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Herbal Medicine for Infants and Toddlers
Suggestions for Using Herbs for Children Under Two
When infants and children under the age of two experience health problems, most parents take them to the doctor. There are times when a child needs to be taken to the doctor but most of the time there are safer, cheaper and more effective ways of dealing with infant and toddler health problems than the drugs offered by modern medicine.
Many parents are afraid to use herbal remedies with babies and small children but feel safe using vaccines, antibiotics and other medications prescribed by doctors. Herbal remedies have been used by mankind for thousands of years and are safe - especially when every few years another drug we were told was safe turns out to have some negative consequences.
Herbal remedies are much safer to use than drugs and parents that using them have healthier children than parents who rely on medicine. I've given herbal remedies to a newborn baby less than one day old and to older children and I've seen nothing but good results. I did this before I knew a tenth of what I know now about herbs and natural healing.
You can safely use herbs with children under the age of two as long as you use some common sense and a little bit of know-how, which I'm about to share with you.
First children under the age of six months have a very different digestive tract than adults or older children. Their digestive tracts aren't designed to handle solid food until they start cutting teeth. Children under age two have don’t have fully developed livers. This means they have a harder time breaking down substances like alcohol, which means they may have a harder time detoxifying some of the compounds found in medicinal plants.
Young children's systems are much more sensitive to herbal remedies than older children or adults. This means you should
Children under age two respond very well to mild, food-like remedies such as Chamomile, Peppermint, Peppermint, Dandelion and Slippery Elm. These remedies also tend to be more pleasant tasting so it is easier to administer them. Stronger herbs, especially strong bitters and astringents, should be avoided, unless used in very small doses or as part of a formula where they are blended with milder herbs.
Dosage Forms for Young Children
Young children require herbs in liquid form. Small amounts of herbal teas are great for infants and toddlers. It can be hard to get young children to drink an herbal tea unless you sweeten it. Stevia is a good herb to sweeten herbal teas for young children, as you aren't going to create blood sugar problems for them by feeding them sugar water.
Honey should not be given to infants under the age of one because it can contain spores that will cause bacterial infections in the underdeveloped digestive tracts of infants. It is best not to feed babies any kind of sugar as it may contributes to blood sugar problems, sugar cravings and obesity later in life.
For children age one and up you can make an herbal syrup by mixing equal parts of honey and water or Stevia and water. Bring this mixture to a boil and add about 2 oz. of dried herbs per pint of syrup. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes. This mixture can be strained and then given by spoonfuls to children.
Don't use alcohol tinctures with children under age two because of their undeveloped livers. If you have to use an alcohol tincture, evaporate the alcohol. Put the dose of the herbal tincture into the bottom of a cup and pour a small amount of boiling water over it. Stir and let it sit for ten minutes. This will evaporate most of the alcohol.
Glycerine is not a sugar but does have a slightly sweet taste, which makes glycerine-based preparations more palatable to children.
The fear of over giving too much arises from the risks of overdosing with drugs. The kinds of mild herbal remedies to use with kids just don't have that kind of toxicity. Follow the basic principles when giving herbs to small children.
What kind of response am I looking for when I use an herb. If trying to bring down a fever by promoting sweating, or trying to loosen the bowel or breakup the congestion or reduce the swelling or inflammation.
Start giving small but frequently repeated doses of the herbs until the desired action is obtained. Doses of as little as 2-3 drops to as many as 15-20 drops repeated at 15-20 minute intervals for acute illnesses are pretty effective. If there is no sign that the remedy is working within two to three hours, switch and try something different.
The second principle to use when giving herbs to small children is to trust their instincts bodies. If the child seems to like the remedy and wants more I let them have more.
If they have a real dislike to the remedy, switch to another remedy. The natural instincts of the body are usually accurate. If the child's body responds well to the remedy, they won't mind taking it and may actually crave more.
Remember mild herbs are not powerful drugs but high powered foods. If a child doesn't take enough, the herb may not give any noticeable results. Some cases require extremely high amounts while others won't.
For babies, doses are usually given in drops (1-5 of a glycerite) or as much tea as the infant will drink. For toddlers 10-15 drops of a glycerite is usually a good dose. For acute conditions, small frequently repeated doses work best. Depending on the circumstances give these doses every 15 - 60 minutes until the child starts feeling better.
Favorite Herbs for Babies and Small Children
You can warm the oil to body temperature and use it as ear drops for ear infections.
