (Prunella vulgaris). Each year we ask members what herbs they want to learn more about and self-heal was a top favorite. I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely enthused about self-heal. Sure, it’s a pretty little weed, but most modern day herbalists overlook it as something that was once used, but isn’t popular in modern times.
So I started writing the featured herb article and went through lots of herbals that had vague information or none at all.
Then I started looking at scientific studies and grew increasingly amazed. While the majority of western herbalists have forgotten self-heal, scientists haven’t! It’s been studied extensively for its ability to stop herpes outbreaks and even has promising studies against cancer. Historically it was widely praised for its ability to address upper respiratory infections and heal wounds. Log on toHerbMentor.com to read the full self-heal article.
One of the studies that I found especially fascinating was an in vitro look at self-heal’s ability to protect skin cells from UV damage. The researchers concluded their findings with: “These results suggest that P. vulgaris and RA [rosmarinic acid], used in skin care cosmetics, may offer protection against UVA-induced oxidative stress and may be beneficial as a supplement in photoprotective dermatological preparations.” 1
There is a growing interest in using herbs to protect the skin from damage and there have been several studies showing the potential of using certain plants externally to reduce photo-aging and the incidence of skin cancer due to sun exposure. 2, 3, 4
While I do my best to wear hats and cover up in the sun, I have gotten my fair share of sun exposure when I was younger and more reckless (like the four months I lived in the Dominican Republic and spent all my spare time on the beach…yikes!). Inspired by self-heal, I created this silky soft oil serum that can be used to protect against sun damage, especially on the face. Before we get to the recipe, let’s take a look at the other ingredients.
The Oils and Rosemary Extract
All of the oils in this recipe are highly prized for their ability to support healthy skin. While self-heal is the herb we are using for its protective effects, these oils are equally medicinal. These oils are expensive. If the cost is prohibitive for you, substitute all the oils with grape seed oil or another light oil.
Jojoba oil is light and silky, which is surprising considering that it is actually a liquid wax and not an oil. It comes from the seeds ofSimmondsia chinensis, which is native to the southwestern U.S. Jojoba is high in many of the nutrients needed for healthy skin, including essential fatty acids. It is highly shelf stable and rarely goes rancid. It mimics our own skin’s sebum and rarely causes an oily buildup or irritation.
Argan oil comes from the fruit kernels of the Moroccan argan tree (Argania spinosa). It is a light oil that penetrates and hydrates the skin well. One study showed that argan oil applied topically helped to restore skin elasticity. 5
Pomegranate oil is heavier than the other oils in this recipe, but is highly prized for its ability to easily absorb into the skin. It has also been shown to protect human skin cells from sun damage in an in vitro study. 6
Rosemary extract contains rosmarinic and carnosic acids, both extensively studied for their antioxidant abilities.7,8 It is often used in cosmetics to increase the shelf life of natural products.
The Essential Oils
I chose the essential oils in this recipe, not only for their amazing scents, but also because of their strong affinity for the skin. All of these essential oils are used for healing the skin and have shown strong antioxidant activity in clinical practice and in vitro studies.9 Neroli and blue chamomile are expensive. If they are cost prohibitive for you, consider using lavender essential oil only. This recipe also smells nice without essential oils, which would be a good approach for people with extremely sensitive skin.
Self-Heal Skin Serum Recipe
This is a luxurious recipe that can potentially protect the skin from sun damage. It has a soft and silky feel to it, without leaving an oily feeling. Use it daily in the morning and night to protect your skin from sun damage. It can also be used to hydrate and rejuvenate your skin.
What you’ll need…
- 5 ounces of jojoba oil
- 4 ounces of argan oil
- 1 ounce of pomegranate oil
- 15 grams of freshly dried self-heal herb
- 1 teaspoon of rosemary extract
- 20 drops of neroli essential oil
- 7 drops of lavender essential oil
- 3 drops of blue chamomile essential oil
Measure out the jojoba oil, argan oil and pomegranate oil by volume into a double boiler or a metal bowl that fits over a pan of water.
Add approximately 15 grams (1/2 ounce) of self-heal herb.
