Summertime herbs

For many of us in the northern hemisphere, especially in the southwestern United States, summer comes a bit early. There are herbs that are especially refreshing in summertime because they cool the blood and body. This property gives them the classification refrigerants. These herbs are: Hibiscus flower, Wormwood aerial, Borage leaf, Watermelon, and Cucumber.

Hibiscus flower, courtesy WikipediaHibiscus rosa sinensis – Hibiscus tea can be made by bringing about 2 oz dried Hibiscus flowers to boil in 4 quarts water. Turn off heat and let them steep until cool. Strain off the flowers and use the remaining liquid as a tea concentrate for making tea. Use 2-5 Tbsp per glass (12-16 oz) of water. The tea should be tart to be effective and will need sweetening. Sweetening it (preferably with fructose or beet sugar) turns it into a cherry-like flavor that is very tasty!

Hibiscus is also anti-inflammatory so it can be good for alleviating fever and inflammation conditions much like NSAIDs (Ibuprofen, aspirin, etc). Just know that it acts most strongly through the liver and stomach channels, so if you are experiencing stomach cramps do not use it. Also make sure that you don’t use too much or you can get stomach cramps if your body is not actually in a state of being at least a bit overheated.

Borago officinalis – Borage can be used very similar to Hibiscus, but has a cucumber-like flavor. Its leaves are pleasant tasting and can be put into salads. Even the beautiful violent flowers are edible. It can also be used to lower fevers, but is well-suited for cooling the body, particularly for nursing mothers since it promotes the flow of milk. It also helps clear lung congestion. So if you are a smoker with dry inflamed lungs, this is a good summertime herb for you.

Watermelon and Cucumber are almost self-explanatory. They are favorite summertime fruits for many people, cukes being used more like a vegetable in salads. There is a reason people say “cool as a cucumber.” Cukes can be eaten as needed to cool the body down and supply much needed fluids. Watermelon rind, fruit and seeds can all be used for the same purpose.

Wormwood leaves and teaArtemisia spp. (A. Abrotanum, absinthum) – Wormwood is the strongest herb in this category, but is especially important for those who need liver regulation in addition to cooling the body. More than once I had upward flushing heat from drinking maybe one too many beers and a couple shots of Wormwood extract did the trick. It is known mostly as a vermifuge for its ability to attack parasites, but it is also a good blood mover for those with poor circulation. Used carefully it can also be used to alleviate fever. Note: not to be used by expectant mothers, as this herb can be abortive.

To make tea for immediate use, use about 1/2 tsp Wormwood for each 4-8 oz cup of tea. Wormwood is strong so we use about half the usual herb amount for one cup of tea. Steep in boiling hot water or simmer it a bit, then pour off and cool with ice.

To make liquid extract use 1 oz dried Wormwood to make 2 oz extract. Put the herb in no more than 16 oz water and simmer slowly until reduced to about 1.3 oz of final strained product. This may take a couple hours or more. Funnel this into a 2 oz dropper bottle and add 0.7 oz vodka to preserve it.

Other useful summertime herbs:
– Aloe vera leaves. Put a spike from your Aloe plant in the freezer and apply it to sunburned skin.

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