One of this month’s tasks is to look at herbs for children. The main thing to consider is that children’s bodies are still developing so their bodies may not be able to process herbs in the same way, some herbs will not be suitable and the dose needs to be considered. I’ve chosen two conditions to look at that young ones may suffer with; earache which I suffered with a lot myself as a young child and nappy rash as I’ve developed an interest in skin problems.
Some herb books say not to use herbs on infants under 6 months, some are more cautious and say 2 years, most books disappointingly, don't mention children at all. In the case of babies under 6 months of age the liver and digestive organs are not fully developed but if mom is breastfeeding then some safe herbs can be passed on through the mother's milk which has already been processed through her digestive system, an example is a mother taking Catnip for her baby’s colic.
Naturally Healthy say not to use Goldenseal, Barberry due to the alkaloid berberine or Oregon Grape which can irritate mucous membranes on under 3 year olds. Hyssop should not be used under 2 years old, lobelia under 5 years old, Boneset under 12 months and Urva Ursi under 12.
Herbs can be introduced to children as simples/ individually, just as new foods are introduced one by one.
When considering a menstrum for children’s herbs then honey is to be avoided until the age of 2 as there are micro-organisms which could potentially harm these youngsters and alcohol is usually avoided as a child’s liver is still developing and could also be damaged.
Herbs could be given to children internally by tea or glycerine extraction and externally by infusion in a bath or on a cloth, or by using a cream, gel, poultice or ointment. Herbs For Kids suggest giving strong teas rectally as some children will not want to take herbs orally, I think this could be equally as difficult to get compliance with! I have seen suggestions for teas to be mixed with fruit juice and drunk or frozen as an ice lolly which might make them more enjoyable to take.
Working out a dose for children to take internally can be confusing; the first thing to do is to check that the herb is safe for a child to take. There are several peoples’ rules regarding calculations; Clark’s rule, Fried’s rule, Young’s rule and Cowling’s rule are some I’ve come across.
Young's Rule - Add 12 to the child's age. Divide the child's age by this total. Example: dosage for a 3 year old: 3 divided by 15 (3+12) =0.2, or 1/5 of the adult dosage.
Cowling's Rule - Divide the number of the child's next birthday by 24. Example: dosage for a child who is 3, turning 4 would be: 4 divided by 24 = .16, or 1/6 of the adult dosage.
As you can see, each rule doesn’t give the same dose. Some methods of calculation look at the weight of the child rather than the age:
Dr. Stengler's Quick Dosage Guide for Children
1/5 the adult dose
¼ the adult dose
1/3 the adult dose
½ the adult dose
¾ the adult dose
Rosemary Gladstar has a typical adult dose as 1 cup (8 oz.) tea, and two droppers full (60 drops) of tincture and a graduating dose for children.
When the adult (age 12 and over) dose is 1 cup (8 oz.) of tea, the following is recommended for children:
Younger than 2 years
½ to 1 teaspoon
2 – 4 years
4 – 7 years
7 – 11 years
When the adult dose is 2 droppers full (60 drops), the following is recommended for children:
Younger than 3 months
3 – 6 months
6 – 9 months
9 – 12 months
12 – 18 months
18 – 24 months
2 – 3 years
4 – 6 years
6 – 9 years
9 – 12 years
Earache In Children
Until about 7 years of age the Eustachian tubes are not fully developed, they are narrower and not situated in such a good position for drainage as adults. Drainage can become a problem, leading to inflammation and infection which in turn creates pain for the child.
Live Strong say a clinical study in “Pedriatrics” by Sarrell et al published in May 2005 found ear drops containing Mullein relieved pain better than antibiotics.
Steven Horne reports that the longest it has taken him to relieve earache in any of his children is 5 hours. He suggests that 2 approaches are needed; one to get rid of the swelling, redness and heat of inflammation and the other is to drain away excess fluid. He uses garlic infused olive oil with either mullein or St. John’s Wort flowers as ear drops (warmed) and this can also be massaged around the ear and the side of the neck for lymphatic drainage. Herbs for Kids also use infused Willow bark.
Warmth can often help the pain caused by earache, so keeping the area warm may help. Ensuring a child has a healthy diet may help to maintain a healthy immune system and reduce the frequency of infections. Some authors recommend a diet low in dairy to improve drainage from the ears.
Oil should not be put into a child’s ear if there are grommets fitted or if there is any suspicion that that the ear drum is not intact (there may be discharge from the ear). A doctor should be contacted if you are concerned or unsure about anything, if the child has severe pain, a high temperature, is vomiting or has no improvement after 2 nights of having drops.
Nappy or diaper rash occurs when there is irritation to the skin in the nappy area, usually from contact with urine and faeces, sometimes from the material of the nappy or the powder it has been washed in.
The first thing to do is to investigate the cause, make sure the child is changed frequently enough and is clean and dry, allow some nappy-free time, maybe change the brand of disposable nappy or the way cloth nappies are washed.
It is possible that some foods may make the urine more acidic, such as tomatoes, so it may be worth observing a child’s diet to see if it has any effect. Drinking plenty of fluids will make the urine less concentrated.
The most popular herb used in natural products I have seen for sale is Calendula, also known as Pot Marigold. This herb is used for skin healing and regeneration and is suitable for all skin types including sensitive and babies skin. At home the flower petals can be macerated in oil and this can be made into an ointment by adding beeswax or used in a cream. An ointment may provide more of a barrier, to 60ml of oil add 1 teaspoon beeswax; this will let the skin breathe unlike petroleum based products. The skin could also be bathed with water infused with herbs.
Other herbs documented as suitable for nappy rash are Aloe Vera, Chickweed, Marshmallow root, Plantain and Comfrey. Info Herb state “We must use herbs that not only will help the rash, but herbs that will help nourish the skin and fight the bacteria which is almost always present”.
If there is no improvement after three days, or there are signs of infection such as the rash joining up to create angry red plaques of broken skin then the advice of a health care professional should be sought.