Natural Healing for Children
Many excellent books on natural healing are available for reference to help parents expand their natural healing abilities and knowledge. Pick up several books to compare notes for when the inevitable bouts of illness arise in your home. Three very different books are excerpted here.
Gentle Healing for Baby and Child
by Master Herbalist Andrea Candee with David Andrusia Pocket Books, New York, NY. 2000
How to Administer Herbs to a Child
Creativity is the key in getting your child to take herbs! The unfamiliar taste can be masked or enhanced by the addition of a small amount of honey or fruit juice to a tea or liquid extract. (My sons liked apple and cranberry.) Using mini cups and shot glasses is another way of making the dose seem less imposing.
When my son, Brian, was five, he had to take an extended course of a vile-tasting liquid extract — a concoction so unappealing that virtually nothing I tried could mask its taste. It took all of my ingenuity to figure out a way to get this into him three times a day without causing permanent trauma to us both! I took Brian to the grocery store to pick out a juice he’d never had before. Five Alive was new to the market, and he picked that one. But I insisted that the only way he could have his Five Alive was with his important herbal medicine. The technique, I must say, worked like a charm. I never brought that juice into the house after the therapy was over, and when he was older and tried some on his own, he was surprised it didn’t taste at all as he had remembered!
The amounts of ingestible forms of herbs can vary widely. The following dosages for a 150 pound adult are a general baseline from which to figure your child’s dose. Use the figure of 150 pounds to determine a fraction of the standard adult dose based on your child’s weight.
- Liquid extracts: 30 drops, 3-4 times a day
- Teas: 1 cup, 3-4 times a day
- Capsules: 2 capsules, 3-4 time a day
- Powdered herbs: 1/2 teaspoon, 3-4 times a day.
Try These Tips
- Teas that you use for ongoing therapy, such as for blood/liver cleansing or digestive support, can be steeped a little stronger and frozen into ice pops (always a favorite with Chris). Note, however, that respiratory issues respond best to warm infusions of tea.
- If your child cannot swallow a capsule, you may mix its powdered contents with a little applesauce.
- For the nursing child, the benefits of herbal therapy may be had via mother’s milk. Mother needs to drink more frequent doses of herbal infusion or decoction so that the healing properties pass into her bloodstream and thus into her milk — and into the child’s system as well.
- Spearmint is a marvelous way to mask the flavor of a tea. Its refreshing taste and aroma can transform the experience into a most pleasant one.
- To administer tea or another liquid to your infant, I suggest using an eyedropper. Fill it first with the correct dose of the herb, then draw up some water or juice. Pull your baby’s cheek out and deposit the dose into the mouth.
Gentle Healing for Baby and Child
by Master Herbalist Andrea Candee with David Andrusia. Copyright ©2000 by Andrea Candee and David Andrusia. Reprinted by permission of Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Available in trade paper, ISBN 0-671-03622-X.
The Parent’s Guide to Natural Health Care for Children
by Karen Sullivan Shambhala Publications, Boston, MA. 2004
Caring for a Sick Child
Every child reacts differently to illness, and you’ll need to gauge your own child’s individual needs when she is ill. Children can become dramatically ill and then recover equally quickly, which can be alarming for parents — particularly the first time around. When your child becomes ill, you may find that your household grinds to a halt. Remember, however, that most illnesses are short-lived and there is a great deal that you can do to keep your child comfortable and content. In chapter 11, we discuss the treatment for specific illnesses, including the best ways to get your child on her feet again. If your child is ill, the following tips will help her to recover quickly and with the least amount of fuss.
When to get help for your sick child
Don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you are concerned about your child for any reason. Parental instinct counts for a great deal and no doctor will ever dismiss your concerns without checking your child carefully. It is always essential to ask for professional help early on, before problems become more serious. When in doubt, ask a professional, whether you choose a conventional or natural practitioner.
