Monday, August 24, 2009

Cool Tips for a Hot Summer

By Eric Aufdencamp, L.Ac.

This article focuses on several common home remedies you can use to deal with the heat of summer season.

In Chinese medicine, the summer season corresponds to the Heart. The flavor of the Heart is bitter. Fire is the element associated with the Heart, and red is the color. Fire tends to go upward in the body, just as we know that heat rises in a building.

In herbal medicine, the bitter taste causes descent. When there is excess heat, bitter can help to drain that heat downward. When we prescribe a formula to clear excess heat, we tell our patients that mild diarrhea or loose stools can occur. Heat is being cleared through the bowels. Excess heat in the body dries up the fluids, so it’s important to keep it in check.

Sweat is considered a by-product of the blood in Chinese medicine, so for people with blood deficiency (weak constitutions), it’s important not to sweat excessively or for prolonged periods of time.

Summer-Heat Exhaustion:
If you are out in the sun too long, a quick short-term food therapy you can utilize is watermelon. It is extremely cooling and is excellent at treating severe heat exhaustion. The white meat that is close to the peel is the strongest heat clearing part of the melon. It helps the yin that was depleted from sweating too much.

Pink-Eye (Conjunctivitis):
Make a compress of chrysanthemum or chamomile tea and place over the affected area 3 to 9 times a day depending on the severity of the condition. These two herbs are bitter and have anti-bacteria and anti-viral properties.

In Chinese medicine, strong-smelling diarrhea that occurs in the summertime, is often due to damp-heat. The patent remedy Huo Xiang Cheng Qi Tang is an excellent short-term remedy. It can often times be effective for diarrhea from other causes, especially the stomach flu. This remedy is in the first-aid and travel kit sold at the Clinic.

For burns of any kind, the Clinic’s burn cream is an excellent remedy that can usually prevent blistering and soothes the pain very quickly. It can stain, so be careful to protect your clothes or sheets. Another remedy that is excellent for burns is lavender essential oil. It is suggested that only medicinal grade oils be used for topical application. The Clinic only sells essential oils that are medical grade and have not been adulterated.

Insect Bites:
White flower oil is a liniment used for inflammatory pain that is worse with heat. It is also an excellent remedy to apply to insect bites. It can help soothe the itching and irritation. It may even be applied for prevention. The strong odor helps mask the natural body scent that attracts most insects.

Poison Ivy:
Due to rising carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere, poison ivy abundance has increased. Studies have shown that increased carbon dioxide levels have also created stronger strains of urushiol, the oil from the plant that makes the skin itch.

A product called Tech-nu Extreme is great to have at home in case of exposure. Tech-nu Extreme is sold at CVS. Use it to wash all the areas that have been, or have possibly been, in contact with poison ivy. The soap is very effective at washing away the urushiol.

The Clinic has blended an essential oil, which is very effective at soothing the irritation and helping the skin heal, if the urushiol has been in contact with the skin long enough to cause an irritation.