Five Natural Sunburn Remedies

sunburn

Ahh, summertime–cookouts, swimming, long days spent outside, and as is often the case, sunburn.

As much as we try to avoid it, most of us are familiar with the red, painful skin of a sunburn. Use the following natural remedies for quick relief!

A limited amount of time in the sun supports vitamin D production and regulates our circadian rhythm. However, too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays damages the skin, creating a painful sunburn.

Sunburn symptoms may not appear until up to 24 hours after you’ve been in the sun, so you don’t always know when a burn is happening. While it’s wise to keep the following remedies on hand, it’s even more important to avoid burns in the first place. Sunburns not only lead to pain, inflammation, peeling, and blisters, but they also increase the risk of skin cancer.

To avoid the sun’s harshest, most intense rays, avoid direct exposure between 10am and 4pm. When you are in the sun, cover your skin with light, breathable clothing, and wear a wide-brimmed hat. Consider using a sun umbrella, and apply sunscreen to exposed areas.

When you do your best to avoid a burn, but the sun gets the best of you anyway, use the following remedies for fast relief.

essential oil

Apple Cider Vinegar

ACV soothes burns and speeds healing. The acetic acid in ACV eases itching and inflammation. Add 1-2 cups to tepid bath water and soak for 30 minutes. Alternatively, combine 1 part ACV to 7 parts water and use this mixture for a compress. Apply to burns several times daily. To speed recovery, infuse the vinegar with one of the soothing herbs listed below.

aloe vera

Aloe Vera

The gel of this plant soothes, moisturizes, and heals burned skin. Harvest your own aloe gel from a plant at home or find commercial aloe at any drugstore. Look for one that has only the gel and no additives. Apply several times daily to unbroken skin, allowing it to air dry.

peppermint

Essential Oils

Peppermint essential oil is cooling and analgesic, making it a great choice for painful, burned skin. Lavender essential oil is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, and can speed healing. Consider other anti-inflammatory oils such as rose geranium, helichrysum, and chamomile.

Dilute oils prior to application. Consider using aloe gel or creating a spritz by combining 20-40 drops of essential oil with 1 tablespoon ACV and 5 ounces of water in a spray bottle.

bees

Herbs

Soothe sunburn with herbs that are anti-inflammatory, high in tannins, and promote wound healing. Consider green and black tea, plantain, comfrey, calendula, St. John’s wort, witch hazel, chamomile, and lavender. Use these herbs in compresses, sprays, salves, and infused in vinegar.

baths

Baths

Baths with common household ingredients can also alleviate redness and burning. Try an oatmeal bath by placing 1-2 cups finely ground oatmeal into an old sock, tying it off, and soaking with it in tepid bath water for 15-30 minutes. Baking soda is another option. Pour 1-2 cups baking soda into a tepid bath and soak for 30 minutes.

These methods work well alone and in combination. Cold compresses and baths are helpful in the early stages for immediate relief. Once the burn has cooled, salves and lotions can be great for healing skin.

To support healing from the inside out, ease the stress of the burn with adaptogen herbs, such as eleuthero root. Eat plenty of foods high in the antioxidant Vitamin C, such as fruits and veggies, to combat free radical damage. Finally, stay hydrated to replenish lost moisture and support recovery.

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Natural Remedies for Bug Bites & Stings

mosquito

Summer is just around the corner, which for many of us means more time spent outside. As any gardener or outdoor enthusiast knows, it’s likely just a matter of time until you have an unpleasant encounter with an  insect that bites or stings. The effect can range from slight annoyance to infections and even disease. Some of the most common biting or stinging bugs are mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, bees, chiggers, black flies, horse flies, and deer flies.

bees

Natural remedies can be a great alternative to bug sprays which contain chemicals such as DEET (N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) and permethrin. DEET has been linked to many harmful effects, including impaired cell function in the brain, memory loss, tremors, shortness of breath, headache, and joint pain. Excessive exposure to permethrin can cause nausea, headache, muscle weakness, excessive salivation, shortness of breath, and seizures.

‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ as the saying goes, and when it comes to bug bites, this is no less true. Several plant essential oils are useful for their insect-repellent properties. A few of the most common ones include pennyroyal, cedarwood, citronella, eucalyptus, cinnamon leaf oil, and catnip oil. These can be added to water to create a bug spray. Note, pennyroyal should be avoided by pregnant women. Alternatively, citronella candles are commonly available. When purchasing essential oils, look for high quality therapeutic grade oils. Here’s where I get mine.

