With these high days of summer, I’ve been swimming in lakes, kayaking down the river, and soaking in all of this heat and sunshine. Hot days, cool nights, and the garden bursting at the seams — this is my favorite season. Summer always seems to pass too quickly and I spend the rest of the year pining for heat’s embrace.
As much as I love summer, I know it can easily become too much of a good thing. Excess heat withers my flowers too quickly, makes my lettuce bolt, and can even cause me to feel too hot and irritable. (Which then has me reaching for herbal ice pops — more about that in a moment.)
As creatures of nature, it serves us well to understand that just as the hot summer affects the plants, animals, and insects around us, it also affects us.
In fact, the high temperatures of summer is the perfect time to understand heat as it relates to energetic herbalism.
Admittedly, when I first started studying herbs, my approach was straightforward and simplistic. I eagerly wanted to know what herb was good for what disease.
In my head it was a simple equation. “XYZ disease” + “XYZ herbs” = cure.
For years I tried to make that equation work and sometimes it was actually successful! But more often than I liked, it didn’t work.
Then I was introduced to energetic herbalism. The term “energetics” can seem ethereal or even a bit woo-woo, but the concepts are rooted in our everyday practical experiences.
Energetic herbalism is based on the four qualities of hot, cold, damp, and dry.
Both people and plants contain these qualities. You might know, for example, someone who tends to be cold often and may be wearing sweaters while others are in T-shirts. Or someone who radiates heat as if they have their own inner fire constantly raging. In energetic herbalism we describe these people as having more coldness or more heat.
If I gave you a cucumber and a cayenne pepper, I’m sure you could easily tell me which one was cooling and which one was heating simply by taking a bite out of each.
The basics of energetic herbalism are simple, and as your understanding grows, it can become more nuanced and enlightening.
For this article we are specifically going to look at two aspects of energetic herbalism: heat in people and plants that are cooling. And then we’ll make a recipe for herbal ice pops!
What is Heat?
Heat is a simple word for something that can be felt and experienced in many different ways.
Heat is warmth. It’s the feel of the hot summer sun on your skin as well as the internal heat of a high fever.
Heat is excitable. It moves. Boiling water bursts with bubbles. Hot lava flows down volcanoes. Flames jump, reaching out to consume more fuel.
Heat transforms. Fire transforms wood to ash. When exposed to a hot oven, raw eggs, flour, butter, and sugar transform from dough to cake.
Your digestive system requires inner heat. Metabolic warmth is needed to transform whole food particles into nutrients your body can break down and use. When you have a balanced amount of heat, your body transforms nutrients and moves well.
What is Excess Heat?
Heat in itself is not inherently bad, but too much heat is challenging.
You can experience excess heat both acutely and chronically.
Acute heat is often brief and intense. It’s the symptoms of a high fever, feeling hot, sweaty, and in pain. Or it can be the effects of too much time in the sun or a sauna, when external heat has overridden your body’s ability to maintain internal balance. Another example that is easily found in the summertime is allergic reactions to bug bites, which can leave the area around the bite feeling hot, painful, and swollen.
Chronic excess heat can manifest as inflammation.
Chronic systemic inflammation is increasingly believed to be a major underlying cause of many modern diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune conditions, and more. Your heart and cardiovascular system are especially vulnerable to chronic inflammation.
Many people in the United States are dealing with chronic inflammation and the health challenges that come from it. I believe we could see a huge shift towards better health if we simply assessed chronic inflammation better and then addressed it at the root cause.
Unfortunately, the root cause of chronic inflammation is not always easy to find. The reason for it can vary by person and it’s seldom one thing that causes it. Sleep deprivation, excess sugar, sedentary lifestyle, mouth breathing, excess daily stress, and a poor diet can all be contributing causes.
Another contributing factor to chronic excess inflammation could be what is missing from our diets. Many people eat plenty of calories a day but not nearly enough phytonutrients.
Phytonutrients are the many properties within plants that provide us with a range of nutrients that go beyond simple building blocks like fats, proteins, and carbs. Examples of phytonutrients include flavonoids, polysaccharides, lignans, tannins, and more. Many of these phytonutrients are able to strongly modulate inflammation.
So while it’s important to address the root causes of excess inflammation in regard to lifestyle (like sleep, movement, etc.), we also can joyfully add foods and herbs into our life that are rich in phytonutrients.
