We generally love hot weather don’t we…but for some staying cool and ‘heat safe' can be tricky but vital. The obvious might be those carrying some extra pounds but not so obvious is anybody with an existing inflammatory disorder, which by its very nature is ‘hot’. Or those with an infection. Or some who have heart problems or liver and gallbladder conditions which can ultimately be ‘heating’ overall. There are a lot of situations in fact where knowing you’re going to be more vulnerable to excessive heat will help you take extra precautions. For instance, herbs that lower or reduce heat aim to cool and preserve body fluids, and these can be used alongside plenty of fluids and wiser food choices.
It’s also true that in the hot weather we tend to get more het up or irritable even ‘hot-tempered’, so choosing herbs to keep our emotions less volatile will be useful, more calming and gift us more serenity.
With Best Wishes
Co-Director & Herbal Practitioner at Herbs Hands Healing
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Ashwagandha (Withania somniferum) slows down the circulation of adrenaline, the stress hormone that can literally tear heart muscle fibres. Scientists also now know that Ashwagandha also reduces plasma cortisol which impairs heart health. It will also help to maintain or improve physical effort as it is in the category of ‘adaptogens’, helping us to adapt to our ‘heat’ environment. A few people (5%) can be ‘allergic’ to it, reacting with opposite reactions to those it is supposed to offer, so should this occur simply stop taking. Another similar-ish adaptogenic herb is Siberian Ginseng root (Eleutherococcus senticosus) it will cool and reduce inflammation and will safely ‘stimulate’ more energy for those drained and slowed by the heat. By its very nature, Siberian ginseng will seek to cool you and help you adapt better both physically and mentally to heat excesses.
Calm the Liver and drain the Fire
The next category of herbs are the ‘bitters’, these work because they ‘cool and clear’. Try our ‘Milk Thistle and Dandelion formula’ or our ‘Lemon and Artichoke blend’; both fit the bill for cooling down, relieving and regulating the liver and gallbladder which if hot and congested will make summer heat hard to bear. Turmeric, with its anti-inflammatory and bitter bio-chemistry, is also a good choice, so try using it whenever you can, fresh and dried.
Food Choices in the Kitchen
Onion- blood thinning and clearing.
Ginger- heat regulatory, anti-inflammatory, anti-cholesterol.
Garlic- Cardiovascular, cholesterol reduction.
Cinnamon (true cinnamon, not cassia)- may lower cholesterol, lowers inflammation, balances blood sugar (worse in hot weather)
Beetroot- High in nitrates (dilates blood vessels) helps blood pressure, stamina, protects artery walls.
Heat will ‘push’ the heart and so hawthorn berries can help regulate this. Hawthorn helps increase blood flow to the heart and is an official ‘drug’ in France, Germany, Switzerland, Brazil, China and Russia. Lack of blood flow to the heart muscle itself can be fatal and so the leaves, flowers and berries can counteract this. It will ‘steady’ the heartbeat and make you feel calmer.
Caution- DO NOT combine Hawthorn with heart medications.
Hot or Cold Drinks
Hot drinks in the summer will make us sweat and importantly help us to lose heat when it evaporates, according to a Loughborough University study. But there’s no doubt about it that a long cold drink instantly cools us and if you use the right herbs you can let the herb ‘diaphoretic’ qualities (make us sweat) work while sipping something cooling.
Naturally cooling, fragrant and tasty herbal teas
Herbal teas will be your cooling allies. Try cooling mint (see below for why it cools!), green tea, lemon verbena, lavender and hibiscus. Sage (Salvia officinalis) is also a good choice; drunk hot it induces sweating and drunk cold it eases and reduces sweating so you can choose when and which version you prefer. It’s a favourite with menopausal women whose hot flushes further increase the hot and sweaty burden in heating weather. You can also try Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), which is often called “the master of fever” and is thus used for sweaty colds and flu times. But used for summer heat it regulates fluids in the body, cooling (or heating) as needed by moving blood towards or away from the skin surface. Clever eh? Yarrow can be a great double choice as it helps digestion and is also anti-inflammatory. [Achillea millefolium, such a wonderful Latin name ‘the foliage of a million leaflets!’] It’s a wildflower you may well have on your lawn or be able to pick (away from environmental toxins) in the wild.
Ginger is also a great choice in any drink form or food and you can make your own in a Nutri-bullet or blender. Ginger is ‘thermo-regulatory’, warming us in the cold and cooling us in the heat.
This is a ‘diaphoretic’ which means it allows fluid to move more easily around the body, opening up pores and clearing everything out. It flowered in May and June so if you missed making your own teas and drinks go and buy some dried flowers for teas or some pre-made cordials (sweetened without sugars and sweeteners) and dilute with plenty of water. I talked about this in relation to excess heat in my July newsletter so this is a reminder to seek it out.
