Old Time Hair Tonic Recipes from the Early 1800’s:
OIL TONIC TO MAKE HAIR GROW AND CURL
½ Pint olive oil
1/8 oz. each oils of rosemary and origanum
Mix well and apply freely.
Note: Olive oil and rosemary oil are quite common to find. Origanum is easily obtained from any store that sells essential oils and is an oil with antifungal, stimulating tonic properties. Since this mixture would be very oily, the recommendation is for use as a deep conditioning treatment with steam before shampooing.
SHAMPOO TO MAKE HAIR CURL
2 lbs common soap
3 pints spirits of wine
3 oz. potash
Cut the soap in small pieces and melt all ingredients together, stirring it with a clean piece of wood; then add a quarter of an ounce each of essence of amber, vanilla and nervoli and mix well. Use as a shampoo.
Note: These are quite old recipes and difficult to find such ingredients as 'common' soap which could be no more than harsh detergent or lye soap. The name potash comes from the English wording Pot and Ash. Ashes from burned hardwood trees would be used to make lye, which could either be used to make soap or boiled down to produce valuable potash. So you can see this recipe was primarily just soap-and not necessarily good quality soap. Spirits of wine is merely rectified ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol - defined as the intoxicating agent in fermented and distilled liquors; used pure or denatured as a solvent or in medicines and colognes and cleaning solutions and rocket fuel...that doesn't sound good. I don't recommend doing what early Americans did to curl their hair with this recipe.
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