We may not be guaranteed hot weather, but the long hours of daylight during the summer months can bring more energy, a brighter outlook and extra time in the day. Make use of those additional early morning and evening hours to revitalise yourself with some nourishing activities.
Hydrotherapy is a technique that has been used by many natural health practitioners and enthusiasts for thou-sands of years. Cold and warm water are used to relieve inflammation and pain in muscles and joints, encourage the elimination of toxins and to balance the mind.
More recently, the benefits of cold water immersion have been popularised by Wim Hof, also known as the ‘ice man’, who trained himself and others to endure extremes of cold temperatures, setting 21 Guinness world records in the process. Wim Hof’s feats are impressive and inspiring, but the benefits of cold water don’t have to involve ice.
Research has demonstrated that repeated cold water stimulation can:
- Reduce the frequency of respiratory infections1
- Improve mood and relieve depression and anxiety
- Decrease the inflammatory response
- Improve the circulation
- Boost energy levels
It is thought that learning to cope with the acute stress of cold water activates our ability to deal with the ordinary stresses of everyday life; good mental health is closely linked to the resilience of being able to cope with these every day stressors and return back to a calm baseline. One study found that a series of five minute dips in cold water significantly reduced the activation of the stress response whilst increasing activity in the branch of the nervous system that induces a sense of calm.2
If you would like to experience the benefits of cold water, but can’t bear the thought of the discomfort, it’s good to know you can start out slowly – it does get easier! Regularity is the key to building up a tolerance and enjoying the experience. A cold shower is convenient for most people and only takes a few minutes; the most comfortable way is to get yourself warm first – either through some vigorous exercise or a hot shower, steam or sauna. Gradually turn the water temperature dial down, pausing if necessary to allow yourself to adjust until the water runs cold (7 – 13°C is ideal). Remain under the water for just one minute to begin with, increasing to three minutes over a few weeks.
Our teenage daughter was surprised at how much easier a three minute cold shower was after just four days. A patient in her 70s described how a four minute cold shower every day helped to keep her feeling warm for the rest of the day.
In Wales we are lucky enough to be surrounded by beautiful beaches and pristine rivers, all of which are cold enough to reap the benefits of cold water immersion. Even paddling regularly in the river will give some of the benefits and summer is the best time to start!
Make an Elderflower Infusion
Elder trees are often tucked away unnoticed in the hedgerows, becoming more visible at this time of year as their clusters of sweet smelling flowers come into bloom.
Elderflower is widely enjoyed as a cordial, but the blossoms are valuable medicinally too. Elderflowers help to open the pores of the skin and encourage sweating which cools the body – making them useful in a tea blend for reducing fever. They relax and encourage the opening the airways of the lungs, benefiting conditions of lung tightness and congestion. In addition, elder-flower calms the nervous system, helping to ease anxiety and lift the spirits.
Try making your own preparation – a cold infusion of elderflower is simple to make and delicious on a warm day. To prepare, place two medium blooms of elderflower in a jug of filtered water and allow to sit in a warm place (a sunny windowsill is ideal) for two hours or leave overnight at room temperature. Alternatively, if you would like to make your own cordial you can follow the recipe on the ‘posts’ section of our website.
Tip: The best tasting elder-flowers are those with a fresh, lemony scent and no browning of the flowers. Lookalike trees at this time of year include Rowan and Dogwood so make sure you’re certain of your identification before picking.
Take Your Practice Outside
Whether you choose yoga, qi gong, meditation or even playing a musical instrument, taking your practice into the garden at this time of year gives you the opportunity to tune into nature and boost your vitamin D levels. Committing to these small windows of time throughout the day to release concerns, be relaxed and playful can have a big impact for conditions such as adrenal exhaustion, anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, and headaches.
Nature Connection Exercise
Find a quiet place to sit in nature and make yourself comfortable. Allow your breath to settle. Take the time to notice the myriad of life surrounding you; the plants, insects and birds. Allow your attention to rest on whatever it is drawn to. The scent on the breeze, the air against your skin, the coolness of the grass under your feet. Sit for at least 10 minutes. Once you have found a suitable spot you can return regularly to the same place and each time you may notice something new.
The Herbal Clinic
32 King Edward Rd, Swansea SA1 4LL.
MEILYR JAMES BSc(Hons) DBTh DAcu AcuC Dir MGNI Registered Medical Herbalist, Iridologist & Acupuncturist
T: 01792 474356 W: herbalclinic-swansea.co.uk E: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Katrin Goedsche et al. Repeated cold water stimulations (hydrotherapy according to Kneipp) in patients with COPD. Forsch Komplementmed 2007 Jun;14(3):158-66. 2. Heather C Lunt et al. ‘Cross-adaptation’: habituation to short repeated cold-water immersions affects the response to acute hypoxia in humans. J Physiol. 2010 Sep 15; 588(Pt 18): 3605–3613.