Teas, a.k.a tisanes or hot infusions, are another effective way to get herbal medicines into children. The great thing about teas is that they can be sipped on throughout the day as long as you are meeting and not exceeding your dosage. Depending on what herbs you are using and for what condition one is treating, they may be allowed to cool and be refrigerated for iced tea, can be added to soups, juices, smoothies, or made into popsicles.
Teas should not be used on children younger than six months of age and should be used cautiously in children under 12 months old.
Dosage is based on how much dried herb compared to the amount of water is used to steep, how long it is steeped for, and how many cups to drink. Herbal teas used medicinally should always be covered while steeping so the volatile oils do not evaporate, thus losing some of the medicinal properties. Most herbal teas give general dosages, not medicinal dosages on the box. Those that do give medicinal dosage's are in adult dose, not doses appropriate for children.
Tinctures are infusions made in alcohol or glycerine; they take a few weeks to make. They are a quick and easy way to give children herbal remedies. In general, the same rules apply to tinctures as any botanical remedy in regards to their effect on symptoms and when improvement should be seen.
Traditionally Children under one year of age should avoid tinctures. As mentioned above, tinctures are made in alcohol or glycerine, if you cannot find the correct tincture in glycerine you can deactivate the alcohol by adding it to a little hot water and letting it cool. Tinctures may be added to a little water as it may cause a burning sensations and/or possible mucus membrane irritation. They should be administered on an empty stomach.
Most tinctures have adult doses on the label, so one would have to calculate the appropriate dosage for a child. It is also important to note that not all herbal remedies are appropriate for children, to find out which one’s are safe & to have proper dosages calculated sit down with an Herbalist or Naturopathic Doctor.
To finalize this five-part series, Herbal Remedies are a wonderful way of improving the health of little ones, however it should be respected and it is recommended to seek the advice of a “qualified” health practitioner who is trained in the science and art of herbalism. It is also important to use common sense if your child's health is not improving or getting worse you should take them to their family doctor, clinic or hospital.
Dana Clark, CNHP, CHN, CHC
Essential oils come from the volatile oils in plants, which are found in a concentration of approximately 5% in nature. To make essential oils, large amounts of plant materials are gathered and steamed distilled using low temperatures or cold pressed (this is used for citrus oils). This is why they can be so expensive. Essential oils are very potent medicines and it is important to be sure they are of good quality while not falling for crazy marketing schemes where silly declarations of Certified Therapeutic Grade, etc... are used.
I find many people fall in love with the smell of essential oils and forget that they are in fact medicines and should be respected as such. One drop of essential oil can equal 35 to 75 cups of herbal tea. As you can see, they are very concentrated and potent. Essential oils should not be ingested, there are very few exceptions to this rule and only Qualified Health Practitioners would prescribe this administration after proper assessments of the individual has been made. Essential oils should not be applied neat on the skin (undiluted), dilution like dosing of any herb is different for children than what one would use for an adult. Essential oils also can be over used and abuse, they should not be uses in all situations or all the time, nor should one be diffusing them 24/7. Like all other forms of herbal application, prescribing essential oils is both an art and science. There are still contraindications and not all oils are safe for children. It is best to seek the advice of an Aromatherapist or Herbalist.
With that being said, they are great for administering to children especially when proper care is taken. One can easily relieve discomfort and boost the immune system of an child by diffusing safe oils in their room while sleeping. Essential oils can even be used as part of a bedtime routine to assist children with sleep. Essential oils work very effectively on the limbic system (emotional brain). This is where smell triggers emotions, thus it can help children relax and overcome anxieties. Many essential oils have pain relieving, antibacterial, antifungal, and antispasmodic effects and much more making them very versatile. Even their application can be versatile, from sprays, inhalation, massage, foments, bathes and salves, which make giving this herbal treatment to a child very easy with no worries about whether to give on an empty stomach or full stomach and no struggles of administering a bad tasting remedy.
For infants turn to hydrosols, they are much gentler and safer. Hydrosols are produced during the distillation process of plant materials to make essential oils.
Dana Clark, CNHP, CHN, CHC
Homeopathy, although not entirely an herbal medicine, is a wonderful way of using botanicals on infants and children, as it is the safest herbal therapy to assist them when they are ill. Homeopathic medicines are in essence energy-based medicines; in fact the biggest controversy behind homeopathic medicine is that one cannot detect any medicinal properties beyond the medium it's contained in.
Homeopathic remedies are extremely diluted formulas so diluted that it would be equal to one drop of herbal medicine in the ocean. How does it work? The water holds the memory of the medicinal properties in its molecules and implements this knowledge to one’s body to assist with healing. I know it seems far-fetched, although one cannot test the remedies themselves, double blind studies do show that they are extremely effective. We cannot entirely explain why they are effective and this really bothers the scientific community.
If you think herbalism is complex in prescribing, go one step further. Homeopathy is completely based on individual needs, from how your child reacts emotionally to being ill to the time of day they are most uncomfortable and much more. Nonetheless, homeopathic companies are making it easier, using formulas with a variety of homeopathic remedies in one dose where more than likely at least one of the ingredients will work for your child.
Homeopathy is great for an infant. In fact, for infants under six months of age it is one of the few appropriate ways to administer a botanical remedy. Some parents find they do not work and that may be due to the fact that homeopathic remedies are energy-based medicines and very sensitive to being deactivated. When administering a homeopathic remedy your child should not have consumed anything beyond water one hour prior to the administration and should not consume anything for 15-30 minutes afterward. Once the medicine is administered it is important to avoid deactivation by scent. Things like cigarette smoke (3rd hand smoke), synthetic perfumes and certain essential oils may actually deactivate the remedy. These should be avoided completely during the course of treatment (that may mean switching your child’s toothpaste to one that does not contain mint and making your home scent free). If you are using homeopathic tablets or pills be sure not to touch the medicine but to drop it under your child’s tongue, encourage your child to let it sit there until dissolved for better absorption.
