Herbal remedies can provide safe and effective treatment for common childhood ailments ranging from diaper rash and teething to sore throats and conjunctivitis. In this Storey BASICS® guide, Rosemary Gladstar shows you how to prepare soothing salves, syrups, tablets, and teas that support children’s health. With simple instructions, clear dosage guidelines, and in-depth profiles of 24 medicinal herbs, you’ll soon be confidently easing your child’s achy flu with some hibiscus tea and using the healing properties of nettles to combat bouts of hay fever.
About the Author
Rosemary Gladstar is the best-selling author of Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide and Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, which draw on her 40-plus years of experiences studying and teaching about the healing properties of herbs. She is a world-renowned educator, activist, and entrepreneur, and the founding director of Sage Mountain Herbal Retreat Center, the International Herb Symposium, and the New England Women’s Herbal Conference. Gladstar is founding president of United Plant Savers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and preservation of native American herbs. She was the original formulator for Traditional Medicinal herbal teas and has led herbal educational adventures around the world. She is the recipient of an honorary doctorate from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, and serves on the board of the Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine and The National Health Freedom Coalition. She lives in Vermont.
Read an Excerpt
Herbal Medicine for Children
A long time ago, when I was just a child, my grandmother took me into her gardens and introduced me to her weeds. When we walked in the scented oak forest, she rubbed my skin with fresh bay leaves, assuring me it would prevent poison oak and keep the insects from swarming over us. When I fell in the nettle patches, she soothed the painful welts with the fresh juice of that plant. Her teachings were without fuss. Strong and powerful, like her, her words sank deep and took root in my heart. That magic my grandmother taught me in the garden of my childhood stayed with me throughout my life, and I have continued the journey into the green.
I've studied the healing power of herbs with many gifted teachers, traveled to many regions with rich herbal histories, come to know a great many more plants, and studied the science as well as the art of herbal healing. Still, the things I learned as a child with my grandmother have remained some of the most powerful teachings of my life. It is those simple yet powerful lessons that I seek to pass on to you and your children.
The very act of studying herbs and using plants for health and well-being instills in most people a deep appreciation for Mother Earth and a more balanced way of living. If we teach our children early a love of the earth and a respect for plants and nature, they grow up with a much greater sense of balance and engagement, especially in this age of technology and dissociation from the natural world. In what has been termed a "nature-deficient" society, children especially need and benefit from a close association with plants and the great outdoors. The ancient system of healing with plants is one of the practical and eminently useful ways we can connect deeply with nature. And when we learn to connect with nature as children, it's a lesson we carry with us for life.
Using Herbs for Children's Health Care
Not only do herbs serve as wonderful teachers for our children, but they also provide an effective, gentle system of healing for them. Children's bodies are sensitive and respond naturally and quickly to the healing energy of herbs. Administered wisely, herbs do not upset the delicate ecological balance of children's small bodies (as does much of modern medicine) but rather work in harmony with their systems.
Contrary to popular opinion, herbs and orthodox medicine are not at odds; they are two systems of healing that can complement one another. Herbs work wonderfully to help resolve the simple aches and ailments of everyday life, to nourish the body so that it's better able to ward off and fight infection, and to help restore constitutional wellness. Allopathic medicine, in turn, is a superior system for life-threatening illness, when acute symptoms need to be brought under control rapidly.
Though allopathic medicine can work quickly, effectively, and efficiently, it is single-minded in its healing approach: get rid of the symptoms quickly before they do harm. Unfortunately, as we are learning, the harm is often in the medicine itself. Pharmaceutical medications are strong, especially so in the small bodies of children, and can have unhelpful side effects. So, of course, use pharmaceuticals when necessary, but whenever possible, rely instead on gentle, time-tested herbal remedies. Herbal medicine is not only effective but also ecologically sane (not polluting the waterways and soil as modern drugs are known to do) and cost effective (you can even grow much of your own medicine!).
If you intend to use both herbal and allopathic medicines in caring for yourself and your family, make sure your doctor or health care provider is familiar with both systems, and consult with him or her whenever you're in doubt about whether it's appropriate to use herbs and pharmaceuticals together. The herbs mentioned in this particular book have no unwelcome interactions with pharmaceuticals; they are gentle and safe to use even with very young children. But if you progress to using other herbs and natural remedies, you may want a knowledgeable holistic health care provider as a guide.
When to Use Herbs
Herbs can be used with confidence for simple ailments such as colic, rashes, teething, and everyday bumps and bruises, as well as the many common illnesses that children often contract, such as ear infections, colds and flu, stomach bugs, and chicken pox. Herbs can also be used as supplements to allopathic medicine when dealing with more complicated health problems.
If herbal remedies don't give the results you were hoping for, then consider allopathic treatment as the next step.
When to Seek Medical Help
Allopathic medicine is an excellent emergency- or crisis-oriented system, and it is by far the best system of medicine for serious and life-threatening situations. Be sure to establish a relationship with a pediatrician, preferably one who is holistically minded, while your child is well so you'll be prepared if ever there is a situation that requires medical attention.
