Summer should be a time of fun in the sun -- not accidents, injury, and illness. Use these tips and easy home remedies to ward off common health hazards.
With its anti-inflammatory effects, aloe vera is your best salve for sunburn pain. Squeeze the amino-acid-rich gel directly from the plant, or apply a product containing 95 percent to 100 percent pure aloe vera, says Stengler. For a skin-cooling soak, combine a cup of powdered milk with 10 drops of lavender essential oil, says aromatherapist Constance Hart. Shake the ingredients in a jar and let sit for a day before pouring into lukewarm bath water.
Chamomile blossoms are renowned in France for their anti-inflammatory powers. They have a strong chemical constituent that inhibits oxidative stress (from sun damage or skin conditions like hives or eczema) and is palliative on irritated skin.
Chamomile water is a gentle spritzer. Place a chamomile tea bag (or a tablespoon of dried flowers) in 8 ounces of boiling water. Cool and pour into a spray bottle to spritz on skin as needed. You can also soak a clean cloth in the tea to make a compress.
Natural remedies like clay, baking soda, lavender oil, plantain, and tobacco contain properties that fight against pesky summer insects. To treat bee stings and mosquito bites, apply a paste made from baking soda and water to neutralize the bug's venom. Take five pellets of homeopathic apis (at 30C strength) three times daily until the itchiness subsides. And a drop of lavender essential oil applied to the bite can take out the itch and sting.
Seek out a natural antihistamine such as quercetin, a type of antioxidant found in onions and citrus fruits. Available in supplement form, 1,000 milligrams of quercetin taken three times daily throughout the season should help you stay symptom-free, says naturopath Mark Stengler, coauthor of "Prescription for Natural Cures."
Other ideas: Pack a thermos of nettle tea (another natural antihistamine). Cutting back on dairy may also help reduce congestion and sinus-pressure headaches.
Campers, backpackers, and other outdoorsy types can steer clear of poison ivy, oak, and sumac by knowing how to identify each plant: Poison ivy typically has a woody, ropelike vine and three leaflets that turn green in the summer; poison oak shows off clusters of yellow berries and oaklike leaves (usually in clusters of three); and poison sumac is a rangy shrub that grows up to 15 feet tall, with seven to 13 smooth-edge leaflets.
The sap of all three plants contains urushiol, a chemical that triggers rashes, blisters, and itching. If you do brush up against one of these plants, try a cool or lukewarm bath in oatmeal-powder-infused water. Taking two pellets of homeopathic rhus toxicodendron (at 30C strength) daily can also alleviate symptoms.
The garden and farm stands provide a bounty of antioxidant-rich ingredients that will keep your immune system strong: strawberries, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, peppers, and more. To prepare, keep it simple. Grilling, poaching, steaming, and light flavoring will ensure the seasonal foods shine.
Essential oils that have pungent, spicy, or woodsy odors repel insects by masking our natural scent; cedarwood, citronella, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary, and tea tree oils are among the most effective. Because of their potency and concentration, essential oils should always be diluted when used in a spray.
Make your own DEET-free repellent by blending five drops of patchouli essential oil, 2 ounces of which hazel, and eight to 10 drops of cedarwood essential oil in a spray bottle, says essential-oil educator Andrea Butje. Apply frequently.
Don't skimp on sunscreen. "Use an SPF of 30 or over on your entire body and face, including your lips," says naturopath Koren Barrett. Slather on enough lotion to fill a shot glass, reapplying every couple of hours that you spend outside.
When purchasing sunscreen, check the ingredients list for zinc oxide, a shield against both UVA an UVB rays. Once you're out of the sun, rub in some borage oil, a rich source of gamma-linoeic fatty acid, to help protect against sun-related aging.
Eucalyptus is "all powerful" in breaking up the congestion that accompanies summer colds, says Butje. Three times a day, fill a bowl with steamy-hot water and add one drop of essential oil of Eucalyptus globulus. Cover your head with a towel, lean in, and breathe deeply for one minute. Keep your eyes closed for the whole treatment.
For cold relief, try the immune-boosting herb andrographis. "A few 300-milligram capsules at the first sign of a cold can usually knock it out," Butje says.
On especially sweltering days, prevent heatstroke by staying hydrated, avoiding diuretics such as alcohol and caffeine, and spending most of your time in the shade or the water, or in a cool indoor space. Although heatstroke must be treated with medical attention, you can stimulate recovery by taking two 30C-strength pellets of the homeopathic remedy natrum muriaticum (shown here) four times daily.
When sticky weather brings on a heat rash, cool off with a lavender essential oil and aloe vera fusion. Try mixing a half-ounce of aloe vera gel with five drops of oil and applying it to the skin. The mixture is anti-inflammatory, so it reduces the redness and heat of the rash. Massaging in some calendula salve can have a similar hydrating, calming effect.
Eating juicy foods like mango and watermelon can up your dehydration defense. Try to drink eight glasses of water daily, especially if you're active. And if you're on a major hiking trek or biking excursion, don't skip the salt: Since sweating can disturb your sodium-water balance, replenish by snacking on salty foods like tamari almonds.
To speed recovery if you do feel dehydrated, Stengler recommends taking two pellets of homeopathic china officinalis (at 30C strength).
Whether it's the result of an all-out workout or a long day of play, muscle soreness will subside sooner with the right rubs and balms. Choose natural muscle rubs that contain menthol and eucalyptus, shown to possess anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties in a 2003 study.
Homeopathic arnica can speed healing as well, says Barrett. Take five pellets of arnica (at 30C strength) three times a day to reduce pain, swelling, and bruising.
For starters, go easy on the blender. Frosty concoctions like daiquiris and margaritas may make for the perfect summer cocktail, but it's those sugary drinks that do a number on you.
If you've partied too hard, replace the lost nutrients and restore your energy by taking 100 milligrams of a B-complex vitamin and drinking plenty of water.
A class of herbal remedies called adaptogens can increase mental performance and physical energy, found a 2005 study. Try a daily dose of rhodiola rosea standardized to 3 percent rosavin in tincture, tablet, or capsule form (follow package directions).
Another fatigue fighter is the mineral-rich Peruvian vegetable maca. Add the powdered form to smoothies, juice, or frozen yogurt -- or try the herb in tincture or capsule form.
Of course, nothing beats exhaustion as effectively as rest. Take regular timeouts from the heat, stay hydrated, exercise during the cooler parts of the day, and start each morning with a multivitamin and B12 supplement.
As you're wandering the globe this season, steer clear of food-borne illness by getting your daily fill of garlic (in food or capsule form) and probiotics (through yogurt or acidophilus supplements). Garlic provides antibacterial action, and probiotics build up your gut's beneficial bugs to counter harmful bacteria. If you do end up with a queasy stomach, taking an activated-charcoal supplement can help absorb the toxins and restore your digestive health.