Fermenting of wild herbs is interesting way to make cosmetics. The wild herb season is now at its best and therefore I wanted to write about fermenting. Fermented cosmetics is now very popular. Especially Korean cosmetic enterprises have managed to merge the fermented components to cosmetic products. These products are known as probiotic cosmetics.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Adding probiotics to industrial cosmetic products does not seem to be right

Probiotics are usually in state of hibernation in Korean cosmetics. This is my own conclusion.  I never understood how the lactic acid bacteria is surviving alive in industrial products. Cosmetic products are stored in a room temperature and products never get spoiled. There must be awful lot of preservatives and other harmful chemicals in cosmetic products containing probiotics. Probiotic is equal to bacteria.

Other problematic ingredient in probiotic products is water. Bacteria needs water as we know. Dry product does not get spoiled even there is no preservative at all. Bacteria cannot live without water. It means the products containing probiotics cannot be dry.

It is easy to use probiotics in home-made cosmetics

I have though long time how to add genuine probiotics into cosmetic products. I found the solution few years ago. When I understood how important bacteria is to human skin, I really wanted to use them in skincare. So, I decided to develop DIY-cosmetics containing genuine, alive probiotics. Good thing in home-made cosmetics is, that the products are fresh. They are not mentioned for long storing in room temperature. This is why probiotics will last to make good to our skin.

Sauerkraut mask is traditional method to treat your face

fermenting of wild herbs
Wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca)

Once I read about Russian Ladies who treated their skin using sauerkraut masks.  Cabbage itself is very good for skin because it has mild acids and plenty of sulfur. Sulfur do catch skin’s impurities and makes skin brighter. Sulfur is also very good for skin suffering acne. I will write more about cabbage’s good features for skin later on.

How to prepare a suitable fermented product for skin

The problem with sauerkraut is salt. I did not want any salt at all to my skin.  Salt is more suitable for greasy skin. Sauerkraut available in grocery stores do contain too much salt even skin does tolerate it a little bit. So, we have to eliminate the salt.

I prepared fermented cabbage, sauerkraut using organic cabbage. Usually recipes say you must add salt, otherwise fermenting process does not work. This is not true. It is possible to ferment cabbage without salt.

Fermenting without salt is possible

When preparing fermented cabbage or other vegetables, salt will help in separating liquids. When fermenting without salt you must rub the water out from vegetables without the help of salt.  This takes time, you must be patient. It takes some time but the result is as good as when using salt.

Add wild herbs to fermented products

There was mention about wild herbs in the title. Why am I talking only about cabbage?

Cabbage brings in required moisture. It is a must in this product.  When fermenting you need always a plant containing plenty of water. You can use organic Chinese cabbage as well. Fermented mass must be covered completely with liquid. You should not add any water because added water will make the product less effective and it will not last so long.

Cabbage is the fermented products basic ingredient

You can add wild herbs to fermentation as much as you like.  You can make fermentation also without cabbage. The only thing you need is juicy enough wild herb. I have prepared few times wild herb fermentation using only the leaves of greater burdock.  It was really good product. Burdock is very mild herb and gives great moisture to skin.

For my first non-salt fermentation I used only organic cabbage. Organic cabbage gives the best fermentation because it does carry more lactic acid bacteria than any other plant.  It is essential that cabbage should never be washed if it will be used for fermentation. Lactic acid bacteria is ready on cabbage leaves just waiting. If you wash the cabbage, you will lose almost all bacteria.

Wild herbs bring flavonoids and other phytochemicals

You can use all herbs you like but you have to get enough water to the fermentation mass.

In case you want to get more out of wild herbs you should try fermenting. Effective ingredients of wild herbs will extract to fermentation liquid and probiotic wild herb juice contains much more effective ingredients than regular, squeezed juice.  Lactic acid fermentation will also make acids of herbs softer. Fermented herbs do not irritate skin like fresh herbs do.  I have noticed this myself; I have no scientific back-up. It would be great if someone would make a study.

How to do a wild herb fermentation


You can use:

2 parts cabbage and one-part wild herbs

I shred the cabbage very thin and crushed herbs together

I scrub the vegetable dice in a bowl a long time. Finally, the mass gave up and I moved the mass to a small glass jar. The mass should be covered with liquid during the whole fermentation period. Vegetables over the surface may easily grow moldy. So, use a clean object (a stone) to hold the mass under the surface. Do not use any lid or cover. Fermenting needs oxygen. If you close the jar, you will spoil the process.

Place the jar in a warm place

Do not let it expose to direct sunlight, it should be in a shadow. Use a bin or a plate under the jar for possible roiling.

Mixture should be left for fermenting for a week. In the summertime when the air is warmer 4-5 days may be enough. Longer you let the fermentation process be, sourer the product will be.

