Cooling Teas for Summer via the Wisdom of Ayurveda
Summer is well on its way (here in the northern hemisphere). In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, summer is considered pitta season. The pitta dosha consists of fire and a little water and governs metabolism and digestion.
Hot days increase the pitta dosha in our bodies which can result in sweating, irritability, indigestion, heartburn and acne. Exposure to high levels of heat also can lead to dehydration and heat stroke.
In order to keep cool, many people instinctively start craving cold foods. But before you reach for that gallon of ice cream, consider these cooling teas packed with healthy goodness.
But First… What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda — a Sanskrit term meaning “knowledge of life” — is an ancient Indian system of natural medicine. The practice is based on the concept that disease is caused by an imbalance in a person’s overall being.
Ayurvedic practitioners offer natural therapies and interventions to help patients regain balance within the body, mind, spirit and environment. About 240,000 American adults use Ayurvedic medicine, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
According to Ayurvedic philosophy, universal life force manifests as three different energies, or doshas. These three doshas are known as Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (earth and water). Every person is made up of a unique combination of these three doshas which has an effect on our physical and mental appearance.
Our environment and the foods we eat can have an effect on our energetic balance. Excessive heat can increase pitta in our bodies leading to problems such as sweating, dehydration and irritability.
On hot days, these cooling teas can help you control excess pitta energy in your body:
Peppermint is one of the most widely consumed single-ingredient herbal teas. Just the aroma of peppermint alone can help calm nerves and boost your mood. In Ayurveda, peppermint has a cooling energy, which can help decrease the Pitta and Kapha doshas, while also balancing the Vata dosha.
If you also struggle with tummy issues or headaches, peppermint tea might be a good choice for you. Animal research shows a relaxation effect on gastrointestinal (GI) tissue and analgesic and anesthetic effects in the central and peripheral nervous system. Menthol — the compound in peppermint responsible for its minty taste and aroma — is a known muscle relaxant, helping you relax even when under mental stress.
An ice cold tea made from rose petals is the perfect summer day treat. Roses are hydrating, anti-inflammatory and mood-lifting. This tea helps cool off the fiery digestive tract as well as any accompanying inflammation and irritation.
And if you’re ready for bed, rose petal tea may even send you into dreamland faster. Iranian research has shown that damask rose tea has hypnotic and analgesic effects. According to the findings, rose tea increased deep sleep and reduced the amount of time it took to fall asleep.
The scientists found that rose tea works in the nervous system to produce a mild hypnotic effect. According to the authors, “It can be suggested that flavonoids of the R. damascena contribute to the hypnotic effect. This effect has been ascribed to their affinity for the central benzodiazepine receptors.”
Lemon Balm Tea
Lemon balm is a lemon-scented herb that derives from the same family as mint. This tea has a mild, smooth flavor with hints of both lemon and mint.
Records of its medicinal use date back over 2000 years, including a recommendation by Paracelsus (1493–1541) that lemon balm would completely revive a man and should be used for “all complaints supposed to proceed from a disordered state of the nervous system.”
Research has shown that consuming lemon balm products may help reduce anxiety and improve working memory. Lemon balm can also help with headaches. Combined with peppermint, lemon balm tea can help stimulate circulation and act as a soothing remedy for colds and the flu.
Hibiscus tea is packed with antioxidants and is perfect as a cool summertime drink. The flower’s astringent properties offer sweet and tart cooling relief on a sweltering day. Hibiscus tea promotes healthy hair, skin and liver health. It also supports the healthy function of the kidneys and the female reproductive system.
In one study with rodents, hibiscus extract increased the levels of antioxidant enzymes and decreased the harmful effects of free radicals by up to 92%.
It is recommended that pregnant or breastfeeding women not drink hibiscus tea as it can cause fluctuations in hormone levels.
Licorice is anti-inflammatory, rejuvenating, moistening and balancing. The sweetness of licorice balances and moistens vata, while its cooling properties balance aggravated pitta.
It is packed with cooling and soothing qualities that act as a balm to hot, dry and irritated tissues in the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems as well as the skin, according to the Ayurvedic Professionals Association (APA). It is often used as a soothing agent for sore throats and coughs.
Marshmallow Root Tea
Marshmallow root is cool and sweet which helps balance the pitta dosha. In fact, all three doshas — vata, pitta, and Kapha — can use this herb at various times to support many health issues.
Marshmallow root is a perennial species indigenous to Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa where it has been used in herbalism and as an ornamental plant for centuries. A confection made from the root since ancient Egyptian times evolved into today’s marshmallow treat, but most modern marshmallow treats no longer contain any marshmallow root.
Traditionally, people have used marshmallow root for digestive problems, cough and skin conditions such as eczema. In one study, published in the journal Pharmaceutical Biology, researchers found that marshmallow root helped with lipemia, inflammation and gastric ulcer in rats with no observed negative effects.
Other Cooling Summer Foods
If you’d like to give an extra delightful twist to your summertime tea, consider slicing up a lemon or another one of these delicious cooling fruits and adding them to your glass:
- Coconut (or coconut water): Coconut helps soothe pitta and vata energy and is a natural stress-reliever and energy-booster.
- Cucumber: Cucumber pacifies pitta and vata energy and is good for hydration and inflammation.
- Watermelon: Watermelon helps balance pitta energy and helps maintain glowing skin.
Or, of course, you could just eat these delicious fruits on the side.
Siesta Botanicals carries other Ayurvedic herbs, including turmeric, holy basil and ashwagandha. These are not cooling herbs, although holy basil can be used to pacify vata and pitta (as long as the person is not severely overheated already).