Herbs for kids

part one

As adults many of us have climbed on the bandwagon of using herbal remedies for our minor ailments­­ everything from headache, colds and flu, end even earaches yet we hesitate when it comes to our kids. How could a humble plant remedy compete with modern wonder drugs such as antibiotics? The answer, they can't, each has its own place. The problem is we think nothing of asking for and using prescription drugs for our children and are unwilling to try many of the herbs that are effective and safe for kids.

Many of us resorted to herbal therapy for ourselves at a time when nothing the doctor was giving us was working and, bingo, found out they really do work! Now it's time to give our children the same chance to experience the healing power of herbs.

Okay, you've been to the health food store and come home confused­­ pills, tablets, liquids with alcohol­­ do I really want to give my kids alcohol? Will they swallow a pill? What works? Remember to keep it simple.

Herbs have a very tough outer cell wall. Therefore, it does very little good to take dried herb capsules anyway­­ standardized dose or not. If the body can't break it down, well then its not done much good. Teas are best and are very inexpensive.

When preparing an herbal tea for a child always make a very dilute potion. If the herb you are using is leaves or a soft root, bring 1-2 cups of spring water to a boil. Remove from the heat and add two or three pinches of the herb. Allow it to steep for ten minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey. One ounce servings will suffice. Refrigerate the remaining tea in a sealed glass container. It can be reheated or served cool. Prepare a fresh brew every two days. If the herb you are using is a hard root, tuber, twig or bark, follow the above directions but add the herb to boiling water and boil for ten minutes, then remove from the heat.

You can still make a tea for your child from a liquid tincture if that is what you have available. A tincture is the most powerful way to use an herb; many individuals do not like to use tinctures for children because of the alcohol. Here's a way around that. Heat an ounce of spring water to boiling. Add the number of drops suggested on the bottle for a child or reduce the dose to 1­4 drops. Always make sure the herb is one that is safe to use with children. Then allow the tea to steep for one minute. The alcohol will evaporate off leaving the pure herb in its most powerful form.

When the child's symptoms subside, discontinue use of the herb. This will not slow or interfere with the healing process as herbs work with the body.

A few notes of caution: the use of herbs for children does not mean you will not take them to their physician when symptoms warrant. Don't take chances. You should have some kind of home medical guide that includes the use of common herbs for children as a reference in your home.

Using antibiotic therapy in the face of serious bacterial infections is lifesaving and makes sense. Using herbal therapy for viral colds, flu, diaper rash, warts, sniffles or scrapes makes sense as well.

The herbs most often prescribed for children's ailments such as chamomile, elder flower, echinachea and catnip are among the mildest known. To make them safer still, many remedies are applied externally in baths, footbaths, steam inhalations or compresses. Certainly, gentler does not mean less potent. A child's body less polluted with modern day medicine, poor nutrition and environmental influences will respond quickly to herbal therapy.

Herbs for kids can be a safe, inexpensive, healthier way to treat the common ailments your child faces or, in some cases, compliment more aggressive medical therapies. Next week we'll look at what herbs work for what ailments and how you too can use herbs safely for your children.

part two

Last week in part one of herbs for children, I discussed how to prepare and use herbs for children safely. This week I will be looking at what herbs work for what symptoms and when to start using the herb.

Of course many of the same rules of healing apply to children as they do for adults. To use herbs and not use the other basic principles of healing for your children is a poor insurance policy. Let's review.

1. The body does the healing. Even doctors will admit that 70-80 percent of all disease will cure itself with a little rest. Therefore, patience is required on the part of the parent and the patient to allow the body time to complete its own healing process. It isn't wise to force the body with drugs for minor ailments. Save the big guns of modern medicine for serious illnesses.

2. Symptoms like perspiration, low grade fever, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing and skin eruptions are nature's natural methods for cleansing the body of disease irritants. So, unless symptoms become severe, don't be alarmed. Symptoms are part of the healing process.

3. Avoid stressing the body with hard-to-digest foods such as meat, fried foods, fats and oils, eggs, dairy products and junk food when the body is sick. It is also not necessary to force food on a sick child. If a child does not feel like eating, don't force them; they are just listening to what their body is saying.

4. Remember that in addition to physical food we all need lots of nutritional love. Tender love and care, avoiding negative words and thoughts and getting plenty of purified water and rest can work wonders.

When first using a new herb with a child, as well as for yourself, it is important for you to observe. Then document what symptoms your child experiences. This will help you treat your child more effectively. More is not necessarily better here but the rule of thumb should be if you are going to use more with a child, lessen the dose and give it more frequently. The human body is fully capable of dealing with too much of a non-toxic, natural substance but do stay close to the dose range suggested on the packaging. If making natural teas, use a few 1/2- one ounce, sweetening the tea with honey is fine.

For coughs and colds use echinachea, elder flower or linden flower as a tea. You may add peppermint oil from your spice rack to improve the taste. For cough, eliminate all dairy. Infuse a concoction of bayberry, hyssop, raspberry leaves and turkey rhubarb root then use as a steam inhalation at bedtime. Rub a few drops of tea tree oil on the chest.

For earache, nothing will stop the pain more effectively than a drop of warm clove oil. Check your spice rack; you may have some on hand. Warmed garlic oil in the ear will help fight infection. If the ear is draining do not put anything in the ears; do take the child to the physician as quickly as they can be seen.

For diarrhea-- In the case of babies and small children, acute diarrhea is a case for the doctor. Dehydration and collapse can happen with frightening speed. Sips of chamomile tea or catnip tea sweetened with honey can be used for milder cases.

For occasional colic and tummy troubles, try fennel, caraway or dill seeds. Grind in a coffee grinder, brew a tea using cooled sips. Or try chamomile tea.

For cuts, scrapes, bruises and diaper rash use calendula ointment. It soothes the pain, disinfects and speeds healing. Band-aids work wonders for children when applied with love and tenderness.

For muscle strains, sprains, injuries such as shutting the fingers in the car door, injuries where the skin is not broken, nothing will relieve the pain and reduce swelling and trauma to the tissues quicker than arnica gel. If in doubt , x-rays should be utilized.

Be sure to keep your home herbal reference handy. Call the doctor if you have any doubts and don't take chances. You know your child and his or her symptoms and you know when they are serious and when they are not. Be practical but be safe.

Till next time, Rebecca.

Posted to Zephyr Online April 6, 1999

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