Cool food

Suddenly it’s summer. Salads, long cold drinks and sitting in the shade become more inviting as the sun comes out and the temperature rises. It’s all part of our instinctive need for balance, just as in winter we want solid rib-sticking food and warm fires. Here in Britain it’s seldom too hot for too long, and we herbalists tend to use a lot more of the warming herbs, but at times like this the cooling remedies come into their own. Mint and lemon, tamarind and bitter gourd, and the many others that are not used as food, like dock, wormwood, yarrow and dandelion.
Some things, like dandelion, liquorice and gentian, cool you down by diverting heat to your digestive system, and they all tend to share a bitter taste. Others, paradoxically, will encourage peripheral circulation and so cool you down by provoking a sweat: yarrow, elder and catmint are good examples of this, and they are all aromatics, though not always pleasant to smell. The two are not mutually exclusive, and a good cooling prescription will use both actions. An Indian or Thai spice mix often does exactly that, as well as tasting good, so that a side-effect of a hot curry can be to cool you down.
If you need to lose heat without sweating – as in hot flushes, for example – then the purely bitter herbs come into their own, like sage, black cohosh or Oregon grape. And if the heat is due to an inflammatory condition, there will be particular remedies depending on the whole picture. A common example right now would be hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, but that deserves a blog to itself.