3 Herbs for Kids You Are Probably Already Growing In Your Garden
With back-to-school around the corner, we are all very interested in optimizing our kids' health. Children come back from school with all sorts of complaints, such as:
cuts and scrapes
restlessness after a long day
even colds and flu, from time to time
Herbs are a gently way to not only treat these common ailments but to boost the immune system naturally, and why wouldn't we want that! Back in my pharmacy days (where I started my health career), I would too often see the overuse and abuse of over-the-counter medications because of the misconception that these medications were safe. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, cortisone, and anti-histamines are suitable for emergency situations, but for persistent health issues, these drugs do not offer long term solutions.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could teach our children the healing benefits of the plants around us, rather than to pop a manufactured pill every time they don't feel well? Given the side-effects of everyday over-the-counter medication, including stomach and intestinal bleeding, dysbiosis, weakened immune systems and an overworked and overburdened liver, exploring the medicinal benefits of plants is a bold and necessary step for the health of the future generation. By investing our time and money into natural medicines and green initiatives (community herbal gardens and green spaces) we are also investing in the health and future of our planet.
So as you and your children forage through your own gardens bookmark this page for future reference. The following herbs are gentle and effective home remedies for many common children's complaints. Many parents are worried about using herbal remedies for their children but in fact they are quite safe. I provide dosages for tinctures and teas at the end of the article with an easy downloadable chart.
The following herbs are easily grown in any garden or foraged in your neighborhood. The photos in this article are taken from my own humble garden on my Toronto balcony, which shows, you do not need much space to grow an herbal garden, just plenty of sunlight, water and TLC.
Peppermint and all other mints improve digestion. Use peppermint when your child complains of a stomachache after school. Peppermint helps ease bloating, move gas and relieves colic pains. Consider peppermint tea sweetened with a little honey for nausea.
Mint also helps relieve pain. Of all the mints, peppermint is the most effective at this because of it's high concentration of menthol compared to the other mint family herbs. It's pain-reveling (analgesic) and anti-spasmodic capabilities make it useful for tension headaches and muscles aches like growing pains. Add 1-2 drops of peppermint essential oil to a carrier oil such as olive oil and massage into a sore neck or aching calf to ease pain.
Peppermint also helps with fever. It is a mild diaphoretic. Diaphoretics are herbs that gently help induce sweat in an individual. They do this by dilating capillaries on the surface skin and increasing circulation to this area. Therefore, diaphoretics like peppermint may help your child break a sweat, naturally cooling them down in a fever.
The simplest way to enjoy peppermint is in a tea, although I've know children to tear off a leaf or two from the garden and chew on it for fun. It helps freshen breath and its potent aroma invigorates and increases focus. Perfect for school-aged children.
Lavender is also a part of the mint family and therefore shares similar benefits (although not as potent), including easing an upset stomach and helping reduce and relieve pain.
Perhaps the most common use of lavender however, is in skin care. Lavender oil can be applied to the skin to heal superficial wounds. It's anti-inflammatory properties relieve itchiness in bug bits and it cleanses and disinfects the skin making it useful for acne or other skin infections.
Although lavender essential oil can be applied directly on the skin, I caution against this for small children. Instead dilute 1-2 drops of pure essential oil in a tablespoon of carrier oil like coconut oil, which also has its own anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. You may also choose to make an infused oil with the crude plant right from your garden.
To make an infused oil: Harvest your lavender and let dry on a tabletop by a sunny window for a few days. Once dried, tear off the lavender buds, breaking them apart with your fingers, mortar and pestle or a food processor to release the natural oils. Place in a mason jar with a carrier oil and let sit in the windowsill for 3 weeks. Then strain the oil and place in a pump or dropper bottle for easy application. This oil can also be used as a bath or massage oil to help calm and relax a child the evening before the first day of school.
Lavender has often been thought of for nervous exhaustion- (think wired and tired). After a long day of constant stimulation and learning, after-school pick up can be an irritable time for most children. If this sounds like your child, a warm cup of lavender milk after school or before bed can help calm these nervous tendencies. Energetically lavender brings spiritual and emotional calm. The aromatherapy effects alone can instill these feelings, so make sure to take deep breaths while sipping your lavender milk or tea, to gain the full benefits.
To make lavender milk: Take about 1 teaspoon of dried lavender buds and break them over cup of non-dairy milk in a small pot. Simmer on medium for about 5-10 mins. Strain and serve. This milk is enjoyed by most children because of it's sweet and floral aromas. You may wish to add a bit of raw honey for extra sweetness.
Chamomile helps relieve agitation, anxiety and insomnia. It is the most popular medicine for indigestion, gas, pain, bloating and colic, even for small infants.
Chamomile has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. I often recommend a dose of homeopathic chamomile alongside a small cup of chamomile tea to treat the mental and emotional symptoms of pain, like anger or weepiness, making it my go-to remedy for teething infants.
Topically, adding 1-2 drops of chamomile oil to your favorite rash cream, like this one, will reduce skin's redness. You can also add a sachet or tea bag of chamomile to a child's bath to sooth skin irritation.
For styes and injuries around the eye, make a gentle chamomile compress. Brew a cup of chamomile tea and let it steep and cool on the counter until it is warm and pleasant to apply on the skin. Use a clean cloth and soak in the chamomile tea, drain any excess and apply the compress to the the eye for 10-15 min intervals, 3-4 times a day. This is an effective way to bring the stye to a head while reducing inflammation of the skin.
Believe with or not, chamomile grows wild in Canada. You can find it in sandy, rocky soil like on the side of your driveway or side- walk. Make sure to mimic these conditions if you wish to grow it at home. Next time you go on a walk with your family, have fun trying to spot the chamomile. Pull off the yellow tops before they flower for you own teas and oil blends.
Herbal Dosing for kids
Many parents feel discouraged to use herbal remedies for their children for fear of the herb's safety. However, compared to over-the-counter and prescription drugs, herbs are quite safe.
According to the CDC, 200,000 children a year visit the emergency room because of Adverse Drug Events (negative reactions caused by medications). Children less than 5 years old are more likely than older children to visit the emergency department for an adverse drug event, and each year, one in every 150 two-year-olds visits an emergency department for a medication poisoning (1).
Herbal medicine's when properly used and administered are very effective and with less of the harmful side effects. However, for any herbal newbie adhere to to the dosing recommendations below. If you need guidance, don't forget I offer 30 minute complimentary consultations, reach out and mention this article.
If you would like to download this quick reference, just click the image above.