Discover the medicine in your kitchen.
Summer time is a joy when the warm weather beckons us outdoors. But hot weather can be depleting. Too much heat internalized can create inflammation, irritation, burning and tissue deterioration. In Ayurveda, this internal heat is called Pitta.
As the science that promotes “the application of opposites,” Ayurveda prescribes soothing, calming and cooling balms for hot days, hot bodies, hot tempers.
When it comes to cooling off, many people drink down ice water. But ice water cools the belly, shunting blood which can diminish digestion, already challenged by the heat. Ironically, ice water requires your system to work harder to adjust body temperature, defeating the purpose by creating more heat.
What we want in summer, or any time pitta is high, are foods and drinks that are cooling in their energy, so that their overall effect on offers lasting balance to the heat. And because we perspire to release heat, foods and drinks high in mineral content are essential to replace elecrolytes, regulate body temperature, maintain energy, and prevent burn-out.
Below are three cooling, hydrating refreshing drinks, inspired by Ayurveda to balance summer’s heat and to pacify Pitta in any season. Below each recipe you will find the health benefits of key ingredients. I invite you to play with these ingredients and see which works best for you.
Ayurvedic principles and applications for radiant health are available to you in my online course The Medicine in Your Kitchen: Introduction to Ayurvedic Cooking - including tonics and teas like Summer’s Coconut Cooler, Hibiscus Hi-C Tonic, Everyday Hydrating Water, Digest Tea, Digestive Lassi, plus loads more recipes for summer and every season, as well as a quiz to determine your constitution, and the foods, spices, cooking methods best for you.
3 Refreshing Drinks for Summer
Smooth Skin Smoothie
Skin expresses pitta in the body, so pacifying internal pitta helps keep the skin luminous. This drink is good for your skin because the ingredients are good for blood, liver, GI tract, and corresponding tissues that sometimes need a good cleanse.
1 small handful cilantro, rinsed
2 cups coconut water
1 persian cucumber
1 aloe leaf
1 tablespoon maple syrup
option: 1 teaspoon ground flaxseed
Blend the cilantro leaves, stems and all, in an electric blender with the coconut water until thoroughly pulped. Strain and discard the cilantro pulp. Pour the liquid back into the blender. Chop the cucumber into chunks and put in the blender. Fillet the aloe, removing the skin and sharp edges, and scoop the gel into the blender. Zest and juice the lime and add to the blender. Spoon in the maple syrup, and flaxseed if desired. Blend well. Taste and adjust. It may also need a dash of pink salt.
The cilantro and aloe are slightly bitter, which the coconut water and maple syrup help counter. If you want it sweeter, add coconut milk, dates, or more maple syrup.
Please note: Pregnant women and children under five should not take aloe vera internally.
Aloe is 96% water. The other four percent contains 75 known substances including Vitamins A, B, C, E, calcium, amino acids for protein building, and enzymes used in digestion. Traditionally used to heal wounds, relieve itching and swelling, aloe is known for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
In addition to the skin, aloe helps heal the lining of the gut, the bronchial tubes and the genital tract. When taken internally, it aids the digestion and absorption of nutrients while clearing toxins out of the GI tract, increases energy production, purifies the blood, reduces inflammation, promotes cardiovascular health, improves liver function, encourages cellular renewal, and cools your internal fires.
Cilantro helps with digestion, relieves intestinal gas, prevents nausea, and regulates appetite. It is a mild diuretic, an anti-inflammatory, and contains antihistamines, flavonoids and phenols that help with allergies. Cilantro promotes proper functioning of the liver, has anti-fungal properties, and helps protect against urinary tract infections. Natural compounds in cilantro have been found by researchers in Japan to remove toxic heavy metals from the body without any side effects.
Cucumber is more than 90% water and rich in minerals. Thirst-quenching and moisture-promoting, it effectively reduces of heat and inflammation and is a good skin remedy. Cucumber cleanses and purifies the blood, positively affects the heart and stomach, and is shown to help clean the intestines and clear them of parasites.
Peaches & Cream Lassi
Digestion in summer can weaken as our internal fires are cooled to manage body temperature. When you feel the heat it’s best to eat and drink light and calming foods, as opposed to spicy or sour. This Lassi boosts digestion while calming internal heat.
2 peaches, pitted
1 cup coconut yogurt
1 tablespoon rose water
1 handful fresh basil
1 pinch cardamom
sprinkle of pink salt
Put all ingredients in a blender with 1 cup room temperature or slightly warm water, and blend thoroughly. Taste and adjust. Add maple syrup if it needs to be sweeter, a little more cardamom if it is too rich, and a bit more water if it is too heavy.
Enjoy at lunchtime, as a meal replacer, or after the meal. Always serve at room temperature or slightly warm.
For its chill factor and numerous other benefits, coconut, grown in the hot tropics where it is practically always summer, is a perfect hot season food. Offering sweet, healthy hydration to restore moisture, minerals and electrolytes, it is so perfect for humans it is even used in IV Drips.
Rose is well known in Ayurvedic medicine and the middle east as a calming tonic for heat. It is pacifying to the skin, eyes, heart. It calms, soothes and uplifts.
Watermelon Mint Chip Icesicle
Makes 1 tray
For optimal digestion Ayurveda advises us to eat watermelon on its own, and to never have ice with meals. So enjoy these as a snack, or add to your water pitchers for a sweet refreshing boost.
4 cups watermelon pieces, seeds removed
1 handful fresh mint leaves
1 lime, juiced
1 sprinkle pink salt
1 handful cacao nibs, or pieces of very dark chocolate
option: a few watermelon seeds
Put the watermelon, mint, lime juice, and a sprinkle of salt into a blender and mix well. Add the cacao nibs and pulse once. Pour into an ice cube tray. Lay a toothpick in each cube leaving the toothpick half out and resting on the side of the tray. Freeze. Pop out and enjoy as a summer treat.
Watermelon cools the body and balances overheated blood. It reduces Pitta, and has been shown to reduce age-related macular degeneration. Watermelon is high in beta-carotene and electrolytes, and contains the antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C. Watermelon helps flush inflammation from the urinary tract, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, so may help protect against strokes and myocardial infarction.
Watermelon seeds have been shown to lower high blood pressure and reduce cholesterol.
Mint is an excellent herb for Pitta as it dilates and cools. Add to foods, water, tonics, or simply chew on the leaves for breath-refreshing summertime relief.
Lime is bitter, and bitter tasting foods are cooling and purfying. Lime is a great thirst-quencher and contains more Vitamin C than lemon. It increases the absorbability of nutrients by up to five times while the citric acid revs digestion. It is mineral rich, creating an alkaline reaction in the system which can relieve heat-related issues such as inflammation, peptic ulcer, upset liver, headache, skin irritation.
Pink Salt, also called Himalayan salt, helps hydration. With some 88 vital minerals, pink salt restores electrolytes lost through persperation. Ayurveda sees sweat and blood as similar, so while perspiring is beneficial in maintaining body temperature regulation, we need to immediately replace the nutrients we lost in order to restore vitlity and proper nourishment.