Summer Tonics

Cooling down, feeling good

I've always loved reading about seasonal traditions, for some reason--maybe because in American life we have so few, and eventually they become nothing but another excuse for a big sale (Presidents Day, anyone?). In that same vein, I've always loved reading about seasonal tonics, drinks and food given to fortify the body for the change of weather.

If you have access to a juicer, this is prime time to break it out. A classic cooling tonic juice mix is cucumber (surprisingly sweet), apple, ginger and lemon. Drink a glass of it in the afternoon heat and feel your energy level rise! I need to follow my own advice; the summer I did this, I never had the afternoon low energy dips I usually do.
Summer tonics can relax and cool you without stressing your system
Traditional Chinese medicine is full of tonic recommendations for the seasons. Summer is "yang"--hot, light, bright, active, expansive. In Healing with Whole Foods, Paul Pitchford recommends expressing the yang principle yourself:

To be in harmony with the atmosphere of summer, awaken early in the morning and reach to the sun for nourishment to flourish as the gardens do. Work, play, travel, be joyful, and grow into selfless service.

In cooking he recommends high heat and quick methods in summer, and adding spicy and pungent flavors but keeping water content high and salt low. Avoid heavy foods; keep things light and colorful. With the abundance of produce, that's easy to do!

Paradoxically, both Pitchford and just about any resident of the British Isles will tell you that drinking hot liquids in summer will cool you down by inducing sweating, and to avoid too much cold food, especially ice cream and iced drinks; they stop digestion, contract your energy and shock the system. The guideline: Cool, not cold.

Here's a recipe for a nourishing summer herbal tea you can drink hot or cooled:

  • 3 parts chamomile
  • 1 part lavender
  • 1 part dandelion leaves (not root)
  • 1 part lemon thyme
  • 1 part rose petals

For each cup, put a heaping spoonful of herbs in the pot, pour boiling water over, and steep for at least five minutes. Strain and drink hot or wait until it has cooled. (Don't ice it!) In late summer you could also add 1 part oat straw to the mix.

What are your favorite summer tonics?

Lynn Siprelle is the editor of The New Homemaker.

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