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 Herbal Medicine: Herbs and Children 

Children are under as much stress in our culture as their parents are. There is much herbs can do but they will not replace the necessary re-assessment of life-style and diet, or replace compassion and tender loving care. Strong relaxing remedies such as Valerian or Hops should not be used with children under ordinary circumstances, but there are still many effective and safe ones to choose from. Especially appropriate are Chamomile, Linden, Lavender, St. John's Wort, Skullcap, Red Clover and Californian Poppy.

Maribeth Riggs has a well formulated suggestion for an herbal bath indicated in over excitability, anxiousness or mild insomnia.

        • 1 qt. water
        • 1 oz. dried Lavender buds
        • 1 oz. dried Chamomile flowers

Steep the herbs in the freshly boiled water, covering the pot, for 20 minutes then strain. Add this to the bath which should be the normal temperature. Make sure the room is warm before the bath. Soak in the bath for at least 10 minutes. Gently pour the water over the belly and legs and just let them play and splash. Use this bath as often as necessary to reassure and calm an upset, colicky child.

Hyperactivity in children is a thorny issue that raises many questions. There is no doubt that hyperactivity occurs and can often be related to dietary factors. This having been said there is an unfortunate tendency for children to be labeled 'hyperactive' simply because a teacher or parent does not have the attention for a very active, perceptive, inquisitive or creative child. The Merck manual points out, quite rightly, that "claims that a child is hyperactive often reflect the tolerance level of the annoyed person." Since when has not fitting into the normal mold been a disease? Rather than sedating our children so they can deal with their world, why not change the nature of schooling so it is more challenging and exciting?

Where the child is experiencing a problem there may be some help that can be provided herbally, provided that psychological factors are being addressed, and that dietary irritants are avoided. There is strong evidence that chemicals, such as heavy metal pollutants and artificial colorings or flavors, play a role. Herbs to consider in supporting a broad treatment plan might be Linden and Chamomile for the nervous system, Red Clover and Milk Thistle for the liver and de-toxification. Something else that can help is treating stress and exhaustion in the parents!

Skin problems are very common in children and will often respond quickly to herbal treatments. Wherever possible is best to avoid the steroid based approach of orthodox medicine as the long term effects of these drugs is undesirable. As shown in the London study, good results can be achieved herbal thus avoiding the need to consider such potent medications. Childhood eczema is best treated internally, using alterative remedies such as Cleavers, Nettles and Red Clover. These alteratives will be aided by combining them with a relaxing herbs such as Chamomile or Linden Flowers. A combination would be equal parts Cleavers, Nettles and Chamomile as an infusion. Add 1 teaspoonful of the combination to a cup of hot water and steep for 5-10 minutes. Drink 3 times a day.

In the treatment of childhood disease, promotion of wellness and the prevention of future problems in adult life, herbal medicine has much to offer.

1 M.P. Sheehan and D.J. Atherton. A controlled trial of traditional Chinese medicinal plants in widespread non-exudative atopic eczema. British Journal of Dermatology (1992); 126: 179-184
2 Natural Child Care by Maribeth Riggs, Harmony Books, 1989
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 About The Author
David Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMHWhilst 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......more
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