Cooling Off Without Air Conditioning
Those of us without air conditioning ,where summer temps climb well over 100 degrees (F.), know a thing or two about cooling down or we wouldn’t be among the living. In the old days houses were built with summer heat in mind; tall ceilings, thick walls, large windows and plenty of surrounding vegetation, especially trees. Various devices were employed like “swamp coolers” and fans.
But what if there’s nothing between you and thin walls radiating heat? My Ozark summers have been spent in simple wooden houses standing directly under the sun. For years I didn’t even have a fan. But I did have a forest. Its amazing how quickly the temperature drops when we walk as little as 10 feet into the trees. Its 10 to 15 degrees cooler. Unfortunately, forests aren’t “made to order”, you either have one nearby or you’ll need a quick substitute. Permaculture offers some great ideas along those lines, for example, a thick wall of fast growing vines about two feet out from the side of the house, all the way up to the edge of the roof. I like pole beans for this. Hops is another good choice.
Before we get to the herbs, here’s another trick used by our grandmothers; get some fabric, like cheesecloth, and place a tub of water near a window so the bottom of the cloth rests in the water and the top can be fastened over an open window. Check to see that drips will fall back into the tub. If there’s any breeze at all this will be cooling. Or run a fan so air is directed towards the cloth from the side.
In the Middle East its been traditional to drink pennyroyal in the summer to ward off heat stroke. Use the herb, not the essential oil. Don’t use it if you’re pregnant. Make a standard infusion the night before, letting the herb infuse into a jar of water overnight. Sip throughout the day. Stick with small “test” doses until you know how your body responds to it and don’t over do it later. If you like, you can use it as a cooling spray or compress as well, it helps ward off mosquitoes while cooling the skin.
Hot peppermint infusion is another old fashioned stand by. It increases peripheral circulation allowing your body’s natural cooling mechanism to function. Don’t drink it everyday. Peppermint isn’t meant to be a daily beverage, it can bring on epilepsy in those vulnerable to it if overdone. Using it is safe provided there are breaks. For example, a week of daily use with one or two days off before taking it again.
Burdock seed tincture conditions the sebaceous glands, especially useful if the sweat seems a bit too oily.
Mullein encourages increased toxin release during sweating (might as well let the heat provide a proper sauna experience).
Vitamin C also pumps up the body’s natural cooling mechanism, so get plenty of it. With all the fresh greens and veggies of summer, that should be easy. Just be sure you’re eating them.
Make a rose infused vinegar and dilute it with water, 1 to 7 parts,apply as a cooling compress, especially on the forehead for heat related headache. Splash liberally and frequently on skin if a sunburn adds to your heat. (Thanks to Kiva Rose for this one).
Remember to take those breaks for a cool water footbath, run cool water across your wrists for a few minutes. Give yourself permission to nap in the afternoon.
What about replacing electrolytes? Turns out we can make our own “sports drinks” like they did in the old days. That’s going to be the theme of our next article.
These are my standbys, if any of you can add to this list, please do!