Natural healing Summertime herbs

Some of our favorite Herbs for Health contributors weigh in on the best herbs for summertime use.

| July/August 2002

Use cooling, bitter, and astringent herbs to brush your teeth and rinse your mouth with cool herbs, including neem and mint. Concentrate on sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes. A delicious mid-summer drink is a lassi (dilute yogurt shake) made with cilantro and cumin, or lime water with cumin or coriander powder. As a cooling drink in the evening, use cool milk with raw sugar, rose water, and blanched almonds. Good cooling herbs for summer teas include cumin seed, spearmint, chamomile, chrysanthemum, and honeysuckle. Jasmine, sandalwood, and rose are cooling scents to use during the summer heat.
—K. P. Khalsa
Shoreline, Washington

I get heavily into toasted sesame seeds in the summertime. I use them year-round, but more so in the summer. We wind up eating a lot of cold dishes: grain salads, gazpacho, etc., and the nutty flavor and subtle crunch of sesame seeds are the perfect complement. Not to mention that they’re nutritious—high in calcium—and my kids like them.
—Michael Castleman, San Francisco

Nothing excites me more than seeing the bright-green shoots of nettles heralding the spring. Nettle is a wonderful edible, though it must be cooked, and can be substituted anywhere you would use spinach. It is wonderful in lasagna, spanakopita, soups, or stir-fries. I am able to get at least four complete harvests through the summer season. It is most tasty when kept short, so I harvest it every few weeks. When I can’t keep up with eating that much, I dry it or blanch and freeze it for winter enjoyment. If is gets too tall, I harvest it to the ground and make a big pot of tea and add it to bath water or use it as a hair rinse. It is rich in minerals and iron, and is primarily used for its nutritive, diuretic, and anti-allergenic effects.
—Mindy Green, Boulder, Colorado

My favorite culinary herbs for summer are basil, chives, and scallions. If I can find garlic chives or arugula flowers, I use these too. These pungent herbs enliven salads, salad dressings, and fish dishes; they make great garnishes for soups. Chinese herbalists say that the pungent flavor sparks the digestive fire and aids digestion. I use herbs and garnishes year-round, but particularly enjoy the abundance of fresh herbs from my local farmers’ market in the summer and fall. I also like herbal iced teas during the summer, particularly lemonade and iced rosehip tea (both are sour and astringent, very refreshing). I plan to try herbal lemonades this summer. I sweeten my teas with stevia extract powder or liquid.
—Rachel Matesz, Toledo, Ohio

The first herb that comes to mind is lemon balm. It grows beautifully in my garden, in the face of my on-again, off-again horticultural attention. I like mints in general—thyme, basil, rosemary, sage, spearmint, peppermint, oregano, marjoram, and lavender. I grow all in my garden, with the exception of basil, which doesn’t seem to tolerate neglect. Of all the mints, I think lemon balm is the most beautiful and tasty. I like the way it grows in tidy mounds. When I do find time to actually weed, I like to nibble fresh lemon balm leaves. Ah, that taste and aroma. I do believe that eating the leaves calms me and makes me feel more centered. And it has so many other good qualities: antiviral, antibacterial, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, and carminative. I dry it for later use it in teas, tinctures, and syrups—which all come in helpful during the winter cold and flu season.
—Linda B. White, M.D., Golden, Colorado

The Chinese love to drink chrysanthemum tea in the summer as it cools the body during the hot summer months. Also, mung beans and black soybeans are frequently used now, again for their cooling action.
—Lesley Tierra Santa Cruz, California

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