Western Herbs, Ingredients, and Techniques for Hair Care


Table of Contents


People have many reasons for using herbs and natural remedies for their hair. Some people may have had limited success with commercial products; they may have allergies; they may be philosophically committed to preserving our environment through the use of all natural products; or they simply may enjoy producing their own hair care recipes. Whatever reason you have for wanting to use herbs and other natural ingredients, we hope that you find answers and inspiration here. We offer a special thanks to all who allowed their recipes to be included here.


Hair washes generally use at least one cleansing herb or ingredient, but can also add conditioning elements. Unless otherwise noted, whole herbs are used.

Dianyla’s Hair Gravy

Bring water to a boil, and then add soapwort/willowbark. Reduce heat and simmer the mixture for  about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and strain the mixture. For best results pass the solution through a jelly strainer or sieve, but muslin or cheesecloth will also work.

Mix the cornstarch into a slurry using a small amount of cold water. Add the cornstarch mix into the strained soapwort decoction and cook on low heat until the starch thickens up. Allow to cool. It will look almost exactly like KFC turkey gravy when you are done.

To use: Apply directly to your scalp. Massage it in, let sit for  about 5 minutes, and then rinse out very thoroughly. A pointy-nozzled squirt bottle (e.g. a mustard/ketchup condiment bottle) is a very effective way to apply to the hair. Depending on how thick the gravy is, you may need to trim the tip off of the nozzle to allow a wider opening. For best results, apply to dry hair. Besides reducing dilution, it is easier to be sure that you've applied it thoroughly to all areas of the scalp.

Preservation: The quantity of the above recipe is good for a single use/application. You can store any excess in the refrigerator and use within one week. Alternately, if you are set up to do home canning you can preserve the gravy in mason jars and it will keep indefinitely. If canning, skip the last step to cook the cornstarch. Simply mix the cornstarch slurry to the filtered decoction, and then load the mixture into jars. The canning process will cook the cornstarch.

TammySue’s Egg Shampoo

Whip ingredients together and massage gently into scalp. Lleave the mixture on for a few minutes before rinsing out. Use only lukewarm (not hot) water for egg washing. Use a final rinse of water and vinegar.

Thea Evanda's Original Egg Shampoo Mix

The honey and the eggs should be scrambled very well, because the lemon juice can cause the egg-white to flock without the honey.
Add essential oils to change the smell or, if the shampoo is too drying, add up to two teaspoons of oil to step down the washing power.

You apply it to the hair just like normal shampoo (but it is very liquid, so it takes a bit of experimentation), let it sit for 5 minutes so the Lecithine can work its washing magic and rinse with lukewarm (38-40°C) water. Afterwards a nice cold rinse helps to add shine.

Flaxen's Favorite Egg Shampoo

Whisk this together with a mini whisk until it is frothy and very thick. Apply it to wet hair, and leave it on for the length of the shower. Rinse well.

Flaxen's Simple Soapwort Shampoo

Pour the boiling water over the soapwort root pieces, and let steep, covered, until cool. This recipe cleans better if it is used on dry hair. Dunk your length in the liquid, and then pour the rest over your scalp. Leave it on for the length of your shower, and then rinse it off.

Shell’s Simple Fragrant Wash

Bring all ingredients to a boil, then simmer for another 10 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to use, strain. Enough for one wash. Pour the mixture through your dry hair two or three times, catching it in a basin each time. Gently massage into scalp. Rinse. Follow with vinegar rinse if desired.

Shell’s Best Conditioning Wash

Bring all ingredients to a boil, then simmer for another 10 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to use, strain. Enough for one wash. Pour the mixture through your dry hair two or three times, catching it in a basin each time. Gently massage into scalp. Rinse. Follow with vinegar rinse if desired.

Faeflame's Rhassoul Clay Hair Wash

To fill a 16 oz bottle, alternate adding a few ounces of liquid and 1/8 to 1/4 cup of clay, capping and shaking the bottle as you go (a funnel is useful here). If you add a lot of clay all at once it will clump and be hard to mix. Don't worry. This just means you will have to shake the bottle like a crazy person to mix it, but it will eventually mix. Be sure to leave enough room in the bottle for the contents to mix when shaken. The final consistency should be the same as a regular shampoo or conditioner or slightly thicker. The final step is to add a few drops of essential oil, if you wish.