And it’s not just about taking a bite of a carrot here and a sip of tea there. Something I learned from my mentor, Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, that has always stuck with me is that we need to saturate our lives with herbs. It’s not simply about taking a moment to take a bit of herbal medicine, but it’s also about incorporating herbs into our meals, beverages, desserts, snacks, and on and on.
In other words, every time we eat or drink something, it gives us an opportunity to consume the benefits of phytonutrients!
With that in mind, I’ve created a delicious and fun recipe for herbal ice pops that address heat and inflammation in various ways. This recipe is also filled with herbs that are good for your heart.
Before we get to the ice pops recipe, let’s take a look at the ingredients.
Hawthorn Berry (Crataegus spp.)
Hawthorn’s richly colored red berries are filled with flavonoids that modulate inflammation.1 Hawthorn has a special affinity for helping people maintain and improve their heart health. Much of the heart disease in the western world is related to chronic inflammation, and regularly enjoying herbs and foods high in beneficial flavonoids can protect the heart from oxidative stress.
Large long-term and short-term studies have shown that hawthorn offers many benefits for people who already have mild to moderate heart disease. Studies have specifically shown improvement for ankle edema, general cardiac performance including reduced blood pressure, improved cholesterol, fatigue, pain with increased exertion, and palpitations.23456 Researchers have concluded what herbalists have long known, that “hawthorn has a clear benefit for patients with mild to moderate heart failure.”7
Hibiscus Calyx (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
Hibiscus, also known as roselle, has a sour taste that quenches summer thirst. It’s both cooling and moistening, a perfect combination for the heat and dryness of these hot months.
Hibiscus calyces contain a variety of phytonutrients that are associated with modulating inflammation, including anthocyanins and flavonoids. They can also contain a significant quantity of polysaccharides, with 28% of the dry weight being attributed to mucilage.8
The calyces also contain vitamin C, β-carotene, calcium, and iron.9
Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)
Red and black raspberries are a delicious food high in nutrients. The berries are exceptionally high in fiber for a fruit, containing about six grams of fiber per 1/2 cup.10 They are also rich in flavonoids and vitamin C.
A 2019 study showed that red raspberries can be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes because they “lower postprandial hyperglycemia and inflammation.”13
A gift from the bees, honey is filled with nutrients that go beyond its sweet taste. Renowned for its ability to heal wounds and modulate the immune system, local honey can be a sustainably produced sweetener. Look for honey that is local, raw, and, if possible, made by untreated bees.
Coconuts are a traditional food that probably originated in Asia and now grow all over the tropics.
Coconuts are a fruit! For a fruit they are unusually high in beneficial fats while being low in sugars. Coconut water and coconut milk are popular ways to enjoy coconuts. The milk is made by blending mature coconut meat and then straining it.
Coconut milk can help maintain a beneficial electrolyte balance, perfect for those hot summer months when dehydration is common. It’s also high in lauric acid, a beneficial fat that has been shown to improve heart health.
Look for coconut milk that doesn’t have any added preservatives and comes in a box or BPA-free can.
Any type of milk or milk alternative can be used in this recipe; however, the high fat content of coconut milk gives the ice pops a creamy texture, whereas other lighter milks may have a more icy texture.
Want More Herbal Energetic Ahas?
This brief look at heat and inflammation is just one small aspect of herbal energetics.
If you’re interested in learning more about herbal energetics, then check out my Taste of Herbs online course.
Hawthorn and Hibiscus Ice Pops for Beating the Heat (and Inflammation)
Cool down with these refreshing ice pops, which are bursting with flavor and color. They are filled with herbs that are high in flavonoids and healthy fats to cool heat and inflammation. To make these you’ll either need ice pop molds or paper cups and popsicle sticks.
What you’ll need…
- 1/2 cup dried hawthorn berries (60 grams)
- 1/2 cup dried hibiscus calyces (20 grams)
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup honey (or to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
- Combine the hawthorn, hibiscus, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the herbs, reserving the liquid.
- Add the honey and salt to the liquid and stir until combined.
- Add the coconut milk and stir well. Allow to cool.
- Add raspberries to your ice pop molds or paper cups. Then fill with the cooled liquid mixture, leaving a little room at the top to allow for expansion. Insert your popsicle sticks.
- Freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight.
- If using popsicle molds, run them under warm water for a few moments to help slip the ice pops out. Enjoy immediately.
Yield: 3 cups of liquid, which makes approximately 10 ice pops
- Any type of milk or milk alternative can be substituted for the coconut milk. The high fat content of coconut milk gives the ice pops a creamy texture. Lighter milks may have a more icy texture.
