A few years ago, I made a skin cream for a friend’s baby that contained hibiscus. The little girl had patches of eczema on her face, and the doctor had prescribed a hydrocortisone ointment. It wasn’t working well. I do not think cortisone belongs in a child’s sensitive system, either, so I proposed making an herbal alternative. I searched all my herbals for something specific to eczema and skin healing that would be appropriate and safe, as well as simple to use. Who wants to put some complicated, messy concoction on a baby?
Hibiscus seemed to be the specific I needed, and I had dried hibiscus flowers in my herbal pantry. So I thought to make the usual olive oil and beeswax salve from them, and then I found out something about hibiscus. It is not solvable in oil. Why? I don’t know. I could let those blossoms sit there for weeks, and nothing happened. St. John’s wort, calendula – any other flower I tried – would release its essence into olive or safflower oil. Not hibsiscus.
But if I infused it in water, I wouldn’t be able to make it into an oil and beeswax salve. (Rosemary Gladstar has a nice recipe for a water-based facial cream in her Family Herbal, but it is a bit fiddly and requires a blender, which I do not own.) I went to the cosmetic department at the drugstore and found an unscented cold cream, very basic and old-fashioned, and used that. The hibiscus infusion blended in well, and was a success when used.
This past month I developed an eczema from an allergy to facial tissues, of all strange things. My face, hands and forearms developed the characteristic red, rough, itchy patches. I couldn’t sleep. My clothes hurt my skin. I thought of that hibiscus cream, but didn’t have a supply of flowers.
I did have this, though.
I thought the vitamin C in the rosehips wouldn’t hurt anything – our skin is made up of collagen, which is based on vitamin C. I made a strong infusion of the tea – 3 teabags to a cup of boiling water and let it steep. (Don’t simmer or boil it.)
While I was at the store, I bought this as a carrier, but any unscented water-based lotion or cream would do. If I had all the ingredients and a reliable way to blend it, I would make Rosemary’s formula:
I alternately blended the base and the tea until I had the consistency and colour I wanted. I used about a quarter cup of the tea and a little more than a cup of the base. This is the finished product:
I have used it for the last four days, and the redness and most of the roughness is gone, along with the itchiness. For anyone who has ever suffered under allergy-related eczema, that would feel like a miracle.