Two Hands creating a heart with their fingers with the sunset behind them


The year 2020 has given us a summer to be lived differently than summers of our past.  Sheltering in place since late winter, early spring, we now find ourselves looking out the window at a summer in full swing - at least in terms of heat and humidity.  But face it, we're not indoors all the time.  We garden, sunbathe and barbecue in the backyard, take walks, visit parks and nature reserves, camp in remote areas and are, in that way, relatively safe from too much exposure to other people.  

So, having carved out some opportunities to spend time in the sun, there's only one other thing to worry about:  too much exposure to radiant energy - those warm, nurturing, healing rays of the sun that grow our gardens green, manufacture our vitamin D, bring a glow to our skin - and cause DNA damage in the body.

We easily recognize, if we sunburn and/or suffer sun stroke, we've been too exposed to the sun.  Calculating a "safe" amount of time to spend outdoors in summer no doubt rests upon several factors, some of which include age, fairness of skin, consideration of  medications that disallow exposure to sunlight, or any attempt to screen or block the sun with sun care products.

In the book Breast Cancer? Breast Health!, author Susun Weed provides salient information regarding the effects of radiation on the body and how to attempt to prevent or reverse DNA damage.  Although the information is given in the context of radiation therapy, I believe it can be applied to those of us wanting to enjoy being out in the sun at the same time we want to protect ourselves.     

Too much time in the sun is still too much time; however, Susun Weed directs us toward wise dietary and herbal choices that have the potential to maximize the body's ability to defend against radiation damage.  I've gleaned the following information from her book:

Garden harvests of bright orange, red, and dark green foods help us by way of their carotene (antioxidant) content.  Examples are broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, kale, parsley, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon, and winter squash. Cooking carotene-rich foods makes them 5 times more potent at inhibiting cancer.  Eat amply of these anti-cancer garden gifts.

Lentils may be able to reverse DNA damage from radiation exposure.

Miso may help prevent radiation damage as well as the mineral selenium found in brazil nuts, garlic, grains, mushrooms, and onions.

She writes of several  herbs that may be beneficial, too, in shoring up our defenses against too much sun exposure.  They are the following:

Reishi mushroom liquid extract may be able to reduce radiation damage.

Astragalus Root, Burdock Root, Catnip Leaf & Flower, Eleuthero Root, Ginseng Root, Milk Thistle Seed, Nettle Leaf, and Green Tea are the best herbal sources of selenium.  Because one of the best ways to extract minerals from herbs is by water, it is suggested using the above herbs as infusions or decoctions (not as simple cups of tea).  Infusions and decoctions take longer to prepare and yield stronger herbal tea.  This is not to say that our liquid extract version of these herbs would be ineffective; water is one of the solvents we use to prepare them.

Green tea is one of my favorite drinks.  In his book Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism, author Donald Yance writes that Green tea offers such biological properties as antioxidant, antimutagenic, antitumor, and cancer-preventive.  It protects the skin from radiation damage caused by UV rays and helps to prevent and repair DNA damage.

Other herbs to prepare as strong herbal tea in order to extract carotenes and selenium are the following:   Comfrey Leaf (carotenes, selenium), Oatstraw (carotenes), Red Clover Blossom (selenium), and Violet Leaf (carotenes).

To prepare our skin for sun exposure, to bring it to a level of suppleness, strength, and good health in order to better resist sun damage, Susun Weed suggests infused oils of Calendula, Comfrey, and St. John's Wort.   Not to be used as sun screen or sun block, these topical oils may be applied year round in order for our skin to be ready for contact with the harsh rays of the summer sun.  I like using them after bathing or showering, or before bed.

Having boosted our defenses against sun damage by eating garden fresh vegetables, lentils, and miso; drinking herbal infusions and decoctions; and strengthening our skin in advance with herbal infused oils, we are now in better position to encounter the radiant energy of the summer sun.  But before advancing onto the summer scene, applying Skin Protection Lotion adds yet another layer of defense.  Consisting of distilled water, sesame oil, aloe gel, coconut oil, monoi oil, avocado oil, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, its purpose is to help protect against sunburn, nurturing and strengthening our skin at the same time.  Sesame and avocado oils restructure and regenerate skin cells, penetrating deeply into tissue.  Along with coconut oil, they are potent emollients, soothing and softening.  These ingredients alone greatly improve the skin's integrity.  

If we should become sunburned, the following products may be used topically to help ease and heal the burn:  After Sun Blend (a light, fresh combination of aloe gel and lavender essential oil) and Lavender Hydrosol.  Lavender is particularly cooling.  Both products may be kept in the refrigerator to intensify the cooling property.

To continue offering aid when "feeling the burn," consider making iced herbal infusions of the following herbs:  Elderberries, Hawthorn Berries, Hibiscus Flower, Melissa Herb, Peppermint Leaf, and Rose Hips.  These herbs have the ability to help reduce heat in the body and icing them will only contribute to your comfort.

All the above herbs and topical products are available at Cheryl's Herbs.  We hope you enjoy your time under the summer sun, all the while taking care to protect yourselves.


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