Keep Kids Healthy with Herbs

Herbal Remedies for Children: Mild, effective herbs that are kind on kids.

| July/August 2005

  • Chamomile
    Karen Bergeron,
  • Catnip
    Karen Bergeron,
  • Lemon balm
    Karen Bergeron,
  • Nettle
    Karen Bergeron,

Natural remedies can be a parent’s best friend when it comes to treating children’s ailments and upsets. In fact, herbs can be particularly safe and effective for children because herbs tend to be so much gentler than pharmaceutical alternatives. It’s best to use natural medicines with the supervision of a qualified practitioner, but mild herbs, such as chamomile, lemon balm and fennel, have been safely used by children for centuries.

Herbalist, educator and activist Rosemary Gladstar says children’s bodies are particularly sensitive and respond quickly to the healing properties of herbs. She feels that, armed with some basic knowledge of mild, easy-to-use herbs, parents needn’t fear giving herbs to their children.

“Herbalism was once considered the simplest medicine, and was accessible to everyone,” Gladstar says. “The only reason it seems complex is because we’ve been separated from our herbal traditions.” This separation has led to modern concerns about the safety of herbal medicine, Gladstar adds, but this concern may stem from lack of familiarity.

“Administered wisely,” Gladstar says, “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 the young child’s system.” Herbs can be used for ailments such as colds, flus, colic and teething, as well as common childhood illnesses, such as measles and chicken pox. They can be used to calm irritability or to encourage sleep.

The most important thing to remember is to give children appropriate dosages. Keep in mind that most product labels recommend dosages for 150-pound adults, so adjust according to your child’s weight. Herbalist and midwife Aviva Romm recommends that if a remedy seems ineffective, you may need to adjust the dose. However, don’t give more of an herb just to achieve faster results — herbs don’t work on a “more is better” principle.

Best Herbal Options for Common Complaints

• Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) is an immune-enhancing herb considered a “mother’s helper” by herbalists, Gladstar says. It can be used in tea or tincture form to fend off illness when there are a lot of colds or flus going around or when the first symptoms appear.

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