Although complex in its own way, homeopathics are very effective and generally one can see results for acute states within 10 to 20 minutes. If one does not see immediate relief, one can administer a second and even third dose without worrying about over dose. If after three doses you don’t see any results it’s because the remedy is not working for your child. If you do not see improvement within 48 to 72 hours you should visit your family’s health practitioner.
Again I highly recommend seeking out a Homeopathic Doctor/Practitioner or someone who is trained in homeopathy; it may just save you some frustration and money.
Dana Clark, CNHP, CHN, CHC
Herbal remedies come from plants. Different parts of the same plant can be used for different conditions, can be more effective than other parts of the plant, or toxic. For example, tinctures made from Echinacea for colds and flus can be made using the aerial part (leaves & flower) or the root. Studies show that medicines using the aerial parts are less effective; in this instance using the tincture made from the root would be more effective.
Herbal medicines also come in various applications, such as teas, powdered capsules, tinctures, essential oils and homeopathic remedies (not all homeopathics derive from herbs but other natural ingredients such as minerals and so on). Just as different parts of the plant can have different effects so can the way an herb is administered. For example, peppermint tea can be used to assist digestion, while peppermint oil can be dabbed on temples to ease headaches.
Herbal medicines also have contraindications, such as drug or other herb interactions, may aggravate other conditions or be allergenic in certain people. Here is a great example of contraindications, Ginseng in high doses can cause insomnia and high blood pressure, in combination with caffeine as seen in many energy drinks it can cause heart palpitations and should be avoided in pregnancy. Let’s not forget proper dosages. Plants in general are very gentle medicines, side effects are minimal, however improper dosage of some plants can be serious and have major medical consequences.
These are just some of the things one needs to take into consideration when using an herbal remedy. On top of all these considerations is the requirement of the individual, looking at the whole person instead of just the symptoms one wants to address. We can use herbs to reduce symptoms but not eliminate them so they are tolerable in situations where the symptoms are the way the body is working to heal itself such as in the case of viruses and infections, where more focus should be on boosting the body’s ability to fight the infection or virus. For example one would reduce a dangerously high fever to the point where it is safe but never eliminate the fever as this is the way the body fights viruses and infections. In other situations we look at the underlying cause of symptoms and the reason behind the symptoms and may or may not add in some herbs to soothe the symptoms depending on the situation and the individual’s needs or use the herbs to address the underlying cause. In the end, the symptoms should not be the focus of herbal treatments but a gauging method to be sure the program is working or if adjustments need to be made. When we are looking at deep-seated root causes, herbal treatment can take a while to be effective and herbal therapy may last for quite a few months. Steady and careful wins the race in this situation. In instances where we are dealing with viruses and infections we look for improvement in symptoms within 72 hours. If there is no improvement, then it’s time to seek out one’s primary health practitioner.
This is why it is important to consult a health practitioner who is trained in herbalism and can guide you in finding the right herbal program for your child, whether it’s for a cold or something more complex.
Now that I have given you some things to consider before self-prescribing herbs for your family, I would like to discuss some of the more common methods of administering botanicals to your children and why they are preferred methods. I will be discussing these in part 3, 4 & 5 of this series.
Dana Clark, CNHP, CHN, CHC owner or From the Roots Holistic
More and more parents are turning to herbal remedies or botanicals to address the many illnesses and discomforts that plague their children during the early years. With recalls on pharmaceutical drugs on the increase, more studies showing the ineffectiveness of over-the-counter drugs, and long lists of side effects, how can anyone blame them?
The World Health Organization estimates that 65-80% of the world’s population relies primarily on herbal medicines due to traditional use, effectiveness, availability and cost. In fact, herbal remedies are widely studied by pharmaceutical companies to create their drugs. An example of this is Digoxin, a drug used for heart failure, which is isolated from the foxglove plant. Another example is contraceptive pills synthesized from wild yams. Over 500 herbs are used in pharmaceuticals, however they are no longer in their natural state with only the main constituents being used and synthesised allowing for dosage control, higher levels of effectiveness, faster response in the body and most importantly drug patents. Isolating and/or synthesising botanicals leaves behind valuable synergistic effects of other constituents. These other constituents make herbs much gentler on the body as well as negating or reducing the severity of side effects from the main medicinal constituents. Our bodies have adapted over thousands of years to process botanicals, now we are asking them to process medicines that are no longer in their natural state. Think of the stress this is causing on your little one’s growing and developing body.
While pharmaceutical medicines do have an important role in our society, especially in acute states where fast results are needed (antibiotics when not abused save lives), we are now using these same potent and high risk medicines in situations where the risk outweighs the benefits and where the fast results may not be necessary or even beneficial. Instead we should be considering using effective, traditional and scientifically proven plants to gently rebalance and support our body to do what it can do naturally: heal itself, in non emergency medical situations.
Currently we have one group of people who no longer view herbal medicine as effective or even medicinal and we have another group who are quickly turning back to herbs due to the abuse and overuse of pharmaceuticals with their long list of side effects. Those who are turning back to traditional medicine, however, are doing so with the same notions and ideas of how pharmaceuticals work, thinking about symptoms and labels and not individual requirements, looking for band aid solutions that mask symptoms and ignoring the reason behind the symptoms. Many people drop into health food stores and grab the most popular herb on the shelf just as they would with an over-the-counter medicine not realizing that herbal medicine is a very intricate science and an art.
In part two of this series I would like to address the intricacies of the science and art of herbalism.
Dana Clark, CNHP, CHN, CHC owner or From the Roots Holistic,
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