If you do your best to keep bugs at bay, but still end up with a bite or sting, the primary goals become soothing inflammation, reducing pain, and healing the skin in order to prevent infection. The following herbs can be helpful in this instance.

mint

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

Peppermint oil or crushed leaves are cooling and can provide temporary relief from itchy or inflamed bites.

Plantain (Plantago Major)

Fresh plantain leaf can be used to provide immediate pain relief for insect bites and stings. To make a poultice, fresh plantain leaf can be mixed with bentonite clay and water to form a paste. Alternatively, a leaf can be chewed and placed directly over the inflamed area.

calendula

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Calendula oil or fresh leaves can soothe irritated, itchy skin, and can aid in healing bites and stings. A simple salve can be created with calendula, beeswax, and antiseptic essential oils, such as tea tree, rosemary, and lavender.

salve

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

Comfrey infused oil or fresh juice from leaves can be used topically to treat many skin conditions, including rashes, scrapes, and wounds. For bites and stings, it can reduce inflammation and relieve itching.

tincture

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis)

Witch hazel distillate is commonly available at pharmacies and is approved by the FDA as an over-the-counter remedy for relieving minor skin irritations. Create an itch-relieving poultice by mixing 3 parts baking soda with 1.5 parts witch hazel.

These remedies are made with easily found herbs and ingredients. It’s wise to keep a few (or all) on hand, especially in the summer months, when those bites, stings, scrapes, and scratches inevitably occur.

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Herbs & Lifestyle Strategies for Managing Stress

stress relief

Nearly everyone I know faces unprecedented demands on their time. We all have several roles we play, each with a different set of expectations, whether that’s at work, with our families, in our social lives, or elsewhere. It can be all too easy to over-commit, and when that happens, stress can quietly (or not so quietly) sneak up on us. However, keeping stress at bay is essential to be our most productive, creative selves and perform at our highest level.

As we navigate a world of ever-increasing demands, it’s essential to build a personal toolbox of strategies which support us in reliably managing stress. You may already have a toolbox without consciously knowing it. Test out the following ideas, see what works for you, and build a set of practices you can utilize anytime you feel stress creeping in.

herbs

Take Adaptogens

Adaptogens are a class of herbs which help the body adapt to stress and promote homeostasis, or stability, within the body. Some common examples include Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus),  Schizandra (Schisandra chinensis), Licorice (Glycrrhiza glabra), and Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea). Adaptogens can be taken as a tincture, capsule, tea, or powder added to foods. Use the single herbs or take an adaptogen formula with several different herbs. Adaptogens are a key resource in your toolbox which can be used daily to keep your mind and body resilient.

 

exercise

Exercise

Incorporating movement into your day is crucial to keeping stress at bay. Exercise reduces stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, while also boosting endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Whether you choose cardio or weight lifting or something else, find an activity you enjoy and create an exercise habit if you don’t already have one.

 

nature time

Spend Time in Nature

Studies have shown that wilderness-based stress management tools, such as time in nature and gardening are effective at reducing burnout and other stress-related symptoms. Whether it’s a walk in the park, a weekend backpacking trip, or an afternoon in the garden, make space for more time in nature.

 

time

Learn to Say No

Perhaps more important than any strategy to mitigate stress is learning to avoid it in the first place. A key tool to prevent stress is to steer clear of taking on too many commitments in the first place. Most of us like to say yes when something is asked of us, but learning to discern the important few from the trivial many is crucial for stress management. For more ideas, check out books like Essentialism, and The One Thing.

 

toolbox

Other Tools

A few other stress management strategies to consider include: social time with friends and family, journaling, meditation, taking a hot bath, dancing to music you love, cuddling a pet, making art, and doing something kind for another person.

Test different strategies, find what works for you, and build a toolbox to alleviate stress when it comes creeping in, as it inevitably will.

How to Use Herbs to Enhance Athletic Performance

trail

The days are growing longer and if you haven’t already started getting back outside and getting after it again, it’s time.

It’s easy to understand how what you eat and drink can impact your body’s performance, but did you know that you can optimize your active lifestyle with certain herbs as well?

