Top Five Soothing Summer Herbs
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
As the summer comes into full swing, the days are filled with more and more activity. Along with all of this playfulness come scrapes, cuts, and bruises. Yarrow is a great wound-healing herb and legend has it that Achilles used yarrow to heal his men after battle. The leaf of the plant promotes the clotting of blood and the mashed or chewed fresh leaf can be applied directly to a wound or nosebleed. A tea or tincture can be taken internally or applied externally to heal bruises. A simple yarrow salve also can be made and applied.
How to Make Yarrow Salve:
Gather fresh yarrow (always remember to gather herbs at least 100 feet away from roadsides) and pack them into a glass pint jar. Fill the jar with olive oil, cover, and place in the sun. The warmth of the sun will pull out the active compounds in the yarrow. After about a week, remove all plant material from the oil and strain using an old cloth or coffee filter. This yarrow-infused oil can be made into more of a salve by adding 1-2 tablespoons of beeswax to the oil and heating over a double boiler until the beeswax is completely melted. Pour immediately into a covered jar and allow to cool. Apply to any scrapes, cuts, or bruises to promote a rapid return to summer fun.
How to Make Yarrow Bug Repellent:
Yarrow is also considered a great protector, creating a shield or barrier between you and any harmful outside forces. For this reason, yarrow is perfect as a natural bug repellant. It is the volatile or aromatic oils, including camphor and thujone, which give yarrow the power to ward off insects. To make a natural insect repellant, first gather fresh yarrow (this is best done when in full flower). Pack into a glass jar and cover completely with pure grain alcohol. Cover and shake once daily. After two weeks, separate the liquid from the solid by straining through cheesecloth first and then a coffee filter. For each ounce of the yarrow extract (liquid), you can add a total of 10 drops of any of the following essential oils: geranium, lavender, eucalyptus, and orange. This will protect you and your family from mosquitos, ticks, black flies and most tiny flying pests without the use of DEET or other chemicals. Please be sure to use this tincture externally only, and keep it away from eyes and mouth.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm is a soothing, relaxing, and uplifting herb. The smell of its freshly crushed leaves can bring on a smile and calm the nerves of almost anyone. Lemon balm is very easy to grow, and is best planted in a container, as it will overrun other plants if allowed to roam free.
Hot to Make Lemon Balm Tea:
For a relaxing summer drink, try lemon balm sun tea. First, gather plenty of fresh lemon balm stems with the leaves still attached and place in a ½ or 1 gallon glass jar, depending upon the amount of tea you would like to make. Some fun additions would be a few slices of fresh lemon or lime, hibiscus petals for a warm red color, or ginger for a spicy kick. Fill with water, cover, and place in the sun for 12-24 hours. Remove the lemon balm stems from the tea, sweeten if desired, then chill and serve. The tea can also be poured into an ice tray for a cool refreshing addition to summer tea, or poured into popsicle molds for a great summer treat for children.
How to Make Lemon Balm Pesto:
This delicious herb also can be made into a pesto to compliment fish and pasta dishes. The recipe is simple. Simply strip enough lemon balm leaves off of the stem to equal 2 cups. Put into a blender or food processor and add ½ cup extra virgin olive oil and 3-4 cloves of garlic and blend until smooth. A great way to savor this fresh summer pesto throughout the year is to portion out servings and store away in the freezer, so whenever there is a hint of the summer blues, lemon balm pesto can bring a little sunshine onto the dinner table.
Lavender (Lavendula spp.)
When overexposure to the sun from work or play leads to sunburn, heat exhaustion, or fatigue, reach for lavender to soothe sore skin and tired muscles.
How to Make Lavender-Infused Remedies:
Adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to aloe vera gel, a cold cup of black tea, or apple cider vinegar can bring relief when the mixture is applied to sunburns. To relax aching muscles, add 3-5 drops of lavender essential oil to a bath, along with 1-2 cups of Epsom salt. A cup of lavender tea made by infusing 1 tablespoon of lavender flowers to 1-2 cups of hot water will relieve headaches caused by fatigue or exhaustion. Lavender oil is also highly antiseptic and can be applied to insect bites, cuts, scrapes, and abrasions. A great way to experience the antibacterial benefits of lavender is to add a few drops to the yarrow salve (described above) as it cools.
Lavender oil is extremely powerful. As such, it always should be diluted and only used externally. Also, remember to keep the oil away from children and away from your eyes.
Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)
That’s right—cayenne is a great herb to beat the summer heat. The idea here is to fight fire with fire. In Korea, where the weather is hot and the cuisine is even hotter, it’s understood that the temperature of the body is cooler than the surrounding temperature of the atmosphere. So, by eating things that are heating, such as cayenne, the temperature of the body rises and becomes more aligned with the temperature outside, making the heat less noticeable. The capsacin in cayenne stimulates blood vessels closest to the skin to dilate. When this happens, the heated blood from the central core of the body moves outward toward the skin, where it can be released. This causes sweating, which then evaporates, producing an overall cooling effect.
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
The greatest gift of jewelweed is that it usually grows very close to poison ivy, oak, and stinging nettles, so it acts as a warning of sorts. Jewelweed contains up to 90% water and it is this luscious juice that neutralizes the chemicals that can cause skin irritation from these neighboring plants.
How to Use Jewelweed to Treat Skin Irritations:
So if you come into contact with poison ivy or stinging nettles, find the nearest stand of jewelweed, cut the stem to release the juice, then rub it over the affected area. This should promptly diffuse the situation and prevent breakouts from occurring. A way to preserve the healing properties of jewelweeds is to chop a big batch into a pot and cover with water. Bring this to a boil until the water has turned a dark orange color. Strain out and retain the liquid and compost or discard the remaining plant material. The liquid can then be frozen in ice cube trays to have on hand whenever you have any sort of skin rash.
This article was written by Holly Yurukov, who is a clinical-level herbal student practicing in Tai Sophia’s Natural Care Center and can be reached at .