Beat the Heat this Summer

It’s hot. Really hot. And the heat doesn’t just make us uncomfortable, it can make us irritable and aggressive, sluggish, anxious, and may even exacerbate the pain of inflammation-induced ailments. This summer, instead of sweating it out or running from air-conditioned place to air-conditioned place, apply some ancient wisdom and new science to cool from the inside and help your body adapt to the heat.

Herbal Air-Conditioning

Herbalists have long understood that herbs (and foods) have heating, cooling, or neutral properties. This is different than the actual temperature of something—whether it feels warm or cool to the touch—and instead about the effects the herb will have on your tissues. There are numerous herbs that have cooling effects, but some that are widely available and easy to incorporate into your routine include: peppermint, spearmint, nettle, fennel, lemon balm, lavender, chamomile, catnip, lemongrass, and hibiscus. You can use them as spices in your cooking and look for teas that contain some of these herbs and drink them cool if desired. You can also use tinctures or capsules of herbs. It can be especially nice to choose cooling herbs that have medicinal properties that line up with your health goals. For instance, fennel soothes digestion, while lemon balm acts as a mild sedative. 

Essential oils are another good way to harness the cooling energy of herbs for topical purposes. Look for soaps, lotions, lip balms, and sprays with peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender, and/or rosemary.1 2 Rose is another herb valued for its cooling effects. Using rose hydrosol and/or rose essential oil topically can be cooling and also beneficial for all skin types, but especially mature and sun-damaged skin. These essential oils and hydrosols (aka flower waters) are not only cooling, but you’ll be reaping the skin and mood benefits of the essential oils as well.



Check out this DIY Post-Sun Aloe Spray.

Not only is it full of cooling ingredients, but it supports skin stressed by the sun. Store it in the fridge for extra cooling effect.


Cool as a Cucumber Salad

Without much thought, most of us naturally start craving cooling, lighter foods with a higher water content when it is hot outside. If it’s 90 degrees and you’re sweating, a light salad probably sounds a lot better than a big plate of pasta with Bolognese sauce. In general, foods that grow above ground in mid to late summer and are higher in water content are naturally cooling. Think cucumbers, melons, berries, leafy greens, green beans, jicama, tropical fruits, cilantro, etc. Chilies are a gray area; while they grow in hot weather and can induce sweating, which helps cool us, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda both consider them to be heating, and thus something to minimize when it is hot outside. Heating foods like ginger, garlic, fermented foods, processed foods, and heavy carbs should be minimized. For a cooling effect, favor seasonally available foods prepared simply (raw, steamed, stir-fried) and flavor with cooling spices. You can also keep coconut water on hand for a drink as replenishing after a bout of exercise and sweating as commercial sports drinks, but without all the sugar and artificial stuff.3

Take a Chill Pill

We generally don’t think of vitamins, minerals and individual amino acids as heating or cooling, but there are some that can help us adapt to the additional stress hot weather can put on our bodies and help to replenish what’s lost when we are sweating a lot.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is probably the best researched vitamin for helping the body acclimate to the heat. It has been studied and used for this purpose since the 1950s. Taking vitamin C helps to reduce the strain from heat, reduce heat exhaustion when working in a hot environment, and helps the body get more used to heat. Studies have used anywhere from 250 mg to 2,000 mg a day for this purpose.4 5 6 Vitamin C also appears to help relieve heat rash (aka prickly heat or miliaria rubra) and prevent further bouts.7


B-vitamins are not only lost in sweat but may also help the body acclimate to the heat. In one study, a high potency B-complex reduced fatigue when given to high school male athletes exercising in a hot environment.8 Older adults may also benefit from additional folate. The vascular function of the skin tends to decrease as we age, which can impair the body’s ability to cool itself. Five milligrams of folic acid daily for 6 weeks improved skin vasodilation in response to a whole-body heat test in older subjects to levels similar to those of young adults.9


Magnesium is believed to play a role in body temperature regulation, and it is also lost in sweat, making the demand for magnesium especially high in hot weather.10 Without an adequate supply of magnesium, the body may not be able to properly thermoregulate.11


Electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium) may be especially important if you’re sweating a lot, since they are lost in sweat. The electrolytes are critical for maintaining fluid balance in and out of the cells and for nerve impulses and muscle contractions.


Tyrosine, an amino acid, is sometimes touted for helping the body adapt to heat stress. While the research has been mixed, one review found that tyrosine in varying doses may benefit cognitive performance in heat stress conditions.12

Serious Heat Complications

Heat can cause minor irritations like heat rash, fatigue, and muscle cramps (especially during exercise), but it can also cause much more serious and dangerous complications such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Luckily our bodies have mechanisms to maintain body temperature. One of these mechanisms is sweating. Although we tend to look at sweating (especially in certain circumstances) as gross or uncouth, sweat is actually pretty amazing. It is our body’s system for cooling. When you sweat, the heat of your body causes some of the moisture to evaporate off your body. Using up some of this excess body heat helps cool the body and regulate temperature. This is vitally important for preventing more serious complications of heat exposure such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Signs of more dangerous complications that should not be ignored include dizziness; nausea; headache; fainting; and red, hot, dry skin. Seek medical attention immediately if you or someone you know is at risk of these serious heat complications.


  1. Wormwood, V.A. (2016). The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. New World Library. 
  2. Tourles, S. (2007). Organic Body Care Recipes. Storey Publishing.
  3. Pérez-Idárraga, A., Aragón-Vargas, L.F. (2010). Post exercise rehydration with coconut water. Med Sci Sports &N Exerc, 1(8), 1-17. DOI:10.1249/01.MSS.0000385426.82354.f8
  4. Kotze, H. F., van der Walt, W. H., Rogers, G. G., & Strydom, N. B. (1977). Effects of plasma ascorbic acid levels on heat acclimatization in man. Journal of applied physiology: respiratory, environmental and exercise physiology42(5), 711–716.
  5. Weaver, W.L. (November 24-26, 1947). The Prevention of Heat Prostration by Use of Vitamin C. Southern Medical Association, Forty-First Annual Meeting, Baltimore Maryland. Retrieved from:
  6. Clarkson, P.M. (1993). The effect of exercise and heat on vitamin requirements. In Marriott, B.M. (Ed), Nutritional Needs in Hot Environments: Applications for Military Personnel in Field Operations. National Academy Press. Available at:
  7. Ringsdorff, W.M., Jr., Cheraskin, E. (1982). Vitamin C tolerance of heat and cold: human evidence. Orthomolecular Psychiatry, 11(2), 128-131. Retrieved from
  8. Early, R.G., Carlson, B.R. (1969). Water-soluble vitamin therapy in the delay of fatigue from physical activity in hot climatic conditions. Int Z Angew Physiol Einschl Arbeitsphysiol. 27, 43-50.
  9. Stanhewicz, A. E., Alexander, L. M., & Kenney, W. L. (2015). Folic acid supplementation improves microvascular function in older adults through nitric oxide-dependent mechanisms. Clinical science (London, England : 1979)129(2), 159–167.
  11. Stendig-Lindberg, G., Moran, D., & Shapiro, Y. (1998). How significant is magnesium in thermoregulation?. Journal of basic and clinical physiology and pharmacology9(1), 73–85.
  12. Attipoe, S., Zeno, S.A., Lee, C., Crawford, C., Khorsan, R., Walter, A.R., Deuster, P.A. (2015). Tyrosine for mitigating stress and enhancing performance in healthy adult humans, a rapid evidence assessment of the literature. Military Medicine, 180(7), 754-765.