Replenishing Summer Punch (with sumac, rose, hibiscus, nettle, mallow, and electrolytes)
Parched. That word brings to mind the cracks in sun-baked earth, the cracks in dehydrated lips, the cracks in dried-out plant stems. It’s crunchy and tight, the tension of dry heat and longing. Just hearing that word is enough to make me crave a cool glass of water or a dip in a cold mountain lake. Some people tolerate the dry heat of summer in the mountains well and others, like me, do not. This time of year I start to feel dried out, irritable, depleted. Perhaps you, too, can relate to that feeling of woozy exhaustion an afternoon in the hot sun instills in you. Maybe you also hide in the air-conditioned coolness of a dark home, like a dragon in its lair, and miss out on the fun rather than face another afternoon of body-battering summer heat.
The way people react to heat is a funny thing. Some people sweat a lot and thus need to be careful to restore their lost electrolytes. But perhaps the ones that suffer the most in the heat are the ones that don’t sweat, that bear that heavy hotness and just seem to melt internally. Those are the ones that get woozy and dizzy and sick first. It’s strange, then, that electrolytes help them even more than their sweat-drenched compatriots. Either way, replenishing the body with those lost salts and nutrients helps tremendously.
I developed this punch for myself, so I’d be able to carry it along with me on hot outings and stay cooled and hydrated. When you’re that depleted plain water is not enough, you need something to truly restore your body and quench your thirst. This is a blend of cooling and nourishing herbs plus natural sources of electrolytes. It tastes delicious and fresh and is a delightful ruby-red color naturally, thanks to the addition of hibiscus flowers. It tastes wonderful, and it makes me feel SO much better in the heat of summer!
In case you’re wondering, electrolytes are minerals in the body that have an electric charge and are vital to bodily function. We get most of ours from the food we eat, but if we exercise too hard, spend a lot of time in the sun, or are losing a lot of bodily fluid due to illness, sometimes we need a little help replenishing them. That’s where sport drinks like Gatorade or solutions like Pedialite come into play. (And if you are critically dehydrated, they are the way to go!) There’s a time and a place for electrolyte solutions, though. If you struggle with high blood pressure or need to reduce the sodium in your diet for another reason, you should only drink these drinks when you are in genuine need of them (probably not while you’re working in your air-conditioned office.) Take them to the beach and to soccer practice and on your run and re-fuel your body when it needs it. But if you can, do so naturally. Sports drinks contain all sorts of artificial colors and flavoring that aren’t great for you and, well, just don’t taste very good. This drink is a much more flavorful and nourishing replacement perfect to gently support the body in the heat of summer. (That said, it doesn’t contain a few of the trace minerals that commercial versions do, so if you are suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke you should take the advice of your doctor and rehydrate according to their instructions.)
Here are the ingredients and their functions:
Staghorn sumac’s red “berry” clusters (actually drupes) are full of a tangy flavor and lots of Vitamin C. The Native Americans would make a tart refreshing beverage out of it (similar to lemonade), as well as use it as a treatment for coughs and sore throats. (Staghorn Sumac is not at all similar to Poison Sumac, by the way. Poison Sumac grows in wet, swampy areas and has white berries and as the part we want are the red berries, you’ll easily be able to tell the difference.) Sumacs are ready to harvest when they are red and pass the taste test: Pinch the cluster with your fingers. It should be slightly sticky. Then lick your fingers and you will taste the tartness, indicating it is ready for harvest. Sumac is also just slightly astringent, helping your body to tighten around the moisture it does have, to hold it in and preserve it.
Stinging nettles are very nutritious. They’re high in many vitamins and minerals, but are particularly high in iron, potassium, vitamins A and C, manganese, and calcium. They are fortifying and strengthening, often used as an all-around tonic. They’re helpful for kidney, urinary, reproductive, and bone conditions (like osteoporosis.)
Wild Rose Petals are gently cooling and softening, plus add a subtle sweet flavor to the brew. They help to relax heat-related tension and irritability.
Wild Mallow is gently moistening. When eaten alone, the leaves are fairly mucilaginous and can be a bit slimy, like okra (though I personally like the texture, I know many do not.) When used in an infusion, they don’t add a noticeable texture change but provide soothing relief for dried out mucous membranes and the digestive system. They also help you stay hydrated.
Hibiscus flowers are gently cooling and moistening, making them extra delicious in a summer drink. (They also give everything they are added to a beautiful ruby-red color!) Hibiscus teas or lemonades are drank all throughout the tropics as a refreshing summer beverage.
Honey is a great carbohydrate energy source because it contains three different natural sugars - glucose, fructose, and maltose. Each of these different sugars is absorbed into the bloodstream at a slightly different rate, giving you sustained energy. It’s also immune-boosting and anti-bacterial, making it helpful for fighting off illness. Finally, it’s full of antioxidants.
Coconut water contains a variety of electrolytes including magnesium, sodium, and potassium. It’s actually pretty similar to the fluid used in IV’s, making it a fairly effective rehydration solution on its own. There are even rumors of it being used an IV electrolyte replacement during World War II when stores of saline bags ran short. (Though I do not recommend injecting it directly into your veins. Drinking it is just fine!)
Lemon juice contributes calcium, potassium, and other electrolytes. It’s also very thirst-quenching and delicious!
Sea salt contains 15% trace minerals to replace lost salts, while a tiny bit of baking soda replaces other electrolytes.
Ginger is flavorful and soothing. It’s often used for stomach upset and nausea. The stress of heat or exertion on the body can sometimes compromise digestive function; adding a little ginger ensures that things will keep running smoothly.
Replenishing Summer Punch:
This refreshing blend is thirst-quenching and fortifying, full of nutrition and electrolytes as well as a pleasant zesty flavor. This recipe makes a quart.
1/4 c. dried nettle
1/3 c. dried hibiscus flowers
1/4 c. wild rose petals, dried (or 1/2 c. fresh)
1/4 c. wild mallow, dried (or 1/2 c. fresh)
1 (3”) section fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1/3 c. dried sumac, or one ripe seedhead broken up into small chunks
2 c. boiling water
juice from 1 lemon
2 c. coconut water
1/4 tsp. Himalayan sea salt
pinch baking soda
1/8- 1/4 c. honey, to taste
- Put the dried nettle, hibiscus, ginger, rose petals, and mallow leaves into a heat-proof container and pour the boiling water over the top. Let steep until cooled to being warm but not hot, then pour the whole mixture over the sumac. (Sumac will become bitter if steeped in hot water, but the rest require hot water to extract all of their goodness.)
- Let the mixture sit for half an hour to an hour, then strain through a very sieve to remove plant material, then strain again through a coffee filter to remove any small sumac hairs.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well to dissolve.
- Serve chilled over ice. Will last up to 4 days in the fridge.
P.S. This brings me to another announcement: I'm going to start selling products from time-to-time! (Including packets for this summertime punch!) I have a bunch of apothecary items all lined up; all I'm waiting on is finding someone local to manage the packing and shipping for me. I'd do it myself, but my health is too poor these days to reliably run errands like going to the post office. If you know of anyone in the Boise area who'd be interested in a little side job (I'll pay in commissions), please have them email me at email@example.com The sooner I find someone reliable, the sooner I'll be able to open shop!
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