Get help if your child:
- becomes extremely feverish, with a body temperature above 104˚F (40˚C)
- becomes extremely cold, with a body temperature below 95˚F (35˚C)
- seems dehydrated, with sunken or glazed eyes
- has trouble breathing
- has a sharp pain in the right abdomen with nausea
- has any fever that lasts longer than six hours
- seems confused or delirious
- becomes blue around the mouth
- starts to twitch or suffers a fit
- vomits or has diarrhea for more than 24 hours (six hours in babies)
- has an unusual rash
- has a serious illness that becomes worse for any reason
- becomes unconscious
- has a headache, nausea, unusual sleepiness or dizziness, after a recent fall or blow to the head
In babies, watch for the following:
- unusually drowsy, listless, quiet or restless behavior
- when your baby consistently refuses feeds, or does not demand one, for any length of time
- the soft spot (fontanel) on the top of the head is sunken or bulging
- when your baby cries much more than usual, sounding different from his usual requests for attention or feeding
- diarrhea or vomiting
- convulsions of any description
- trouble breathing or blueness around the mouth
- an unusual rash
Top tips to aid recovery
- All children need love and attention while they are ill. The mind-body relationship is a strong one, and if they feel comfortable, calm and cared for, they will recover more quickly. Forget about the housework or that urgent meeting, if you can. Curl up with your child and indulge him. Many children are frightened when they are ill, and will want constant reassurance. This is particularly common with babies, who may not want to be put down. Try to give in to your child’s needs as much as possible.
- Offer plenty of fluids. Children dehydrate quickly in cases of diarrhea and vomiting, and even intense fever. If your child won’t drink, offer juice popsicles or even frozen juice cubes to tempt her. Give her a grown-up cup, if that will encourage her to drink, or offer to make her a special drink in the blender, with her favorite fruits. Play Peter Rabbit and give teaspoons of cooled chamomile tea (while reading the book, of course!).
- Rest is the operative word. Although most children will want to be up and about, they will recover more quickly if they get plenty of restorative rest. Read stories, play story tapes, set up coloring books, pencils and paper, watch videos together, play a quiet game of cards, cut out paper dolls, set up puzzles, play hangman — anything to keep him calm and still.
- Keep food simple. If your child is not hungry, don’t push it. Stick to easy-to-digest foods such as soups, plain toast, boiled eggs and diluted fruit juices. Your child’s energy needs to be spent getting well, not on digesting a big meal. Many children lose weight when they are ill, but most will put it straight back on again. Unless your child is seriously underweight, you don’t need to worry about a temporary lack of appetite. Reintroduce foods slowly if she has been off her food for some time.
- Keep his sickroom clean and fresh. Spritz lavender water in the air to disinfect, and change the sheets regularly. Air the room when he is not in it, but keep the windows closed when he is. The immune system seems to work more effectively in a slightly warmer temperature, so keep him cozy, but not hot.
- Make sure she is comfortable, with loose-fitting clothes or pajamas. It’s better to layer clothes than to put her in something too hot, particularly if she has a fever. The same goes for blankets — layers of thin blankets or sheets can be peeled off as necessary.
- Take his temperature regularly if you are concerned. Many parents become experienced in dealing with childhood fevers and know instantly when their child is too hot. Until you achieve this level of confidence, take his temperature as often as you need to, using noninvasive methods if possible!
- Stay calm, sympathetic and cheerful. Your child will pick up on anxieties and feel more frightened if you show concern. Even if you are worried, reassure her that she’s on the road to recovery.
- If your child does not have a fever, a little fresh air will do him some good. Dress him warmly and walk around the block, or just sit together in the backyard or the local park. Don’t encourage playtime.
- Some children adore the attention they get when they are ill, and while it is important to indulge her when she is genuinely sick, watch out for suspicious symptoms that miraculously appear when your child needs a little extra time or love.
- Remember recovery time! Children will naturally want to be up and about the minute they feel better, but it is important that their bodies are given a chance to fully recover. As a rule of thumb, try to keep him quiet and calm (and away from school, if necessary) for as many days as the illness itself lasted. For most children, this will mean a day or two of extra TLC.