Catnip and Fennel: Catnip is an aromatic nervine that settles the digestive tract, calms the nerves and helps induce sleep. Combined with fennel, it has traditionally been used to relieve colic in infants. It stimulates digestive secretions and settles an upset stomach, which has earned it the tide "nature's Alka-seltzer" tram some herbalists. Alone or in combination with herbs like chamomile, peppermint, yarrow and/or elder flowers, it is useful for colds, flu and fevers. Catnip tea has been used in an enema solution to help reduce high fevers in children. (Make a tea by brining a cup of water to a boil, remove from heat, open 1-2 capsules of Catnip, cover for 1 minutes and then use.) A catnip and fennel glycerite can be diluted in lukewarm water to use as an enema solution.
Peppermint: This mildly stimulating herb has a pleasant taste that most children love, making it a useful flavoring agent and catalyst for children's formulas. It helps to calm upset stomachs, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea and colic. For a severely colicky infant with a spastic colon a mixture of equal parts of Peppermint and Lobelia eased digestive discomfort very rapidly. It is useful for colds, flu, respiratory congestion and headaches related to digestive upset or singularly for these problems.
Don't use straight peppermint oil internally for infants and small children. You need to dilute it about 20-1 with a fixed oil (like olive oil) and give a dose of one to two drops internally. You can rub it onto their stomach to ease digestive upset.
Bitter herbs are generally used to remove stagnation and phlegm from the system. They can help reduce fevers, stimulate improved digestion, promote elimination of toxins from the system and help relieve skin irritation. With young children use bitters like chamomile (which is both aromatic and bitter), Oregon grape, dandelion, red clover and burdock.
Aromatic and pungent herb, are used to stimulate circulation, improve digestion, expel intestinal gas, promote sweating (which brings down fever) and fight infections (colds and flu). Use mild herbs like catnip, fennel, peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, chamomile and garlic, which is a good natural antibiotic.
Garlic oil capsules: Garlic oil is a natural alternative to antibiotics. It is good for congestion in the lungs. Give infants a few drops of garlic oil internally by poking the capsules with a pin and squeeze some into a child's mouth. Garlic oil can be rubbed on the chest, back, throat or feet. It will absorb through the skin and into the bloodstream when applied.
Chamomile: This is a basic children's remedies that every parent should be have. It is a bitter aromatic that helps the nervous and digestive systems. It has long been used as a remedy for colic, teething, nervousness, hyperactivity, upset stomachs, colds and flu in children. It contains a blue volatile oil, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. It helps calm some hyperactive children, but may stimulate others. Combined with Licorice it helps reduce intestinal inflammation and irritation. It is a valuable remedy for infants and young children who are feverish, fussy and distressed. Bring to boil 1 cup pure water, remove from heat, open 1 or 2 capsules, cover and let seep for 15-20 to release the herb. For infants, strain and give small amount by bottle.
Oregon Grape: This is a blood purifiers for small children. Use it for skin eruptive diseases like rashes, chicken pox and measles both internally and externally. It is a source of berberine, which helps the body ward of bacterial infections. It is a better herb for children than goldenseal because it is milder and better tasting. If you combine it with a little Licorice it is more palatable. It is a useful aid for digestive complaints such as sour stomach, indigestion, constipation, dysentery and loss of appetite.
Dandelion: This bright yellow-flowered weed is my other favorite blood purifier for children. It acts as a mild diuretic to flush toxins from the kidneys and supports the liver in cleaning out the blood. It is useful for skin conditions, poor appetite, food allergies and blood sugar problems. This bitter tonic will bring down fevers, relieve pain, treat colds and flu and help other problems such as cramps, constipation, fever, headache, insomnia, jaundice and swelling. Use a few drops every hour or (a quarter to a half a dropper full) prior to bed. To make a tea: bring to boil 1 cup pure water, remove from heat, open 1 or 2 capsules, cover and let seep for 15-20 to release the herb. For infants, strain and give small amount by bottle.
The remedies in this category are strong and should only be used when needed to combat illness, detoxify and relax tissues to relieve spasms and some types of pain.. They should be used in small doses.
Lobelia: This is a pretty strong herb and some people even consider it dangerous. When used in small doses of 3-5 drops, it is completely save. Lobelia is a strong relaxant. It can ease painful spasms associated with a colicky child. It is a great aid to any respiratory ailment where the child is short of breath or is having difficulty getting rid of mucus. It is a universal remedy because it helps to clear obstructions in the lymphatic system, aids respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, croup, pneumonia, laryngitis and whooping cough. One of its best uses is to stop an asthma attack, since lobelia acts as a bronchial dilator. Sometimes a person taking lobelia for asthma experiences vomiting, but afterwards they find themselves relaxed and breathing completely freely. When warmed to body temperature it can be dropped in the ear to help earaches. It can be applied topically to ease pain or counteract the swelling of bug bites. Another great use for this herb is to induce vomiting in cases of food poisoning or flu to speed recovery.
