Drinking enough water is one of the simplest yet most profound things we can do to improve our health and sense of well-being. After all, water is the stuff of life. Without it, we simply couldn’t survive and life could not exist. Indeed, every cell and organ in the body relies on the presence of water to function. Water transports waste products and nutrients in and out of cells; is fundamental to digestive, circulatory and excretory function; helps to lubricate and protect the joints, nerves and internal organs; and regulates body temperature through perspiration – just to name a few of its important functions.
And yet, how many of us truly get enough water for our bodies to function optimally? While we may get enough water to prevent the symptoms of acute dehydration, we can suffer the effects of chronic dehydration when our bodies don’t receive the optimum level of fluids for proper balance and function. Those of us that find ourselves lethargic, headachey, irritable or nauseated for no real reason may fall into this category. In such cases, simply increasing the daily intake of water can have profound effects on our sense of well-being.
And while proper hydration is important to consider at any time of the year, it is especially so during the summer months, when the hot and dry weather can cause us to lose more fluids than normal through perspiration. Drinking plenty of water also helps to cool the body and keep us in balance, helping us to adapt to the heat of our environment and prevent common summer ailments that tend to plague us around now such as fevers, headaches, rashes and other inflammatory disorders.
But these effects are even more powerful if one adds cooling herbs, vegetables and fruits to infuse into their drinking water. Years ago, a friend introduced me to this concept – placing sprigs of fresh herbs or slices of fruit into a jug of water to have on hand in the fridge. Her motivation was strictly for the flavor, but the cooling properties of the herbs (as well as some vitamins and minerals) are also imparted to the water, creating a beverage that somehow enhances the water’s refreshing, cooling qualities. Since then, I’ve always kept a jug of herbal water on hand during the summer months, finding that the delicate flavors completely refresh me and give me an added incentive to drink. For those who struggle with drinking plain water, this can be a great alternative to sugar laden sodas, juices and sports drinks.
To make, you simply add fresh fruit (berries, sliced peaches or plums, melons, citrus) and fresh or dried herbs to a jug, pitcher or jar of filtered water. Place in the fridge overnight to infuse, and then drink whenever you like. You can strain the herbs and fruits out if you wish, but I like to leave them in for the beautiful visual effect (I usually use whole sprigs of herbs or slice my fruit large enough so that they don’t end up in my cup when I pour). If you’d like a slightly stronger flavored tea, simply place your herbal water into a warm spot in the sun for several hours before refrigerating.
These are great for picnics and dinner parties where they are beautiful and elegant placed on the table, but I also just love having them around for every day drinking. I pull a pitcher out and place it next to me while I work to remind me to drink, or just leave one out on the table with a few glasses for whomever might happen by.
Here are some of my favorite combinations. These amounts make a 1/2 gallon of herbal water.
- 1/4 sliced Cucumber, 3-4 sprigs peppermint and several slices of lime
- 3-4 sprigs lemon balm or lemon verbena, 1 vanilla pod sliced in half lengthwise and several lemon wedges
- A handful of strawberries and a handful of fresh (or dried) chamomile flowers
- 2 tablespoons hibiscus flowers with a thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, sliced, and a few lavender sprigs (or 1-2 tsp dried flowers)
- 3-4 tablespoons black tea, several slices of orange and a handful of cherries
- A handful of blueberries, a few slices of lemon and 2-3 sprigs of fresh lavender
- Sliced plums and 6-7 lightly crushed cardamom pods
Now who says water has to be boring!