As my 18-yr old daughter has been preparing to graduate from high school and head out on a road trip to California with her friends, my mind has been busy with lists of herbal remedies and first aid that I need to send with her. (I’ll also need to stock up on Mama calming herbs, but that’s another newsletter!)
Plant medicine and homeopathy for first aid.
Like any parent, I want to give my kids the freedom to explore and grow, and with freedom comes the possibility of bumps and bruises. In addition to the well-stocked first aid kit that contains the basics like tweezers, gauze, a tick key, and Band-aids, I make sure to include basic acute homeopathic remedies such as Arnica, Apis, Hypericum, and Cantharis. I also love these other plant medicine superstars:
Antiseptic, astringent, and healing, calendula promotes healthy tissue repair. Use salves and succus preparations liberally on any disruption of the skin: cuts, scrapes, burns, sunburns, boils. We will be featuring an amazing healing salve containing Calendula, as well as other antimicrobial skin healing botanicals such as Plantain, Comfrey, St. John’s Wort, Yarrow, and Echinacea at our First Friday event on June 7!
- Activated Charcoal
Think of charcoal as the escort to toxins from sources of toxicity like food poisoning, diarrhea, nausea, and flatulence. Charcoal capsules travel well and can be emptied into applesauce for those who cannot swallow capsules. A charcoal compress or poultice can be applied to venomous bites and stings.
- Rescue Remedy (Flower Essences). Flower essences are safe, gentle, non-sedating, and effective. Rescue Remedy, in particular, helps to calm and center when experiencing stress, fear, anxiety, shock, trauma, or nervousness. Great for kids and animals! (I keep it on hand for my dog during thunderstorm and fireworks season!) These remedies can be used in any number of acute eventualities or calamities, but of course, are not intended to be a substitute for a trip to the E.R. if that’s what’s warranted!
Of course, I’ll also stock her travel kit with everyday summer necessities like bug spray and sunscreen, taking care to choose products that are safe for her and the environment . . .
Let’s talk about sunscreen and a safe relationship with the sun.
I look for natural sunscreens with active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and without parabens, oxybenzone, octinoxate, endocrine disruptors, or nanoparticles. Mindful Momma has whittled down the extensive Environmental Working Group’s sunscreen guide with products she tried out on her own family – check out her helpful safer sunscreen guide. (If you’ve already stocked up for the summer or have some leftovers, EWG’s guide also has a search option to find and research your purchase!)
These guides are handy, but having a healthy relationship with the sun is less straightforward than just wearing a good sunscreen. I have a confession to make: I actually don’t slather myself or my kids with as much sunscreen as advertisements (and my mother) urge me to, and I’ll tell you why: I want to make sure they are getting adequate levels of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D has moved into mainstream consciousness with increased recognition as a nutrient that aids in the prevention of chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, and depression, as well as fighting infections such as colds and flu. Vitamin D is a key factor in reducing inflammation, promoting DNA repair, promoting healthy blood sugar regulation, and improving metabolic processes. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us are deficient in Vitamin D. In my practice I regularly see blood levels of Vitamin D well below optimal levels (> 50-70 ng/ml). There are many possible reasons for this, and in some cases, too much sun protection is the culprit.
Vitamin D is synthesized in your skin cells when the skin is exposed to sunlight. When working with my Vitamin D deficient patients to assess if supplementation is warranted, I ask a lot of questions to see if they are also good candidates for some carefully measured time in the sun. Ask yourself:
Do you slather on sunblock every time you spend time outdoors?Do you already have a dark complexion (i.e high levels of UV absorbing melanin) (olive, brown, or black skin)?Do you spend much of the day indoors, such as in an office?
Everyone is different and needs to learn how much sun is right for them. My strategy for my own family – who are genetically predisposed to get a “base tan” without burning – is a measured approach as we increase our time in the sun starting in the spring. If we’re out before 10 or 11 a.m., we don’t use anything. Midday, we can all play a little and then apply sunscreen to prevent a burn. I’m more vigilant when we’re at higher elevations or swimming all day in a mountain lake, and we adjust as the day and seasons change. When the sun is the most powerful, I tend to urge my kids into the shade, remind them to put on a hat, and encourage them to wear sun-shirts when swimming. Essentially, I use various tactics that work for us and try to limit excessive sunscreen use (which, let’s be honest, is also a colossal pain in the butt).
Another wrinkle (so to speak) is sun damage. As much as my vain teenaged self relished a dark summer tan, my wiser middle-aged self is lamenting the risks I took and the “age spots” I now possess. It’s true that excessive sun exposure can damage your skin and is a leading cause of skin cancer. I wish I had known earlier that many of those harmful effects can be mitigated by a diet rich in antioxidants!
Antioxidants are prolific free radical scavengers. Our resident maker and local Boise holistic wellness coach Lindsey Kolpitke has shared her colorful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-packed smoothie as a delicious way to support your skin this summer!
Antioxidant Hero: Vanilla Cherry Berry Beet Smoothie
1/2-3/4 cup frozen dark cherries
1/4-1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1 beet, washed, ends cut off and quartered OR 1 tsp. beetroot powder
1/4 cup steamed then frozen zucchini
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Small handful cashews
1/4 cup frozen coconut meat OR coconut cream powder (optional)
1 tbsp. tocotrienols (optional)
1 tsp. spirulina or chlorella (optional)
1 scoop collagen OR vanilla protein powder (optional)
1 tbsp. honey (optional, for added sweetness)
1/2-1 cup unsweetened nondairy milk
Add all ingredients to the blender. Blend until smooth.
Lindsay has also formulated a suncare cream Vervain will be offering at our June 7 First Friday Pop-Up Event. It is full of skin nourishing oils containing powerful carotenoids (which have been shown to reduce the effects of oxidative stress in skin) and essential fatty acids such as linoleic, alpha-linolenic, and oleic acids. Come get some Sunny Days Cream, which contains:
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Shea butter
- Red raspberry seed oil
- Non-nano zinc oxide
- Aloe vera
- Carrot seed essential oil
Speaking of beautiful, glowing skin: I plan on regularly sharing naturopathic “Basic Treatment Guidelines” that you can incorporate into your home wellness routine and here’s the first nugget! Click here to learn all about Dry Skin Brushing and add it to your daily routine.
Update on Vervain’s plant-based apothecary, opening this summer!
In addition to planning to keep my family well-prepped for summer, I’ve been perusing natural product lines to narrow down our initial order for The Vervain Collective’s apothecary! Construction on our space inside the Roots Zero Waste Market is in full swing! In addition to retail, we’ll have a consultation room for natural health practitioners to meet with their patients and clients and a classroom space! If you’re interested in using the consultation room and/or teaching classes, check out our offerings (consultation room or classroom) and get in touch!
To your Joy and health,
Dr. Nicole Pierce, NMD