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H
erbal Medicine
 

Children and Herbal Therapy

© David L. Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMH

Constipation
Although rarely seen in breast fed babies, it is not abnormal for breast fed babies to have bowel movements as infrequently as one in seven days. Treat breast fed infants for constipation only if the child appears to have pain and cries during the bowel movement. The indications for treatment in bottle fed babies or young children include:

  • Painful passage. Pain during bowel movement is abnormal and in some cases trauma to the anal canal can lead to anal fissure. This is confirmed by finding bright red blood around anus or on toilet paper.
  • Inability to pass stools. Children who feel the need to have a bowel movement and are unable to do so. The exception is infants less that 12 months of age who grunt push, or strain, and become flushed in the face during bowel movements. This is normal behavior as long as the episode is not accompanied by pain.
  • Infrequent movements, going more than four days for young children.
If bowel movements are accompanied by much pain, abdominal bloating and crying it is important to refer for skilled diagnosis to rule out conditions such as Hirschsprungs disease, impaction, etc..

It is inappropriate to use laxative remedies with children unless absolutely necessary, as constipation almost always responds to dietary changes. For babies over six months of age you may add strained apricots, prunes, pears to the diet. For older children try:
  • Increase intake of water.
  • Increase fruits and vegetables particularly raw foods with peels such as figs, raisins, pears, apricots, beans, celery, cucumber, lettuce, apples.
  • Increase fibre by using whole grain cereals or making bran muffins.
  • Decrease constipating foods, e.g. dairy products, white rice, bananas, cooked carrots, white flour.
  • Use Psyllium seed preparations in children over two years of age.
  • Flavored cod liver oil.

Diarrhea
The number and consistency of stools varies a great deal. Loose stools are normal in the breast fed infant. If baby is vomiting and having more than 8 watery stools there is danger of dehydration and loss of electrolyte balance. Refer the child if there is blood in the stool, abdominal pain causing crying for over two hours, or signs of dehydration such as lack of turgor, depression of the anterior fontanel, or dry mucous membranes.

Consider it diarrhea if the number and fluid content of the stools has dramatically increased or exceeds 10 per day in the child under one year of age. Infection with Shigella, Salmonella and Campylobactor will often result in blood flecked diarrhea. Ampicillin will sometimes result in diarrhea, however the most common cause is mild viral infection.

A number of the astringent remedies are particularly suitable for children. Possibly the most useful is Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria). Unfortunately whilst available it is not widely stocked in North America. Tell your herb supplier they need to carry it! These herbs are also helpful for children :

Geranium maculatum (Cranesbill)
Euphrasia spp. (Eyebright)
Solidago virgaurea (Golden Rod)
Verbascum thapsus (Mullein)
Plantago media (Plantain)
Rubus spp. (Raspberry)
Rosemarinus officinalis (Rosemary)
Potentilla tormentilla (Tormentil)
Achillea millefolium (Yarrow)

Rosemary Tea (quoted from Natural Child Care by Maribeth Riggs)
Rosemary is antispasmodic and astringent, so a mild tea made from this herb is excellent for infant diarrhea. The antispasmodic property relaxes painful abdominal cramping and the astringent quality helps tighten the lower intestine and solidify the stool.
1/4 oz. Rosemary
1 cup water
  1. Combine Rosemary with the water in a covered pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Take the pot off the heat and steep the herb for 15 minutes.
  3. Thoroughly strain out the herb through cheesecloth and discard it.
  4. You may see some essential oil floating on top. Stir this back in and cool the tea to tepid before serving. Do not sweeten. Refrigerate the unused tea and reheat with each use. Discard remaining tea after 3 days.

Application: Bottle-feed an infant suffering from diarrhea 1/4 cup of tea 3 times each day, for 3 days, or until the diarrhea is checked. Most infants do not like the taste of the tea, so you may have to use a teaspoon or sterile dropper to administer it. Diarrhea in an infant can become a serious condition owing to dehydration. If the diarrhea is severe, dehydration can occur in less than 24 hours. If mild diarrhea does not improve after 3 days or treatment, or if the diarrhea is severe, with frequent uncontrolled bowel movements and painful cramping, consult a physician.
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About The Author
Whilst working in conservation and lecturing in ecology and the eco-crisis for the University of Wales, David Hoffman became convinced that to heal the world, to embrace planetary wholeness and responsibility for it with hope, he as an individual had to be whole within himself....more
 
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Disclaimer: The information provided on HealthWorld Online is for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.