Summer is upon us, folks! Some southern U.S. states are experiencing intense heat waves. Temperatures soared into the mid-90s, just in May — and they’re on the rise.
Sure, fans and air conditioning work well… externally. That being said, there are ways to cool our body internally, namely cooling tonics. Creating a tonic is a delicious way to cool off, so why not?
‘Cooling Herbs’ 101
Many herbal traditions classify herbs into three categories: cooling, heating, or neutral. You’ll want to drink herbal tonics using warming or heating herbs when it’s cold out.
Cooling herbs fall into one or both of these categories: diaphoretics and refrigerants. Refrigerants lower our body temperature and cool our tissues. These herbs include:
- Lemon Balm
Diaphoretic herbs encourage perspiring or sweating. These herbs include:
- Lemon Balm
While it may seem counterproductive to encourage sweating, that’s our body’s built-in air conditioning system. It’s how the body lowers our body temperature to keep our system from overheating.
Please, don’t be concerned that these herbs will have you sweating profusely; the effect of diaphoretics is quite a bit more subtle. Some cultures and herbal practices classify herbs and foods according to tastes.
For instance, Ayurveda classifies herbs/foods according to six ‘tastes.’
Similarly, TCM (Traditional Chinese medicine) classifies five tastes rather than six.
Why is this important? An herb’s taste determines the action it’ll have on our body. Bitter, astringent, and sweet tastes have cooling actions. While sweet tastes are beneficial for cooling, we must be mindful to choose the more mildly sweet flavors.
Cooling Herbs & Tonic Recipes
*Not all cooling herbs make delicious tonics, but that doesn’t mean we can’t toss them into salsas and meals*
Something I love about herbs and nutritional healing is that there are almost always several benefits for each ingredient. For example, cilantro is a cooling herb, but a 2017 study noted it may also have antioxidant, anticancer, and neuroprotective properties.
- Cilantro: Use in soups, salsas, guacamole, and salads.
- Mint: Excellent for hot and cold tea, tonics, and cooling spritzer spray.
- Rose: Make rose water, and add rose to tonics and teas.
- Dill: Use in stews, sauces, soups, dressings, pickling, and dips.
- Chamomile: Excellent for tea and tonics.
- Lemon Verbena: The lemony flavor is great for jelly, sauces, seasonings, tonics, and tea.
- Chickweed: Make it into a tea, add it to a tonic, or eat some raw or cooked.
- Cardamom: This culinary spice is used often in traditional Indian cooking. It’s also used for baking and chai tea.
- Elderberry: All I have to say is yum! Use elderberry for juices, tea, tonics, syrup, jam, and wine.
- Hibiscus: These beautiful flowers are divine for both cold brew and hot tea and tonics.
- Lemongrass: Use in tonics, tea, sauces, curries, and soup.
- Lavender: I highly recommend a lavender lemonade.
Remember, fresh is always best, but, we can make do if it’s not available. This delicious cooling tonic is simple to make, it smells incredible, and it will cool you off. All you’ll need is:
- A small handful of fresh-picked (rinsed) lavender flowers or a tablespoon of dry lavender leaves.
- 2 cups boiling water.
- 1 cup of sugar (natural sweetener is best).
- 1 ½ cups of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 cups cold water (more as needed).
- Fresh lavender sprigs and lemon slices for garnish.
A little mint might spruce things up a bit.
Strawberries, fresh mint, and water are all you need for this refreshing drink.
I know those two recipes sound more like flavored or infused water, but that’s sort of what a tonic is. What matters the most is blending delicious cooling herbs together with healthy ingredients to achieve relief from the heat. There are tons of great recipes to explore, and you can create your own by mixing ingredients you like to suit your flavor profile.