Summer has arrived, filled with a joyful abundance of all the sweetest of things. It makes me want to run barefoot and wild, as I listen to the sounds of the forest: the chirping birds and crickets, the rush of leaves when a gentle breeze comes to play. I fill my lungs as long and as wide as I can, dancing upon the warm winds of this season of flourishing.
Here we are met with the season of being alive — of letting go of all fears. Of letting the sun heal us with her gentle glow: restoring our hopes and our dreams. By now we are full-grown, in full bloom, but are also all still children with dirty feet and sparkling eyes. Summer is the season of starlight, of hikes through the forest, of a mountain lake, swims, bursts of laughter, long books of poetry, long days by the sea. For after seasons of waiting, and seasons of wandering, summer is the season of becoming.
Skin-Soothing Aloe Mix
Lavender essential oil and aloe vera are two easy to use home remedies that offer healing benefits for minor burns and skin irritation. With summer comes more time spent outside, and the risks of sunburn and skin irritation increase. Whether your skin is tingling from the kiss of the sun or feeling irritated from environmental or other causes, lavender essential oil, and aloe vera are two rock star remedies that are my personal go-to’s to make sure I find quick relief.
Lavender is a beautiful plant, and I love using the essential oil for many purposes. Science confirms that the topical application of lavender essential oil decreases the effects of burns and irritation by increasing collagen production, as well as accelerating the healing process. Lavender has been used throughout history for this purpose, and today, you can easily find the essential oil in stores or online to keep in your medicine cabinet. Blending this essential oil with a carrier oil like jojoba oil or adding a few drops to a spray bottle containing one ounce each of water and vodka are great ways to apply this remedy directly onto the skin.
My other favorite remedy for burns and skin irritation, Aloe Vera, can be used directly from the potted plant. Keeping an aloe plant nearby provides a quick solution when someone touches a hot pan or has a rash. Break off a small leaf and apply some of the clear, cool, soothing gel directly onto your skin; as it absorbs, you will feel relief immediately. If you do not have an aloe plant, you can find aloe vera in stores as well. When shopping, make sure the product you choose contains a high percentage of aloe to ensure you are getting the benefits. With these two home remedies, you should be all set for a summer filled with fun in the sun and outdoors!
Herbal First Aid for Summer
As a kid, I spent my summers running around outside, and I always encouraged my children to do the same. Now that they’re grown, I’m rarely indoors this time of year—you’ll find me in my garden, tending the chickens, walking the dogs, riding horses, and generally immersing myself in the beauty of the season. Unfortunately, summer adventures sometimes lead to not-so-fun stuff like bug bites and stings as well as scrapes, scratches, and bumps. That’s why I like to make sure my medicine cabinet is always stocked with homemade healing remedies. Here are some of my favorite recipes that you can use to create your own herbal first aid kit.
T’s Wound Salve
This salve has been a mainstay in my home for decades. Minor wounds heal faster and with less scarring.
10 grams goldenseal root or barberry root bark
10 grams calendula flowers
5 grams yarrow flowering tops
5 grams echinacea root
240 milliliters olive, grapeseed, or sunflower seed oil (carrier oil)
Grind your herbs, put them into a glass jar, and add the carrier oil. Let it steep for 2 to 4 weeks. Strain, retain the oil and compost the herbs.
Here’s a little variation on the salve that features raw honey.
2 ounces grated beeswax
4 ounces of raw honey
50 drops of tea tree oil
1 teaspoon vitamin E oil (optional)
Put the strained oil in a double boiler and slowly add grated beeswax, while gently stirring. Check and adjust for consistency. Remove from the heat. As it begins to harden, stir with an electric handheld blender until it is smooth. Let it cool for another 5 minutes, blending periodically. Then add your raw honey, vitamin E oil, and tea tree oil and continue mixing for an additional minute. Pour into salve containers and store in a dark, cool place.
How to Use: This salve is amazing for any kind of minor cut, scrape, or burn. It is an all-purpose healing first aid salve.
This should be a first aid remedy in all households. We use a lot of arnica tincture on the ranch. It can be mixed with clay for bug bites or used as a compress for strains and sprains. I even rub it on my mare’s tendons after a long ride. Remember to keep it out of reach of children! Some folks can be sensitive to arnica when applied topically—discontinue if it causes a rash.
25 grams Arnica montana flowers
125 milliliters menstruum, 40 to 50 percent alcohol
Grind arnica flowers to a coarse powder and put them in a widemouthed jar. Add vodka. Stir to make sure that the spoon moves freely. If necessary, add another 25 milliliters of vodka. Put a lid on tightly and shake daily for 2 to 4 weeks. Strain the contents of the jar through a muslin cloth. Store the liquid in a dark glass bottle. Label: EXTERNAL USE ONLY. Compost the remaining herb.
How to Use: Put 30 milliliters of tincture in 300 milliliters of water and apply as a compress to sprains, strains, painful spider bites, or any acute injury where there are pain and swelling. It should not be used on open wounds, however, as it is only for topical use. Or you can use directly on a small insect bite.
I have used this Clay Paste so many times; it is amazingly fast and powerful for reducing pain and swelling from stings and bites.
2 tablespoons bentonite or French green clay
5 drops lavender essential oil
½ teaspoon arnica tincture
3 tablespoons water
Mix the arnica tincture, lavender essential oil, and water. Add slowly to the clay to make a paste. The clay helps draw out the venom from the sting and gets rid of the itch. The lavender essential oil and arnica dramatically relieve the swelling and pain.
