Alternatively Speaking: Surviving summer

Alternative medicine enthusiast Natalie Marx answers your questions: How to treat sunburn?; what are benefits of Vitamin D?

Sunburn 370 (photo credit: Thinkstock)
Sunburn 370
(photo credit: Thinkstock)
Q. Dear Natalie, after accidentally spending too much time in the sun, with not enough sun screen protection, can you recommend any natural remedies that I can use topically on my skin to reduce a very sore sunburn?
A. It's essential to increase your fluid intake when you are suffering from sunburn. Sun and heat exposure cause fluid loss through the skin, therefore re-hydrating your body will prevent dehydration and encourage healing. Try to drink extra water for two to three days following a sunburn, at least 1 liter a day.
One of the most soothing remedies, known as natures "after sun" is Aloe Vera. You can find Aloe Vera gel from any pharmacy or natural health store, but I recommend that you try actual juice from the leaves of an Aloe Vera plant. Refrigerate the leaves, peel them open and directly apply the gel onto the burn. Gently squeeze the leaves to get the juice out. If it stings a little try mixing the Aloe Vera juice with a little Vitamin E and dab it onto the sunburn.
The properties of Vitamin E moisturize and aid healing. The proteins in dairy products can moisturize dry sunburned areas and soothe burning. You can also try applying plain, unsweetened yogurt and skimmed milk to the area. With yogurt, apply it to all the sunburned areas using a soft sponge or a piece of cloth, then rinse it off in a cool shower. When using skim milk, mix 1 cup of milk with 3 cups of cold water. Apply the cold compresses directly to your burn for 20 minutes every two to four hours.
Oatmeal pastes are another wonderful way to reduce the pain and swelling that accompany sunburn. They will not prevent further damage to your skin cells but oatmeal treatment will prevent new skin from drying out while reducing your pain. To make an oatmeal bath, blend a cup of any kind of oatmeal to a very fine powder in a blender. Disperse the oatmeal in running water, occasionally stirring to make sure no clumps form. The oatmeal should make the water milky looking and silky. Soak for 15-20 minutes, making sure that as much of your body as possible is under the water. Rather than rinsing it off, if you leave a trace of the oatmeal on your skin it will help with any itching that develops. To dry, simply blot the skin lightly with a towel.
Finally, I've had astonishing success using tea. Boil 4 cups of water and then steep 3- 4 teabags in the water until it is cool. Pour this strong tea into your tepid bath and soak. The tannins in tea work to reduce inflammation and you should see a significant reduction in the redness the following day.
Q. Dear Natalie, I suffer from excessive sweating and now that summer is upon us, it has become even more embarrassing and intolerable. Are there any herbs or nutritional advice you can suggest for reducing sweat?
A. There are several herbs helpful in treating your excessive sweating. Before taking herbs to help treat your excessive sweating, talk with your doctor about potential drug interactions. Sage is a herb that works wonders in treating your excessive sweating. I frequently prescribe Sage as a carminative, astringent and antibacterial to treat excessive perspiration, hot flashes and night sweats. Try drinking sage tea; steep two or three leaves in hot water, three times a day.
Another less common but equally effective herb is known as schisandra. This is particularly effective in combating night sweats and spontaneous perspiration. The fruit of the plant is used by practitioners of herbal medicine to treat excessive sweating. Chinese medicine teaches us that astragalus root, in addition to ginseng and cinnamon twig, resumes the normal functioning of sweat pores. You may also like to try some natural supplements.
Include vitamin B complex, essential fatty acids, vitamins C and E and lecithin capsules into your diet. These supplements are often used when treating an over active thyroid or hyperthyroidism, one of the leading causes of excessive sweating. Try to reduce any food with ‘hot’ spices in your diet, as these foods can trigger sweating. Along with alcohol, you should be avoiding caffeinated beverages. All caffeinated drinks can trigger an excessive sweating response. Drinking plain water or herbal teas will make sure that you stay hydrated.
Q. Dear Natalie, what are the benefits of Vitamin D?
A.  Vitamin D is also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because our skin can produce the vitamin with the help of sunlight. Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium, which helps maintain strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D also helps keep the immune system healthy and plays a role in cell differentiation.
Other than sun exposure you can also contribute to your Vitamin D intake by consuming the vitamin in your diet. According to the University of Maryland, the best sources of Vitamin D include cod liver oil, fortified milk, fortified cereal, eggs and fatty fish, such as mackerel, herring, tuna, sardines and salmon. It is not possible to get too much Vitamin D from the sun. When you have adequate amounts of the vitamin in your body, your skin stops producing it. The ultraviolet rays that help your body synthesize Vitamin D are the same sun rays that cause sunburn, however, so it is important to wear sunscreen when you are going to be exposed to sunlight for extended periods of time.
This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments. This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.
Ask Natalie:
If you have a health query and would like an alternative answer then email Natalie with your question at [email protected].

Natalie runs a clinic both in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem offering a wide range of natural treatment. Healing is achieved using homeopathy, reflexology, massage, flower remedies and nutritional wisdom.

To make an appointment please email [email protected].
Someone Once Said: "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" - Hippocrates