Many naturals are looking for a holistic approach to hair care; so, if you’re trying to avoid commercial shampoos then look into using Ayurvedic herbs that are rich in saponins. What are Saponins? The word Saponin is derived from the Latin word "sapo" meaning soap, due to their surfactant properties, which allows forming stable soap-like foam when shaken in aqueous solution. Like soaps or detergents, saponins are large molecules containing a water-loving (hydrophilic) part at one end separated from a fat-loving (lipophilic or hydrophobic) part at the other. In aqueous solution (water), saponin molecules align themselves vertically on the surface with their hydrophobic ends oriented away from the water. This has the effect of reducing the surface tension of the water, causing it to foam.
Let’s look into 5 of my favorite herbs that contain saponins to cleanse the hair.
Aritha aka soapnuts is a natural cleanser that has become extremely popular as an eco-friendly alternative to shampoos and laundry detergent. Aritha is the Ayurvedic name for soapnuts and is saponin rich and is one of the few herbs that actually foam in an aqueous (water) solution. Aritha granules are quite large and can be hard to rinse, some alternatives are grinding them to make them extremely fine or steeping it in hot water as if making a tea and strain out the granules. Using aritha/soapnuts by boiling the whole herb to create an extract is most likely easier to use and rinse from hair. Because aritha can be drying try using the following mixture to give cleansing and conditioning properties: 1/4 cup aritha, ¼ cup aloe vera, ¼ cup amla.
Shikakai is a natural astringent that strengthens the hair roots, promotes hair growth, and the plant’s saponins gently cleanse dirt and grime from the hair and scalp. It also has a relaxing cooling effect on the scalp while gently cleansing and conditioning the hair. Shikakai powder can be steeped as a tea and then strained or mixed with herbs such as amla, brahmi or aloe for conditioning properties. Try the following mix ¼ cup shikaka ¼ cup amla ¼ cup aloe.
With such an array of herbal options for cleansing the hair, Zizyphus powder is truly unique, offering both cleansing and conditioning properties. The Zizyphus leaves are harvested, dried and ground into a powder. This powder contains a plant wax that contains mucilage and saponins. The major saponin found in these leaves is Chritinin-A. This natural detergent gently cleans the skin and hair and provides anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties to the hair and scalp. The mucilage then gently coats the hair strand providing a light waxy layer that seals in the moisture and adds volume to your hair. It protects the hair from saltwater, wind, friction and dirt. The wax contains fatty acids, primary and secondary alcohols (the goods kind), alkanes, phenols, and diols- all things nourishing for your hair. Zizyphus is beneficial to those with fine, thin, or fragile hair, and for anyone looking for the benefits of henna without any color change.
Hibiscus is a gentle cleanser (slightly on the acidic), and a conditioning herb that helps decrease hair shedding by strengthening and conditioning the roots, increases shine, creates volume, adds a reddish tint to the hair (more prominent on lighter hair), promotes hair growth, and helps with scalp disorders. It is also great as a gentle scalp scrub. Hibiscus powder can be made into a paste and rubbed onto the scalp and after 5-10 minutes rinsed off. Hibiscus isn’t as strong as Shikakai or Aritha when it comes to removing oil treatments from the hair and may be perfect for those with high porosity hair. Combining Hibiscus with Shikakai or Aritha can help ensure that the excess oil will be washed away.
Rosemary is a cleansing herb that works with apple cider vinegar or by using the essential oil in a mask to cleanse and heal the skin and scalp. There are many clarifying shampoo recipes made with Rosemary oil for this reason. It helps balance natural oils in your scalp. Rosemary essential oil is rich in vitamin E, iron and calcium which aid in supporting collagen levels and leaves the scalp feeling fresh. Try using a few drops (10 drops) of Rosemary essential oil in a hair rinse. Add 10 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil, 1 teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar, and 2 cups of water. Spray on roots and massage gently.
Let me know how you’ve tried these herbs in your regimen.