How They Work: Although there are a few especially potent exceptions such as henna or walnut hulls, most herbal dyes act progressively, and they should be used repetitively over a period of time until the desired shade is achieved. While no herb will actually bleach your hair, there are plant-based colourants that will highlight, darken, lighten, or cover the grey. Keep in mind that herbal dyes are not permanent and will fade unless renewed occassionally.
If you've recently used commercial dyes, color rinses, or straighteners on your hair, you'd be wise to test any herbal mixture before applying it to your head, since chemical residues left in your locks make it impossible to predict the outcome of the natural treatment.
For Blondes: Chamomile is probably the most popular herbal colourant among blonds. A weekly rinse with this herb tea will brighten dull tresses and remedy the brown streaking that results from overexposure to the sun.
To prepare a chamomile rinse, steep half a cup of the flowers in a quart of boiling water for half an hour. Strain the mixture and let it cool while you shampoo. Then pour the brew through your towel-dried hair at least 15 times, catching it in a basin between each rinse. Wring out the excess moisture and leave the solution in your hair for a quarter of an hour before rinsing your hair with clear water. Don't limit your herbal experiments to chamomile, however. Just about any yellow-blossomed flower or herb can be used on blond hair, including calendula (pot marigold), mullien blooms and leaves, yellow broom flowers, saffron, turmeric, and quassia chips. (Please note: Be careful! Know what you are using and use nothing that is poisonous!!)
Lemon is also a time-honoured hair lightener. Strained into a quart of water, the juice of two fruits makes an excellent rinse that can be used in the same way as the chamomile preparation. In order to get the most from the treatment's lightening effect, try to dry your hair in the sun after using a lemon rinse.
Another native dye favored by blonds and prepared from rhubarb root will
also add attractive honey gold tones to light brown hair. To put those glints in your locks, pour three cups of hot water over 4 tablespoons of chopped rhubarb root and simmer the concoction for 20 minutes. Strain the liquid and pour it through your freshly shampooed hair 15 or more times. Rinse your hair in clear water, and weather permitting, dry it in the sun to strengthen the effect of the dyeing agent.
For Brunettes: For more than 5,000 years, Egyptians have used a dark powder made from the henna shrub to give their hair and beards an auburn
tint. Today you can buy henna powder at many herb supply houses and at
some health food stores. It's known as a safe, healthful dye, and since it coats the cuticle layer of each strand, it'll make your hair feel thicker. However, be warned that henna tends to produce an almost brassy orange-red shade when used alone, so it's best to mix it with a lightening herb like chamomile. Since it is so strong, henna shouldn't be used at all by persons with white, gray, or very light blond hair. Always try a timed test swatch first, too, to insure that you don't end up with an unexpectedly bizarre orange head.
One favorite recipe that can put reddish gold highlights in a dark mane calls for putting one part powdered chamomile and two parts of powdered henna into a nonmetal bowl and adding enough boiling water to make a thick paste. Then a tablespoon of vinegar is stirred in to help release the plants' colors, and the blend is cooled for a few minutes. When the paste is lukewarm, put on a pair of rubber gloves (henna can stain your palms and fingernails) and massage it into your clean, wet hair. Comb it in with a wide-toothed comb to insure even distribution of the dye. Next, pile up your hair, fit a plastic bag over it, and wrap a heavy towel around your head to hold in the heat.
You'll need to leave the dye and towel turban in place for anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours: The darker your natural hair is, the longer you'll have to wait for the henna-chamomile to do its work. When the time is up, remove the towel and the bag, and rinse your hair until the water runs clean. Then allow the newly colored tresses to air dry, in the sunshine if possible. Any stains that the dye might leave on your hands or around your hairline can be removed by rubbing them with lemon juice.
Should you prefer a simpler, slower-acting procedure, make a weaker solution and use it as you would any of the previous color rinses. Just mix together one tablespoon each of henna, chamomile, and vinegar, and steep them in a quart of boiling water for 15 minutes. Naturally, you should cool and strain the liquid before using it.
Sage is one of the oldest and most effective colourants for use on dark brown hair. A rinse made from sage leaves can be used to deepen any brunet shade, and it will also effectively cover gray in dark hair. A sage rinse can be made by steeping a handful of the dried herb in a quart of boiling water for 30 minutes or more. The longer it steeps, the darker the tint will be. Cool the tea, strain it, and pour it through freshly shampooed hair 15 times or more. Then wait 10 minutes before washing the liquid out with clear water. Because a sage rinse is a progressive dye, you'll have to apply it weekly until you produce the
shade you want and continue using it once a month to maintain that colour.
Tag alder bark is another popular hair darkening botanical. However it generally produces a lighter tone than sage, so it's best used to darken blond hair or to cover grey in locks that are light to medium brown. To make a tag alder rinse, simmer an ounce of bark chips in a quart of water for about half an hour. Then cool and strain the solution, and use it exactly as you would the sage rinse.
A very dark, sable-coloured dye can be obtained from walnut hulls, but this one is tricky, since the nuts' outer casings tend to stain everything they touch. Because of this, it's a good idea to wear gloves throughout all the stages of the process and to avoid rubbing the mixture into your scalp. To prepare the dark juice, first crush the hulls in a mortar, cover them with boiling water and a pinch of salt, and let them soak for three days. Then add three cups of boiling water and simmer the hulls in a nonmetal container for five hours, replacing
the water as it steams away. Strain off the liquid, place the walnut hulls in a cloth sack, and twist it tightly to wring out all remaining juice. Finally, return the liquid to the pot and reduce it by boiling to about a quarter of its original volume. This will be the base for a rich walnut dye.
