With the summer heat waves starting to set in, there is no better time to turn to herbs that can cool us down and help re-energize the body for all of our hot weather adventures! During the hot months of summer, we can accumulate excess heat in the body, resulting in symptoms such as hot skin, profound thirst, excessive sweating, flushed skin, restlessness, and an overall feeling of seasonal lethargy & fatigue (Ching, 2017).
Keep reading to discover a handful of herbs for seasonal lethargy & fatigue that can help you beat the heat this summer!
Beat The Heat: 8 Herbs For Seasonal Lethargy & Fatigue
The following is a list of herbs that can be very helpful throughout the dog days of summer. Strive to use cooling overnight or solar infusions poured over ice, instead of hot infusions, when preparing teas for any of the herbs below.
1. Hibiscus (Hibiscus spp.)
A classic summer heat cooling tonic, hibiscus makes a beautiful and refreshing herbal iced tea for seasonal lethargy and fatigue. Slightly tangy in flavor, hibiscus is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C and can help clear excess summer heat symptoms including feelings of irritation and being generally overheated (Wood, 2008). Commonly combined with rose hips as a sour, cooling tea, hibiscus is a great herb for seasonal lethargy and fatigue.
A solar infusion is a great way to prepare hibiscus tea in summer. Watch the color transform from a light purple to a deep reddish-magenta color over the course of the day in a sunny window or outside in the sun (covered to prevent any bugs from diving in!). After infusing for the day, simply strain, pour over ice, and enjoy!
2. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Although lemon balm is another member of the mint family and shares similar properties as peppermint and spearmint, its unique lemony flavor and mood-supporting capabilities set it apart from other mints. Lemon balm is mildly relaxing in nature, offering support for both the nervous system and the mind to help with those heat-induced frazzled or lethargic days (Bergner, n.d.).
Commonly used for mild depression, lemon balm can help lift the mind and stimulate our natural vitality when we feel fatigued from summer heat (Skenderi, 2003; Bergner, n.d.). Even though summer is believed to be the time of ultimate relaxation, when the heat of summer is especially intense, this can be processed in the body as a stressor.
When our bodies are subtly stressed out for days on end like this, that feeling of “burn out” can appear as a result. This is another reason why herbs like lemon balm are great for seasonal lethargy and fatigue.
3. Mint (Mentha spp.)
While mints tend to vary in their heating and cooling properties, when used in a cold infusion or taken over ice, they are profoundly cooling! Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and spearmint (Mentha spicata) are two of the most commonly found mints and both can work wonderfully for helping beat the heat in the summertime.
As a vital stimulant, mint is perfect for enlivening our inherent energy and helping push us out of seasonal lethargy and fatigue-ridden slumps (Bergner, n.d.). The mild cooling diaphoretic action of mint can help push built up internal summer heat to the surface without overheating the body any further. Note that this diaphoretic action is more pronounced when mint is taken as a hot tea and milder in effect when taken over ice.
4. Tulsi/Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum)
Tulsi is also a member of the mint family but carries a distinctly different aromatic flavor from peppermint, spearmint, and lemon balm. Slightly sweet, pungent, and bitter, tulsi can be used as a refreshing summer tonic by itself or paired with other herbs like ginger, rose, or even green tea (Camellia sinensis).
Tulsi stands out from other cooling herbs with its beneficial effects on our cognitive function and memory (Cohen, 2014). As an adaptogen, tulsi can help our body adapt to stress while promoting energy and endurance. So when you’re in a “summer slump” from the heat and experience seasonal lethargy and fatigue, tulsi is a great herb to enlist.
5. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Although ginger is considered an extremely HOT and dry herb when taken as a hot tea, if you pour it over ice with other cooling herbs like mint, lemon balm, or peach leaf, ginger turns into the perfect revitalizing tonic for summer days. The slightly spicy and aromatic nature of ginger also lends a delightful flavor to many herbal formulas.
The circulatory stimulant action of ginger can help promote movement of stuck energy and fluids in the body (Bergner, n.d.). This, in turn, helps clear symptoms of seasonal lethargy and fatigue while also helping disperse throughout the body the cooling actions of the other herbs with which it is combined.