Herbs can aid in reducing inflammation, improving stamina, and increasing speed of recovery, among other benefits. Include the following herbs in your daily routine to help your body perform better, whether your preferred style of movement is running, biking, backpacking, yoga, or a stroll in the park.

runner

Adaptogens are a class of herbs which promote homeostasis and increase a person’s resistance to stress. Some key adaptogens to consider for an active lifestyle include Rhodiola, Eleuthero, and Ashwagandha.

Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea)

In regards to athletic performance, Rhodiola has been shown to reduce both lactate levels and parameters of skeletal muscle damage after an exhaustive exercise session.

Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

Eleuthero, also called Siberian Ginseng, has long been used by athletes to improve endurance. This study showed that 8 weeks of supplementation (800 mg daily) “enhances endurance capacity, elevates cardiovascular functions and alters the metabolism for sparing glycogen”.

Ashwagandha (Ashwagandha Somnifera)

Ashwagandha is another herb that has been shown to improve aerobic capacity. Eight weeks of supplementation (500 mg twice daily) significantly improved VO2 max and time to exhaustion.

Turmeric (Curcuma Longa)

Turmeric is well-known for its anti-inflammatory effects. Studies indicate that the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, the active component in turmeric, may offset some of the performance deficits associated with eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage.

Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) & Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)

This 2014 study indicated that athletes supplementing with Cordyceps and Reishi mushrooms showed an increased capacity to quench free radicals, thereby protecting them from oxidative stress and over-training symptoms.

Maca (Lepidium meyenii)

In addition to its hormone-balancing effects, research suggests that Maca root, taken daily for as little as 14 days, has the ability to improve endurance in athletes.

stretching

In addition to considering these herbs to facilitate an active lifestyle, support a healthy, balanced body by including a mix of strength training, aerobic training, and stretching into your physical routine.

With a little planning, supplementing with high-quality herbs can enhance and optimize your active, healthy lifestyle!

Five Herbs for Liver Health & Detoxification Support

crocus spring detox

The crocuses and dandelions are popping out of the ground, and the days are getting longer. After a season spent mostly indoors, our bodies yearn for sunlight, movement, and fresh food. Spring is an ideal time to give your body a reboot by optimizing detoxification.

A great way to enhance your body’s natural detoxification system is to support the function of your liver. The liver filters blood coming from the digestive tract before sending it to the rest of the body. It detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. Among other metabolic processes, the liver produces bile, which breaks down fat into fatty acids to produce energy. Liver health is also essential for healthy hormones.

Align with the seasons and move into spring feeling fresh and energetic by including these 5 liver-supporting herbs into your day.

dandelion

Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelions support the digestive system by maintaining a proper flow of bile. Dandelion root also has a natural diuretic effect, allowing the body to eliminate more toxins. Dandelion tea is a great substitute for coffee while cleansing the liver.

 

milk thistle

Milk Thistle Seed (Silybum marianum)

Milk Thistle contains a flavonoid called Silymarin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Silymarin has been found to increase glutathione (an antioxidant necessary for detoxification), and it may also support the regeneration of liver cells.

 

yellow dock root
photo courtesy urbol.com

Yellow Dock Root (Rumex crispus)

Yellow Dock aids in detoxification by increasing bile production. It also supports elimination and removal of toxins by stimulating bowel movements and increasing frequency of urination.

 

turmeric root
photo courtesy specialtyproduce.com

Turmeric Root (Curcuma longa)

Besides the well known anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric, recent research has shown that curcumin, the primary polyphenol in turmeric, may have liver-protective and regenerative properties for damaged livers.

 

licorice root
photo courtesy magicalbutter.com

Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Recent studies indicate that Glycyrrhizic acid, a key active constituent in licorice root, has anti-inflammatory and immune regulatory actions. It also has antiviral effects, antitumor effects and has been shown to inhibit premature cell death of liver cells. As an adaptogenic herb, licorice can support the overall functioning of the body during detoxification.

Spring Detox Decoction

2 parts licorice root

2 part dandelion root

1 part ginger root

1 part cinnamon bark

When working with hard, woody parts of the plant, such as these liver-supporting roots, use a decoction to extract the active compounds. Use 1 cup water per tablespoon of herbs. Place herbs and cold water into a saucepan and bring to a simmer for 20-40 minutes. Cool and strain. Store in a sealed glass container in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.

As we move into spring, consider consuming more water, getting outside for sun and movement, and giving your body a rest by cutting out gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine for 30 days.