Seek medical help if the child:
* Is not responding to the herbal treatments you are using.
* Shows signs of serious illness, such as acute fever greater than 102°F/39°C, low-grade persistent fever, hemorrhaging, delirium, severe dizziness, unconsciousness, or severe abdominal pain.
* Is lethargic and weak, unresponsive, or difficult to awaken.
* Complains of a stiff neck and headache and is unable to touch his or her chin to the chest. Or, in babies, the fontanel (soft spot on top of the head) may bulge. These are possible early signs of meningitis, which requires immediate medical attention.
* Contracts recurring ear infections.
* Has difficulty breathing or turns blue around the lips.
* Becomes dehydrated. Warning signs are dry lips, dry mouth, and absence of urination over 6 hours.
* Shows signs of a severe allergic reaction, particularly after a bee sting or ingestion of a new food. Warning signs include difficulty breathing or swallowing, flushing or redness of the face, swelling of the face or tongue, nausea or vomiting, severe abdominal pain, palpitations, anxiety, or other unusual responses.
* Has red streaks on the skin emanating from a point of infection; this could indicate blood poisoning.
* Has a severe burn, a burn extending over an area twice the size of the child's hand, or any burn that appears to be infected.
Getting Perspective on the Safety of Herbs
Interestingly, parents are often willing to use herbs themselves, and they are even comfortable recommending them to others, but when it comes to their children, they become hesitant. While herbal remedies can be just as effective as pharmaceuticals in many cases, as well as being safer, with fewer side effects, parents often choose allopathic medication because "that's what the doctor ordered," and when it comes to the health of their children they're reluctant to look outside the traditional medical establishment.
How safe are pharmaceuticals? The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that every year in the United States there are over 1,500 accidental deaths from legally prescribed prescription drugs, making them the fourth leading cause of death in the nation. Add the astonishing 1,000-plus deaths caused by the side effects of drugs and we have a whopping 2,500 medication-related deaths per year.
What about herbs? How many calls does the AAPCC get about them? According to recent statistics, the AAPCC gets so few calls about poisoning from herbs and herbal remedies that they don't even have a special category for herbs.
Thankfully, we don't have to choose between the two systems of medicine. Both traditional herbal medicine and modern allopathic medicine offer tremendous gifts of healing, and each system complements the other. Together they form a comprehensive system of health and healing, each having strengths and weaknesses. But knowing when to choose herbs and when to choose pharmaceutical medications is paramount.
Herbs are among the safest medications available on earth. This does not mean that there are not toxic plants or herbal remedies that can cause harmful reactions. But the herbs we use today have been used for centuries by people around the world, so we have a pretty good idea of how they work on the human body and the reactions they cause. (And, again, this book includes only the safest herbs that have had a long history of use.)
Occasionally an herb will stimulate an idiosyncratic reaction in an individual. This doesn't make the herb toxic; it's just a poor choice for that particular individual. For example, strawberries, a perfectly delicious fruit, are sweet nectar to some and noxious to others.
Avoiding the Hysteria: Using Herbs Wisely
There are many reports surfacing these days about the toxicity of herbs. Even perfectly benign substances such as chamomile and peppermint are winding up on the "black list." The reason for this is not that more people are using herbs (as is often suggested), but that people are using herbs in ways that allow more concentrated dosages, far beyond what common sense would dictate. In the past, herbs were most often taken as teas, syrups, and tinctures. These preparations contain modest dosages of the whole herb. Herb capsules, which pack large volumes of herb into small pills, allow for huge dosages, while standardized preparations contain supremely concentrated extracts of particular plant constituents — not the whole plant — that range far beyond the normal concentrations found in nature. These types of concentrated dosages have not been available until recently.
With not centuries but millennia of experience behind the use of medicinal herbs, you can be assured of their safety for your child — indeed, for your whole family. But be a wise practitioner of herbal remedies:
* Use only those herbs that have a record of safety.
* Follow the appropriate dosages outlined in this book.
* Discontinue use of an herb if you suspect it to be the cause of an idiosyncratic response.
* Whenever you're in doubt or when your child isn't responding to herbal remedies, consult with your holistic health care professional.
The Best Herbs for Children
Almost any herb that is safe for an adult is safe for a child as long as the dosage is adjusted to account for the lesser size and weight of the child. That being said, herbs that are more gentle in action are better suited to the more sensitive constitution of children.
The herbs listed in this chapter are the ones most often recommended for children. They are generally recognized as being safe and benign, with no residual buildup or side effects in the body. These "gentle" herbs can be very powerful and effective, but they act in a less abrasive manner than other stronger-acting medicinal herbs or pharmaceuticals. These herbs generally strengthen the immune system, fortify the nervous system, and in a multitude of ways support the body's innate ability to heal itself. They should form the foundation of herbal health care for children.