Do not worry if the mixture starts to bubble or roil, it is part of the process and perfectly natural. You can follow up the process by smelling the mass. If the odor is sour and fresh, everything is ok.  Stuffy, rotten smell tells there is something wrong.

When the mixture has fermented enough, put a lid on the jar and place it in the fridge.

This fermentation will last long. I have stored wild herb fermentation up to 3 months in a fridge.  Older it gets, sourer it is.  You have to take this into consideration when preparing a facial mask. A sour mask is not suitable to everyone. You can test how sour the fermentation is by using ph-indicator strips.

How can I use wild herbs in fermentation?

Woundwort (Solidago virgaurea)

I have now explained the basic idea how to prepare a fermentation by using cabbage.  You can now add wild herbs into mass. Please bear in mind that many herbs have effect to skin. Some of them are very mild and some very strong.  Some of the wild herbs do shrink the skin. Selecting herbs suitable just for you and your skin is the challenging part.

I always use either white cabbage of Chinese cabbage. They are mild and are easy to process. I do add many wild herbs as well: 

  • Lady’s mantle
  • Dandelion
  • Leaves of raspberry
  • Self-heal
  • Ground-ivy
  • Greater Burdock
  • Bilberry leaves
  • Wild strawberries
  • Birch leaves (not suitable for dry skin)
  • Gout weed
  • You can try other wild herbs as well

Read more about wild herbs there.You can also try small quantities of strong aromatic spice herbs like thyme and rosemary in fermentation.  They are, however, very strong and are not good for lactic acid bacteria. They are in fact antibacterial and therefore preventing bacteria. Parsley and basil are very suitable.

Fermenting of wild herbs

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

You can use either listed herbs or you can use your favorite ones or mix them all.  For skincare purposes you can pick the herbs anytime you like. Herbs mentioned for food you should collect early summer; they are most delicious in the beginning of the summer. At the end of the summer many herbs are drying. There is not so much liquid anymore in the plant and fermentation is more difficult. But effective ingredients are more in August than in June.

You can use also herbs you will not use as nutrition, for example self-heal or leaves of apple tree. You do not have to eat this fermentation product so the taste does not matter this time.  But please never use toxic plants for skincare.

How can I use fermented herbs in skincare?

Fermenting of wild herbs. There are many possibilities to use them

  • Facial mask
  • Facial toner
  • Hair- and body rinses

You have 2 ways to use fermented wild herbs:

  • by filtering fermentation to water, use tea filter
  • by making juice out of fermented wild herbs. You can use diluted juice for many purposes.

Facial masks

You can use squashed, fermented wild herbs mixed with yoghurt or honey.  Let it be for 20 minutes on your face. Please do allergic test before use.

Fermenting of wild herbs for facial toners and rinses

Put fermented wild herbs into tea filter and poor half a liter fresh water through mass. Use this probiotic and rich of antioxidants- water for facial toner. This facial toner is sour as it should be. Other effect depends on the herbs you have used. In case you use shrinking herbs, the effect is brighter skin. Fermented herbs do take care of your skin’s own bacteria and keep your skin naturally well resistant.

Fermenting of wild herbs for hair- and body rinses

Fermented wild herb hair- and body rinses are really effective. For body rinses use filtered or squeezed liquid from fermented mass. This is how I do it:

  • 2 dl fermented wild herbs or 2 spoonsful of squeezed juice mixed 
  • 2 liters of fresh water, max temperature +35 Celsius (to avoid damages to bacteria).

use filter or fabric and poor water through mass.

Poor probiotic rinse on your hair/body after the shower. You can also perform Mermaid-rinse and let your hair stay a while in a bowl full of rinse.

I would like you to try fermented wild herbs. You will get more probiotics to your skin and other, effective ingredients from the plants.

Please do not use wild herb fermentation continuously. They are, however, strong plant extracts that may expose your skin for rash if you use them too often.

By the way, you can also prepare wild herb fermentation to dinner table. Pay attention for eatable herbs and use some salt when preparing fermentation.

Please tell how did you manage to prepare wild herb fermentation!

5 answers

  1. Hello, If The mass should be covered with liquid during the whole fermentation period, and should not be water- please name some liquids you would use.
    thank you

  2. Hello Laura
    Thank you for your interest in my article!
    When I ferment plants, all the liquid comes from the plants being fermented.
    The vegetable pulp must be massaged until enough liquid forms in the container. That’s why it’s best to use as small a container as possible. Then there is no need for so much liquid.
    Some also use slightly boiled water. I never put water in fermented herbs.
    I hope this answer helped you.
    Best Regards Outi

  3. I tried your method with the mugwort, and using my mortar and pestle to crush the herbs well with a small amount of salt.
    It made very good herb juice which lasted well after I fermented it!
    Thank you!

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