There's An Herb For That

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An important part of understanding this story is that I’m a nut for health fads. Yes, I said it—fads. Growing up in my house, we ate dried apricots in lieu of gummy snacks and drank rice milk instead of the Yoohoo. It was northern California in the '90s, if that explains anything. And old habits die hard, I guess (in case you need an example…).

The first time I learned about Sun Potion, a California-based company that sells what they call “transformational foods,” was at NYC boutique CAP Beauty, when the founders brewed an herbal “beauty tea” for me. By the end of our meeting, I had three cups and demanded the founder’s email address. Next thing I know, I’m emailing Scott Linde and his fiancé/business partner Nitsa Citrine to learn more.

The pair are firm believers in Chinese, Ayurvedic, and other ancient medicinal practices as evidenced by their wide selection of herbs and tonics. Much like New York-based Dr. Pratima Raichur, if you’ve got a problem, they’ve got an herb for that. Got a breakout? Herbs. Want longer hair? Also herbs.

All of this, unsurprisingly, is totally my jam. Bring on the herbal teas for my scalp, cuticles, and eye bags, I say. Of course, if you’re happier keeping the healing powders outside of your body, Nitsa explained that many of the same ingredients you can ingest can be mixed up into topical solutions as well. Either way, if you want to take a foray into the world of herbal beauty (by no means necessary but a ton of fun, in my opinion), these are a few you should know:

He Shou Wu Originally discovered in China, the name translates into “Mr. Ho’s Long Black Hair”—or what I like to believe could be my long, flowing brunette hair. The story behind it is there was a man named Mr. Ho who was really sick and was left with no energy, and his hair was falling out. He went into the forest to meditate and, kind of like a vision, he happened upon this root. He made a tea from it and his hair started growing back as well as his vitality restored. As such, take this one for hair growth, nail strength, and skin regeneration. “When I take it, I get an almost pearlescent glow to my skin,” Nitsa said.

How to take it: He Shou Wu has a sweet, earthy flavor and a dark color. Add a tablespoon to your juice or tea in the morning. For an extra boost, you can do a second dose in warm water in the afternoon. It also goes great in coffee. Take it every day, and you’ll really notice a difference in your appearance.

Reishi Mushroom Powder Also known as the “queen healer mushroom,” Reishi is said to support the body in maintaining balance and immunity. According to Nitsa, the herb has a feminine energy that helps pacify and de-stress.

How to take it: Put a half-teaspoon in your tea, coffee, or smoothies. You can also make Reishi masks—excellent for calming the skin, removing redness, and maintaining that eternal glow everyone is always talking about. Experiment with mixing Reishi with honey or yogurt, or add a little to one of your existing masks to start off. You can also cheat and use this pre-made one instead.

Ashitaba This is one of the best-known beauty and longevity foods in Japanese medicine. It’s got substantial levels of B6 and B12 vitamins, which help stabilize mood, energy, and the digestive system. “I don’t like to say that it helps with weight loss,” Nitsa said, “but let’s just say it definitely stimulates the organs of digestion and elimination!”

How to take it: If she has a breakout, Nitsa makes a simple paste with Ashitaba powder and rose water and applies it to the spot to dry it up. For something more potent, mix one part Ashitaba, one part activated charcoal, and one part Bentonite clay with a little rose water or hydrosol for a major deep-cleaning mask (Nitsa recommends using it no more than once a week). While she’s doing the mask, she mixes half a teaspoon of the powder into coconut water or milk and drinks it. “That way I feel like I can nourish my skin from the inside and out at the same time,” she said.

Tocos These are rice bran solubles made from organic rice bran. They’re packed with vitamins E and D, which is super nourishing for your skin. They're gentle-cleansing from the inside. For that reason, they’re great to take in the morning to activate the organs of digestion.

How to take them: Eat them right out of the bag! They’re fluffy, vaguely vanilla-flavored, and easily dissolve on your tongue. If you’re not into that, you can also mix them into shakes, smoothies, tea, coffee, or almond milk. Topically, they make a hydrating and moisturizing face mask. Mix Tocos with shea butter and raw honey for a treatment that will make your skin glow. It’s an especially good one for dry skin.

Shea Butter Their super-potent shea butter is food-grade, not that they recommend actually eating a spoonful of the stuff. “The skin eats too,” Nitsa said. “It’s the body’s biggest organ.” Shea butter helps balance the pH of the skin, increase hydration, and allow cells to breathe. It’s also a good source of minerals and essential fatty acids.

How to use it: Rub it on all over your body after the shower. Or for a brightening mask, add a bit of chlorella (a skin regenerator and healer) to the shea butter and leave it on for about 10 to 15 minutes.

—Victoria Lewis

Photographed by Tom Newton.