Parts used: primarily the seeds, but the leaves are also useful
Benefits: Anise has a long history of being used as a medicinal herb and culinary spice and has been cultivated for over 4,000 years. It is primarily used as a carminative (gas-expelling), warming digestive aid. It can also be helpful in treating mild urinary infections and as an expectorant (helps expel mucus) in respiratory ailments. It has a tasty licorice-like flavor that most children enjoy.
Suggested uses: Use as a tea for colic and other digestive problems. Because of its sweet flavor, anise is often blended with less tasty herbs to make them more palatable. It makes a tasty syrup.
Part used: roots
Benefits: Adaptogenic (resistance-building) and toning, astragalus sometimes is called the young person's ginseng. While echinacea supports the immune system's first line of defense, astragalus strengthens the deep immune system by helping rebuild the bone marrow reserve that regenerates the body's protective shield. Numerous studies have shown its effectiveness in helping young children through chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Suggested uses: Astragalus is best used in tea for helping patients overcome long-term illness and low energy and to help support and build immunity. The root looks exactly like the tongue depressors doctors use, and children may enjoy chewing on it, just like a licorice stick. You can incorporate it into soups and broths; just place a root or two (whole or chopped) in the pot and simmer for several hours.
Parts used: leaves and flowers
Benefits: While catnip sends cats into spasms of pleasure, it is an excellent calming herb for people and is used to relieve all manner of stress. It is particularly beneficial for lowering fever and relieving the pain of teething. It is also a restorative digestive aid used to relieve indigestion, diarrhea, and colic. Catnip is highly recommended for children, as it is calming, relaxing, pain relieving, and gentle.
Suggested uses: Serve as a tea throughout the day to alleviate teething pain. Catnip is quite bitter tasting, so combine it with pleasant-tasting herbs such as oats and lemon balm, or mix it with fruit juice to make it more palatable. Give a couple drops of catnip tincture before meals to serve as a digestive aid. A few drops of the tincture before bedtime will help calm a fussy child. This is one of the best herbs to reduce childhood fevers; use as both a tincture and an enema for this purpose.
(Matricaria recutita, Anthemis nobilis, and related species)
Parts used: primarily the flowers, but the leaves are also useful
Benefits: This little plant is a healing wonder. In its flowering tops it has rich amounts of an essential oil that acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. The flowers make a wonderfully soothing tea that is good for the nerves and for digestion. It is especially useful for digestive problems caused by stress, including colic.
Suggested uses: Chamomile tea sweetened with honey can be served throughout the day to calm a stressed or nervous child. A massage oil made with chamomile essential oil can be used for similar calming effects, and to soothe sore, achy muscles. A few drops of chamomile tincture will aid digestion; administer before feeding time.
Caution: Though chamomile is considered to be generally benign, it is a member of the composite family, and some individuals have allergies to plants in this family. If your child is very sensitive and/or prone to allergies, do a patch test before introducing chamomile to him or her.
Parts used: primarily the seeds, but the leaves are tasty
Benefits: Dill's name comes from dilla, an old Norse word that means "to lull," and it has a fairly strong reputation for being calming and comforting for infants and children. Dill is a good digestive aid, and it has an even greater reputation for expelling gas. It is one of the most well-known herbs for relieving gastric stress, colic, and nervous digestion in children. Dill is a good source of manganese, magnesium, and iron, and contains calcium as well.
Suggested uses: Dill is common as a culinary herb. It is also quite tasty brewed in tea, either alone or with other herbs.
(Echinacea angustifolia, E. purpurea, and related species)
Parts used: roots, leaves, flowers, and seeds
Benefits: Echinacea works by increasing macrophage T-cell activity, thereby bolstering the body's first line of defense against infection. It is one of our most important immune-stimulating and infection-fighting herbs. Though potent and effective, it is also safe to use for children and has no known side effects or residual buildup.
Suggested uses: Echinacea works best when taken not every day but at the onset of infection or when precautions are warranted (i.e., everyone at daycare is sick — keep your child home and give her echinacea!). At the first sign of a cold or flu, give echinacea in tea or tincture form to boost immunity and help ward off the infection. It works best if taken in frequent but small doses; for instance, adults would take ½ teaspoon of tincture or ¼ cup of tea every 30 to 40 minutes, with the dosage adjusted accordingly for a child (see dosage charts). It is also useful as a tea or tincture for children's respiratory and bronchial infections, and it can be used in a spray to soothe sore throats. For sore gums and mouth inflammation, use the tea or diluted tincture as a mouthwash, flavored with peppermint or spearmint essential oil.
While echinacea is most effective taken internally, it can also be used as a wash or poultice externally to treat skin infections.
Excerpted from "Herbs For Children's Health"
Copyright © 2015 Rosemary Gladstar.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsPreface
Chapter One: Herbal Medicine for Children
Chapter Two: The Best Herbs for Children
Chapter Three: Treating Common Childhood Ailments
Chapter Four: How to Make Herbal Remedies