There are many reasons why herbs should be used in children. First, their sensitive little bodies respond so well to the mellow and soft effects of herbs. This healing response to herbs is almost inborn, stemming from thousands of years of use. Second, where herbs have historically been proven safe, the long term effects of most pharmaceuticals are unknown. There is such a wide use of drugs without adequate knowledge of their effects. New drugs should only be considered safe once enough time has passed to see the true long term effects. Is this risk of using possibly unsafe pharmaceuticals a chance you are willing to take with your children? Herbs may be slower acting and less potent than pharmaceuticals, but herbs don't upset the natural balance of these tiny bodies.
So often people think of herb and western allopathic medicine as ether one or the other. But herbal medicine can work as an alternative or complementary to western medicine. If you plan on mixing western pharmaceuticals with herbs I suggest consulting you doctor or herbalist first to make sure there are no interactions. Using herbs as an alternative doesn't mean ignoring what your physician has to say. We can take the information they provide us with, for instance their diagnostic skills, and then apply a more natural means of treatment. It's also important to know when it's time to seek professional medical treatment. When there is severe trauma or severe or worsening infection, please seek professional medical help. It is better to be safe than sorry.
There is often a concern regarding the safety of herbal remedies. The recommended herbs for children are ones that are mild and gentle and have been used on children for thousands of years; however, it is important to be clear that even the safest and most researched herbs can cause a reaction in some people. I recommend doing a dose test to be sure your child or even you for that matter won't have an allergic reaction to an herbal remedy. To do so, make a tea from the herb. Then apply a small amount to the inner arm. I usually do it to a small patch of skin in between the wrist and elbow. Wait 24 hours. If you notice any signs of an allergic reaction, discontinue use and you now know that this is not an herbal remedy to be used. If there are no signs of an allergic reaction, try a small amount internally. Again, if there are signs of allergic reaction, discontinue use; otherwise it should be ok to receive the herb at a regular dose.
The next question becomes, what is the appropriate dose for a child. I prefer to use Clark's Rule to determine dosage for children. Clark's Rule is as stated:
Child's weight in pounds ÷ 150 (average adult weight) = % of adult dose
So if a child weighs 35 pounds and the adult dose of a tincture is 5ml, the equation would be solved as follows:
35 ÷ 150 = .23 which would be 23% of the adult dose
.23 x 5ml = 1.15 ml would be the child's dose
This equation can be used for any preparation of herbs. If the child is still breast feeding, the best way for them to get the healing properties of herbs is through the mother's milk. The mother should drink several cups of herbal tea a day.
Now that you know the how to calculate dosage for children, it is important to know what herbs to have on hand. Making sure that you are prepared, is the one thing that makes herbal medicine successful with kids. As soon as you recognize the warning signs to sickness, start treatment immediately. Fatigue and dehydration are two issues that often lead to illness. Some herbs to have on hand include:
- Lemon balm
- Licorice root
- Marshmallow root
Overall, herbs are an excellent contribution to the health of children. They can be used as an alternative or in conjunction to western medicine. Treating your children via natural means is a great way, as parents, to get more involved in the health of your children and focus more on prevention. Be sure not to underestimate the healing power of a little TLC and some rest. That alone can be enough to heal the worst sickness. If you would like to know more about natural healing for children, any of the books listed below are wonderful tools for parents.
Gladstar, R. (2001). Family herbal: a guide to living with energy, health and vitality. North Adams, MA: Storey Books.
Romm, A. (1996). Natural healing for babies and children. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press.
Romm, A. (2003). Naturally healthy babies and children: a commonsense guide to herbal remedies, nutrition and health. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.