You may find that the mix varies in consistency: sometimes the wash is thick and gooey, sometimes thin and runny. It works fine both ways. Try to use finely powdered clay, not the clumpy hunks of dried mud some places sell. The powder mixes better and doesn't feel gritty.

To use the Rhassoul Clay Wash, wet hair as for a regular shampoo and smooth the clay mix onto hair. Pay particular attention to the scalp, massaging, let the leftovers drip, and run your hands down the length. Shower as usual. Rinse off the clay mix just like shampoo. Please make sure to rinse your ears--walking around all day with dried mud in your ears can be pretty embarrassing.

When using clay hair washes, conditioner is not necessary though some people like to pre and/or post oil. Regular deep treatments are also recommended, and you may need to use a more cleansing shampoo to remove these.

When switching to a clay wash from normal shampoo, there is a 2-4 week adjustment period where hair may feel dry and tangly. Preoiling may sooth the transition.

Conditioning and Vinegar Rinses—Icydove

Many people like to use a conditioning or vinegar rinse after an herbal shampoo. You may find that you don't need one, but if you would like to try some out, here is a nice collections of recipes. Some are to be rinsed out like commercial conditioners, and some can be left in.

Icydove's Elderflower and Hibiscus Conditioning Tea Recipe

Add herbs to hot water, then stir in honey. When tea cools to lukewarm, strain herbs. Dunk length in tea and pour over head. Rinse slightly until water runs clear.

Angie Pangie's Herbal Vinegar Rinse

Put all the herbs in an 8 cup pyrex mesuring cup and add 4 cups of boiling water. Let it sit untill all the herbs are cool and then strain into a pitcher. Then add 4 tsp of ACV (apple cider vinegar). After shampooing pour onto hair without rinsing afterward. Smells rather vinegary while wet, but goes away when dry.

HALO Rinse —Elyce

Mix ingredients into 4 cups distilled water; stir or shake in a pitcher. Follow usual hair cleansing routine. After final rinse, soak hair length in about 3/4 c of the HALO mixture. Optional: pour remaining HALO over the scalp area of your hair. Do NOT rinse; dry as usual.

Store in refrigerator. You may substitute herb tea instead of distilled water. Makes hair smooth and shiny and calms tangles. No need to rinse out.

ktani’s Catnip Treatment for Split Ends

Steep catnip in water, covered, and allow to cool. Tap condensation from cover into liquid and strain. Apply to freshly washed hair, cover with plastic, and let sit for one hour. Remove plastic, let cool, and rinse. Reduces breakage and split ends. Can also be used to sooth a scalp irritation.

Birthmarkie's Herbal Hair Rinse

Choose any combination of dried chamomile, lavender, or rosemary. Brew a few tablespoons of dried herbs and strain. Transfer to bottle and dilute with water to have enough rinse for your hair.You may leave them in or rinse them out. I recommend leaving chamomile in. You may want to rinse lavender and rosemary out because they are darker rinses, but I have dark hair so I don't. Be careful to wash out the tub because they might stain.

Birthmarkie's GreenTea Rinse

Brew a cup of tea as normal. Transfer to an empty bottle and dilute with enough water for your entire head of hair. Rinse out tub so it doesn't stain. May be used with black tea, but some report that black tea stains light hair.

Shell’s Basic Vinegar Rinse

Wash and rinse hair thoroughly, then pour mixture over head. Rinse with cold water for best results. Can be used after herbs, after traditional shampoo and conditioner, or as a mild wash by itself.

Neoma's Herbed Vinegar Rinse

Add one or more handfuls of the following to a small jar of white vinegar:

Let the herbs steep in the vinegar for at least a week, preferrably a month. Then strain the herbs out and mix the herbed vinegar into a gallon jug of plain white vinegar and add essential oils. Add equal parts of peppermint, rosemary and lavender essential oils to the white vinegar mixture--are all good for the scalp.

Leave ins--Kimberlily

Frizz, Flyaways, and Other Bad Behavior

When someone says that their hair is frizzy, we typically visualize a halo of curls that have gone out of control. But frizz and its close relatives, flyaways, do not only plague curlies. Frizz is most common among curly hairtypes, no matter how fine or coarse the hair is. Flyaways are most common in people with fine, straight hair. Wavy hairtypes may be the worst off, because they have both problems to contend with.

