Summer means sunshine and lots of outdoor activities. It also means insect bites, sunburn, heat exhaustion, swimmer’s ear and pain if you’ve been too active. Instead of heading to the pharmacy to load up on pills and sprays to treat these all-too-common problems, you may want to go to your local natural-food store and try some time-honored natural remedies that are often more effective. My favorite summer remedies for…

  • Sunburn. It’s always best to prevent sunburn by limiting sun exposure, using sunscreen and getting plenty of beta-carotene–rich foods. Research shows that this powerful nutrient helps the skin resist injury, including sunburn. Good sources of beta-carotene include orange, yellow and dark green veggies and fruits. Lots of people apply aloe gel as a go-to sunburn remedy. However, I recommend calendula—it seems to heal sunburn faster. My advice: Put one-half teaspoon of calendula tincture in one-quarter cup of water and apply the liquid directly to your sunburned skin several times a day.*
  • Insect bites. Pesky insects can turn a pleasant summer outing into a miserable experience. To soothe the itch of a mosquito bite, apply a few drops of white vinegar directly to the bite. If a wasp, bee or spider is the culprit, try homeopathic Apis, a remedy made from bee venom. Take two pellets (30 C potency) under the tongue immediately after being bitten or stung, if possible. Use twice a day for up to two days. Caution: Do not use this if you are allergic to bees! See a doctor if the sting or bite causes red streaking or yellow, white or bloody drainage and/or fever, which could indicate an infection.  
  • Heat exhaustion. This condition, which usually causes heavy sweating, dizziness and weakness, can lead to heatstroke, a dangerous health problem that can harm the brain and even be fatal. Your best defense is adequate hydration and electrolyte consumption. What to do: Drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily, plus an extra eight ounces for every hour of vigorous physical activity in temperatures above 75°F. Eating lots of fruit, particularly watermelon, on hot days can also help prevent heat exhaustion.
  • Swimmer’s ear. When water remains in the ear canal after swimming, it promotes the growth of organisms such as bacteria or fungi. Symptoms include pain, redness, itching and/or a yellow/white discharge in the ear canal. How I treat swimmer’s ear: With garlic oil eardrops, which kill organisms. Put two drops directly into the ear at bedtime. In the morning, flush the ear with several drops of hydrogen peroxide to rinse away the oil. Repeat this for up to three days. If the symptoms persist for more than three days, see your doctor for an ear exam—you could have a more significant problem, such as an inner ear infection, which may require an antibiotic.
  • Sprains and strains. Arnica is a great first-aid medicine for sprains and strains. But arnica tends to work only for a day or two. What I also recommend: St. John’s wort oil, which promotes circulation and long-term healing. Rub it directly on sprained/strained muscles three times a day until the injury heals.

With these natural remedies, you can enjoy your summer fun—and stay well!

*If you have a ragweed allergy, calendula may cause a rash—use aloe gel instead.