Children are strong and resilient, and we as parents are not taught how to trust their instincts or our own. Having a fever or upset tummy can be scary and uncomfortable for a child, but with the right supportive care, many discomforts can be relieved without the use of herbs or conventional medicines that can sometimes cause more harm than good.
Here at Gray Cat Botanicals, we follow the Wise Woman Tradition of Healing. The main idea is start with the least invasive treatment first, (and sometimes that means doing nothing!) and progress with stronger and potentially more harmful treatments until symptoms are alleviated and the root cause addressed. When we work with this model, the emphasis is on positive change. There is a place for intense, potentially harmful treatments, but it is a last resort, not the first approach. When taking responsibility for your health and the health of your children, it is important to know the signs of serious illness and seek professional medical care. Just because some treatments are overused does not mean that there is still not an appropriate time to utilize them.
Have you ever wondered if there was a natural alternative to that sugar–laden kids mutli-vitamin?
What about an alternative to that artificially-colored liquid for nausea?
Curious about something safe and natural to help settle your little one when they are bouncing off the walls?
Maybe you are just interested in learning about herbs, but don’t know where to start. This multi part series will address many of the common complaints of child hood with safe and easy to use herbal remedies.
We will start with noursing herbs for general health. These plants can be enjoyed on a daily basis and focus on prevantative care. Nourishing, gentle, safe herbs tend to be slower in their action and work best when paired with a healthy lifestyle and nourising dietary habits.
Picking one nourishing plant and incorporating into your daily routine can have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of everyone in the family. That leads to a reduction in the frequency, severity and duration of many common childhood complaints.
Bumps, bruises, colds and illness are facts of life and make us stronger in the long run. Later posts will talk about herbs that can help alleviate the symptoms that occur when our bodies defenses need a little backup, like in the case of the common cold.
You may notice that many of the plants will be repeated in several posts. I prefer to work with easy to grow local plants that can be used for a variety of complaints. It keeps my medicine cabinet manageable and I enjoy learning about a few plants in depth as opposed to a surface understanding of many plants. All of the plants are safe for babies and children, pregnant and breastfeeding mamas, and dads too!
These are nourishing plants. That means they can be enjoyed like foods, do not have harmful side effects and support the body by providing excellent nutrition. I think of them as herbal multivitamins. They can be enjoyed hot or cold and flavored with a little honey or mint. My year-old daughter likes diluted stinging nettles in her sippy cup!
Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica)
I can’t sing the praises of this beautiful, feisty plant enough! Nettles is easy to grow (it’s a weed!) but she will quickly take over, so plant her where no one will get stung and where she can spread out.
This plant is so nutritionally dense, the spines on the fresh plant that can sting like an ant bite are there to protect her from being overharvested. Not only can you use fresh stinging nettles (harvested with snips and gloves!) like kale, the dried plant can be made into infusions and enjoyed as tea. I like to add fresh nettles to soups or just sautee them like greens. They have a spinach-y flavor and a soft texture. Cooking and drying both deactivate the sting. They are best harvested fresh in the early to late spring, before flowering. Shelton Herb Farm often has starts.
Why would you want to mess with this prickly plant? For the abundance of calcium, chlorophyll, vitamins A, C, D, and K; potassium, phosphorus, iron and sulphur and almost every vitamin and mineral needed for human health and growth (Weed 1986, 20). Not to mention folate (good for pregnancy), iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sulfur, zinc, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, C, E. (Balch 2002, 258). Do you suffer from allergies?
This beautiful green plant also has quercetin, kaempferol, rutin, which aide with healthy histamine levels.
I make an infusion of Stinging Nettle and drink some almost every day. She also supports liver health, kidney and adrenal health, hormonal balance and good circulation. You don’t just have to eat your greens, you can drink them too!
To make an infusion:
1. Add one cup of dried Stinging Nettle to a quart sized mason jar.
2. Fill to the top with just boiled water.
3. Cap and steep at least 4 hours.
4. Enjoy 1-2 cups a day.
Oat straw (Avena sativa)
The milky tops of this common plant are consider the “herb” portion, but the whole plant is nutritionally dense and nourshing. Eating oatmeal porridge, cookies or drinking an infusion of the tops confer the benefits of this nervine wonder-plant.
Oat straw is also high in calcium, iron, phosphorus, B complex vitamins, and vitamins E and K. The high mineral content supports the nervous system and helps with relaxation, stress, anxiety, mental clarity and sleeplessness.
This is another one that is safe for babies, nursing moms and children of all ages. It is non-sedating, but will help everyone fall asleep and stay asleep.
The only contraindication (reason not to enjoy oatstraw) is if you have a gluten sensitivity. Oat straw does not naturally contain gluten, but unless you purchase certified gluten free oats, there is a high degree of cross-contamination in the growing and processing of oatstraw and gluten containing grains like wheat, barley and rye.
This plant can also be enjoyed as an infusion and can be enjoyed hot or cold any time of day. It will not make you sleepy if you drink it in the morning, but can help reduce stress and anxiety throughout the day.
Stay tuned for the next article in the “Herbs for Babies and Children” series- Teething and Pain Relief!
Learn about all of the plants in the series at my upcoming class: Herbs for Babies and Children, Saturday April 18th, 10 AM at Tmuffin. Register here.
Healing Wise by Susun Weed
Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susun Weed
Naturally Healthy Babies and Children by Aviva Romm
Prescription for Herbal Healing by Phyllis Balch
Common Herbs for Natural Health Juliette de Bairacli Levy