6 Summer Herbs to Help You Keep Your Balance This Season
Long days. Outdoor fun. Travel. Relaxation. Summer certainly has its perks. But the summer heat can also throw us off balance, aggravating the mind and body in multiple ways. According to Ayurveda, the best way to savor summer’s many gifts while also maintaining health and balance is to incorporate cooling herbs, foods, and practices into our summer routine.
But before we dive in, it will help to have some background.
To put it simply, Ayurveda demonstrates how our bodies and mind react to the elements around and within us. All five primary elements (air, fire, water, earth, and ether) and the three doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha) exist in everything and everyone in unique proportions.
That means each season has specific elements that are more predominant during that time of year, and which influence our constitution accordingly. Summer season has the most in common with pitta dosha because of its hot, penetrating, sharp, and oily qualities.
Pitta dosha is made up of fire and water elements, and it is closely related to our digestion, metabolism, body temperature, thoughts, and emotions. Excessive exposure to the summer’s heat can aggravate pitta, leading to physical and emotional disturbances such as excessive internal heat, red or irritated skin, burning sensations, irritability, frustration, and intolerance.
Cooling Herbs to Balance Pitta in Summer
If you are feeling any of these uncomfortable signs of excess pitta, these six cooling herbs are excellent allies to incorporate into your diet and lifestyle. They will help you enjoy everything that summer has to offer while you stay calm, cool, and collected.
1. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
- Other Names: Cilantro, Dhaniyaka (Sanskrit)
- Taste Profile: Astringent, bitter-pungent, sweet
- Dosha Effects: While it’s balancing for all doshas, coriander is especially pacifying for excess pitta in the body
Coriander is a cooling spice that stimulates the appetite by enkindling agni without increasing acidity,1 which makes it an excellent spice for pitta. Coriander relieves internal heat and thirst and supports women during menopause. It is a natural diuretic, aiding proper function of the liver and kidneys. 2
- Drink a cool infusion of coriander seeds during the summer months.
- Sauté coriander powder with summer vegetables, or add it to soups, stews, dals, and recipes like saffron-spiced summer squash and red lentils with basil.
- Add fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves as a garnish for kitchari, soups, and savory dishes like cilantro chutney.
- Enjoy as part of a traditional Ayurvedic preparation like CCF tea.
2. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
- Other Names: Mishreya or “the sweet one” in Sanskrit
- Taste Profile: Sweet, yet slightly pungent and bitter 3
- Dosha Effects: This herb is pacifying for all three doshas
Fennel has cooling properties that enkindle agni, aiding healthy digestion and preventing stagnation in the GI tract. 4 Fennel helps relieve gas and indigestion and boost the metabolism. It also calms and soothes the nerves and muscles. 5
- Both fennel powder and seeds pair well with coriander, cumin, ginger, and black pepper in savory dishes, including grains, soups, stews, and pitta-balancing kitchari.
- You can also add fennel to sautéed summer vegetables.
- Along with cumin and coriander, enjoy as a traditional Ayurvedic CCF tea.
3. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
- Other Names: Known in Sanskrit as yastimadhu, or “sweet bark”
- Taste Profile: Sweet, bitter, and cooling
- Dosha Effects: While it benefits all doshas, it can aggravate kapha in excess
Licorice is a cooling herb with a sweet flavor and heavy, unctuous qualities that tone the male reproductive system, strengthen the kidneys, and nourish the nervous system. 6,7,8 Licorice is also used to support the health of the lungs and respiratory tract, ease digestion, and boost memory and concentration. 9,10
- Combine licorice and brahmi/gotu kola powders to increase awareness and memory. 11
- Enjoy licorice in Pitta Massage Oil for a soothing abhyanga, or self-massage.
- Incorporate herbal tablets that include licorice, such as Lung Formula, Men’s Support, and Pitta Digest.
4. Cardamom (Elettaria cardamom)
- Other Names: Known as elaichi in Sanskrit
- Taste Profile: Sweet, cooling, and slightly pungent
- Dosha Effects: Cardamom benefits all doshas, but can aggravate pitta in excess
Cardamom is a sweet spice that supports healthy digestion by countering an unsettled stomach and relieving indigestion, and also supports healthy circulation. It promotes nutrient absorption, freshens breath, calms hiccups, and can help soothe the respiratory tract by supporting healthy mucus levels in the body, promoting clear breathing. 12,13,14
- Add cardamom powder to oatmeal, baking recipes, sweet potatoes, sauces, rice pudding, or on top of fresh fruit.
- Drink it in warm milk, water, or tea. As a tea, it pairs well with cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.
- Enjoy it as a part of traditional Ayurvedic preparations for immune health like sitopaladi and talisadi.
- Chew on whole cardamom seeds to support fresh breath.
5. Neem (Azadirachta indica)
- Other Names: Known as nimba in Sanskrit
- Taste Profile: Bitter, slightly pungent, and cold in potency 15,16
- Dosha Effects: It is beneficial to pitta and kapha, but it can aggravate vata due to its cold, light, and drying qualities
In some places, neem is considered a "village dispensary" because every part of the tree can be used. Neem benefits abound—it supports the digestive system, reduces ama (toxins), clears pitta and kapha from the respiratory passages, promotes clear skin, aids in oral hygiene, and reduces excess heat in the body. 17
- Make a tea with neem powder, let it cool, and use it as a mouthwash.
- Ghee and neem can be combined and applied topically to cleanse and nourish the skin. 18
- Use Neem Oil as a facewash to support clear, healthy skin.
- Enjoy in health-supporting formulations such as Immune Health Now.
6. Rose (Rosa damascena)
- Other Names: Known in Sanskrit as gulab
- Taste Profile: Bitter, pungent, and astringent with a sweet post digestive effect and cooling energy
- Dosha Effects: It is beneficial for all three doshas 19
Rose uplifts the spirit, calms the heart and nerves, and generates feelings of love and devotion. Cooling and soothing, rose supports the female reproductive system, nourishes the nervous system, and relieves feelings of anxiousness and stress.
- Enjoy a hint of rose by sipping on a cup of Joyful Heart Tea.
- Enjoy a spritz of rose water on your face and body on warm days. This can feel especially supportive during the menstrual cycle or menopause!
- Use rose essential oil in diffusers to uplift your spirits.
- Rose petals can be used as a soothing astringent in face washes, face masks, and beauty products. 20,21
- Rose petals make wonderful garnishes on sweet and savory dishes.
- Try this delicious and nourishing Rose Cardamom Women’s Health Tonic.