Updated: Jun 29
Article update June 29, 2023
We love summertime for all of the adventures, fun activities and for harvesting so many of our favourite herbs. It's once again promising to be a hot summer (hopefully not as hot as it's been the last few years!), and soon we'll all be in search of ways to keep cool.
As herbalists we like to think there’s a herbal fix for every situation and have used some helpful remedies to cool down and combat some of the less desirable effects of the hot sun! We have a few hacks for you to ‘beat the heat’: two special beverages to cool from the core and one infusion that works wonders for healing a sunburn.
Did you know that many plants have the effect of cooling the body down when they are consumed? Often nature has a way of “hinting” us to cool down as so many cooling herbs, fruits and vegetables will grow during hot seasons or in hot climates. Many tropical fruits such as coconut, pineapple and banana have the effect of bringing the body’s temperature down no matter what temperature they’re consumed at. Many of the cooling summer fruits and vegetables in our North American climate are perfectly timed to grow when we need them, including cucumber, zucchini, melons, strawberries and many more. Helpful cooling herbs also show up during these hot months; mint varieties, chamomile, lavender, lemon balm and sage are all here to help us. To help tolerate this heat, we like to snack on these cooling foods and herbs throughout the day and it really does make a difference. One of our favourite smoothie recipes has been a life saver during this heat wave and it incorporates a few cooling fruits, a cooling herb and as a bonus, chocolate!
Cooling Chocolate Mint Smoothie
1 frozen ripe banana
¼ of a large cucumber or 1 small cucumber
¼ cup chopped honeydew melon or cantaloupe
2 Tbsp chia seeds
¼ - ½ cup fresh peppermint or spearmint leaves (depending on how minty you
1 Tbsp cocoa powder (optional)
½ cup coconut water
¼ cup coconut milk
Directions: Add all ingredients to a blender and blend to desired consistency. If you prefer a thinner or more creamy consistency, add more coconut water or coconut milk.
The frozen banana and honeydew/cantaloupe need to be ripe so that they act as a natural sweetener for the whole smoothie. The chia seeds help retain more water to keep the body hydrated and are an excellent source of fibre. With the addition of coconut water and coconut milk, you’re getting your valuable electrolytes (something we can easily lose when we sweat) and some added creaminess.
If you prefer to leave the cocoa powder out, the peppermint will work fine on its own as the combination with the sweet fruits make a refreshing flavour. You know us though; we’ll seize any opportunity to include the ‘food of the gods’. Also, if you’re not a fan of mint flavour, you could easily substitute in fresh lemon balm.
Healing Herbs for Burns
We know how it is. We’re so careful to cover up or use sunscreen while we’re out soaking up the sun rays, but the occasional burn still happens. Aloe vera is an incredibly healing plant that is quick to soothe and we love to use it. We happen to have another tried and true remedy to heal up a burn even more quickly and effectively. The herbs that go into this infusion are chosen specifically for their skin healing actions. Green tea (Camellia sinensis) contains antioxidant constituents known as polyphenols. They are believed to be responsible for the anti-cancer effects of this wonderful plant and are a great application for sun-damaged skin. Calendula is one of the best herbs to turn to for skin ailments. Burns, wounds, rashes and other irritations can all be relieved by a topical treatment with this flower. Comfrey leaf contains the constituent, allantoin which encourages rapid cell regeneration and is used most commonly for burns broken bones and other trauma. This infusion takes a little bit of preparation but once you use it, you will want it on hand every year!
Green Tea, Calendula and Comfrey Soak
2 Tbsp chopped fresh comfrey leaf
or 2 tsp dried comfrey leaf
2 Tbsp fresh calendula petals
or 2 tsp dried calendula petals
2 Tbsp loose green tea
or 2 green tea bags
2 cups boiled water
You will need a kettle, large bowl, strainer and hand towel or wash cloth that you don’t mind staining.
Directions: Boil the water and steep the three herbs for 30 minutes in a large bowl. Place the infusion in the fridge for at least one hour. Remove from fridge and strain out the loose herbs/tea bags. Saturate your towel or wash cloth and lightly squeeze out excess liquid but still leave relatively wet (just so that it is not dripping heavily). Place towel over sunburn and keep it in place for 30 minutes. You may re-saturate the wash cloth with your infusion as many times as you would like and reapply. Your skin will be so happy!
This last ‘heat-beating’ remedy may seem a bit counterintuitive but we promise there is logic behind it. In some cases, we benefit more from heating the body to cool down. This method is used often in Ayurvedic medicine and what we are actually doing is encouraging the body to activate its own cooling mechanisms. Consuming heating herbs causes sweating and allows the heat to break so that we are more tolerant of it. The following tea blend can be made hot or cold and will still have the same effect as we are using warming herbs that encourage circulation.
Heat Balancing Tea
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
¼ tsp dried or fresh chopped ginger
¼ tsp cinnamon bark
¼ tsp turmeric chunks
½ tsp elderflower
¼ tsp yarrow flowers
Directions: You may use these proportions for each cup of tea or multiply this recipe to make a large blend of it. Simply add two teaspoons to each cup of boiled water when you make the tea.
Steep this blend in one cup boiled water for 15 minutes. Strain, add honey, sugar, stevia or other natural sweetener if desired and drink.
You can let this tea cool by refrigerating it before drinking or adding ice. To make a large batch of iced tea, steep 3 tablespoons of the tea blend in one litre of boiled water and mix in your natural sweetener (if desired). Allow the tea to steep until it cools to room temperature then strain out the herbs. Chill for one hour and add 1 cup of ice.
Heat Busting Bonus Recipes
Cooling & Refreshing Herbal Body Misters
You can easily make your own refreshing body misters at home using herbs found in most gardens. They're perfect for spritzing on your face and body whenever you need a quick fragrant, cooling life. Easy to make, these misters are wonderful for helping you to beat the heat this summer!
To make - you simply pour 1 cup boiling water over a 1/4 cup chopped fresh fragrant herbs (or 2 Tablespoons dried) and put a lid on this. We used rose petals but lavender, chamomile, peppermint, and lemon balm are just a few of the many herbs to choose from. Allow to steep until cool. Strain and discard herbs. Pour the fragrant water into a spray top bottle and store in the fridge. This will last 3 to 4 days refrigerated. If you want it to last longer we recommend adding 1 Tablespoon of vodka to the herbal water before it goes into the spray bottle. Wanting to take this with you to the beach? A few hours before you head out, fill a spray bottle with 1/2 the herbal liquid and freeze it. When you're ready to head out fill the bottle with the remaining liquid and store in your cooler bag.
Fabulous Peppermint Foot Soak
1/2 cup chopped fresh peppermint or 1/4 cup dried, and 1 cup Epsom salt or sea salt if you don't have Epsom available. That's it, that's all you need to soothe tired achy hot feet and cool your whole body!
Place the peppermint and the salt into a foot basin and pour 2 litres boiling water over this, stirring to dissolve salt. Allow the soak to cool until it is about room temperature and then soak your feet in it for 15 to 20 minutes.
If you find that heat is particularly hard to tolerate or you burn easily, we hope you’ll give any of these recipes a try. We want you to enjoy all the best parts of summer without having to hide from the heatwave!
All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care.