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Summer Challenges Handled Naturally - Insects, Sunburn, and Thirst

Posted on January 23rd, 2013 by | 8 views
by Anne Salazar-Dunbar, Therapeutic Herbalist

Summertime is a lovely season. It is a time to be out of doors, which can bring with it some challenges. Below are some ideas to handle these challenges naturally.

Insects In The Garden

There are many ways to deal with the insects that love to eat your flowers and vegetables. Some of the most widely used and most potent organic substances include (in order of efficacy):

Neem (raw leaf & oil): The juice of the raw neem leaf is the MOST POTENT wide-spectrum pesticide known to man. Neem juice and oil contains more than 50 different pest-killing chemicals, so even insects with immunity to some substances cannot build up enough resistance to all the chemicals

Tobacco (dried leaf): We all know nicotine is harmful for us. Fortunately, it is also deadly for insects, whose nervous systems literally get overwhelmed by the nicotine input and die. "Khaini" is a tobacco based addictive substance widely used in India.

Chrysanthemum (flowers): Chrysanthemum contains a neurotoxin "Pyrethrum" which attacks the nervous system of insects. Just boil the fresh or dry flowers, strain and use the water.

Onion and garlic (juiced): Onion, garlic, and other spicy things are used for their pungent odor. Gently boiling these will release the pungent oils into the water, which can be sprayed directly onto plants.

Biting Insects

This time of year also brings out the biting insects. Below are some ways to handle them without exposing yourself and the environment to nasty chemicals.


  • 2 ounces vegetable oil or vodka
  • 1/4 tsp each citronella and eucalyptus essential oils
  • 1/8 tsp each cedar and rose geranium essential oils

Mix and apply directly to skin. Keep away from eyes and mouth.

Another powerful insect repellent is the essential oil of Pennyroyal. Although this oil is toxic internally, it works very well on the skin as a deterrent. Be sure to keep the oil away from eyes, mouth, and nose as it is very strong.

To keep bites from itching and becoming infected, apply essential oil of tea tree.


There is a great deal of pressure these days to slather on the sunscreens, but there are some things to consider before you do this. Certainly, it is never wise to burn, or to spend too much time in direct sunlight. It is also important to look at the big picture.

First off, think about (read labels!) what you are putting on your skin on a regular basis and remember that much of what you put on your skin enters your body. There is a great deal of controversy over the toxicity of the common chemicals used in sunscreen. It seems to me, that rather than wait for conclusive evidence (and avoid being a guinea pig), it’s best to reduce your exposure to synthetic chemicals as much as possible. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which act as physical barriers that reflect UV rays, may be less problematic in terms of absorption. And there are more natural products on the market that would lessen the toxic exposure. Herbalist, Lynn Wallingord, in Montana, makes a favorite of mine. You can find her at

Another consideration that is not being stressed enough these days is the importance of sun exposure to our health. The sun is not our enemy! Be smart about your sun exposure. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Your skin makes vitamin D and other products essential to human health when exposed to the sun's UV rays
  • You will only make vitamin D from the sun when you are taller than your shadow (during mid-day).  Get a minimum of 5 to 20 minutes of direct sun exposure during these peak sunlight hours (those between 10 am and 2 pm) before applying sunscreen.  Darker skinned individuals may be able to stay in the sun longer, as it takes longer for them to burn and to make vitamin D.  Once the skin starts to turn a faint pink, cover up, apply sunscreen, or get out of the sun... just don't burn!
  • Sunscreen blocks more than 95% of Vitamin D absorption.
  • Vitamin D is important for strong bones, prevention of diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure, depression, many immune disorders, etc..
  • Sunlight can kill chronic viral infections in your blood
  • Sunlight will increase the value of exercise
  • Sunlight will increase your muscle strength
  • Sunlight will improve your body's ability to detoxify

There are also ways to be safe without sunscreen. At the beginning of the season, begin exposing yourself to the sun ten minutes a day. Increase gradually, so that in time the sun’s rays will not negatively affect you. In addition, there are nutritional ways to protect yourself. In 2001, the National Academy of Sciences published a comprehensive review showing that the omega 6:3 ratio was the key to preventing skin cancer development. Our modern diet is sadly imbalanced regarding the omega fatty acids. We are over-burdened with Omega 6 and deficient in Omega 3. By balancing this out, we can make our skin less vulnerable to skin cancers. Foods like fish, blue green algae, and flax oil are a good way to supplement Omega 3.  In fact, some studies have shown that blue green algae can also protect the skin from sunburns.

Supplementing with Vitamin D can help protect deficient individuals from burning as easily.  People who are deficient in the vitamin tend to burn quicker and easier than those who are not.

Additionally, consuming many whole vegetables will increase antioxidant levels in the body, which will provide protection against any sun-induced radiation damage. Antioxidants, such as those found in fresh vegetables and fruit like organic blueberries, can help to fight free-radical damage and will naturally promote healthy, young-looking skin. A diet with plenty of vegetables will also provide plenty of micronutrients and antioxidants, which will limit damage from the sun and accelerate the skin’s repair processes.


It is extremely important to avoid dehydration any time of the year, but is particularly apropos during the summer. Here are some refreshing ideas:

Liver Cooler/electrolyte drink:

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 4-6 lemons, fresh squeezed
  • 1 teaspoon celtic salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup, agave syrup, or brown rice syrup

This is a great way to cleanse and strengthen your liver in the spring, and a great electrolyte replacement drink. Much better than the stuff they sell in the stores!

Jamaica (hibiscus) Cooler:

  • 2/3 C. dried hibiscus blossoms
  • 1 1/2 C. water
  • 1/3 C. maple syrup, or agave syrup, or brown rice syrup

In a saucepan, bring blossoms and water to boil over high heat and continue boiling for three minutes. Add enough water to bring the total to 4 cups; add sweetener. Set mixture aside for at least 4 hours or overnight. Strain liquid into a glass pitcher. Sweeten if necessary. Serve chilled with lime wedges.

Enjoy the sun and make it your friend!


Edited and updated by Natural Baby Pros, July 22, 2014

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and will not diagnose or prescribe.  Anything you read in this article comes from personal experience and is not intended to be taken as medical advice.

Anne is a second generation native San Diegan, and mother of three. She is a certified clinical herbalist with training and experience in both Western and Eastern modalities. She is a graduate of Self Heal School and the East West School of Herbal Medicine. Along with a private practice specializing in women and children (though not exclusive to them), Anne also teaches classes in herbal medicine and nutritional health. In addition she works as the Lead Practitioner at Pharmaca, La Jolla. She is happy to join the Natural BabyPros team, and to assist our membership in finding balance in their health, and learning how to use herbs and nutrition for the overall well-being of themselves and their families.

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