Blue Vervain: This herb is often called a "cure all". It works well for numerous childhood diseases. It relaxes the body and clears waste, easing tension and removing substances that may make healing difficult. This bitter tonic will bring down fevers, relieve pain, treat colds and flu and help other problems such as cramps, constipation, fever, headache, insomnia, jaundice and swelling. Use a few drops (1/4 to ½ dropper) every hour or so prior to bed
Sweet remedies have a mild, sweetish or bitter-sweet taste. This category includes herbs that are mucilaginous. Sweet remedies are used to strengthen weak tissues. They are nourishing and soothing. Many tonic herbs and adaptagens could be considered to have a sweet flavor.
Licorice: In older children use it to help overcome cravings for sweets and hypoglycemia. It is a good herb for hyperactivity and dry cough. Licorice has antiviral properties. In infants and toddlers use it primarily as an ingredient in formulas containing bitter herbs because it helps to mask the taste.
Fennel: This sweet, aromatic plant is one of the ingredients in the classic herbal formula for colic, catnip and fennel. It helps to relieve intestinal gas, improve digestive function, normalize appetite and cleanse the liver. Because it helps in milk production, it can be used to "sweeten" mother's milk and make the baby less susceptible to colic. It has a mild expectorant effect on children making it useful for coughs and congestion. Most commonly used as part of the Catnip and Fennel combination.
Slippery Elm: This is a mild, nourishing and safe remedy. For infants, it can be sprinkled into the diaper to soothe an irritated bottom caused by diaper rash. A tea can be made for gastrointestinal irritation and diarrhea. You can mix it with applesauce or blend it with fruit juice or hot milk (or milk substitute) and give it to children suffering from diarrhea. It is a good remedy for failure to thrive in infants. Mix in a little Proactazyme before feeding it to children. Keep a little bulk powder on hand, as this herb does not make a good glycerite or tincture.
These remedies are used to help stop diarrhea, excess mucus drainage and/or bleeding. They can be applied to insect bites and stings.
Elderberries: The berries taste good enough to be a pancake syrup, but have valuable therapeutic benefits. Elderberry helps prevent excess mucus production, has a mild laxative and decongestant effect and has been shown to have antiviral properties.
Elderflowers are a valuable children's remedy. They help to reduce fevers and inflammation. Combine them with yarrow and peppermint (and sometimes lemon balm and catnip) to make It's a great general remedy for fevers, colds, flu and other acute illness in children.
Red Raspberry: The leaves of the raspberry plant are an important herb for mom, not just the kids. Red raspberry is a very good astringent for bites and stings and can be helpful for arresting mucus discharge or diarrhea in children.
Yarrow: It has a blue volatile oil, which is highly anti-inflammatory. It has been used to help wounds heal faster and as a remedy for colds, fever, toothache, upset stomachs and infections. It is a great remedy for fevers and wounds. By itself, yarrow is not very tasty, so children won't take it, but when I combine it with peppermint or other aromatics to improve the flavor, it creates a great tasting remedy that children will take.
Herbal Formulas and Other Remedies
These are a few specific herbal blends and products that work for small children.
ALJ: This is a wonderful expectorant and decongestant and anti-allergenic action. Given to children under the age of two who were congested and found it well-tolerated, even by babies. It loosens phlegm and helps them cough it out of their lungs. It regulates the digestive tract.
Activated Charcoal: Although it isn't an herb, I wouldn't be without activated charcoal in my home first aid kit. Anyone with small children should definitely have this remedy on hand. It can be administered to infants by opening up a capsule and mixing it with some water and given by the dropper full to the infant. For older children, just mix it with some water or juice and have them drink it or give it to them by the spoonful.
It is a very helpful remedy for mild jaundice in infants. It is a very good remedy for diarrhea and severe intestinal gas. Don't give too much as it can be constipating in large doses.
Activated charcoal can be administered in many cases of poisoning where a child swallows something toxic as it adsorbs many types of poisons. It can be applied topically as a poultice for bug bites and stings, too.
Catnip and Fennel Extract: A great remedy for colic and digestive upset in infants and young children. It is helpful for fevers, especially when used in an enema.
Red Clover Blend: This is a great blood purifier formula that is very suitable for small children. It can be used for rashes, pox, hives or other skin conditions.
These are not the only remedies you can use for infants and young children, obviously there are many others. They just happen to be some of the most common. As long as you are using the common sense guidelines, don't be afraid to use herbal remedies for children under two. I've had great success with them and so can you.