How to Use: Apply the paste to the affected area. Cover it with plastic wrap or gauze for 30 minutes. Repeat this in 4 to 6 hours if needed.
If you think you have been exposed to an irritant like poison ivy, I suggest using a vinegar wash to remove as much of the irritant as possible. Apple cider vinegar is a versatile, neutralizing agent. Some recommend using it undiluted, but I’ve found it can be irritating to skin that is already red and inflamed.
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups of water
Mix both ingredients together.
How to Use: Rinse the area with the vinegar wash to remove as much of the irritant as possible. Let your skin dry.
By using just two common ingredients in your kitchen, you can provide your family with an amazing anti-itch remedy. Use it in the tub to soothe mosquito bites or poison ivy, or make it into a paste and apply to a bad bug bite. Totally safe and effective!
4 cups oatmeal, powdered
½ cup baking soda or cornstarch
Grind the oatmeal into as fine a powder as you can in a blender or electric coffee grinder. Pour the powder into a jar and add baking soda or cornstarch. Mix well. Put on a lid, label, and store in a dark cupboard.
How to Use: This mixture can be made into a paste and applied topically or added to a bath for itch relief. For more nasty rashes, like poison ivy/ oak/ sumac, I recommend adding a couple tablespoons cool water to ½ cup Oatmeal Relief to make a paste. Spread a thin coat over the affected area, cover it with plastic wrap or a towel, and let it dry for 30 to 60 minutes. (You don’t need the plastic wrap; it just keeps the poultice from falling off and making a mess!) Rinse off the paste with cool or tepid water. Hot water will make you itch. Repeat as often as necessary to relieve itching and inflammation. For a bath, mix 1 cup Oatmeal Relief into your bathwater. Make sure the bath is warm, not hot. Soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Repeat as necessary.
Note: For those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, oatmeal can be safely used on the skin.
Natural Beauty from the Garden
In addition to nourishing and healing our bodies, plants also provide us with a bounty of ingredients for enhancing our natural beauty. This time of year, I like to combine herbs picked fresh from my garden with essential oils to create my own skin care products. Since everything we put on our bodies is absorbed through our largest organ, the skin, when possible and within reason, I try to avoid preservative-laden products with synthetic ingredients in favor of simple preparations. Here are a few of my favorite recipes.
Calendula body oil
I grow calendula in my garden for the beauty of its warm orange blossoms and also because it’s my go-to herb for soothing skin. I like to massage a thin layer of this oil into my skin after bathing to seal in moisture. Gentle enough for babies, it can also be a useful part of any herbal first aid kit—simply dab the oil on the cuts, bites, and other skin irritations that often accompany a season well spent outdoors.
Calendula flowers, dried or freshly dried
Organic sunflower seed oil (carrier oil)
Fill a jar 2/3 full with calendula flowers and cover with sunflower seed oil. Seal jar with a tight-fitting lid and let steep in a warm place for 2-4 weeks. Strain, bottle, and store the oil in a cool, dark place. If you’d like (and you’re not using the oil on a baby), you can add your favorite essential oil—use 2-3 drops per ounce of strained calendula oil.
Lavender Honey Yogurt Mask
I love using lavender-infused honey to treat minor skin troubles, and it also makes a wonderfully soothing facial mask when combined with probiotic-rich yogurt. To make the honey, stir 1/4 cup of dried lavender flowers into a cup of honey, place in a jar, put on a tight-fitting lid, steep for 2-4 weeks, strain and store in a clean jar. Smooth this mask on right out of the refrigerator to cool sunburned skin, or simply apply any time you’re in the mood for some easy-yet-luxurious self-care. You’ll be amazed by how radiant your face looks after you rinse the mask away.
6 tablespoons probiotic-rich whole milk yogurt
6 tablespoons lavender honey
Mix ingredients and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, noting the yogurt’s expiration date. To use, remove about 2 tablespoons from the container and apply to a clean face. Leave on for 10 minutes, then rinse and apply moisturizer.
Rose and Coconut Body Scrub
I adapted this recipe from Herbal Goddess by Amy Jirsa. I like it because it uses sugar, which is less abrasive than salt, as an exfoliant. And it smells divine! While this scrub is great in the shower as a total body treatment, it also works well to clean and soften hands worn weary after a long day in the garden.
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup organic cane sugar (brown or white)
1/2 cup dried rose petals
3 drops rose essential oil
Mix the oil, sugar, and rose petals in a bowl, adding additional oil or sugar as needed to reach your preferred consistency. Add the essential oil, blend, and transfer mixture to an airtight container. To use, scoop a fingerful and rub over damp skin.
Green Clay Mask
I always keep some green clay around the house because it doubles as a great skincare mask and also an invaluable first aid remedy. French green clay is wonderful for those who struggle with oily skin and/or blemishes and it can also be used to soothe bug bites.
2 Tbsp French green clay
1-2 Tbsp. aloe vera gel
1 drop lavender or tea tree essential oil
Mix clay and aloe vera gel in a small bowl. Add aloe vera gel to reach desired consistency. Add one drop of lavender or tea tree essential oil and blend well. Apply to clean skin and leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse off. Repeat once weekly for radiant skin.