What causes frizz and flyaways? Some of us are born with naturally frizzy hair, but coarse hair and a lack of moisture and protein is a common cause of such bad hair behavior. Frizz can also be caused by high humidity, damage from chemical processes, and overuse of heat appliances. Even handling your hair too much can bring on a bad case of the frizzies.

What’s a longhair to do? Before you reach for that bottle of silicone serum or cover your hair with a scarf, try these tips and recipes to keep frizz and flyaways at bay. They could quickly become a thing of the past and you could be on the road to healthy, soft, controllable hair.

First, consider giving up the chemical dyes, harsh detergents (sulfates are public enemy number one in the battle against frizz), and heat styling tools. Try conditioner-only washing instead of your regular shampoo, or consider shampoo bars and herbal washes. Give your hair a deep moisturizing treatment, a shot of protein, and consider henna (or cassia) to calm things down (henna and cassia both coat the hair shaft, which calms frizz).

Kimberlily's Flax Seed Gel

Instead of using commercial hair gels, try this easy recipe to smooth down flyaways and give your curls/waves definition. Flappers used this recipe to set their pin curls, and it is actually very good for your hair, and doesn’t flake!

Place ingredients in a small saucepan, and simmer over medium-low heat until liquid is reduced by half. Strain out the flax seeds and allow the gel to cool. Keep refrigerated, and use as you would commercial hair gel.

mira-chan’s Flax Seed Gel

Boil water and flax seeds until the liquid becomes viscuous. Strain and set aside in container to cool. Add a couple of drops of EO, if you would like to.

Shell's Flax Seed Gel

Boil together flax seeds and 1 cup of water for 4 minutes, strain. Take used flax seeds, add 1 c water, boil for 6 minutes, strain, cool a bit. Then add vitamin E capsules and aloe gel. Needs to be refrigerated.

Kimberlily’s Defrizz Spray

In a 4oz mister, mix the following:

Add distilled water until full, then shake. Spray can be used as a detangler, and it encourages wonderful waves especially when used for damp bunning. Tap water can be used, but distilled water is better since it will keep longer. This spray can be used on wet or dry hair, and is wonderful to use for damp bunning. Additionally, it can be used for dry-shaving your legs, and if you omit the essential oils, you can use it to remove eye makeup. Keep it in the refrigerator and use it as a refreshing moisturizing spritz on a hot summer day. Shake well before using. Refrigeration is recommended.

Kimberlily’s Coconut Hair Butter

Combine all ingredients, and stir well. Pour into sterilized jars and let sit until it solidifies. It will have the consistency of soft butter at 70 degrees. Melt a small amount in your hands and use on wet or dry hair to keep ends soft and free of splits. A little goes a very long way! Keep in a cool place or it will melt.

Kimberlily's Cocoa Butter Hair Crème

Combine all ingredients, and stir well. Pour into sterilized jars and let sit until it solidifies. It will have the consistency of soft butter at 70 degrees. Melt a small amount in your hands and use on wet or dry hair to keep ends soft and free of splits. A little goes a very long way! Keep in a cool place or it will melt.

Kimberlily's Shea Butter Hair Crème

Combine all ingredients, and stir well. Pour into sterilized jars and let sit until it solidifies. It will have the consistency of soft butter at 70 degrees. Melt a small amount in your hands and use on wet or dry hair to keep ends soft and free of splits. A little goes a very long way! Keep in a cool place or it will melt.

SunCat's Cocomanshea Conditioning Butter

This is very rich and you only need a VERY SMALL amount. It can be used on hair and on skin.

Place ingredients except coconut oil in a glass measuring cup and heat in the microwave until melted. Add the coconut oil and stir, if the coconut oil doesn't melt completely then reheat until it melts. Stir well and let it cool slightly. Pour into desired containers.

This can be used on wet and dry hair with great results. Don't use too much, especially on wet hair. It makes hair very soft and shiny and calms down flyaways.

Deep Treatments and Masks/Masques--Shell

Sometimes we like to use deeper treatments than daily or rinse out conditioners, so a mask is recommended. The following masks use natural ingredients with herbs, and occasionally commericial products.

