Summer means the expansiveness of being outside in the warmth, of playing hard, a long afternoon nap under a tree or on the porch, working hard in the garden.......of feeling free. For the young and healthy, very little thought is given to health maintenance peculiarities of summer, but there are many tips to enjoying these months and staying healthy.
Summer mornings are the most probable time of heart attacks (especially Monday mornings!). We tend to drink more in the summer, but unfortunately, the chosen drink is soda--which is very dehydrating. Hydration with proper electrolyte balance is essential if you are working or playing on hot days--and there are better ways of accomplishing it that Gator Ade or Coke. Farmers still take a big thermos of SWITCHEL, a vinegar based drink that is as refreshing as they come--believe it or not!
TO MAKE A SIMPLE SWITCHEL:
* 3 1/2 quarts cold water
* 1 cup molasses
* 1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
* 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
* 1-2 TBSP. fresh or ground ginger
* OPTIONAL- but traditional--adding a bit of oatmeal
** Mix thouroughly and sip as needed. The molasses, honey or syrup all contain minerals and B vitamins aside from providing carbohydrates. While there is no carbonation, it still tastesa bit fizzy--which makes it refreshing.
Then, there is the more elaborate, but equally yummy, SHRUB:
Mash a quart of whatever fresh berries you like (blackberry was traditional, but raspberry, strwberry and bluberry are among many that can be used), 1 quart of apple cider vinegar, 1 pound of brown sugar (white sugar is OK as is molasses--for a stronger taste). Mix and let stand at room temperature for several hours. Boil it for a minute or so, cool, strain and store in the refrigerator for up to a month. To drink: take 2 Tbsp. of the mixture and add it to 4-8 oz. of COLD water--or adjust amounts to fill a thermos to take outside while working/playing. A lot of people just mix the sugar and vinegar---and it still tastes great.
Speaking of Vinegar, it is also useful for other summertime complaints such as rubbing on stings/scrapes/rashes/itchy bites fo rquick relief and some antibacterial action
AND........As a wash for sunburn and a hair rinse for sun damage.
Many plants helpful in the summer are classified as "COOLING" herbs--those that have a cooling effect through encouraging sweating, urination or the dissipation of heat. Many of these are also nerve relaxants, heart/circulatory remedies, such as dandelion, parsley, mints, yarrow, hawthorn berry, elder blossom, cumin, corriander/cilantro, etc. Also consider the hot spicy, peppers, cinnamon, turmeric and other ingredients of curry powder. These all aid digestion and keep the liver clear.
In particular, Hawthorn berry, works to regulate the heart. Like all berries or hips (red and dark blue/purple), they contain high levels of Vit. C which builds/strenghtens the blood vessels. It works for those with BOTH high and low blood pressure.
For the heat of poison ivy itches or mosquitos bites, think of the juicy, beautiful, Jewel Weed--that tends to grow near poison ivy. Make a tea, cool it and freeze into ice cubes to apply as needed. Plaintain also works well as a poultice for relief of all skin injuries or irritations.
Consider your foods---eat as much juicy fruits and veggies, like watermelons, cantelopes, cucumbers, lettuces, tomatoes, fresh berries, stone fruits. All of them will cool you, cleanse the urinary tract and enable it to eliminate fluid wastes---but still keep you hydrated. Eating tons of fruit platters is decidedly boring---luckily herbs and cheese come to the rescue. Add Thyme and feta to some cut watermelon or make a dill/sour cream and feta dressing to pour over cucumbers or various melons. Try grilling your fruits or adding them to beverages. Experiment with berry based vinegrettes.
Keeping cool is a state of mind as well as a concerted effort. Enjoy the foods and herbs of the season, found all around you, to truly live well and healthy this summer.