Despite the plant abundance, beauty and delight that is apparent during summer, I must confess.... this is not my favorite season. Is that a surprise?
I tend to have a hard time with heat (and this year we've had a lot!) and constant glaring, bright, sunny days. It may sound counter-intuitive (especially for someone who is an herbalist!), but summer has always been the season I struggle the most with. I can't be the only one who feels this way, right?!...
Perhaps it has something to do with growing up in extreme hot weather climates for so many years. I spent the majority of my life living in South Carolina AND in Texas, where most of the year is very bright, hot and sweaty.
For some people -- for some constitutions, that is -- the heat is simply too aggrevating. And I am no exception. This is why some people prefer cold foods over hot foods, or why some people wear tank tops in an air-conditioned room while others must wear a sweater. We are all so unique in our constitutions and what we crave, need or gravitate towards. This has always fascinated me.
But back to the heat: if you're like me and are having trouble with the current season there are plenty of things you can do to make yourself more comfortable until that first gentle whisper of autumn arrives.... Here are some of my favorite hot weather herbs and strategies:
Hibiscus is my go-to summer herb. As soon as the temperature starts to rise above 80 degrees, I break out my stash. There is no other herb that I have experienced that is so well-suited to the dog days of summer. Hibiscus is tremendously cooling, and helps to bring the body temperature down.
Also, perhaps due in part to its tart flavor, it's very thirst-quenching and helps to keep us hydrated while we are sweating away in the summer heat. The taste is refreshing and flavorful, a bit sour and energizing, and many people find that it is almost addictive.
In my home as soon as one batch of hibiscus tea has disappeared I’ll make another one right away so that there is always plenty to gulp down when needed. You can also freeze the tea into ice cubes (or popsicles!) for a really refreshing treat.
Read more about hibiscus here....
The queen of flowers, rose is an astringent, cooling and anti-inflammatory herb. You don't need to use a lot of rose because it can end up tasting bitter in teas. However, it is a lovely addition to summertime blends, and has a wonderful affinity for the heart, imparting an uplifting effect on the emotions.
Rose adds its gentle cooling touch and helps to bring aggravation or frustration down a notch. One of my favorite ways to use rose is by spritzing rose water on my body. Get a good quality, organic rose water and place it in a spray bottle and you have an instant magic potion that I find is indispensable for hot, humid days.
It feels so refreshing and makes everything seem just a little bit better.
Mentha spicata and Mentha x piperita
Everyone knows mint -- it is one of our most ubiquitous herbs. And so sometimes we forget how powerful it can be. This little herb has traditionally been used for everything from digestive upset to headaches to muscle spasms.... And you guessed it -- it's also super cooling for the human body.
Mint is full of menthol which is an essential oil that gives the plant its active, cooling, anti-inflammatory properties. Just drinking iced mint tea is immensely refreshing.
However, there is a difference to note amongst the mints: we have peppermint, which is much more powerful and higher in menthol, and we also have spearmint, which is a bit more mellow. I tend to use spearmint more often because it blends nicely with other herbs, without overpowering the whole blend.
See which one you like best.
4. Dandelion Leaf
In traditional herbalism dandelion leaf is called a "refrigerant" because it has such an amazing cooling effect on the body. In fact it is so cooling that it might be too much for some people, so don't use huge quantities of this herb.
It is also a little bit bitter tasting, so it is nice to add some of the other herbs above to even out the flavor. As an extra benefit, dandelion is one of our most important herbs for liver health, so you are also doing this most vital organ a favor by drinking your dandy leaves.
Hibiscus, Rose & Mint Sun Tea
This tea is wonderfully cooling, refreshing and hydrating on hot summer days. And you don't have to make your kitchen hotter than it already is by heating up water-- this recipe calls for a cold water infusion.
4 tablespoons dried hibiscus
2 tablespoons dried rose petals
1/2 - 1 tablespoon dried spearmint