About this Episode
In this episode of the Medicinal Herbs podcast series, naturopath and herbalist Jo Boyd joins us to talk about safe and effective herbal support for children. Pediatric patients struggle with both unique health challenges as well as some of the same issues adults struggle with. Jo importantly points out that for the most part, children are not “mini-adults,” and herbal pediatrics do require a specific approach. Additionally, it is important to note that all products used for children, including herbs, should be monitored by a healthcare practitioner.
Herbs for Children of Different Ages
In this conversation, Jo helps us break down important age groups when talking about safe and effective herbal support for children (01:24). For example, babies may be called “neonates” for the first 28 days of life, and this group may struggle with colic, reflux, and cradle cap. Babies graduate to “infant” from about one month to one year of life, they may need help with gut issues, skin challenges, and sleep. Toddlers age from about one to four years, children from about five to 12 years, and adolescents from about 13 to 19 years.
Using Herbs Safely with Children
Herbal safety and pediatrics may be a barrier for some clinicians. Jo confirms that herbs can be safe for kids if they are dosed appropriately and prescribed by a qualified healthcare practitioner (03:41). There is a long herbal history for supporting healthy children. Jo explains that herbs have a gentle nature and non-addictive qualities. Some may struggle understanding both the power and safety of herbs because they are often not taught in some higher education programs.
>> Audio bookmark: “Many people, particularly in the Western world, consider natural therapies or ‘alternative’ medicine as a deviation from the norm, when in fact they’ve been prescribed in practice for thousands of years for health and wellbeing. And in fact, herbal healing is in fact considered to be one of the earliest forms of healing.” (04:24)
Dosing Herbs for Children
Determining the right dose of an herb for a child should be done by a qualified healthcare practitioner and take into account several factors including the child’s age and weight. For more information about dosing herbs for children and specific indications and safety information for individual herbs, download our free PDF:
Herbal Taste and Tolerance
Many parents and even some clinicians raise concern about the taste of herbs and the issues accompanying taste in herbal delivery for children (08:57). To overcome taste and tolerance challenges, Jo recommends starting with the parents’ mindsets and considering what the children have been exposed to – what is “normal” and what taste buds have acclimated to. She suggests exploring creative ways to deliver herbs while at the same time offering children a chance to learn the true taste of the herb.
When the Kids Are “Always Sick”
Many parents struggle with seemingly “perpetually sick” children, with concerns raised about weakened immune systems – especially in babies and young children (14:46). From an herbal perspective, it is important to remember that in infants, immune systems are still developing after inheriting a “strong head start” from the mother. Jo’s favorite herbs for immune support in children (and parents!) include:
- Echinacea and Andrographis for general immune support
- Marshmallow and licorice for addressing a dry cough
- Eyebright, licorice, and goldenseal as expectorants for a wet cough
When the Kids Are Stressed Out
Stress is not something that is reserved for adults; kids experience stress too (23:11). There are many valuable herbs for kids experiencing stress and its systemic effects on the body, depending on the child’s age and other factors. Jo’s favorite herbs for stress in children include:
Herbs to Help Kids Sleep
Another seemingly universal issue is sleep. Sleep challenges can affect people of all ages, and children often have unique issues with sleep (31:28). Jo points out that one of the great qualities of sleep-supporting herbs is that you can often take them throughout the day to address stress (and, thus, sleep later on) without impairing cognitive function and daily tasks. Jo’s favorite herbs to support healthy sleep for children, in addition to the herbs for stress, include:
Note: Jo reminds us that practicing good sleep hygiene is important for healthy habits as well.