Turn on the heat under the double boiler and warm the oil until it is warm to the touch. Turn off the heat and cover with a lid. Throughout the day visit the oil and heat it again slightly, and then let it sit. Take care not to let the oil get too hot. Some people use a modified crock pot for this – just be careful that it doesn’t get too hot or “fry” the herbal material.
After heating the oil for 24-48 hours, place the mixture in a blender. Blend on high until the blender feels warms to the touch.
Strain off the herbs from the oil. I did this through several layers of cheesecloth and then squeezed the herbs really well to get most of the oil out. You can then strain the oil again through more layers of cheesecloth to get any of the fine particles out. You’ll know you have a really potent extraction if the end result is a deep dark green oil. Don’t worry though, this becomes completely clear and invisible on the skin!
Next add the rosemary extract and the essential oils. Stir well.
I put the oil into a 2 ounce bottle with a treatment pump. You could also put it in a traditional tincture bottle with a dropper or any other small decorative bottle that seals well.
To use your self-heal serum, place a small amount on your fingertips and rub into your face. You don’t need to use a lot, two ounces might last an entire sunny season. This recipe makes approximately 8 ounces. Keep in a cool place. It should last a year if not longer.
Consider this a sun-protectant. It’s not a sunscreen, but it can protect your skin from oxidation and UVA damage.
I hope you enjoy this recipe!
- Psotova, Jitka, Alena Svobodova, Hana Kolarova, and Daniela Walterova. “Photoprotective Properties of Prunella Vulgaris and Rosmarinic Acid on Human Keratinocytes.” Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology. B, Biology 84, no. 3 (2006): doi:10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2006.02.012.
- Saraf, S, and C D Kaur. “Phytoconstituents As Photoprotective Novel Cosmetic Formulations.” Pharmacognosy Reviews 4, no. 7 (2010): doi:10.4103/0973-7847.65319.
- Korać, Radava R, and Kapil M Khambholja. “Potential of Herbs in Skin Protection From Ultraviolet Radiation.” Pharmacognosy Reviews 5, no. 10 (2011): doi:10.4103/0973-7847.91114.
- Jarzycka, Anna, Agnieszka Lewińska, Roman Gancarz, and Kazimiera A Wilk. “Assessment of Extracts of Helichrysum Arenarium, Crataegus Monogyna, Sambucus Nigra in Photoprotective UVA and UVB; Photostability in Cosmetic Emulsions.” Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology. B, Biology 128 (2013): doi:10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2013.07.029.
- Boucetta, Kenza Qiraouani, Zoubida Charrouf, Hassan Aguenaou, Abdelfattah Derouiche, and Yahya Bensouda. “The Effect of Dietary And/or Cosmetic Argan Oil on Postmenopausal Skin Elasticity.” Clinical Interventions in Aging 10 (2015): doi:10.2147/CIA.S71684.
- Afaq, Farrukh, Mohammad Abu Zaid, Naghma Khan, Mark Dreher, and Hasan Mukhtar. “Protective Effect of Pomegranate-derived Products on UVB-mediated Damage in Human Reconstituted Skin.” Experimental Dermatology 18, no. 6 (2009): doi:10.1111/j.1600-0625.2008.00829.x.
- Sevgi, Kemal, Bektas Tepe, and Cengiz Sarikurkcu. “Antioxidant and DNA Damage Protection Potentials of Selected Phenolic Acids.” Food and Chemical Toxicology: An International Journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association 77 (2015): doi:10.1016/j.fct.2014.12.006.
- Park, Miyoung, Jiwon Han, Chang Seok Lee, Baek Heung Soo, Kyung-Min Lim, and Hunjoo Ha. “Carnosic Acid, a Phenolic Diterpene From Rosemary, Prevents UV-induced Expression of Matrix Metalloproteinases in Human Skin Fibroblasts and Keratinocytes.” Experimental Dermatology 22, no. 5 (2013): doi:10.1111/exd.12138.
- Agatonovic-Kustrin, Snezana, Davoud Babazadeh Ortakand, David W Morton, and Ahmad P Yusof. “Rapid Evaluation and Comparison of Natural Products and Antioxidant Activity in Calendula, Feverfew, and German Chamomile Extracts.” Journal of Chromatography. A 1385 (2015): doi:10.1016/j.chroma.2015.01.067.