5 Cooling Herbs for Summer

Sun tea

Summertime is marked by the warmth of the sun on the earth, and by light. The increase of solar radiation warms our bodies, and the increased light causes the plants to grow and fruit. Unlike winter, which is a characterized more by potential energy, summer is a time of increased activity and this is reflected everywhere in the movement and expansiveness of the season.

Just how in the winter we gravitate toward food and beverages that bring cozy warmth to the body (like soup or spicy chai), in the summer we naturally seek those foods that refresh, cool, and hydrate. Cooling herbs can balance out some of the heat we absorb and relieve any resulting dryness or effects from humidity. If you’re feeling like a wilted tomato plant, or want to increase comfort and ease, we trust that the following plants may offer support. Do keep in mind that any tea enjoyed chilled will almost always be more cooling and quenching than a hot tea of the same herb.

Sun tea is a passive infusion method that utilizes the solar energy of the sun to create a special tea that is aromatic and rich. This preparation welcomes fresh aromatic plants from the garden or market, but is fantastic using dry herbs as well. The method is simple: use 1 heaping tablespoon of dry plant (or twice that for fresh herbs) per 8 oz of water. Add herbs into a clean jar and top with fresh cold water. Cover, and find a sunny warm spot outside (you can even chase the sun!) The earlier in the day you begin the process, the better the infusion, and by late afternoon, or evening, you will have a delicious tea that is easily chilled or iced. The following herbs all do well both as a sun tea and prepared with boiling water and then cooled. Feel free to blend herbs together and sweeten as desired.

Rose (Rosa spp) Ahh, rose. The mere mention evokes a feeling of soothing beauty. Here in Maine, Rosa rugosa’s pink blooms open close to the summer solstice and offer sweet aromatics to the senses. Any wild or organically cultivated roses will do. For teas, we reach both for the petals and the rose hips (fruits). The petals are astringent (cooling and drying) toward tissues due to the presence of tannins. And the hips can be somewhere between sweet and tart. Rose blends well with many herbs. Other tannic herbs to consider in addition to rose petals: yarrow, green tea, and raspberry leaf.

Roses

Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) Some herbs are cooling because of aromatics that have a literal cooling effect on the body, and peppermint is one of these. Peppermint is the most cooling of the classic mints, even more so than spearmint, although they blend well together. A cold glass of peppermint tea must be one of the most thirst quenching beverages there is. Great as a fresh or dried herb, we often use both at the same time! Peppermint is considered a ‘diaphoretic’ herb, meaning this plant helps move heat up and out of the body. Other diaphoretic herbs include: catnip, elderflower, and common sage.

Lavender (Lavandula spp) Comforting and calming, lavender is another aromatic mint family plant that reminds us of the human connection to plants throughout time. Aromatic, and slightly bitter, lavender bring a sense of peace to the human nervous system and supports healthy digestion along with nervous system quality. A little bit of lavender in a tea blend goes a long way, as the flowers are full of gorgeous essential oils. We love to blend lavender with other herbs that support both the nervous system and digestion: chamomile, anise hyssop, tulsi, and lemon balm.

Lavender

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) Sour or tart flavors can be considered warming, but the thirst quenching quality of lemonade is plain. Another mint-family plant, lemon balm smells of true lemon and brightens and delights the senses while imparting ease and uplift to any summer tea. Like most mints, lemon balm is a perfect addition to sun tea both fresh and dried, and blends beautifully with a myriad of herbs. Additional tart herbs for cooling hydration: hibiscus, lemon grass, and rose hips.

Linden (Tilia spp) Come late June, the Linden (or Basswood) trees are in full bloom-- much to the delight of pollinators and humans alike. Linden blossoms are white and sticking with soft aromatics. During harvest, the flower, as well as secondary leaf called a ‘bract’, is picked. The bract is full of cooling mucilaginous goodness. Diffusive, moistening, and soothing with an affinity for the human heart, Linden blends well with all kinds of herbs and delights the senses. Other moistening herbs: marshmallow root and leaf, milk oats, and licorice root.
Susan Staley
Susan Staley

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