Snowy’s Moisture Treatment (SMT)

Mix together well (stir!) and heat for about 10 seconds or so in the microwave or other preferred method. Don't overheat it. Leave on hair for about an hour, you may use a heat cap if you like. Rinse out and style.

Aine's Caramel Treatment

There are many different masks called the caramel treatment, and here's a lovely one contributed by Aine.

Mix all ingredients in a blender. It should be caramel colored and of a smooth consistency. Coat hair, and leave on for a couple hours. If your hair is longer than midback, it may be easier to put your hair in a ponytail and just do that ponytail portion and loose baggy it to keep it from getting messy. Do not try to manipulate your hair during this time, it is very sticky. Rinse out in the shower. If you have fine hair, this may be all you need, but if you have coarse hair, you may want to follow up with a reconstructor and/or deep conditioner. Freeze in small batches and thaw to use.

SarieQ’s Deep Treatment

Add the aloe to the banana and blend well with a stick blender. Then strain it through a mesh strainer to get any banana chunks out. Then blend in the honey. Apply this after clarifying when hair is still wet, but not dripping. Leave it on for over an hour. Rinse.

Avocado Mask by Patrycja

Mix all ingredients, put on dry hair, and cover with plastic baggy. Leave on for an hour or more. You may follow with a light oiling.

SarieQ'a HCO (Herbal CO) Recipe Conditioner

Steep the herbs in 3 cups boiling distilled water in a covered wide-mouth mason jar for an hour, strain and stir in the oil and honey. Makes enough for several applications. Feels thick and slippery when putting on the hair. Store in the refrigerator.

Dry Scalp and Dandruff Remedies--levelek and mirachan

We all wish for healthy hair, but it can't be achieved without a healthy scalp. The following recipes might help you with a minor scalp contition. However, if you have a more serious scalp issue, please see your doctor, as a serious scalp condition may cause hair loss, or indicate a health condition that only a doctor can diagnose.

Happylynngilmer's Yarrow Rinse (for dry, itchy scalp)

Use this as an after conditioner rinse. Let sit for two minutes, massaging your scalp, then finish with a cool water rinse.

levelek: Stinging Nettle Rub (for dandruff and sebum imbalance)

To make the tincture:

Pack a bottle to the neck with chopped-up stinging nettle roots. (If you are digging these up yourself, it is recommended to collect them during the spring or autumn. Clean with a brush.) Fill the bottle with 38-40% alcohol. Rye whisky or vodka are traditionally used. Leave the bottle in a warm place for two weeks.

After you have strained this tincture, you can use it to massage your scalp directly: this also stimulates circulation. Alternatively, you can mix it with hair soap (shampoo bars) to use as a shampoo.

levelek: Burdock Root Oil

When massaged into the scalp before a wash helps with dandruff, itchiness, hair loss and is a skin conditioner. A couple of drops applied to hair post wash as conditioner gives shine to hair and is a protector from split ends. It promotes normal functioning of sebaceous glands and hair follicles. Good especially when combined with nettle root oil. Works best with medium to fine hair.

levelek: The following herbs and plants may be effective in a hair wash or as a tea for a final rinse:

* Burdock
* Horsetail
* Yarrow (see section on yarrow rinse)
* Red clover
* Stinging nettle
* Rosemary
* Birch leaves

The essential oils of rosemary, St John's wort, lavender, calamus and tea tree could be added to a final rinse, to your shampoo, or to a scalp massage oil. Rosemary and tea tree could potentially have a drying effect on your hair or even on your scalp, so it may be safest to use these plants in smaller quantities and in the form of EOs, mixed with a safe carrier oil such as jojoba or olive oil.

mirachan's Rose Water and Nettles Hair Scalp Rinse

Heat water to nearly boiling, pour over nettles. Let steep for 10-20 minutes, strain and reserve the “tea” in an applicator bottle. Add rose water. Use on hair and scalp after washing.

mirachan's Rose Water and ACV (apple cider vinegar) Hair and Scalp Rinse

Pour all ingredients into an applicator bottle or mister. Shake and apply to scalp. Massage vigorously. Let sit on scalp 2 – 10 minutes. Rinse. Left over mix will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Essential Oils for Growth and to Treat Hairloss—Jessie58

Essential oils have been found to be very helpful in aiding hair and scalp health. When mixed with a carrier oil and massaged into the scalp, they can promote healthy scalp conditions and they have also been found to help with hair regrowth in many instances.

