With the warm sun in the sky, the soft grass under our feet and the beautiful array of Summer flowers in full bloom its hard for most of us to see how anybody could not be enjoying this time of year. (Mind you, at the time of going to press who knows what the Kent weather will be like, but we can hope…) However, there are a number of health conditions made worse by the heat of Summer.
Some conditions are exacerbated by heat, some even being caused by an excess of internal heat within the body. Eczema can be particularly bad during the Summer months and a real danger period (especially for children) is the warm nights. It can be more difficult to concentrate on not scratching when half asleep, causing skin to break and be more susceptible to infection. A soothing wash with cooled and refrigerated tea of Chamomilla recutita (chamomile) and/or Mentha piperita (peppermint) may provide some relief. The latter has the benefit of also being a mild insect repellent too! Remember to keep the tea in the fridge though, and discard after 48 hours. More difficult cases may respond to a cream made from Stellaria media (chickweed) – this helps cool the skin, heal and relieve the ‘itchy’ sensation. Chronic cases of eczema may require consultation with a qualified Medical Herbalist to address the condition internally too.
Another irritating problem of the Summer is insect bites. Some lucky people just don’t get bitten… others do but only mild irritation is caused. However, some approach the Summer with dread, knowing that they will be covered in huge, inflamed bites once the insects are around. To help reduce inflammation, relieve the itch and provide antiseptic protection you can try applying pure essential oil of Lavandula officinalis (lavender). Herbal lotions are available too with a combination of ingredients should you need something stronger. If you are very prone to being bitten you might benefit from a one to one consultation with a Medical Herbalist – it may be that the toxic load of your body is too great and there may be changes you can make to make you less susceptible. An individualised prescription of herbs may be necessary to help balance your body – hypersensitivity to bites can be indicative of a poorly functioning immune system.
Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist
Many people these days know the reputation of Chamomilla recutita (chamomile) tea to help relax the body and mind. Chamomile tea bags are commonplace now on all supermarket shelves. Whilst chamomile does indeed have calming, relaxing and gentle sedative properties it is a herb with many more uses too.
At this time of year chamomile is particularly helpful. It has immune stimulating properties and is anti-inflammatory so can often be useful in combination with other herbs for both strengthening the immune system against hayfever and helping with the symptoms.
Chamomile is a slightly bitter herb which helps stimulate normal digestion, it is also carminative due to the essential oil it contains. Both these properties make chamomile an ideal choice if you have had a tummy bug or indigestion after a heavy meal.
Medical Herbalists may use chamomile in combination with other herbs in eczema. Eczema is often associated with the body getting too hot and chamomile helps cool and calm thus addressing the root cause. Chamomile can also be applied topically to hot, itchy skin conditions – creams and bathing herbs are an ideal way to reduce inflammation and relieve itchiness. Chamomile has topically moisturising and healing properties too!
Because chamomile also helps reduce feelings of nausea it can be useful for pregnant women suffering from morning sickness. Experiment drinking it hot, lukewarm or cold to see which you prefer. Make sure, however, that you brew the tea with a lid on the pot or a saucer on top of the cup to help preserve the essential oil.
As a Medical Herbalist I often get asked about ideas to help young babies sleep – we have to be so careful what we give our young ones! Chamomile is a lovely gentle herb for children. Try making a strong infusion of organic chamomile then adding to the baby’s bath to relax them before bedtime. If a mother is breastfeeding then drinking plenty of chamomile tea will ensure it will come through the breast milk and help relax baby too. The added carminative properties may also help with any digestive upsets in baby too. Once children are old enough to drink things other than milk try introducing weak chamomile tea. If started early then most babies will take to the taste of herbs – a bit different to trying to get a fussy five year old to suddenly try herbal tea!! Speaking of digestive upsets in babies, and fussy five year olds do please consult a qualified Medical Herbalist if you need help, its always worth speaking to an expert if you’re not sure.
Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist