Medicine Hunter

Enjoying a safe and healthy July 4th weekend

Family on vacation having barbecue

Family on vacation having barbecue

In the United States, time stands still for the 4th of July, and doubly so when our biggest national holiday spreads out into an extended weekend. This year, the four-day stretch will be full of barbecues, beach time, picnics, and loads of traffic. In this short span, we’ll probably consume more chips and beer than are consumed in other nations in a year.

When the barbecue grill gets hot, the burgers and dogs get sizzling. You can help to balance all that fat and cholesterol by grilling up some veggies as well. Zucchini, summer squash, red and yellow peppers, corn and onions are delicious when grilled, and if you can get hold of some ripe fennel, cut sections of that vegetable are a world-class grilled treat.  With grilled vegetables, you’ll be getting fiber and antioxidants, in addition to flavor – lots of flavor.

If you are headed to the beach, remember to bring water to stay hydrated, sunscreen to protect your skin, and Aloe vera gel for the almost inevitability of too much sun exposure. Throughout the U.S., we’re experiencing record high temperatures, and that means that your barbecue won’t be the only thing that’s sizzling. Expect temperatures to roar in some parts of the country, and take breaks from the sun. Drinking plenty of water will keep you healthier inside and out, and Aloe vera gel will soothe your skin after a long, hot day of making sand castles or pitching horseshoes. The water is your friend. Cool off regularly, and you’ll survive the holiday better.

We won’t be the only creatures feasting, as the warm season means more bugs. Mosquitoes must love long summer holidays, with so much available exposed flesh to sink their proboscis into. Not all mosquitoes carry diseases – in fact, most don’t. But health officials worldwide still consider them the most dangerous creatures on earth. Many natural repellants, including those containing geranium, citronella, lemongrass and eucalyptus, can help to keep you bite free. If you want something heavy-duty, look for repellants that contain picaridin, a derivative of black pepper. Cutters, Off and other major brands make picaridin-based repellants. When you’ve been outside, check yourself and your kids for ticks. They are small, nasty and persistent, and you want them off.

Remember that this is the season for poison ivy and oak, which have leaves that contain the highly toxic oily allergenic substance urushiol. Just one tiny drop of urushiol is sufficient to give a bad case of poison ivy rash to 500 people. The very best approach is to stay completely away from poison oak and ivy. Don’t walk through them, and don’t play near them. Absolutely do not burn them in a fire, as this can lead to fatal lung problems. If you get a rash and are near the beach, spend time in sea water, one of the very best remedies. Witch hazel, made from the bark of a tree and found at any drug store, can soothe the rash when liberally applied. One company, Tecnu, makes soaps and lotions that can greatly ease your passage through poison ivy rash. Those products are available at most drug stores.

You could easily make the case that beer is the national beverage in the U.S., at least around the 4th of July. That’s fine, but remember that too much of any alcoholic beverage is harmful. Stick to the designated driver rule, and forget about getting behind the wheel of any vehicle if you’ve been drinking. Post-holiday news is always full of drunk driver stories. Don’t be among them.

Lastly, there are fireworks. What’s the 4th without an impressive display of pyrotechnics? It’s a national tradition, bombs bursting in air and all of that. But enjoy them safely. Never allow children to play with any fireworks other than sparklers. They will need their fingers and eyes throughout their remaining years. Stand back, watch and cheer as the wondrous displays of color go off in the evenings.

Enjoy the long holiday weekend.  Spend time with family and friends, have fun outside, get to the beach or lake if you can, and live it up. That’s what holidays are for. Take time to remember our fine men and women in uniform, who in many cases won’t have the time off. And get through it all safely. Happy holiday to you.

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies, is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide, and is the author of fifteen books. Read more at