Plants for Cosmetics: Rosemary, Lemongrass and Spearmint

Rosemary bush with violet flowers
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Rosemary, Lemongrass and Spearmint: I am bringing you three more useful plants for natural cosmetics. They are also great in culinary!!

It’s autumn and, although seasons are no longer what they used to be, they still show signals we recognize. Brown leaves, all over the place, wind and cold. And persimmon fruit!! I don’t know how many people know this fruit, it’s not very common and it’s not cheap in the supermarket here in Portugal! (around 3€/kg). But we have this autumn fruit for free in our garden.

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Plants for Cosmetics

When I moved in to my house, rosemary, spearmint and lemon verbena already existed in my garden. I was really glad with it, as I like lemon verbena tea. But I didn’t pay much attention to rosemary and its wonderful camphorous scent before I’ve started to make my own hair products. Needless to say that we do use it in the kitchen as an aromatic herb, as well as spearmint. Lemongrass was a plant brought to my knowledge as a tea, and it’s even more lemoly than lemon verbena. We’ve planted some during last spring.

Rosemary

With cute little flowers, rosemary is known by the technical name of Rosmarinus officinalis, and is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, along with many other herbs, such as oregano, thyme, basil, and lavender. The herb not only tastes good in culinary dishes, but it is also a good source of iron, calcium, and vitamin B-6.

There are some scientific studies showing its capability to stimulate and improve hair growth with certain patologies, like androgenic alopecia. Take these conclusions carefully as there are very few studies done on humans. Still, folk medecin defends rosemary as very good for hair growth. Besides hair growth stimulation, rosemary is also conditioning for hair, contains antioxidants and anti-microbial activity, making it good for acne treatment.

Of Mediterranean origin, rosemary is a hardy shrub with piney, camphorous scent. 

Though rosemary can grow from seeds, it can take a very long time. Choosing to propagate rosemary from stem cuttings is a short-cut and the most common way to multiply your plants. The best time of the year to do it is in early summer when your rosemary has new growth at the tips. By the end of summer, you’ll have baby plants to over-winter and plant out the following spring.

Lovely Greens, How to Propagate Rosemary.

As long as you cut this shrub the right way – and you need to cut it to keep it healthy – you can have this plant in your garden forever. Here is our own rosemary:

Lemongrass

It is called erva-príncipe in Portugal, who knows why. I prefer the brasilian and english names: lemongrass, or grass that smells like lemon. That’s basically what it is. Technically called Cymbopogon citratus, it makes a really nice tea filled with intense lemon flavour and scent.

There are several claims about lemongrass medicinal properties, such as fighting anxiety, lowering blood pressure, anti-inflamatory, anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, and there are some encouraging lab tests that corroborate them, but there are lack of data in humans to back up these claims. One is proven by scientific studies: it is effective against becteria responsible for oral health problems (chronic gum disease and tooth decay).

With a strong lemony scent, this plant originary from the asian continent is a flavouring agent in Asian cuisine. Its essential oil is used in cosmetics and perfumery, and also as a insect reppelant: this herb is of the same family of citronella. I might use this plant to try to make a botanical perfume.

We have planted a stem in spring and it went all spring and most summer wondering if it should just wither and die or grow. It ended up growing this is how it looks like today. Yay to life!!

Spearmint

Spearmint is very easy to grow. Its technical name is Mentha Spicata and is native to Europe and southern Asia, being present in most temperate zones in the globe. It is very used in culinary as a flavoring to food and drinks, like, herbal teas. Its aromatic oil is also used as flavoring and scent.  

Mainly due to its main active substance, carvone, spearmint is scientifically proven to be antitumor, antioxidant, antimicrobial and antispasmodic. Here are some scientific articles about it if you wish to take a look:

  • https://ktisis.cut.ac.cy/handle/10488/9705
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2836022/
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878535211000232

Added to its refreshing herbal scent, it’s a no-brainer to use it in natural cosmetics. Besides, unlike peppermint, it has only minimal quantities of menthol, meaning it doesn’t cause the “cold” reaction effect characteristic of menthol. I personally don’t like to feel my skin “cold” everytime I put a cream, something you can’t avoid with peppermint.

As I had several times to witness, spearmint grow well in Portugal, and it’s very easy to maintain. Gardeners sometimes put them in pots due to its invasive, spreading nature. Here is a picture of spearmint in our garden:

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References:

  • https://ktisis.cut.ac.cy/handle/10488/9705
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2836022/
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878535211000232

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4 Comments

  1. Your article contains some very interesting details about three of my favorite herbs: spearmint, lemongrass, and rosemary. I use these in cooking, especially rosemary, but also enjoy each brewed into a tea.

    While I use herbs, including those you mentioned medicinally (often as essential oils) I had not thought of them as cosmetics. This gives me some great ideas for gifts for my young adult daughters!

    Thanks for providing such good information. I’ll be sharing this with others!

    1. Hello Diane and thanks for you comment.

      Yes, essential oils are used in cosmetics. For creams, lotions and leave-on products, they not only add their scent as also their properties to cosmetics. For soaps it’s debatable if that’s true, because of the chemical reaction.

      Still, essential oils are one of the few natural ways to add scent to a soap, and that’s the main reason why you add them to soap. There’s a saying about naturals cosmetics: ” If you can’t eat it, you shouldn’t put it on your skin.” And I think it’s a good principle ( with some exceptions, of course).

      Hope you come back and enjoy more articles. If you wish, please, subscribe to HerbAlcochete mailing list to receive the latest news firsthand.

      Cheers,

      Sofia

  2. Wow! Just Wow Sofia. How haven’t I seen you earlier?! Your articles are really highly informative and interesting to read. bookmarked this. These plants are easy to find. Got Lemon grass and Spear leaf at my backyard. Would look up online on how to extract the essential oils from the Lemon grass and add it to my black soap mix.

    1. Hello Josh and thanks for your comment.

      I did look up and I wouldn’t have high hopes for it… Essential oils are quite expensive to make because they need a LOT of plant material, and it’s not practical to make them at home… But it seems that you can make easily hydrolats with a distiller!! I am planning in purchasing one myself and trying out. I also hope they are scented enough to use them as fragrance, but again I am not expecting lasting scents 🙂 Just a very nice scented water for lotions and cream (even a natural toner!)

      Cheers,

      Sofia

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