NETTLE (net-l) / n. / 1. Can refer to more than forty species of the genus Urtica, from the Latin word meaning “I burn”; the flowering plants flourish in Europe, North America, Northern Africa, and Asia; / 2. / The herbaceous perennial is naturally packed with vitamins A and C, amino acids, iron, potassium, and calcium; / 3. / Because of its active inflammation-reducing compounds, nettle has been relied on for centuries to treat the symptoms of allergies and arthritis; / 4. / With diuretic and detoxifying properties, the plant’s extract has also been used as a remedy for eczema, acne, and kidney and bladder issues; / 5. / In ancient Rome, as chronicled in Ovid’s Ars Amatoria, nettle seeds began to be used as an aphrodisiac, and a pagan Old English text from the tenth century claims that they also promote lactation; / 6. / When cooked, nettle leaves resemble spinach in taste and appearance, and are delicious as part of a pesto, puree, or soup; / 7. / Historically, Hungarian merchants would give their horses nettle seeds to impart a shiny pelt, and, besides boosting hair shine, they have long been used to regulate sebum production on the scalp; e.g., “Boost libido, curb hay fever, and keep oily hair in check with nettle.”
Try it: Klorane Dry Shampoo with Nettle, $18, www.dermstore.com.
FRANKINCENSE/ (frang-kin-sens)/ n. / 1: A fragrant resin, also known as olibanum, extracted from the tree species Boswellia, common in Somalia and Kenya; 2: Traded in the Middle East and North Africa for over five thousand years, it was used often for incense, perfumes, and even in the embalming process; 3: In traditional Asian medicine, frankincense is prescribed to aid digestion problems; 4: A scent commonly burned during meditation and religious rites, it, along with gold and myrrh, was one of the gifts the Magi presented to Jesus; 5: Prized for its anti-inflammatory properties, it also treats anxiety, stress, and arthritis; 6: A powerful skin-care ingredient, frankincense tightens and tones and is intensely hydrating; e.g., “Use it as an aroma for yourself and your home, burn it while you meditate, and slather it on your skin to address fine lines and dry patches.”
Try it: Neal’s Yard Remedies Frankincense Intense, $90, us.nyrorganic.com.
RED CURRANT/ (red cur-rant)/ n. / 1. Scientific name ribes rubrum, it is a fast-growing deciduous shrub with pendulous chains of scarlet fruit; / 2. Part of the gooseberry family and native to Western Europe, the fruit earned the name currant in 1550 because of its resemblance to the dried currants (raisins made with seedless grapes) of Greece; / 3. With a bright, tart flavor, the miniature berries have a myriad of culinary uses and can be sprinkled raw on salads, baked into cakes and various other sweets, and made into a jelly, a common accompaniment for venison and lamb dishes; / 4. The red currant’s high vitamin C and anthocyanins content qualify it as a superfruit, making it a rich source of antioxidants; / 5. Topically, red currant works to protect skin cells from free radicals, reduce inflammation, enhance exfoliation efficacy, and promote collagen production, e.g., “Bake a sweet custard torte and renew and rejuvenate your skin with red currant.”
Try it: Éminence Organics Red Currant Exfoliating Cleanser, $38, available September 1 at eminenceorganics.com.
CAMELLIA (kuh-meel-yuh) /n. / 1. Named after G. J. Kamel (also known as Camellus), a Jesuit botanist who brought it from the Philippines to Europe in the 1700s, this genus of flowering plants is a member of the family known as Theaceae. It’s characterized by having glossy green leaves and white, pink, or red rose-like blooms, and is found in eastern and southern Asia; / 2. Called chahu in Chinese, meaning “tea flower,” this plant’s leaves (the finest of them being from the C. sinensis species) are used to make an aromatic hot beverage popular in places like Japan and Korea; / 3. A sweet seasoning used by millions of people to cook, most notably in southern China; / 4. The iconic symbol chosen by Coco Chanel to represent the legendary French fashion house; / 5. Traditionally used by geishas to hydrate everything from their hair to their fingernails, this oil rich in antioxidants and fatty acids extracted from the plant’s seeds helps restore skin’s natural balance and lock in moisture. E.g., “Camellia does a body, a quilted bag, and your skin good.”
Try It: Tatcha Gold Camellia Beauty Oil for face, body, and hair, $125, www.tatcha.com.
BAY LEAF (bey leef) / n. / 1. Also known as Laurus nobilis, the aromatic foliage of the bay laurel tree, which is native to the Mediterranean region and commonly grown in Turkey for export; n. / 2. / Flora used as a symbol of honor in Greek mythology and to make wreaths for ancient Greek Olympians; n. / 3. / An insecticide popular in the Middle Ages that is rich in lauric acid; n. / 4. / An herb frequently used to flavor stocks, sauces, and roasted meats with a rich, savory flavor; n. / 5. / A detoxifying oil rich in eugenol, a compound commonly found in cloves, which inspires healthier hair growth by clearing out build-up from the scalp and follicles. E.g., “Bay leaf keeps bugs at bay, soups savory, and hair long.”
Try it: Ouidad Mediterranean Bay Leaf Exfoliating Hair & Scalp Treatment, $36, www.sephora.com.