Spring and summer mean an abundance of Stinging Nettle. Stinging Nettle grows all over the Pacific Northwest, and this spiny friend can be used for food, medicine, technology (rope, craft, dye), and even for natural beauty products.
Benefits of Stinging Nettle: A Healthy Scalp and Beautiful Hair
Although Stinging Nettle may seem like a plant you wouldn’t want to touch, it is easy to respectfully harvest and process. It is a staple plant to have on hand — Nettle is full of wonderful medicinal properties. Its properties include anti-inflammatory, stimulating, astringent, anti-bacterial, and healing. Nettle also has high levels of antioxidants, which help fight free radicals — free radicals damage our bodies and can cause aging.
Nettle promotes hair rejuvenation and can eliminate dandruff; it is also a natural remedy for eczema and oily or greasy skin and hair. Because Nettle contains high levels of vitamins and minerals which support skin and hair health, many commercial shampoos and hair care products contain it. But why buy a shampoo when we can make it ourselves?
Using Nettle in a shampoo or rinse will help make our hair brighter, shinier, thicker, and healthier. So, we can make our own Nettle shampoo with organic and natural ingredients for beautiful and happy hair!
How to Make a Shampoo: the Dirty and the Clean
To make a shampoo, we need to address 2 main categories: a detergent and a conditioning agent.
The Dirty: Commercial shampoos are often full of harsh chemicals that fall under the ‘big 3’ : detergents, conditioning agents, and foam boosters. The detergents found in most commercial shampoos are called sulfates, which are harsh and drying, and can strip our hair of its protective oils and irritate our scalps. To remedy these damaging detergents, conditioning agents are added in to give the appearance of soft and shiny hair. However, conditioning agents are usually chemicals called polymers, silicones, and quaternary agents. Silicone isn’t water soluble, so it won’t wash out in the shower. Instead, it will build up and leave our hair flat and dull (especially for us wavy and curly haired girls). As for foaming agents and ‘boosters’, I’m unclear why we associate foam with cleansing power. Shampoo doesn’t need to foam to do its job. Most foam ‘boosters,’ like Cocamide DEA, are actually harmful chemicals that have no real business being in our products.
The Clean: Herbal shampoo! You can’t get much more natural than using organic plants and herbs. Gentle oils like Sweet Almond or Jojoba provide moisture and shine, and act as carriers to infuse our hair with the medicinal and healing properties of the herbs we are using. We can also add Essential Oils for fragrance and a little extra boost of herbal goodness. Not only are herbal shampoos beneficial for our hair and bodies, they are also friendly to the environment.
Nettle shampoo is easy to make, sustainable, and promotes self-sufficiency. It is an activity the whole family can participate in, too! Nettle shampoo is safe for children but be careful to keep out of eyes as the Castile soap will sting.
Ingredients for Nettle Shampoo:
8 oz Nettle-infused water ** included in the directions
3 oz Dr. Bronner’s liquid hemp Castile soap (unscented)
3 tbsp aloe vera juice
1/4 tsp jojoba or sweet almond oil
25-35 drops of essential oil * we used peppermint and rosemary
You will need: 1 oz of dried Stinging Nettle leaves, a pot, stir stick, clean bowls, and shampoo containers
Directions for making Nettle Shampoo:
First, we need to infuse the water with Nettle. For 8 oz of water, we will need 1 oz of dried Nettle leaf (by volume, not by weight). You can harvest Stinging Nettle yourself ahead of time and dry it, or you can purchase dried Nettle leaves (my favorite resource for bulk herbs is Mountain Rose Herbs).
To infuse the water with the dried Nettle, pour boiling water over the dried Nettle and allow it to steep for at least 4 hours to up to 10 hours. Once steeped, strain through a cheesecloth or jelly strainer bag into a clean bowl.
Next, add in the Castile soap, stirring until combined thoroughly.
Now stir in the oils, aloe vera juice, and the EOs. Stir until combined. Pour into the shampoo containers and shake thoroughly.
Don’t forget to label with name, date, and ingredients!
Shake well each time before using, since the ingredients will separate naturally.
Note that this shampoo has a fairly short shelf life (1-2 weeks) because it is made with an herbal infusion. It is a good idea to make small batches so that it is always fresh. You can also store the shampoo in the fridge to prolong its shelf life, or add in a natural preservative like Grapefruit Seed Extract or vitamin E oil.
Why we used what we used:
Nettle leaf: high levels of vitamins and minerals; thickening, brightening.
Aloe Vera Juice: antioxidants, antifungal properties; moisturizing, great for dry or damaged hair. Vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E, Calcium, folic acid and amino acids
Castile Soap: the ‘detergent’ in our shampoo. Gentle enough for hair while still being cleansing
Sweet Almond or Jojoba oil: Mimics the natural oils/sebum that our skin and hair produce; it’s non-greasy and absorbed quickly. Rich in vitamins B complex and E.
EOs: we used peppermint and rosemary. Peppermint for the invigorating properties, cooling and good for oily hair. Rosemary stimulates hair follicles – promoting growth, has antimicrobial and antiseptic qualities.
Hannah began her apprenticeship at Wolf Camp in 2013 and graduated as a lead herbal instructor in 2014. Join Hannah and other Wolf College wild chefs during our annual Wild Cooking & Ethnobotany Expedition: The Herbal Foray the second week of July on Lake Sammamish near Seattle.
Hannah graduated from the University of Oregon in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Foreign Languages. She has her own blog, where she writes about her love for crafts, animals, plants, cooking, and the outdoors: rainmountaincrafts.com