Solve these common problems—naturally AND effectively
Summer is typically a time of fun and frolicking.
Whether you’re at the beach, by the lake, in the woods, or simply strolling through your neighborhood park, now is a perfect time to get out in Nature to celebrate the sunshine and warmth.
But along with these simple pleasures come a few hazards—both indoors and out.
Some of them exist year-round, yet worsen in the summer.
For example, noise pollution is a constant problem. But typically it becomes more widespread during the summer months.
(On page 4, I discuss the simple steps you can take to combat the noise from lawnmowers and blowers—and keep your hearing sound.)
There’s also more exposure to chemical pollutants used to maintain gardens, lawns, and golf courses during the summer season.
(Of course, you already know to never use toxic chemicals on your own yard or garden. Natural fertilizers and weed killers are widely available commercially, and are just as effective as their artificial counterparts.)
But what about other common summer woes like sunburn, pesky insects, and sweat (overheating)?
You may think protecting yourself has to involve at least some toxins…through nasty chemical sunscreens or insect repellants and unhealthy air-conditioning systems.
This is NOT the case.
In fact, you can avoid sunburn, keep insects away, and stay cool completely naturally AND effectively. Here’s how.
My top three natural sunscreens
I’ve written before about the chemicals in commercial sunscreens.
Plenty of research links them to cancer, reproductive problems, allergies, and other serious health concerns.
(To learn more about how sunscreen ingredients affect your health, check out the nonprofit Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide at ewg.org/skindeep).
Of course, there are mineral sunscreens made from titanium dioxide and zinc oxide that are also widely available.
These ingredients are natural, but they have to be broken down into small particles, known as nanoparticles, to be effective in sunscreens.
Some studies show nanoparticles to be dangerous for your lungs if they’re inhaled. So, be sure to always stay away from mineral sunscreens in spray form.
Meanwhile, mineral sunscreen creams that you spread onto your body are relatively safe…but you can still do better.
In fact, there are some plant oils that are naturally sun protective and completely safe. My top three favorites include:
Carrot seed oil. This oil filters the sun’s rays while allowing your skin to naturally build its own tanning protection from melanin. Plus, it has plenty of alpha- and beta-carotenes, which are natural antioxidants that help your body produce the vitamin A that nourishes and protects your skin.
Red raspberry oil. This oil has all the protection of a chemical sunscreen, without the toxins. It’s high in vitamin E, which is healing and protective for the skin.
Wheat germ oil. This oil is inexpensive and does not have a scent. It’s lighter and less oily than carrot seed or red raspberry oil, yet offers similar protection against the sun. It contains vitamin E and antioxidants, both of which are nourishing to the skin.
(All three of these oils offer a sun protection factor [SPF] of 20.)
Because these essential oils can be strong when applied directly on your skin, I recommend diluting them in a carrier oil like coconut, olive, jojoba, sweet almond, or avocado oil. (These carrier oils hold an SPF between 2 to 15.)
You can even combine different essential and carrier oils to your liking. Experiment until you find a texture, scent, and protection level that’s right for you.
You can find these oils at your local natural foods store or farmer’s market. Remember to always look for organic versions, as they don’t contain pesticides or other toxins.
Why insects no longer bug me
Insects can be another pesky summertime problem.
But just like commercial sunscreens, commercial insect repellants are loaded with toxic chemicals that can cause a whole host of health issues.
That’s why I take a two-pronged approach to natural bug control during the summer months.
I start by making my own natural insect repellant from eucalyptus oil and citronella oil—two of the most powerful natural mosquito and bug repellants you can find.
Just combine about 20 drops of either plant oil with two tablespoons of olive oil. (Other “cooking” oils work too, such as sunflower oil. I just don’t recommend actually cooking with them!)
You can rub this mixture directly onto your skin. Or you can put it in a spray bottle to use both inside and outside. Not only will it naturally repel bugs, but you and your environment will smell great!
Speaking about your environment, my second natural insect-repelling approach is to include plants that bugs don’t like around your patio and other outdoor seating areas.
There are certain plants that have developed natural compounds to keep bugs away from them. And these compounds work just as well as—or better than—chemical pesticides, insecticides, and repellants.
Even better? These plants are attractive to the eye…and can even be used in your favorite recipes.
My favorite botanical insect repellants include:
Basil. This popular Mediterranean herb will help keep away houseflies and mosquitos. Plus, during the summer months, you can pick fresh basil sprigs and add them to your favorite dishes. You can even harvest and dry the leaves to keep in your kitchen year-round.
Chrysanthemums. These perennial fall flowers contain a special chemical called pyrethrum, which naturally repels fleas, roaches, and ticks. In addition, the potent properties of this iconic Asian flower make it a key medicinal plant in Chinese medicine—particularly when the flower is dried and used in teas. (In traditional Chinese medicine, they’re used to help with respiratory problems, anxiety, and more.)
