summer solstice has come and gone. now, as summers heat reaches (what i hope to be) its peak, it is time to turn our attention to cooling herbs.
it may seem counter-intuitive, but ice cold drinks can actually make you hotter, and thirstier in this hot weather. ice cold water only lowers your body temperature momentarily, then as it actually cools your digestive fires, your body has to work twice as hard to warm up your digestive system, which can leave you thirsty and hotter. that being said, i would have a hard time drinking a hot cup of tea on a sweltering summer day, so let’s go with room temperature.
one of the most satisfying and delicious ways i know to enjoy cooling herbs and teas in the summer time is sun tea.
sun tea is made by adding herbs to cold tap water, and letting them sit all day in a glass jar or container somewhere in the sun. this is an extremely energy efficient way of making a cooling and tasty infusion.
cooling herbs can help cool down our bodies. plants that are considered sour, astringent and diaphoretic can all be helpful. diaphoretics can stimulate sweat, which can aid our body in releasing heat and toxins from our skin. this is why people in hot climates often eat such spicey foods. astringent herbs are drying and cooling, which can be helpful in humid heat. think of rose. sour herbs are cooling and contracting, think of berries.
some herbs that i find incredibly useful for cooling down on a hot summers day are:
- roses – rose petals are plentiful in the summer time, they grow wild alongside the ocean and various other places. (as always, make sure to harvest in a clean, non-polluted area, not near busy roads). roses are cooling and astringent by nature, as well as calming and healing for the heart. they can also be helpful in alleviating skin rashes, which are sometimes a sign of summer heat. if you add lemon juice to a sun infusion of roses, your water will turn a gorgeous shade of pink.
- elderflower – a cooling diaphoretic, elderflower is wonderful for the heat, as well as fevers. as a diuretic, it can also help flush heat out of the kidneys. a delicate and lovely flower, it can be made into a delicious cordial as well.
- mint – the active constituent in mint is menthol, which can aid in digestion and heartburn (both of which when agrivated can be a symptom of heat). it is incredibly cooling, as most of you know, and can be settling to the stomach. a cool infusion of mint is different than a hot infusion, you might be surprised.
- chamomile – this gentle but effective cooling flower is soothing to the digestive tract, as well as anxiety and insomnia. it is helpful with inflammation and rashes.
- marshmallow – a common garden ‘weed’, marshmallow leaves, flowers and roots are all cooling, and are actually better extracted by sun or cool water. it is a demulcent, which means it is a bit mucilagenous and will leave a mildly slimey coating on your mouth, throat and digestive organs, which can be cooling and healing to boot.
- lemonbalm – this fragrant plant is both calming and cooling. it is citrusy in flavour, and cool in nature. it will grow prolifically in most gardens. it is also soothing to the nerves, something of mine that i find gets quite frazzled in the busy summer months. also helpful for hot flashes.
all of these herbs are safe for children and pregnant mamas. they can be made in a sun infusion, or a hot tea (which you can stir a tad of honey in if you fancy, and then refrigerate to have later as a chilled, cool tea). you can experiment mixing and blending different combinations until you find what works best for you. and enjoy.