3 Herbs for SHTF Hygiene

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SMHerbalHygieneI have a confession: I don’t use coupons. I know, I know. They can be a great way to help stock up on extra personal hygiene products to round out your preparedness kits. But my main focus has always been having a backup plan for the backup plan.

Herbal Hygiene

Rather than keep ten years’ worth of deodorant and toothpaste on hand, I’d rather just keep one or two extras in the medicine cabinet and know what I can use from my garden instead. Part of this is because space is at a premium in my living quarters, partly because I’m a stubborn minimalist, and partly because I’m a kooky herbalist. Take your pick.

So, let’s take a look at the three most basic components for personal hygiene: something to wash skin, hair, and clothes, something for oral health, and something to keep the armpits from getting quite so stinky. Three easy-to-grow, perennial herbs that fit these functions perfectly are soapwort, licorice, and sage. Being able to use these three herbs in a pinch can be handy, or they can supplement an existing daily routine as a more natural option.

Soapwort- Saponaria officinalis

Soap Substitute

Soapwort is a beautiful perennial plant that is hardy in US zones 3-9. It grows to be about three feet tall and prefers rich, compost-heavy soil. Light requirements can be a little finicky, as it likes sun but not too much afternoon sun. It can become invasive if it likes its growing location, but if that happens, just harvest more of it. Soapwort leaves and roots can be dried for later and still lather when used.

To make a soap solution with soapwort, use one tablespoon of dried leaves or roots (three tablespoons if the herb is fresh) per cup of water. Bring the water to a boil, add the herb, and allow to simmer for ten to fifteen minutes. Strain and cool before use.

Soapwort solution can be used for hair, skin, and clothing. It is very gentle and is often found in high-end organic facial care products and used to clean antique textiles. So by all means, don’t wait for SHTF!

Soapwort is toxic to fish, so don’t wash with or dump soapwort solution directly into a pond or stream where live fish are present.


Licorice Root- Glycyrrhiza glabra

Toothbrush/Toothpaste Substitute

Another perennial in the three to four-foot tall range, licorice is hardy in USDA gardening zones 7-9. It prefers full sun and moist soil but doesn’t appreciate clay.

The plant must grow for two or three years before the roots are large enough to harvest. Once they have matured, they should be harvested in the fall, when the plant has focused all of its resources down into the roots before winter. The flavor and chemistry of the roots will be at their peak during this time.

Not only does licorice root contain antibacterial and anti-inflammatory components, it’s also shaped perfectly for turning into a simple toothbrush substitute. I use them in addition to a regular toothbrush/toothpaste routine, but some people successfully use licorice root alone.

Licorice root typically grows in a long, thin shape. Once it has been dried (this technique won’t work on a fresh root), choose one end of the root and soften it by standing in a glass with a half inch of water or by sucking on it until the root softens (usually about sixty seconds either way). Peel back the outer root bark (the brown-looking skin on the root), and gently chew the root until there is a quarter inch or so of “brush” at the end. Gently rub along the gumline and over each tooth to clean the mouth.

Licorice has a sweet taste, so there’s no need to fear that your brush will taste like pencil shavings. After each use, trim away the used “brush” with a knife or scissors and store it in a clean place until the next use.

Sage- Salvia officinalis

Deodorant substitute

Sage is a small to medium perennial herb that prefers a very sunny location with dry, well-drained soil. It will grow from zones 4-8 in the US. Many people are familiar with sage as a culinary herb, but it also has more medicinal uses.

Make a strong infusion of the fresh or dried herb to spritz or splash the underarms and help control body odor. Make the infusion in the evening for best results and allow it to sit overnight before straining. It will need to be applied more frequently than a store-bought deodorant because it will not be as strong. It is not an antiperspirant, either, so it won’t keep you dry.

Fresh sage leaves can also be added to an oral hygiene routine with licorice root. Simply rub a fresh sage leaf over the gums and each tooth. Sage has a stronger flavor than licorice, but the leaves can be harvested more often and more easily than licorice roots, so it’s a good option to know. Read more surprising uses for sage in prepping.

Soapwort, licorice, and sage have many other herbal uses, but they are definitely botanical all-stars when it comes to personal hygiene. Knowing how to grow and use them will mean you always have a backup plan for soap, toothpaste, and deodorant.

“This is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any disease. Consult your personal medical professional.”

7 thoughts on “3 Herbs for SHTF Hygiene”

  1. Thanks Agatha for the post, I went to your blog and it is quite informative. I have a question though, have you ever heard of someone growing soapwort?

  2. Excellent article. Thanks for your advice.

    I made the decision years ago to begin growing plants that produce something useful: medicinal and/or edible. This prompted me to begin gardening, growing herbs and planting fruit trees. 😉

    Since then, I’ve begun studying and growing indigenous plants that are medicinal and/or edible too. It’s amazing what God has provided! Your suggestions for hygiene plants are perfect. I already grow sage; now to get my hands on soapwort and licorice root.

    (Side note – Years ago I bought several bags of dried licorice root and vacuum sealed them for long-term storage. It’s a back up treatment option for my youngest son’s asthma.)

    Prepared, not scared!
    RWM 🙂

  3. Agatha Noveille

    Right Wing Mom- sounds like you’re ahead of the game. 😉 I love hearing about how people are re-learning how to grow so many of our important plants. Like I mentioned above, Horizon Herbs carries many of the hard to find plants like soapwort and licorice. I often order from them, and am always thrilled with the results. Good luck in all of your gardening endeavors!

  4. Survival Mom I love that you have herbal ideas in your SHTF articles. FYI and only because I have been using herbs for years and find that most people do not know this, I wanted to share it with you. Make sure you store a good amount of cayenne pepper on hand. Cayenne has a multitude of uses but the main one is if you are taking any kind of herbs cayenne is the carrier for those herbs that take them straight to the problem. Just like any chemical medicine has a carrier that takes it straight to the problem, cayenne does this for herbs. You can test this out by taking an herb with cayenne….lets say for a sore throat. You will feel the heat from the cayenne in the area of the throat where the infection is located. I have been working with herbs for over 50 years and can tell you the results when taking herbs are much faster when you add the cayenne.

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