Plants in Islamic Medicine and their usage in natural skincare
In 2010 it was reported that over 70% of the developing world practised complementary and alternative medicine. Herbal medicine can be broadly classified into four basic systems : Traditional Chinese Herbalism, Ayurvedic Herbalism, Western Herbalism and Traditional Arabic and Islamic Medicine. (1)
To the western world there are two, less well-known parts of Islam; Al-tibb Al-nawabi (الطب النبوي), Prophetic Medicine connected to Prophet Mohamed and Islamic Medicine that is actually linked to the ancient Greek natural philosophy.
Both Islamic and Prophetic Medicine focus on the power of plants and nature but by no means do they dismiss proper medical care if needed. In natural skincare we indeed rely on botanical extracts so let us take a look at four that are mentioned in Islam and their relevance when formulating skincare products.
The benefits of honey have been known to us for a long time and it has a prestigious place in the Prophetic Medicine. It is said in the Quran that honey is indeed healing for mankind and is one of the foods of Paradise. There has been much research to prove the healing properties of honey and it has been found to be an effective remedy for wounds and burns, for the digestive system, coughs and sore throats, the list is endless.
Honey in skincare
Honey is a truly wonderful ingredient in skincare formulations. It is a humectant, which means it helps the skin retain moisture. A honey, lemon and glycerine mixture is said to be an ancient medicinal remedy for dry and cracked lips and skin, for sunburn and skin spots. Nowadays, natural skincare formulators include honey in their cosmetics not only because of its water retaining properties but all the other elements found in honey such as potassium, protein, calcium and more. It is advisable that you keep the amount you use in skincare low as it may turn your creation into a sticky mess unless, of course, stickiness was intended (waxing).
Black seed - (Nigella Sativa)
Amongst Muslims, Black seed or Nigella Sativa is considered to be one of the greatest form of healing medicine available. In one of the Prophetic Hadith it was mentioned that black seed is the remedy for all diseases except death (Sahih Bukhari - 7:591). It is recommended for use on a regular basis for general health.
Nigella Sativa is an annual flowering plant, native to south and southwest Asia however it is cultivated all over the world. Various cultures and nations use it for all sorts of health problems and it is rapidly becoming a “miracle herb” as its beneficial health properties are being demonstrated. The muslimhealthnetwork.org has an interesting article on black seed including a list of traditional remedies for conditions such as diabetes, hayfever and even to improve memory (2).
Black seed in skincare
Black seed oil is a rich source of vitamins, A, B and C and is full of minerals to aid skin repair. In fact, a study was conducted by Iranian scientists on the effect of black seed oil for eczema on the hands and it was proven to be more effective in topical applications thanEucerin(3). It is highly recommended for eczema and psoriasis prone skin and can be included in anti-ageing blends as well as in repair balms and creams, even in lip balms.
Pomegranate - (Punica granatum)
To emphasize their superiority over other fruits, pomegranates and dates are specifically mentioned in the Quran as fruits of Paradise (Surah Ar-Rahman, 55:68).
Pomegranate is native to Iran and Turkey and widely cultivated across the Mediterranean for its fruit or as a decorative shrub in parks.
The pomegranate’s refreshing qualities are beneficial for inflammations, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, for the lungs and heart and for those with nervous exhaustion. In vitro studies showed that the benefits of fermented pomegranate juice extract are comparable to green tea. (4)
Pomegranate in skincare
In skincare, the unique qualities of pomegranate lie in the oil extracted from pomegranate seeds as it is high in the punicic acid. Punicic acid, which is unique to pomegranate oil, constitutes 70–76% of the seed oil. It is an omega 5 fatty acid, a very powerful antioxidant, which is said to be at least six times more potent than grape seed extract. Studies suggest that pomegranate derived products may be useful against UVB-mediated damages to human skin. It is a “dry oil” that is easily absorbed by the skin and helps cell regeneration and rejuvenation. It is a powerhouse of antioxidants, an enemy of free radicals so it is a wonderful ingredient in anti-ageing products.
You could also include pomegranate in your skincare formulations by using in glycerine extracts which would be a wonderful addition to toners or in powder form in facial masks.
Myrtle - (Myrtus Communis)
Abu Hurairah, who was a companion of the Islamic prophet, narrated that the Prophet said: “Whoever is offered rayhan, let him not reject it, for it is light to carry and has a pleasant scent.” Many other narrations talk about the significance of “Rayhan” (all sweet smelling plants) which is referred to Myrtle by the people of Maghreb whereas it is said to point to sweet basil as well.
Myrtle is a shrub that grows even in the poor soils of the Mediterranean area with evergreen leaves that stay fresh for a long time.
Myrtus communis, the common myrtle or true myrtle, is native across the northern Mediterranean region whereas Myrtus nivellei, the Saharan myrtle, is local to the mountains of the central Sahara Desert. It is found in a restricted range in southern Algeria, and in northern Chad where it is used as a traditional medicinal plant by the Tuareg people.
Myrtle in skincare
Myrtle essential oil is gained from the leaves and has fresh, spicy, camphoraceous top notes and floral, herbaceous undertones. It contains a high level of tannins which gives this oil its astringent properties. Being astringent it is particularly useful for large pored, oily skin and it is said to be excellent for skin with irritation and dullness. It can be beneficial in diminishing wrinkles making it suitable for mature skin.
There are countless wonderful plants discussed in Islamic and Prophetic Medicine and this blog would have no end if I wanted to present all. However, there are many websites and publications that deal with the topic allowing anyone interested to do their own research.
Until next time, Ramadan Mubarak in advance and happy formulating.
During June and July, in the honour of the holy month of Ramadan, Elemental Pure Study Studio will be donating 10% of workshop fees to Algerian Action, a charity based in the UK and Algiers. Please take a minute to have a look at the wonderful work they have been doing.
I have included links and recipes below for you to take a look at, I hope you will find them interesting and useful. I know I did.
Recipes for skincare:
- DIY Beauty Diva (See Here) Lorraine, the director of Formula Botanica, brings you wonderful recipes to try out at home.
- Soothing blackseed and calendula oil for dry, eczema prone skin (See Recipe Here)
- Facial mist with pomegranate and orange blossom ( See Recipe Here)
- Fresholi - An excellent selection of plant-based ingredients for skincare making.