Indian summers can get uncomfortably hot. In fact, they can become fatal if exposed to the direct sun when the temperatures hover around 450 C or more. Extreme heat can cause heat strokes, stomach upsets, stoppage of urine, boils and rashes and many other problems. Heat strokes kill hundreds of people around the country every year.
Taking precautions and drinking the right kind of cooling drinks while avoiding harmful ones can go a long way in preventing heat-related health problems.
Having lived in some of the hottest places where the heat melted even the asphalt on the roads, I have picked up many traditional ‘cool’ tips to beat the heat, which I am sharing here. They are very simple and doable. Pick and choose the ones that suit you.
Cool tips for the summer:
- Avoid direct exposure to the sun. Use large dark goggles to protect your eyes and face. Always cover the head while going out in the sun. A cap, a hat, a handkerchief, the dupatta or pallu over the head, an umbrella are all good.
- Use a good sunscreen lotion to protect exposed skin and face.
- Wash feet to cool down the body instantly when you come in from the heat. Don’t drink water immediately.
- Always keep a lemon with you. Squeeze a few drops in a glass of water to maintain the electrolytic balance of the body in extreme heat.
- Avoid chilled water during summers as it can cause a violent change in the temperature of the body.
- Drink water from earthen pots to which you can add some vetiver or cardamom seeds. It makes the water fragrant and cools the system.
- If you have to go out during heat waves, (a) Take an onion cut in half with you to prevent heat strokes. When your body begins heating, rub it on your scalp and face and inhale the pungent bulb to instantly cool the body down. (b) Carry half a lemon soaked in honey in a small bottle. Suck on it to reduce body heat. Honey has many minerals and salts to prevent dehydration.
- Reduce salt intake as it adds to the load on the kidneys and causes water retention and bloating.
Some cooling drinks that can help fight problems related to heat:
- Boil a tsp of saunf or fennel in a litre of water and strain it. This water even fights urinary problems caused by the heat.
- Drink diluted buttermilk/chhas/mattha – flavoured with mint/coriander/curry leaves. A squeeze of lemon can make it even more cooling. Add a pinch of rock salt if you want. This helps if you have watery stools often caused by the heat.
- Take half a teaspoon of methi seeds with some buttermilk to set right the stomach and intestines. You have to swallow the methi seeds as you do pills.
- Soak some leftover rice in water overnight. The strained water mixed with some buttermilk makes for the most cooling drink during hot summer mornings.
- Don’t drink colas and aerated drinks as they are diuretic and add to the water loss. Tender coconut water, shikanji (lemon juice made with sugar and a pinch of salt), sugarcane juice with a little lemon juice are all perfect cooling drinks, electrolytically balanced and are healthy too! Panagam is one of the most cooling drinks. I have shared the recipe below.
And now for the recipe of panagam:
According to Ayurvedic texts, jaggery water is a great cooler. Adding lemon juice to it makes it a refreshing drink, which can instantly provide energy and freshness. It is the preferred naivedyam for Lord Narasimha. We also make it for the festivals that fall during summer – notably Tamil New Year and Ram Navami.
Ingredients for 4 servings:
- Jaggery (powdered) — ½ – ¾ cup (as per taste)
- Water – 4 cups
- Dry ginger powder, pepper powder – A pinch each
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Cardamom ¼ tsp
- Salt – a small pinch
Note: We don’t add the salt if it is for naivedyam.
Dissolve jaggery in four cups of water. Strain to remove any impurities. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Your healthy, cool drink is ready! Serve chilled.