by Iris Gage
Summer is often a joyous time for Vermonters, with the annual return of mellifluous song birds, sweet smelling blossoms, fifty shades of green, and, of course, the sun! With all this excitement, we can easily forget the basics of caring for our bodies during the hot time of year.
Luckily there are many herbs, foods, lifestyle considerations, and topical preparations that can help us bask in the sun instead of succumbing to its harshness. From herbal teas and peppermint to cooling foods and cucumbers, there are many natural avenues to sustain our strength and vibrancy through the sweltering heat.
Stay hydrated: Adequate hydration is paramount during summer, especially if you are physically active. When I am outside working in the sun, I aim to drink a gallon of water throughout the day. When I am working inside most of the day I drink less water, roughly two quarts. If plain water doesn’t spark your interest, drink herbal teas throughout the day as an alternative. Drinking herbal teas infused by the sun is a simple way to brew tea while spending time in the garden or bird watching on the porch.
Favor cool foods: Eat light, easily digested, and hydrating foods such as cucumbers, tomatoes, salad greens, summer squash, and dark leafy greens. Fruit is also ideal, so embrace salads of strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Adding mint, elder flower, hibiscus, linden, rose, and chrysanthemum to your tea can provide additional cooling effects.
Exercise gently and early: Engage yourself in gentle exercises such as swimming, yin yoga, and walks in the woods. If you are the type of person who needs a bit more sweat in exercise, do it early in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. Avoid vigorous exercise in the evening, as this is the time of day when your body starts to wind down and prepare itself for revitalizing sleep. One of my clients begins her summer exercise routine with a morning bike ride or run and ends with moon salutation yoga poses one hour before bed.
Regulate your temperature: Instantly feel cooler by using cold compresses with essential oils such as peppermint, spearmint, and eucalyptus. To make a compress, add one to three drops into a bowl of iced water, stir, saturate a washcloth, wring it out, and wipe your neck and armpits (avoid eyes). If you’re going to be outdoors for a prolonged period, wrap the wet cloth around your neck to regulate your body temperature and prevent heat exhaustion. Be sure to use mint and eucalyptus essential oils sparingly because they are strong and not suitable for sensitive skin, children under six, and women who are pregnant. Another way is to mist your face and body with hydrosols such as rose, peppermint, eucalyptus, and cucumber, which are generally safer.
Skin soothers: For fair skin or skin not quite yet accustomed to the sun, apply aloe vera gel directly at the end of a sunny day. This will help repair and heal the skin, reducing the severity of a sunburn. I have used this trick many times on my fair skin, pleasantly not looking like a red lobster the next day. If you have an aloe vera plant at home, even better! Simply break off a leaf, slice open and gently rub the jelly-like sap over the burn. The leaf can be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for later use as well. Aloe vera can also be used for other minor skin irritations and even poison ivy rashes.
Iris Gage is a registered clinical herbalist, certified aromatherapist, and owner of Grian Herbs Apothecary in Montpelier.
Have a health related question you would like Iris to answer with sage advice? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Cool down with these recipes-
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
½ cup cucumber, diced
1 Tbl cilantro, fresh, chopped finely
1 Tbl chives, fresh, chopped finely
½ tsp cumin seed powder
½ tsp sea salt
Combine all ingredients and keep refrigerated until ready to eat.
Sun Infused Cool and Calm Herbal Tea
2 Tbl mint (peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, etc.)
1 Tbl linden
½ Tbl elder flower
½ Tbl hibiscus
4 cups spring, well or filtered water
Quart Mason jar
Combine all ingredients into the Mason jar, cover, and let steep outside in the direct sunlight for 1‒4 hours. Then strain out the herbs out and enjoy. If desired, add sweetener to taste.
After Sun Soother
4 oz aloe vera gel
30‒40 drops lavender angustifolia essential oil
1/8 tsp pure vitamin E oil
4 oz glass jar
Combine and mix ingredients thoroughly and store in the 4-oz glass jar. Apply liberally to minor skin irritations and sun burns. Store in cool, dark place or refrigerator.