Mint Tea, But why is it so Cooling?
It is naturally soothing and will alleviate inflammation and temperature rises. Be it tea or toothpaste we associate mint with tasting cool or cold. This is because the receptors in our mouth respond to menthol, eucalyptol and icilin. They act like a key to unlock a door allowing ‘a perception of cold’. Mint also increases sweating and urine flow and will thus cool down our internal organs. So it’s a good choice for physically cooling us down, but also mentally. [Mint juice will cool down burns if applied topically so could be useful for sunburns (internally it also helps heartburn)].
Summer ice cubes
Whizz up some fresh mint (peppermint is usually the most ‘minty’) with a little spring water and pour into ice-cube trays. Pop into summer drinks for contrast e.g. With Elderflower cordial or fresh lemonade.
Cooling Rose Petal Tea
Rose tea naturally cools the body and goes as far as to reduce fever-related rashes.
Collect these early in the morning (after dew) or after rain as it is best not to wash the petals to preserve their benefits.
2 handfuls of Rose Petals (ideally pinks to rose-red colouring, garden variety or our wild ones).
250mls (or cup full) of Hot Water.
Leave to infuse for 10 minutes then drink.
If you don’t grow roses then buy some organic dried petals online and give yourself a truly summer treat. This tea really cools on hot days and you can also add them to green teas, peppermint tea or even black teas. Do buy organic ‘tea’ quality and not those intended for weddings or potpourri etc..
Roses and the Skin
While we are on roses…….the cold pressed oil from rosehip seeds is rich in compounds that are favourable for the skin, galactolipids, vitamin c, vitamin e, zinc, lycopene.lotein and many more, all helping re-generate the skin especially after excessive sun.
Antioxidants will help to protect the skin
Whether you spend only 10 or 15 minutes in the sun, or longer with or without sunscreen, some UV damage can occur to the skin. One additional way to help protect your skin is to have a good intake of antioxidants in your diet-vitamins, minerals and other natural plant chemicals that, when digested and absorbed, can help to combat free radical damage in the body. Include plenty of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, especially orange, yellow and red ones for the carotenoids: beta-carotene, in particular, has been found to reduce the risk of sunburn and skin redness in some individuals through its antioxidant action. Dr Schulze’s Superfood Plus is a blend of foods rich in antioxidants including beta-carotene and other carotenoids- a ‘great’ extra to boost your levels, as well as a nutritious addition to your daily diet.
Antioxidant herbs and Anti-inflammatory
Herbs can also have potent antioxidant properties and may offer additional protection. Some of the most antioxidant-rich herbs (hawthorn, beetroot, olive etc) are contained in our ‘PumpBeet’ capsules. While the primary emphasis of this formula is on the heart and circulatory health, the wonderful herbs and their properties make it ideal for daily antioxidant protection whether or not heart health is a concern.
Any inflammation, anywhere in the body will make you feel hot. It can occur in the gut or equally in the big toe and the causes will be varied but inflammation really does equal heating up. But heat and your heart can really be affected by the summer. In fact, a new study has proved that inflammation has a huge impact on the heart and that reducing levels of excessive inflammation will be really important. Inflammation of the lining around the heart can either cause no sensations whatsoever of course or could cause chest pains and an accumulation of fluids around the heart. Equally, arteries can become inflamed. As I’ve said already, a good herb and food program is, of course, vital (especially removing sugar) and herbs can and will/also really help enormously and specific ones for the heart will be important like olive leaves, ginkgo leaves, hawthornleaves, flowers and berries and my favourite heart food, beetroot. The nitrates in beetroot help improve blood flow as it expands blood vessels. Its naturally occurring nitrates help to make another vital substance in the body called nitric oxide, again very protective overall for inflammatory levels.
To hydrate and cool ourselves we naturally gravitate towards melons, cucumber etc but equally steer away from heavy foods rich in carbs, sugar and fats. Potassium-rich foods can be important on very hot days and help to avert heatstroke. Other choices can include coconut water, also rich in electrolytes. Also, eat bananas; and include apple cider vinegar in summer salads etc. Try and avoid alcohol as it dehydrates us very quickly but if you have some be sure to remember the glasses of water to go with it.
Finally, if your overheating and storing water, as a result, try our ‘Parsley and Cornsilk tea’ to help reduce the water retention. Equally, do call and ask for a sample of our ‘Lemon and Artichoke Formula’ alongside our ‘Parsley and Cornsilk Tea’, ‘PumpBeet Capsules’ and our ‘Evening Peace Tea’.
Lorna Driver Davies BA (Hons), HD, DHNP, Member of FNTPLorna is a fully qualified Holistic Nutritional Practitioner (nutritional therapy), herbal medicine dispenser and is the Director of Feel Better Nutrition.