By Golda Smith
As a holistic health educator, women’s health advocate, athlete, herbalist and mother, I talk A LOT about self-care, health and wellness. As we are moving through this summer heat, it is so important that I really stay on top of what I share with my clients, children and you which is to listen to your body and let food be your medicine because…it really is.
As a student of Ayurveda and herbal medicine, I have been digging deeper into the healing and soothing powers of nature. Something so simple as going into my backyard to pull a few mint leaves to add to my water. Or walking in the park and identifying flowers that are only here for these few short summer months. Living in New York City, one thing I always have in my bag is a spritz bottle with either lavender or rose water. One a hot and humid day or after a ride on the subway, a nice spritz really helps my skin feel like it can breathe better.
Today, I would like to share 5 powerful summer herbs you should get to know and use. In Ayurveda, summertime is when we are trying to balance Pitta or our internal or digestive fire. Pitta is one of the three doshas and I will definitely write more about this in future blog posts…I promise. When you think summer, images of time laying by a pool or at the beach, enjoying an ice-cream cone with your children probably come to mind and with good reason. Our bodies are trying to keep cool so it only makes sense that the herbs I mention have cooling properties to help balance that internal fire I mentioned earlier.
The first herb is so easy to find, it might already be in your home. I’m talking about mint. Besides being so refreshing, mint has a long list of health benefits. Take a trip to any Farmer’s Market and you will likely find at least six different mint varieties. Pick one or three and play with them. You can add them to your ice cube trays, to a large pitcher of water, deliciously cooling mint chutney or even add it to a raw spring wrap. The last two are absolutely scrumptious! Trust me on that.
Next up, is rose. I mentioned the spritzer I almost always have in my purse. It just wakes up my skin and leaves me feeling refreshed and I think you will love it too. When you take rose internally, it has that cooling effect your body is seeking. It can also help relieve menstrual cramps and diarrhea.
Dandelion which is bitter, is another herb that you would probably never think of as cooling. First, don’t let the bitter taste scare you away. Dandelion benefits your immune system, liver and skin to name a few. You can make an infusion or simply purchase some tea and enjoy. One of my favorite tea companies is Traditional Medicinals, has a dandelion tea if you don’t care to prepare it from the root. Of course, having it as part of a bed of greens is another way to get your dose of dandelion greens.
You’ve probably walked by this plant many times without realized it, I’m sure I am not the only one. Used to years by Native American for topical treatments of wounds, various skin conditions and bruises, yarrow can also be used internally to ease digestive problems (that internal fire). One word of caution is this, yarrow should NOT be used during pregnancy or lactation.
If you are dealing with hot flashes or like me, you sweat profusely in the summer heat, you may want to get your sage on! Sage helps to balance fluids in the body. It’s also very helpful if you’re one of those people who catches a summer cold or flu. Simply prepare a strong infusion using some fresh herbs in a large jar of water and let it sit for a few hours. If you have some dried sage, then you can make a tasty cold tea. Simply use one teaspoon to eight ounces of hot water and then pour it over ice and enjoy. By the way, that’s how you prepare most teas using dried herbs.
Of course, there are other herbs I could have included but I think this is a good start especially if you are new to using herbs as medicine. Try them and let me know how you are dealing with this summer heat.