Essential oil mixtures for hair loss, thinning, and scalp conditions should be applied directly to the scalp after mixing with a carrier oil. Gentle massage is also very important, allowing the scalp good circulation and maximum penetration. EO's should not be applied when hair is wet as wet hair will dilute the oils and draw it away from the scalp. They can be massaged into a dry scalp between 1 - 5 days a week and may be left on the scalp or washed out, according to the individual users' preference.

Please be advised that recent studies have found that some essential oils may be harmful when used on children. Consult your pediatrician.

Igor's Recipe

Meg Evenstar's Recipe

jessie58's Recipe

Alba-NY's Recipe:

Using 150ml burdock root oil as a carrier oil- add the following:

Here are a few commonly used essential oils and their properties:

Atlas Cedarwood aids with seborrhea and dandruff.

Bay stimulates scalp and aids with hair growth

Clary Sage helps with dandruff and hair loss.

Cypress stimulates skin circulation.

Geranium balances oil gland secretion.

Grapefruit aids hair growth and oily skin.

Lavender balances sebum and stimulates cleansing and detoxifying.

Lemon balances sebum and strengthens epidermus function.

Patchouli is good for oily hair and scalp.

Rosemary is good for oily hair, skin and dandruff.

Sage shines hair, promotes growth and reduces alopecia.

Sweet Basil aids with hair growth and dry skin.

Texas Cedarwood is good for dandruff and dermatitis.

Thyme helps treat dandruff and hair loss and stimulates hair growth by cleansing hardened sebum.

Ylang-Ylang stimulates hair growth, soothes skin, balances sebum production

*Essential oils must always be used in conjunction with carrier oils and must not be applied to the skin "neat"*

*Pregnant women should consult with a doctor before using any essential oil*

*Cedarwood, clary sage, myrhh, rosemary, should never be used during pregnancy*


Common Ingredients, Herbs, and Techniques--ktani, mirachan, Flaxen, and Shell

aloe vera
The gel has been traditionally used in skin care for the treatment of burns. It is used on hair instead of conventional hair gel to control frizz and condition hair. Aloe Vera gel makes a good leave in/gel and can be used as a gentle wash and as a conditioner. Aloe juice on the market is often a mix of both the juice and the gel.

burdock root
When massaged into the scalp as an oil before wash, burdock root helps with dandruff, itchiness, hair loss, and is a skin conditioner. A couple of drops can be applied to hair post wash as conditioner. Gives shine to hair and is a protector from split ends. It promotes normal functioning of sebaceous glands and hair follicles. Good especially when combined with nettle root oil. Can be used as a tea, from fresh or dried root.

This is a conditioning herb commonly used as a tea. Gives hair a sweet smell.

This herb is excellent to treat scalp irritation and is also great on the skin, particularly as a face wash. Used as a split ends treatment.

citric acid
This is an acidifying agent used to restore correct pH balance, and to promote shine and manageability.

Clay is used in cosmetics for skin and hair. Some common clays are bentonite, kaolin, and rhassoul. Clays are used in cosmetics to absorb oils, and are reported to soften hair and skin. They are also reported to have detoxifying effects. All clays are a form of volcanic ash and can be both abrasive and drying to skin and hair depending on the percentage used in a product or recipe.

This herb is conditioning and is commonly used as a tea. It has been reported to lighten hair or give hair a yellow tone.

cold rinse after washing
Reinforces the results of citric acid and honey, and even if you didn't use those products it smooths the hair cutilcle and makes hair shine.

egg white
This helps the egg yolk with cleaning everything the Lecithine does not get. It also does some repair on the hair structure.

egg yolk
Lecithine in egg yolk is the "washing active substance", the emulgator or tensid. With egg shampoos, it is advised that you leave the mixture on for five minutes, as washing hair is a low-temperature affair, so the Lecithine does need some time to do its chemical work, since it is really temperature-activated (ever fixed a sauce with egg yolk?).

elder flowers
This herb is conditioning and is commonly used as a tea.

This herb is conditioning and is commonly used as a tea. Hibiscus provides a little slip to the hair and so makes detangling easier. Has been reported to give a pink/red tone to hair. Often used to enhance henna.

