While many of us pile our plates with colorful farm-fresh foods in order to reap their many rewards, these same foods offer healthful benefits when used to both treat and prevent minor summertime ailments. As the temperatures rise and you take your routine back outdoors, don’t let common bumps and bruises give you reason to ditch your usual au naturel health routine. Instead, swap the synthetic stuff for edible, in-season first aid substitutions.
Herbal Cure: Muscle Tension/Sore Feet
If a lengthy day spent hunched over in your garden has your body feeling worn down, reach for a handful of fresh basil leaves. Release the plant’s natural oils, which are proven muscle relaxers, by rubbing the leaves directly on your sore spots for some instant (and aromatic) relief. Feet aching? Allow them to soak up basil’s benefits by creating an impromptu foot bath; simply pour hot water over the leaves in a small basin and enjoy.
Edible Cure: Prevent a Sunburn
No matter how often we slather on the SPF, the occasional singe seems inevitable this time of year. If you’ll be spending time in the sun this season, begin to add more tomato to your daily diet in order to up your intake of lycopene, the antioxidant that gives the fruit its vibrant color. In one study, participants who consumed five tablespoons of tomato paste every day for 12 weeks were more than 25 percent more protected against sunburn than the control group.
Herbal Cure: Minor Cuts and Scrapes
Between working with gardening tools and extra time hitting the trails, minor scrapes are hard to prevent. If you have a small cut and are worried about potential germs, substitute the plastic tube of ointment with thyme leaves. Don’t be deceived by their small size: They’re packed with antibacterial and antiviral properties, making them a perfect natural antiseptic for the job. Rub a palmful of the leaves across the skin to help prevent mild skin infections.
Herbal Cure: Pesky Insects
If you plan to head outdoors after dusk when bugs are at their peak, seek out some lemon balm. The leaves contain high concentrations of citronella, a natural insect repellent (which also happens to give the plant its pleasant, lemony scent). Crush up the fresh leaves and rub them directly on your skin, being sure to concentrate on areas prone to insect bites, such as ankles and exposed toes.
Herbal Cure: Itchy Bites
Did you forget about that lemon balm trick? If you’re the victim of nasty mosquito bites, offer your skin some relief with fresh peppermint. Simply rub the leaves on the bites – their oils, which are anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, will help to stop the itch, prevent further inflammation, and offer you a soothing, cooling (and minty) sensation.