6. Peach (Prunus persica)
While peach fruit is a sweet highlight of summer for many folks around the world, the leaf and pit can be used as herbs for seasonal lethargy and fatigue too! Although the fruit is commonly given all the (well-deserved) attention for its sweet a delicious flavor, the leaves are actually quite tasty and enhance the flavor of many tea formulas in flavor.
As a member of the rose family (Rosaceae), peach offers similar cooling, relaxing, aromatic, and soothing qualities that rose does. Specifically indicated for heat-related conditions and irritability or tension, peach leaf and pit can help clear excessive heat symptoms in the body while soothing the nervous system (Rose, 2008a; Rose, 2008b).
Peach pit is also used for its ability to help regulate body temperature and soothe seasonal lethargy or heat-aggravated symptoms, especially on hot summer days (A. Whitney, personal communication, 2016). Herbalist Kiva Rose also quotes peach pit as “deeply restorative for burned out people still in the process of burning themselves out,” (Rose, 2008a, para. 4).
Both the leaf and the pit can be made into a cooling infusion or tincture to help beat the heat of summer. Always keep a more modest dosing strategy with peach since there are potential toxicity issues from the cyanogenic glycosides and other contraindications when taken in larger doses. The cyanogenic glycoside content tends to be higher in the pit and when the parts are partially dried (Gardner & McGuffin, 2013). Never harvest any parts that have fallen on the ground, use them when they are partially dried, or slowly dry them (which can cause fermentation).
For the fresh leaf and/or twig tincture (1:2, 95%) stick to around 5-15 drops, no more than three times per day (mcdonald, 2003). For the pit tincture, stick to energetic doses of approx 1-3 drops at a time. For the leaf tea, it is suggested to drink around 1/2 cup per dose, up to three times per day (Kasting, n.d.; mcdonald, 2003).
7. Lavender (Lavandula officinalis)
Lavender is another one of those mixed energetic herbs that tend to be hotter when taken as a hot infusion and cooler when used in a cold infusion or over ice.
Although lavender is more relaxing in nature, its vital stimulant properties help invigorate our body’s natural energy stores, making it an ideal herb for seasonal lethargy and fatigue when taken over ice (Bergner, n.d.). Lavender is also considered a brain tonic herb, helping improve our memory and fortify, or tonify, the functions of the brain (Bergner, n.d.). So if symptoms of mild brain fog or cloudiness accompany your seasonal lethargy and fatigue, lavender is a great herb to use.
Lavender lemonade is a popular and almost instantly cooling beverage to help beat the heat of summer. There are several different ways to prepare it, two of which include making a lavender infusion then mixing with lemonade (kind of like an “Arnold Palmer”) or adding a lavender-infused herbal syrup into your lemonade.
8. Rose (Rosa spp.)
In general, fresh rose is considered a cooling and moistening vital stimulant, making it an ideal herb for seasonal lethargy and fatigue (Bergner, n.d.). There are some subtle energetic nuances between the different colors of roses to keep in mind, too. To help beat the heat of summer, white rose is considered slightly cooler than other varieties, while dried red rose is slightly more astringent (Holmes, 1989).
Rose is known for its ability to help clear heat from the body and relieve general irritability (Holmes, 1989). In addition, rose can assist in lifting the mind and supporting mild depressive states which can be connected with feeling seasonally overheated and worn out or “lazy” from too much sun.
As herbalist Peter Holmes states: “Volumes could be filled describing the many preparations of rose,” (Holmes, 1989, p. 334). Simply adding fresh rose petals to a solar tea infusion with herbs like hibiscus makes for a beautiful and rejuvenating beverage.
Another refreshing way to beat the heat with rose is to spritz the face and skin with rose water (or hydrosol) for a quick cool-down as needed.
A Vital Note
If your symptoms of lethargy, fatigue, and other excess heat signs are prolonged throughout the year and do not arise in direct relation to the seasonal heat, there could be a deeper issue happening with a different root cause.
Note that signs of summer heat are different from other excess heat symptoms. Signs of seasonal summer heat imbalance are not the same as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Always consult with your healthcare professional and clinical herbalist for any chronic fatigue and lethargy symptoms or other long-standing patterns of imbalance.