Horsetail is a traditional remedy for weak and brittle nails. The source of it’s reputation is plant silica which it contains in relatively high quantities. The following recipes are adapted from Josephine Fairley’s book..
Make a heat infused oil of Horsetail, which has been left to wilt overnight after harvesting. Then stir in enough beeswax to make a light salve. (You can test the solidity of your salve before it sets, by dabbing a drip or two of your mix onto the back of a cold spoon. Add more base oil if it’s to solid, as more beeswax if it’s too runny)
If you have it available, add 5 drops Benzoin tincture, just before the beeswax, as it may help to further nourish cuticles. You could also add a few drops of a complementary essential oil (such as Lavender) at the beeswax stage but it’s not really necessary.
50g Fresh Horsetail stems, preferably in spring (or 25g dried)
150 ml Olive oil
1 tablespoon grated beeswax
Follow the instructions for making heat infused oils, simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Another way to nourish nails with Horsetail, is to make a heat infused oil and use it as a warm nail soak, once a week our so. The book says you can reheat this oil as often as you like but I urge you to beware of impurities entering your infused oil by repeated use and rewarming. You could achieve a similar effect by coating your nails and cuticles with a sufficient amount of the oil then put a pair of cotton socks or gloves on your hands for 10 – 20 minutes to retain the heat and help the oil to penetrate.
Dried or fresh herbs are used to make heat infused oils. Depending upon the herb, they may be used in remedies such as ointments, or as culinary oils. Any plant parts can be used but this method is particularly useful for extracting oil-soluble ingredients from dried roots. The method is far quicker than that for cold infusion as the herbs are simmered in the base oil and there is less likelihood of microbes entering the oil during fabrication. Jars and bottles do need to be carefully sterilised however. As with the method for fresh herbs, there is no need to measure accurately or produce vast quantities of infusion but it is wise to record how much herb and oil you use, for future reference. Heat infused oils should last for about a year but they are best used within 6 months.
The photos show dried wild crafted Calendula being infused.
I used 50g Calendula with about 600ml olive oil for this infusion.
It yeilded about 560ml of infused oil. That’s enough to make a about 8 – 10 salves. With denser herb material far less oil would be required.
Heatproof glass bowl and saucepan, set up as a Bain Marie (or use a double boiler)
Dried herb – chopped
Vegetable oil (olive oil is my preference but you may like to try coconut oil, almond oil, peach kernel oil)
Wooden spoon or chopsticks
Jelly bag, muslin or tea towel.
Sterile storage bottles and lids or corks
- Place the chopped herbs into the glass bowl.
- Cover them with oil; enough to form a 2cm clear layer above heavy herb material such as chopped roots, or enough to allow the herb material to move around in the oil, if using light material such as petals.
- Heat the bain marie until the water is boiling and then simmer gently, with a lid over the glass bowl, for about 2 hours. Stir the oil-herb mixture from time to time and check that the pan does not boil dry.
- Remove from the heat and allow the oil-herb mixture to cool enough to handle comfortably.
- Pour through the jelly bag or cloth, into a clean dry jug.
- Squeeze, wring and press out as much oil as possible, through the jelly bag. It helps to wear rubber gloves for this stage.*
- Pour into sterile dry storage bottles or jars (preferably dark glass).
- Seal with screw caps or tightly fitting corks.
- Label and store in a cool place.
- *After making infused oils, I sometimes hang the jelly bag under the bath tap and fill the bath through the “used” herbs. Of course this is only suitable for some of the herbs, Chamomile and Calendula are particularly suitable.