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  • Whitney Joy Dunlap

My View From the Weeds: Beat the Heat this Summer with Cooling Herbs

This post was originally published in HWBCO's monthly column, My View from the Weeds, for the Columbus Free Press, August 2019 Issue

Temperatures during the summer months have been scorching. The last few weeks of July brought a dangerous heatwave throughout Ohio, the greater United States and worldwide. Staying cool during the month of August is achievable, however, with the help of herbalism and cooling energetics. Learning to harness the power of herbs — to beat the heat —is a valuable tool as more sweltering days approach. Yet, how on earth can herbs help the human body to cool down? When working with live plant medicine it is important to consider that the life force of the plant itself has its own energy. The subtle energetic properties of herbs hold valuable answers on how one might use them to dissipate heat. Just as each human is born with their own unique set of genes, so are plants.  This approach is very common with Ayurveda, Chinese medicine and traditional herbalism. Each herb has a classification that falls on a spectrum of energetic actions: hot, cold, dry and damp (among others). The way in which they are classified relate to the actions the plant creates within the body, where it likes to grow and the growing season. Often how something tastes indicates whether it is hot or cold. For instance, ginger (a plant known for its spicy qualities) is a warming herb. On the opposite end of the spectrum is mint, which is cooling to the body. These not-so-subtle clues serve as a blueprint for what plants work to solve different physiological symptoms within the human body.  One of the most useful herbs for staying cool is hibiscus. This beautiful and potent plant helps to lower body temperatures. Making a batch of hibiscus tea is a wonderful strategy to cool down during those long summer days. Other plants that can be used to help beat the heat are rosehips, passionflower, red clover and shatavari. Herbal infusions with any combination of those plants is the perfect way to discover the benefits of cooling energetics. Simply place the desired herbs together into a mason jar or carafe. Let them infuse slowly over the course of a day in room temperature water, then strain out the plant material before adding ice or storing the remaining brew in the refrigerator. Herbal iced teas are refreshing, hydrating and medicinal. Always be certain that the herbs used for remedies are from a reputable source and harvested in a sustainable way. Vendors like Mountain Rose Herbs or Banyan Botanicals are great resources for purchasing the ingredients needed to make plant medicine.  Another plant known for its cooling properties is eucalyptus. The essential oil of this plant (or White Flower oil) works well as a topical remedy for the skin. Not only does it feel extremely soothing once applied, but it has relaxing and medicinal actions. Be certain to dilute pure essential oils with a carrier oil before placing directly on the skin.   Last, but not least, aloe vera gel is an important ally for the summer months, as it provides moisture and relief to sunburned skin. The gel is extremely cooling to the body and can also be taken internally, as long as it is food-grade.  The above-mentioned herbs generally work to cool down the body, for most people. However, Herbalism is not a one-size fits all practice. Each person’s body has a unique constitution (or way in which it functions) that interacts with herbs in a way that another person’s body may not. Experimenting to see which plants work best for an individual is a part of the herbal journey. Starting to look at the basic profiles of plants can be a very useful way to explore plant medicine. This chart is a helpful starting point to reference the classifications of hot, cold, dry and damp: http://www.herbalbear.com/herbinfo/herbchart.html The herbalists who volunteer with the Herbalists Without Borders, Central Ohio (HWBCO) chapter use the principles of herbal energetics within their practice. During the People’s Clinics they will evaluate the client’s unique constitution and highlight which herbs may work for that individual. Drawing upon a myriad of resources, they will promote empowerment through the use of herbal remedies. HWBCO is now coordinating People's Clinic events in cooperation with Food Not Bombs and Mothers In Arms. Volunteers for future events are encouraged to reach out directly on the website: https://www.hwbco.org Connecting with trained herbalists and plant enthusiasts is possible each month during HWBCO events.  Herbalists Without Borders - Free Herbal Medicine Swap Sunday, August 11th 11:00-12:00 p.m. Whetstone Park of Roses, 3901 N High St, Columbus, OH 43210, USA   Please RSVP here:https://www.hwbco.org/events/herb-swap

Appears in Issue:  August 2019 issue

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