“If getting our kids out into nature is a search for perfection, or is one more chore, then the belief in perfection and the chore defeats the joy. It’s a good thing to learn more about nature in order to share this knowledge with children; it’s even better if the adult and child learn about nature together. And it’s a lot more fun.”
― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
While herbs are not necessarily seasonal in use, there are some that are more commonly used during certain times of the year. For instance, Elderberry and the Fire Cider herbs are often called upon during the winter while the first herbs of spring often include bitters such as Dandelion and Chicory which are good for digestive systems made sluggish by the heavy foods of winter. Herbs for summer are no exception. This time of year we look to herbs to help cool us off, soothe our sunburns and heal bumps and scrapes that happen during outdoor play.
Getting outside and playing is a lot of fun but it can often be overheating. Making cooling herbal drinks can help us to cool down from that play. Here are some ideas for making herbal drinks delicious and refreshing:
Natural electrolyte drink
This is one of my favorite ways to use Lemon during the summer, a natural electrolyte drink that is essentially lemonade. Combine 1 cup of water with the juice of 1/2 Lemon. Add 1 teaspoon raw honey and a pinch of sea salt such as Pink Himalayan and stir to combine. Serve over ice. This recipe can be multiplied to make a pitcher to have on hand in the fridge for when your kids take a break.
Though we don’t often drink soda around here, sometimes it can be a refreshing treat. Making your own soda ensures that only ingredients you want to be in it will be. Ginger, Peppermint, Birch, Lemon Balm, Elderberry, Wild Cherry, Peach or Blackberry all make great sodas! I’ve also made these with more obscure flavors with great success so don’t be afraid to try out a new herb in this way.
Start by making a syrup from your herb. You will make an infusion from the herb, strain off the herb then measure your liquid. Add equal parts of raw sugar or honey to make the syrup. If you use sugar, you will need to reheat your liquid and cook until it thickens. With honey, you only want to heat enough to combine and it is ready to use. Chill your syrup.
To make the soda, you will need seltzer water. Be sure to chill it too. Combine 1 – 2 oz of syrup for every 8 – 12 oz of seltzer water, sampling it until you get the proportions the way you prefer.
Herbal shrubs are made using herbal vinegars and herbal infused honeys for a sweet and nourishing drink. Summertime fruits such as Peach, Raspberry and Blackberry make a delicious shrub, see the Blackberry issue for our recipe, it can be adapted to any fruit or herb.
Herbs can also be added to foods for cooling accents to our meals. Salads in general are a great place to add herbs such as Peppermint, Lemon Balm, Sage, Borage, Thyme as well as flowers from Daylilies, Ox-eye Daisy, Dianthus, Rose and Calendula. The leaves add interesting flavor while the flower add lots of summertime pizazz with bright sunny colors.
Like potato salad? Try adding minced Peppermint to a potato salad made from boiled and cooled new potatoes, plain yogurt, sea salt and pepper for a refreshing barbecue or picnic side dish. For extra color, I will use half red potatoes and half blue potatoes.
Cucumber Tomato Salad
Bergamot flowers are a great addition to cucumbers and tomatoes.
Borage Yogurt Salad
Borage, which tastes a lot like cucumber, is also a good summertime salad herb. Added with Peppermint, this salad is a tasty treat for the mouth.
Sunny Days of Summer
Exposure to the sun is part of summer. Sun exposure is important as our body needs the UVB rays from the sun to make vitamin D. Our bodies need vitamin D3 for health, including building a strong immune system for fighting off wintertime illnesses including influenza. Having said that, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing so it’s important to follow good sunning techniques such as avoiding the sun between 10am – 2pm or at least using a good, natural sun protection for that time of day.
Some herbs make great natural sunscreens. Infusing the flowers of St. John’s wort in Sunflower oil makes a great natural protecting oil that can be added on skin before sun exposure to reduce the damage from the sun. The same oil is also healing to sunburns.
Even with the best intentions and practices, sunburns happen. Luckily, we have many great herbs to turn to for soothing sunburns.
Nothing soothes like Aloe! The gel from the plant is great to have on hand for easing those summertime burns.
Bumps, Scrapes and Insect stings
No summer is complete without the usual bumps and bruises, scraped knees, bee stings and mosquito bites. Luckily, there are herbs that can help with these too!
Plantain is referred to as nature’s band-aid. A simple spit poultice can made from chewing the leaf of Plantain can be applied to bumps, bruises, scrapes, insect bites and stings and splinters. There are several types growing in North America, most commonly found in the midwest are Plantago major, P. rugelii and P. lanceolata, all of which can be used interchangeably.
Prunella is also known as Carpenter’s Weed, Self Heal, Heal All and All Heal, which gives us a great indication of what she can be used for. Pretty much everything! Use the flowering tops in oils, salves, teas and poultices for any cuts, scrapes, bumps, bruises, blows that occur.
This lovely smelling herb can not only sooth sunburns but can also work great on insect bites and stings. Try a bit of Lavender essential oil on a mosquito bite, the swelling and itch generally go away quickly.
Peach leaf and bark extract is one of my favorite remedies for bee stings. I carry a bottle of it with me whenever we are out along with a handkerchief. If anyone gets stung, I soak a part of the cloth with the extract and place it directly over the sting site while also giving them a dose of the extract internally.
No need for summertime blues!
There are so many herbs that work well with summer, the hardest part is deciding which ones to try first!
Which herbs do you find yourself using more in the summer? How do you incorporate herbs to your summertime days?