Whether it’s a sunburn, bug bite, cut, scrape, bruise, or random rash, Summertime can bring out the best (or worst) in your skin. Maybe it’s just because you’re exposing your skin more, or playing harder in the summer sun, but some of these things can be embarrassing or even painful, right?
Thankfully, the sunshine-filled days also bring out the best in plant medicine, and there are quite a few great herbs that can help you heal your summer skin! Read on as I share some of my favorite herbs to help your skin look and feel it’s best all season long!
Calendula, my most wonderful Friendula, is not only incredibly beautiful to grow in your gardens, it’s also a magical wonder when it comes to skin issues. This beautiful plant can be used for any skin condition when inflammation is present. Use it for wounds, bruising, bleeding, cuts, scrapes, all of the major ouchies. This beautiful flower is a great antifungal, meaning it can help you with athletes’ foot, and other fungal infections. It’s great for first aid when it comes to minor burns from the campfire, camp stove, and even sunburns. Make yourself a Calendula flower oil infusion to keep with you all year long. I like to infuse mine in coconut oil and sunflower oil. We use Calendula in our Essential Salve for it’s great first aid properties, and also in The After Burn to help speed the healing of burns and inflammation.
Comfrey is a superhero when it comes to wound healing and the healing of scar tissue. It’s rich in a constituent called allantoin, which helps to grow new skin cells. If you break off the stem of a comfrey plant, you can feel the moist sliminess inside that is rich in allantoin, and also shows it’s demulcent (moisturizing) properties. That sliminess is the good stuff that you’re lookin’ for. It will work wonders when it comes to cooling and soothing your sunburnt or grill burnt skin. You can take a fresh comfrey leaf and make yourself a poultice for wounds, and other injuries by mashing it up with a rock, or even by chewing it to release the juices and then placing it on the damaged area. If you need, you can wrap a clean cloth or bandage around it to hold it in place. A sock or bandana, or whatever you’ve got around can work when you’re in a pinch. And, of course, we use comfrey in the Essential Salve, and The After Burn because of its plant superhero ways!
Aloe Aloe Aloe, of course you know Aloe, right? And for good reason! Aloe is the holy grail of sunburn care in our world! Part of why it works so well is that it’s rich in allantoin, the constituent I mentioned above that helps to grow new skin cells. You know that slimy feeling stuff from the aloe gel or inside an aloe leaf? That’s where the allantoin hangs out, much like the slimy stuff in the comfrey stems. It’s magical slime-like no other! Aloe helps to cool inflammation, helps to heal your wounds, and as an antifungal can help with ringworm or other fungal infections.
There's a huge list of the things aloe can do for you, both inside and out. She’s super easy to grow in your house, and you can just harvest the leaves as needed. Another cool trick is to take the gel from inside the leaf and freeze it into ice cubes to use as needed. Now that’s some cooling burn relief there!
Plantain may be one of my absolute favorite plants. Yes, I say that a lot, but I can’t help it, and I really mean it when it comes to this plant! I wrote in great detail about plantain over here, you should definitely check it out! It’s the herb that I feel every human needs to know, because it grows darn near everywhere, and it helps with so many different things! But, for the purpose of this post, we’ll just talk about summer skin issues. If ever I get a splinter, a thorn, or anything stuck in my skin, I immediately head to Plantain for help. It’s got this amazing ability to draw things out of the skin. It’s especially great for drawing out venom or infection, which makes it ideal in cases of spider bites, bug bites, or even snake bites. Seriously, what I’ve seen and heard this plant do when it comes to drawing things out of the skin is unbelievable, except that I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes, so I have to believe it!
It’s also a great demulcent, and if you don’t know, demulcents help to soothe and coat mucosal tissues like your skin, and reduce inflammation. Which means this plant is great for minor burns and other bits of inflammation on the skin. Both Broadleaf Plantain, and Ribwort Plantain have these properties, but I particularly love using Ribwort (Plantago lanceolata) because you can wrap it around ouchies on fingers and make super cool nature bandaids!
I love Yarrow for many reasons, but the main one is that it can be a true lifesaver when out in the wilderness. It grows all over the PNW particularly in sandy, rocky soils and sunny locations (hey mountain meadows and high places). I say it’s such a lifesaver because it can help stop bleeding. Meaning, if you’re somewhere far out, and you get a serious wound that is bleeding profusely, Yarrow can be an incredibly valuable plant friend to find. Just take some of the flower, and/or it’s many feathered leaflets, mash it up, and put it in/on the wound.
Recently, I got to use it for a small cut I got when I was not practicing knife safety at camp. I was doing dishes, and suddenly I was dripping blood all over. Luckily, I had seen some Yarrow leaves beginning to pop up around our campsite. I grabbed some, chewed it up, and held it on my cut. Less than a minute later, the bleeding had stopped, and that cut healed faster than any cut I’ve ever had.
Of course, if your wound is bleeding in a major way, you’re going to want to head to the hospital once you reach your car or another safe place. Yarrow also has great antimicrobial properties to help fight off bacterial infections that may happen with wounds. I highly recommend you keep some in your first aid kits. Gather some in the summer (please make sure to do it in a sustainable fashion! Check out this article by one of my first herbal teachers, Scott Kloos on Ethical Wildcrafting), dry it, and store it in a dark cool place to use as needed.
Marshmallow is not only lovely to have around you, she’s a super mucilaginous plant, particularly when using the roots. You can create a cold infusion of the roots by filling a jar about ¼ full with marshmallow root, fill it the rest of the way up with warm water, cover, and place it in the fridge overnight. It will produce this super slimy snot like substance, that’s where the goods are! That’s the mucilaginous stuff oozing out and it’s exactly what you want. It’s an amazing emollient and a fantastic way to soothe a sunburn, or any other burn for that matter. It’s also great to put on other wounds to speed the healing process and reduce inflammation.
Suffering from dry skin? Rub that slime all over you! Seriously, just trust me here - your skin will thank you. Side note… I’ve also got a huge love for Marshmallow because it’s Latin name is Althea officinalis, and my beautiful niece is named Althea, but not after the plant.
There are a lot of plants that can help your skin thrive through a summer of fun and sun, and it’s so easy to get to know them! I definitely recommend learning about a couple at a time and then moving on to the next plant friend/s from there.
If you’re looking to go an even easier route and you want to carry sustainable products on your summer adventures, you can check out our Outdoor Essentials Kit here. It’s loaded with all you’ll need for your next barrel of fun in the sun!
Also, if you loved this article, please share it with your friends! Together, we can create a movement where there’s an herbalist in every home, again!
About The Author:
Melissa (Mountain Mel) lives in Oregon, in the foothills of Mount Hood. She's a clinical herbalist, environmental educator, mother, wilderness therapist, nemophilist, music loving maniac, dog lover, and the founder of Mountain Mel's Essential Goods. She is passionate about inspiring others to take better care of our planet, through taking better care of themselves, naturally!