Five Herbal Hacks for Summer

1. Soothe sunburn

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Protecting skin from the summer sun is always top of mind when out and about on a hot summer’s day. For those moments when you don’t quite manage to beat the sun and your skin ends up a little pink, there are some simple home remedies you can try.

 First though, I usually advise having a cool shower or immersing yourself in a cool bath to reduce the temperature of the skin and reduce damage to the underlying tissue.  

 Prepare some frozen aloe, witch hazel and lavender oil in ice cube trays and keep in the freezer so this soothing balm is on hand when needed, see recipe below.

 Witch hazel has anti-inflammatory properties, aloe has a long tradition of soothing sunburnt skin, and lavender is healing and antimicrobial.

 Apply the ice cube to your skin by rubbing it over the burnt areas. If the area is more extensive, let the ice cubes melt onto cotton or muslin and apply as a cold compress. You can also let them melt and use a spritzer to spray the cool liquid onto the affected skin.

 Drink lots of water, and eat foods high in vitamin C (citrus, peppers, kiwi) and vitamin E (almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, butternut squash). Vitamin C and E have been shown to reduce skin damage from sunburn.

 If you have your own aloe plant at home, simply split a leaf and extract the inner gel to add to the formula below. If you are buying aloe gel, it is best to look for organic, and at least 99% pure.

Formula:

¾  cup aloe gel (Aloe vera)

¼ cup witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

1 drop of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil to each tray well

Directions:

Combine witch hazel with the aloe and pour into the wells of the ice cube tray. Add one drop of lavender essential oil to each well and gently agitate to mix it through.

Place in the freezer in early Summer.

 Lavender is one of the few essential oils that can be used in small amounts directly on the skin. Although it is mixed with the aloe and witch hazel base in this case, don’t worry about it not being mixed thoroughly.

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 2. Mint and lemon water

Need to cool down during the sweltering heat of long summer days? Try pre-making these mint and lemon ice cubes and adding them to your water bottle for on-the-go refreshment. Make these any time you have left over mint, a little goes a long way!

 Ingredients:

A handful of mint leaves  - roughly chopped

1 lemon sliced and cut into small wedges

Water to make up enough liquid to fill the ice cube tray wells

Directions:

Combine the mint leaves with lemon and fill the ice cube tray wells

Cover with water to fill trays and place in your freezer compartment

Add the refreshing and delicious cubes to your water as desired and stay cool!

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3. Hibiscus Blend Iced tea

Hibiscus with its slightly tart, yet gently sweet taste makes for a wonderfully refreshing drink. The naturally pink colouring that infuses through the water is filled with healthful antioxidants. Cool down with the tea recipe below, enjoy iced with sliced lemon and/or mint leaves.

For a shortcut, Traditional Medicinals include an Organic Hibiscus in their range  - use 4-6 teabags for 1 litre of water, depending on taste.

Ingredients:

2 parts Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

2 parts Blackberry leaf (Rubus fruticosus)

1 part Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus)

1 part Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)

1 part Rose hips (Rosa spp.)

¼ part Ginger (Zingeber officinalis)

 Directions:

Mix all of the herbs above and save in an airtight container.

Place 4 heaped tablespoons of your blended herbs in a teapot and add 1 litre of boiling water.

Infuse for 5 minutes and strain into a glass jug.

Let cool.

Add ice, mint leaves and/or sliced lemon.

Serve and enjoy. 

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4. Bites, stings or minor skin irritations:

Chamomile, chickweed and peppermint

Chickweed grows pretty much everywhere during the Summer months. It is a nutritious green that can be added into salads.

 However, its use in herbal medicine is far more established. Chickweed (Stellaria media) is wonderful for minor skin irritations and is specifically used to reduce itching. I usually have on hand a lovely, soothing chickweed, chamomile and peppermint cream that I make each year.

 However, last Summer while on a hiking holiday far from home, my daughter developed an itchy rash on her arm and we had no access to our supply. We found some wild chickweed, made a strong infusion of chamomile and peppermint and crushed the chickweed into the infusion, which we then used as a poultice and froze the rest. It was a perfect hack and did the trick.  

Formula:

2 heaped teaspoons dried chamomile flowers (or 2 teabags)

2 heaped teaspoons dried peppermint (or 2 teabags)

One cup (240mls) boiling water

a generous handful of chickweed – cut into small pieces and gently crushed

Directions:

Prepare the chamomile and peppermint by infusing the herbs in the boiling water, covered, for 5-10 minutes.

Strain the liquid.

Add the chickweed to the strained infusion.

Let cool.

Either soak a piece of muslin and place directly on to the affected skin, or pour the liquid and chickweed into ice cube trays, freeze and keep on hand for itchy bites, stings or minor skin irritations.

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5. Elevate your salad

Summer is salad central. By August though, we can become a little bored with the endless bowls of arugula , spinach and field greens! Garden herbs are well established by now and make for an enlivening addition to salads – elevating colour and taste.

One of my favourite summer salad additions is nasturtium flowers. Firstly, they grow so easily, make the garden look amazing and are the perfect ground cover. Just poke some seeds into the ground or containers in the Spring and you won’t be disappointed.

The bright orange flowers attract bees and humming birds and are beautiful.

The flowers can be picked and added directly to a salad. The orange colour you know is full of carotenoids, some of which your body converts to the immune boosting vitamin A and others that have a host of phytochemicals with antioxidant effects. They taste a little peppery.

What about dill leaves, fennel, oregano, parsley, basil – just bring out the scissors and chop them into your salad. Other flowers found in the garden that can brighten your salad are calendula petals, red clover, lavender, chive flowers, and borage flowers.  


All content provided on this website is for general information purposes only and is not intended to replace medical or specialist advice.

A qualified Medical Herbalist is always your best resource for information related to herbal medicines.

Registered Dietitians are a reliable and trusted resource for nutrition related information, always up to date and always ready to work with you to realise your goals.

Jill Burns