This ingredient has humectant (water attracting) properties and is used in hair and skin conditioning recipes. Honey rinses make hair very shiny. In egg shampoos it allows one to mix egg and citric acid without causing the egg to flock out. Diluted with water or conditioner and other ingredients and left on the hair for a minimum of 1 hour, and covered with plastic (bag, saran wrap or shower cap), honey has been reported to lighten hair color--so if you are not interested in lightening your hair, be aware that others have experienced this. Always rinse honey thoroughly.

This herb is a source of silica to promote growth and strength. Commonly used as a tea.

Antibacterial, antiseptic, used for skin ulcer treatment. Possible allergen. Has some estrogenic effect.

This is a cleansing herb that is so popular that the root of its name means "to wash" in romance languages.

lemon juice
Hair is a "naturally sour" affair with a pH of 4.6, the skin at 5.5. A sour shampoo is better for the hair than an alcalic one; soaps with a pH over 7 (neutral) will damage the ceratine structures. This is why most shampoos made with castile soap will not work very well. So the lemon juice lowers the pH to the sour side of washing and helps to lay the cuticles flat (just like a vinegar rinse). Always dilute lemon juice before using and know that lemon juice can lighten or dry out hair, use carefully.

lukewarm water
Hair and skin will always wash better, and shampoos and conditioners will rinse out better, using warm water. Finishing with a cold rinse it great, but wash with warm water. Lukewarm water supports the egg washing process. Rinse 1 minute longer than you think necessary.

This is a conditioning herb commonly used as a tea.

The roots have traditionally been used to treat dandruff, stimulate hair follicles, and as a general scalp conditioner. The high silica content of the plant is probably one of the active ingredients behind these effects. Nettle roots can also be used for an alcohol free hair wash/rinse. Soak in cold water overnight, then bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Leaves from the nettle plant could also be beneficial. Slowly bring to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes, then use as a hair rinse. Nettles can make detangling easier. As a bonus, it may add shine to your hair, too. Nettle is readily available as a tea.

oil ad libitum
This oil does step down the washing power, so be careful. Too much, and your hair will smell nice and be dripping fat
I only add some of my special Jojoba oil (Jojoba and Huile de Lavandine) for smell, though the original smell of the shampoo is quite good.

Stimulates the scalp.

red clover
This is a conditioning herb commonly used as a tea. It is also soothing to the skin and scalp.

Traditional beauty ingredient. Makes hair and skin soft and has a pleasant aroma. Used as a tea or soak. Also used in the form of rose water, which can be homemade or obtained commercially.

This herb is used for oily scalp and dandruff. It is reported to darken hair.

This is a cleansing herb. A tea is made from the roots. Poisonous if taken internally in large amounts.

tea tree oil
This is reported to be antifungal and antibiotic, and is soothing to skin and scalp. It should always be diluted, and can cause irritation to eyes, mucous membranes, and inflamed skin. Some studies have suggested that it not be used on children.

Vinegar used on hair usually comes in three forms: white, apple cider, and red wine. However, the acetic acid content of vinegars can vary from 5% to 18%, with 5% being the most typical. Natural vinegars have other constituents that may or my not affect the hair when they are used as a rinse. White vinegar is basically acetic acid, around 5% in water with added salt. Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apples but the percentage of acetic acid is roughly the same. Red wine vinegar is made from fermented red wine, acid levels can vary from 5-18%, and is often used in henna mixes to enhance red tones. Vinegar is used in hair recipes as a rinse to remove residue and can be used to treat dandruff. It has also been reported to increase shine and seal the cuticle.

This herb is used to sooth the scalp, especially when combined with vinegar. Use as a tea or tincture.

Traditionally used by Native Americans as a shampoo. A tea is made from the chunks of dried root. Can be drying.



Here is a wonderful list of herbs and their uses and effects by justme

A list of hazardous essential oils

In depth LHC articles on essential oils can be found here, here, and here

A list of good carrier oils can be found here on the bottom half of the page

Indian Herbs for Hair Care

Hair Coloring With Herbs, Plants, and Other Natural Ingredients

There are many more articles at TLHC and online to guide and inspire you, so don't stop reading and learning about natural hair care.