- Any berries can be used in this recipe, including blueberries, black raspberries, and blackberries.
- Any sweetener can be used; amounts may vary according to the product and personal taste.
These Ice Pops are Kid-Approved!
I was thrilled to have a visit from my honorary nieces, Pearl and Lulu, this past weekend. I made these ice pops for them to try out and they were a huge success. Phew! It’s not just loved by adults but also kid-approved. It was extra special to have them in the photos since they were also featured in my other popsicle recipes (Chamomile and Lavender Lemon).
Now I’d love to hear from you!
Do you saturate your life with herbs?
Do you look for new ways to include herbs and plants high in flavonoids into your life?
Or do you simply enjoy herbal ice pops on a hot summer’s day?
Please share in the comments below.
- Orhan, Ilkay Erdogan. “Phytochemical and Pharmacological Activity Profile of Crataegus Oxyacantha L. (hawthorn) – A Cardiotonic Herb.” Current medicinal chemistry (2016). ↩
- Dalli, E., et al. “Crataegus Laevigata Decreases Neutrophil Elastase and Has Hypolipidemic Effect: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Phytomedicine 18, no. 8–9 (2011): 769–75. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2010.11.011. ↩
- Asgary, S., et al. “Antihypertensive Effect of Iranian Crataegus Curvisepala Lind.: A Randomized, Double-Blind Study.” Drugs under Experimental and Clinical Research 30, no. 5–6 (2003): 221–25. ↩
- Walker, Ann F., et al. “Hypotensive Effects of Hawthorn for Patients with Diabetes Taking Prescription Drugs: A Randomised Controlled Trial.” British Journal of General Practice 56, no. 527 (2006): 437–43. ↩
- Tauchert, Michael, Amnon Gildor, and Jens Lipinski. “/High-Dose Crataegus Extract WS 1442 in the Treatment of NYHA Stage II Heart Failure/.” Herz 24, no. 6 (1999): 465–74. ↩
- Holubarsch, Christian J F, Wilson S Colucci, Thomas Meinertz, Wilhelm Gaus, Michal Tendera, and Survival and Prognosis: Investigation of Crataegus Extract WS 1442 in CHF (SPICE) trial study group. “The Efficacy and Safety of Crataegus Extract WS 1442 in Patients with Heart Failure: The SPICE Trial.” European journal of heart failure 10, no. 12 (2008): doi:10.1016/j.ejheart.2008.10.004. ↩
- Habs, M. “Prospective, Comparative Cohort Studies and Their Contribution to the Benefit Assessments of Therapeutic Options: Heart Failure Treatment with and without Hawthorn Special Extract WS 1442.” Forschende komplementrmedizin und klassische Naturheilkunde /Research in Complementary and Classical Natural Medicine/ 11, no. suppl. 1 (2004): 36–39. doi:10.1159/000080574. ↩
- McCutchan, Cheryl. “Hibiscus Extracts Contain a Wide Range of Bioactive Compounds and Provide a Myriad of Potential Health Benefits.” American Botanical Council. Accessed July 27th, 2020. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Robinson, Jo. Eating on the wild side: the missing link to optimum health. New York: Little Brown & Co, 2014. ↩
- Jeong, Han Saem, Soon Jun Hong, Jae Young Cho, Tae-Bum Lee, Ji-Wung Kwon, Hyung Joon Joo, Jae Hyoung Park, Cheol Woong Yu, and Do-Sun Lim. “Effects of Rubus Occidentalis Extract on Blood Pressure in Patients with Prehypertension: Randomized, Double-blinded, Placebo-controlled Clinical Trial.” Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.) 32, no. 4 (2016): doi:10.1016/j.nut.2015.10.014. ↩
- Jeong, Han Saem, Soon Jun Hong, Tae-Bum Lee, Ji-Wung Kwon, Jong Tae Jeong, Hyung Joon Joo, Jae Hyoung Park, Chul-Min Ahn, Cheol Woong Yu, and Do-Sun Lim. “Effects of Black Raspberry on Lipid Profiles and Vascular Endothelial Function in Patients with Metabolic Syndrome.” Phytotherapy research : PTR 28, no. 10 (2014): doi:10.1002/ptr.5154. ↩
- Schell, Jace, Nancy M. Betts, Timothy J. Lyons, and Arpita Basu. “Raspberries Improve Postprandial Glucose and Acute and Chronic Inflammation in Adults with Type 2 Diabetes.” Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism 74, no. 2 (2019): 165–74. https://doi.org/10.1159/000497226. ↩