Lavender. Planting this pretty purple perennial herb in your house or garden will help keep away fleas, house flies, mosquitos, and moths. You can also freshen your closets and dresser drawers with a few aromatic sprigs of dried lavender. In addition, it has potent essential oils that have shown in numerous studies to help promote relaxation and sleep.
Lemongrass. This ornamental relative of citronella naturally repels mosquitos. It’s also edible and commonly used in Thai dishes—especially soups.
Mint. Like its botanical cousins, basil and lavender, this herb repels mosquitos. But because it’s so hardy and tenacious, mint can spread like a weed in the ground. That’s why I recommend planting it in a pot. Then, you can pluck a sprig to muddle in your favorite cocktail. The alcohol will extract the flavor and potent plant oils for added health benefits.
Rosemary. Popular in cooking and useful medicinally, rosemary also repels mosquitos. You can plant it in a pot or the ground around your outdoor sitting area. Then, when you feel it getting especially buggy, rub a few rosemary sprigs directly on your skin.
You can also make an insect repellant by boiling 1 cup of dried rosemary leaves in a quart of water. Let the water cool and pour it into a spray bottle. Then, you can spritz yourself (and your pets) whenever you’re outside.
Surprising supplement protects you from the heat
Now, let’s talk about that summertime heat. Research shows that the B vitamin folic acid may be a natural, inexpensive way to help you keep your cool. (It can even help reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.)
How can a simple vitamin serve as an internal air conditioner?
Well, it all has to do with our blood vessels.
As I’ve reported before, B vitamins have been shown in studies to prevent blood vessel damage and inflammation—which reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. (Indeed, raising your B vitamin levels and managing your blood pressure are two of the most important steps to dramatically reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke.)
But there’s yet another beneficial effect…
One way our bodies stay cool is to shift blood flow closer to the skin, where the heat can be released with the help of nitric oxide (NO). But older adults can have difficultly producing NO.
Fortunately, researchers have discovered that a substance called tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) helps our bodies produce NO. And folic acid helps produce BH4.
So, it makes sense that, in a recent study, older people who were given folic acid had improved blood flow and better ability to fight heat-related strokes and heart attacks.1
The study involved one group of 11 people with an average age of 71, and another group of 11 people with an average age of 22. Each group member was given either a placebo or 5 mg of folic acid daily for six weeks.
Results showed that in the older group, the folic acid increased blood vessel dilation.
In fact, folic acid had the same effect
on nitric oxide production as an expensive pharmaceutical drug.
Which goes to show that we can count on natural approaches (like B vitamin supplementation) for safe, simple, and affordable solutions to staying healthy (and cool).
I suggest you help beat the heat of summer by taking a high-quality B-complex that contains 400 mcg of folic acid. And don’t stop taking it when the temperature drops…a lifelong regimen of B supplementation can do wonders for your circulation, heart, and blood vessels.
There you have it! Now you know how to naturally, effectively (and inexpensively) protect yourself from common summertime issues—including sunburn, insects, and heat.
Before I go, there’s just one more summer hazard I’d like to prepare you (or a loved one) for…
Stay out of the hospital this summer
You already do whatever you can to stay out of hospitals.
But if you do need to visit a doctor or schedule a non-emergency surgery, by all means, try not to do it in July.
First of all, July is when new interns and residents join hospital staffs, and others depart. That wreaks havoc with staffing coverage, consistency, and scheduling.
In addition, many seasoned, senior doctors and nurses take their vacations during summer (like most everyone else)—creating staffing challenges.
This phenomenon is so consistent it even has a name: the July Effect. And numerous studies show that the July Effect results in more hospital mistakes, accidents, and deaths throughout the month, and into August.
But despite these well-documented problems, neither hospital nor medical school schedules change—even though their mechanisms are outdated…not to mention unsafe.
Sadly, my family and I have experienced this effect ourselves. It happened to my paternal grandfather in 1970 and my mother in 2016. It almost happened to me just a few years ago, too!
In my own case, I began suffering from significant gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding right in the middle of the July 4th holiday weekend. Since I didn’t want to go to the hospital, I decided I could safely monitor myself at home.
I decided to stop all medications (but continued taking my dietary supplements) since prescription and over-the-counter drugs may often be causes of GI bleeding.
Thankfully, my blood pressure and blood sugar remained normal all weekend…and lab values remain so today (more on that in next month’s newsletter). Plus, my GI bleeding stopped!
So, while I urge you to take preventive, natural measures for good health year-round, be extra careful in the summer. And if it turns out you can’t SAFELY avoid a summertime hospital visit, consider asking family members or friends to be extra vigilant in helping to oversee your care.
“Cellular and molecular mechanisms of statins: an update on pleiotropic effects.” Clin Sci (Lond). 2015 Jul 1;129(2):93-105