Add a teaspoon of ground cloves or allspice to the prepared extract. Allow the dye mixture to steep in the refrigerator for about a week, shaking it periodically during that time. When it's ready for use, strain the liquid through a piece of cheesecloth and pour it at least 15 times through freshly washed hair before rinsing thoroughly.
Herb, Fruit & Vegetable Rinses for Color and Highlights These rinses work over a period of time to subtlely color and add highlights to the hair. First wash and rinse hair, then pour any of these rinses over the hair 15 times catching the excess in a bowl or the bathroom basin as it runs off the hair, then pouring it over the hair again.
1) Cook an unpeeled potato in boiling water. Cool slighly. Dip a pastry brush or cotton ball in the cooking water, cover and saturate hair, being careful not to get any on skin. Leave on hair for 20 minutes then rinse out.
2) Make an strong infusion of any of the following herbs and teas then
use as a rinse:
Black Tea (for chestnut highlights)
Rosemary Tonic Rinse
A few sprigs of fresh or a teasp of dried rosemary. Add 1 teaspoon of boiling water. Allow to cool and use as a rinse after shampooing.
1) Marigold gives golden highlights to light hair and brings out red and
gold highlights in light brown and red hair. Saffron, tumeric, calendula, mullein, privet and yellow broom in addition to any yellow blossomed herb or flower also add color and highlights for blondes.
2) Rinse hair with a solution of 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to one gallon of water after shampooing.
3) To restore hair that was once blonde, mix 10 grams of licorice root with 10 grams of oat straw, add a pinch of saffron. Cover with water and boil to make an infusion. Strain and use a s a rinse after shampooing. It should be allowed to soak into the hair and NOT rinsed out.
4) To bring out highlights and lighten blonde hair, steep 1/2 cup of chamomile tea in one quart of boiling water . Strain and cool slighyly. Shampoo hair until oil free, then rinse with the tea infusion.
5) Add 4 tablespoons of chopped rhubarb to 3 cups of hot water, simmer for 15 minutes. Strain, cool, then use as a rinse after shampooing.
1 cup lemon juice
3 cups chamomile tea (brewed, & cooled)
*Ingredients can be found at any health food or drug store.
Mix ingredients, pour over damp hair then let sit for an hour, wash hair. This is effective in the summer.
Boil half an ounce of camomile flowers in a pint of water for 20 minutes. Allow to dry and use for a hair rinse.
Combine 1 Tblsp of soap flakes
1 teaspoon of Borax
1 ounce of powdered Chamomile flowers
Add 1/2 pint of hot water and beat until a thick lather is formed. Wet the hair with warm water and massage with the lather, working it into the scalp. Rinse, make a second application of the lather, and rinse again.
Enhance red hair
1/2 cup beet juice
1/2 cup carrot juice
*Ingredients can be found at any health food or drug store. Mix ingredients together, pour over damp hair. Let it sit for 1 hour while you sit in the sun. Wash out
1) Use strong black coffee as a final rinse
2) Use a strong rosehips tea
3) Make a decotion of red hibiscus tea, use as a rinse
4) Make a rinse from calendula
5) Use an infusion of saffron for a rinse.
For Grey Hair
1) Potatoes: Boil potato peels in water, strain, and cool. Use the strained water as an after-shampoo rinse to darken grey hair
2) Sage covers the grey when used consistently over a period of time. Simmer 1/2 cup dried sage in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes. Steep for 2-3 hours. Strain, use as rinse on clean hair. Leave on until hair has dried, then rinse out.
3) Mix 1 oz. sage, 1oz. rosemary and 1 pint of water. Simmer for 30 minutes and strain. Massage into the scalp and grey hair.
4) Mix 1 tablespoon of apple-cidar vinegar with one gallon of warm water, use as final rinse.
5) Use an infusion of hollyhock (blue-purple flowers) to remove the yellow cast from grey hair.
6) Use betony as a rinse to cover yellow in grey hair.
For darkening or for Gray hair - Use the water that potatoes have been boiled in for a rinse.Put a handful of Sage, either dried or fresh, into a jug and cover with 1/2 pint of boiling water. Add a teaspoonful of borax and allow to get cold. Dampen a brush in the "tea" and apply to the hair.
For All Hair Colors
Make an infusion of any of the following for color, conditioning, highlights and shine:
Catnip: Make a rinse of catnip and water to promote hair growth and shine.
Nettle Parsley Rosemary: good as a hair tonic for thinning hair and dandruff and to stimulate hair growth.
Thyme: makes a great stimulating shampoo.
Yarrow: Use a yarrow rinse for mild cases of dandruff.
Sage Hair Colouring
1 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp sage
5 black tea bags
Bring water to a full boil. Add sage and tea bags and lower heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit until comfortable to touch. Pour gently over hair, rubbing in. You can leave it on full strength or rinse partially, but be warned: the rinse will wash away completely if you rinse too much. Gently towel dry with an old towel.