Summer fun means, among others, camping and hiking, outdoor sports, long days at the beach, and grilling with FIRE. Sometimes summer fun also means sunburns, scrapes and bruises, and insect bites. The pharmacy shelves are lined with a plethora of treatments for various and sundry ailments, but Mother Earth also provides us with many natural remedies that not only are easier on the pocketbook, but also can ease symptoms without interfering with the body’s natural healing processes. What’s more, many typical summertime complaints respond just as well to natural remedies as they do to store-bought ones. As an added benefit, natural remedies provide you with the ability to know exactly what’s going into/onto your body, and who doesn’t like that? Ever tried to read one of those miles-long ingredients lists? Sheesh!
So let’s dig right in, shall we?
I’m pale. Translucent. Practically diaphanous. You get the idea…. As I’m typing this, I’m avoiding the desert sun, hidden behind Elvis-level blackout curtains, and I’m practically sizzling. My go-to remedy for burns? You guessed it: aloe vera.
Aloe plants are easy to care for indoors or out, needing to be watered only every 3 weeks or so, and the gel quickly relieves pain of sunburn and minor household burns. Simply harvest a leaf or two (choose really “beefy” ones!) by cutting near the bottom. Using a sharp knife, remove the spines and cut the leaves in half down the middle, then score the insides of the aloe to release the aloe gel or scrape down with a spoon. Collect the gel in a dish until you have enough to cover the affected area. An alternative is to take an aloe bath. Boil a few aloe leaves in water (The water will turn brown.) and add it to your bath, or simply add some harvested aloe gel to the water. You’ll want lukewarm water for this treatment, so as not to aggravate the burn or scrape. Rest in the aloe-infused water for 15 or so minutes.
Another immensely helpful sunburn remedy is vinegar. Pour a couple cups of organic white or apple cider vinegar into a cool bath, or apply liberally to the burn with cotton balls. Sure, you’ll smell like a vat of pickles, but the pain from the sunburn will dissipate posthaste. This also works well for itchy insect bites!
Nature, among other things, is magnificently beautiful. The splendor of summer, all the life bursting forth everywhere, invites us to get our winter heinies outside and get sporty! Or maybe you like to scramble over the hill and through the woods to camp or hike or just to see what’s over there… You’re probably going to bust your tail at least once. There might be blood, and if there is, sprinkle sugar or cayenne pepper over the wound to stop the bleeding quickly. Cayenne pepper equalizes blood pressure, allowing you to keep all your blood inside of you where it belongs. Granulated sugar in a wound creates a medium where bacteria cannot survive and causes clotting. No need to make a paste; just clean the wound and put it right on there! Organic honey also works well to staunch bleeding and provides a broad spectrum of antimicrobial properties.
For itchy bug bites, go to your kitchen pantry, not your medicine chest! Baking soda’s alkaline properties help to neutralize the itch and discomfort of insect bites. Make a thick paste by mixing a little water into a bit of baking soda and apply as needed until the pain and itching abate. Aloe vera also works well to cure the itch from a wee beastie bite. If you have many bites, try taking a vinegar bath (described above) for some all-over relief. Place a fresh slice of onion on a sting for several minutes to reduce itching and relieve pain (be sure to wash the area thoroughly once symptoms subside), or apply some all-natural peppermint or neem toothpaste and allow it to dry (leave on for as long as desired). Help lessen the chances of infection by applying a small amount of raw honey to the bites. There also are many essential oils that alleviate the itch and sting of bug bites: tea tree, rosemary, neem, and lavender oil all work great.
What’s better on a summer evening than chasing fireflies and eating something from the grill? What about those company picnics and family reunions, where you lost count of how many hot dogs and burgers you ate over the course of the sweltering day, resulting in a digestive dilemma? Reach into your spice cabinet! Boil water and steep sage, peppermint, or ginger (or a combination!) for several minutes to produce a beverage that will soothe the angriest of tummies. Cure indigestion by completely dissolving a quarter teaspoon of baking soda in 2 teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar. Add 8 ounces of water or organic juice, and drink it down. The vinegar aids digestion and helps to balance acid production in the belly. This can be done before the meal for a preemptive strike, or after the symptoms of heartburn have begun. A teaspoon of yellow mustard mixed in a half cup of water also quickly relieves heartburn. Feeling nauseated? The main ingredient of most over-the-counter nausea medications is sugar. Save your money and drink the juice from a can of peaches or some flat ginger ale.
Itchy eyes, runny nose, and that irritating sensation of needing to sneeze but not being able to? Summer allergies are a thing. The pollen count rises when the weather gets warmer, turning many people into teary-eyed, mouth-breathing weirdos. If you’re a patient soul, the best remedy for seasonal allergies is raw local honey. Raw, so that it has all the good stuff still in it. Local, because you want the honey to be full of the flora and fauna (okay, not the fauna) that’s around you, because that’s what’s making you miserable. The gradual intake of local pollen increases antibodies in the immune system, preventing symptoms before the allergy season even starts. Try to get in a tablespoon a day, either eaten outright or added to food and drinks. But what if summer’s here already and you’re in the throes? Make some tasty red onion water! (Editor’s note: It’s not that tasty.) Onions contain a chemical called quercetin, which reduces the body’s histamine response, therefore reducing allergy symptoms. How cool is that?!? Thinly slice one red onion and add it to 4 cups of water. I use a quart jar with a lid for this. Allow it to infuse for 8 to 12 hours and drink a cup once or twice a day while symptoms persist. Stir honey to taste into individual servings and keep any remaining infusion in the fridge for up to 3 days.
If summer activities leave you itchy, bloody, burned, or in pain, do like your granny and look in your house for the cure. Oh, and sprinkle everything with a little common sense: If you encounter a serious burn or bleeding of the spurty kind, please get to an appropriate medical facility. Never give honey to a child under the age of one. Always use an appropriate carrier oil when using essential oils, especially when using them on children. Please be careful and act under any necessary adult supervision when using knives.