Wild plants have so much to offer; drawing energy from the sun and nutrients from the soil they harness it mysteriously to provide us with complete nourishment. These are gifts that we can gather free of charge. All we need to know is how identify, when to harvest and how to use, while never forgetting to offer thanks.
In all the years that I have worked with wild botanicals for food, medicine, beauty and art, one of my constants has been foraging plants for facials. You pick, you prepare it, you benefit from its immediate freshness.
It’s late summer in the Hudson Valley and the fields are bursting with plants that have already gone to seed as well as those that are just beginning to bloom. From this crowded jumble one can pick out several beauties for a steam including wild raspberry leaf, wild strawberry leaf (both astringent), mint (stimulating), red clover (soothing), wild carrot flower (cleansing), wild evening primrose flower (hydrating). It’s always a good idea to include an aromatic plant in the mix since the volatile oils stimulate the skin and clear the lungs. It’s also important to select plants that are safe (i.e. no poison ivy or oak!). Just a couple of handfuls of plant material is enough. Fill the pot with water, secure a lid and bring it to boil slowly, allowing it to simmer a few minutes.
When the plants have wilted, place your pot on a low table (on a trivet), drape a large towel over your head to make a tent. Slowly open the lid releasing the steam gradually so it fills your tent. You don’t want to scorch your face so just hang out over the pot for about 10 minutes, turning your face and neck so all of your pores open up. I generally stop when I feel like my face is “sweaty”.
Quickly pat off the moisture with your towel and proceed to apply your mask, in this case a simple wild raspberry, raw honey and ground oatmeal mush (very tasty) whipped up in a food processor. The fruit has enzymes that gently soften and break down dead skin cells, the honey is a humectant and the oatmeal soothes. Leave your mask on for at least 15 minutes. I like to scrape off the blobs with a blunt palette knife. I then gently rub to release the gummy leftovers. This is what the French call a “gommage doux”.
Finally, I strain out the steam water and use that to rinse my face. Pat dry and apply a moisturizer and you’re good to go!
Some other safe botanicals you can use include: plantain (soothing), self heal (healing), blackberry leaf (astringent), dandelion leaf or flower.