Remember that all children suffer from earaches, colds, coughs, fever, tummy bugs and other common ailments, and many children will experience alarming symptoms. As you become more experienced, you’ll get more in tune with your child’s reaction to illness, and the lead-up to it. Some children scream with pain and want to be comforted constantly; others like to heal in peace. It may take a few trips to the doctor before you feel confident enough to treat your child at home. That is perfectly acceptable, and no parent should attempt treatment until he feels comfortable doing so. As you learn to read your child’s moods and changing physical symptoms, you’ll soon develop an instinct for what he requires. You’ll also become used to his reaction to illness, and will know what to expect. If you have a regularly inconsolable patient on your hands, you will probably be right to show concern if he suddenly becomes quiet and listless. Similarly, if your child is quiet and withdrawn during periods of ill health and suddenly becomes red-cheeked and hysterical, you might want to have him checked by a doctor.
Copyright © 2004 by Karen Sullivan. Reprinted by permission of Shambhala Publications.
Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year
by Susan Weed.Ash Tree Publishing, Woodstock, NY. 1986
Listening to the howling screams of my colicky baby was one of my worst ordeals as a new mother. Your baby’s digestive system is not fully developed at birth. Colic (severe abdominal pain) is caused by spasmodic contractions of immature intestines or gas trapped in the intestines. Be aware that your child’s digestion is strongly affected by you. Your emotions, the foods you eat (if you are nursing), your sense of security and well-being, and other individual factors contribute to the presence or absence of colic. Use these remedies in any order; they are all safe, gentle, and effective.
Preventing Colic, General
- Feed your baby often. Small, frequent feedings are less likely to produce colic than a few large ones.
- Soothe your infant with skin-to-skin contact during feedings. This is reassuring to your child and promotes good digestion.
- Try the “colic hold” recommended by the LeLeche league. Hold your baby astraddle your arm with the head resting in the crook of your elbow and the top of the legs in your hand. Be sure the head stays higher than the feet while the baby nurses.
Preventing Colic, Breast-fed Babies
- Do not eat cabbage family plants (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, turnips, radishes, kale, collards, cauliflower and all types of cabbage), onions or garlic during the first six months of your lactation. All these foods are rich in sulfur which promotes intestinal gas in you and your baby.
- Avoid more than one small glass of prune juice daily. Any laxatives may distress your infant’s intestines.
- Avoid chocolate, peanuts, peanut butter, sugar, and white flour. All of these foods disrupt and slow intestinal activity in you and your baby.
- Eliminate possible allergens from your diet. Allergies to soy, wheat, corn, dairy, and pectin (in most fruit) can cause colic.
- Nurse in a serene, secure environment. If you can’t provide it physically, create it mentally.
Preventing Colic, Bottle-fed babies
- Use goat milk, if available, for your bottle-fed baby. Remember how well “Heidi” did on goat milk and fresh air. Cow milk contains seven times as much casein (a protein) as human milk, and very large fat globules, both of which can be difficult to digest and gas forming. Also, the low lactose content of cow milk makes it difficult for the proper digestive bacteria (lactobacillus) to thrive in the baby’s intestines, making colic even more likely. Goat milk has the same amount of casein as human milk, very small fat globules, and a high lactose content.
- Add acidophilus to cow milk if you can’t get fresh goat milk. Use a tablespoon of acidophilus liquid or capsule of the powder (open it and pour the powder into the formula) in every eight ounce bottle to make the cow milk more digestible. If acidophilus is unavailable, substitute a tablespoon of fresh yogurt.
Remedies for Colic
Use aromatic seeds, such as fennel, dill, caraway, anise, cumin, or coriander to prevent and relieve colic. Drink a cup of seed tea as you settle down to nurse; the antispasmodic and carminative effects pass readily into your breast milk. Or give your baby a bottle of seed tea to suck on. Prepare seed tea by pouring one cup of boiling water over a scant teaspoon of any one of the seeds. Steep for no more than fifteen minutes. Strain very thoroughly before filling baby’s bottle. Try seed teas warm or chilled.
Appalachian midwives swear by catnip tea for colicky babies. It relieves spasms in the intestines and encourages sleep. One of my friends uses it to put her baby to sleep when he is especially cranky and reports that it works very well indeed.
Put cold wet wool socks on your baby’s feet when s/he has colic. Pull dry cotton socks on over the wool ones. Your infant should relax and fall asleep quickly. I don’t understand how this works; it sounds strange, but sleepless mothers acclaim it.
Slippery Elm Bark
You might think of tree bark as tough and terrible tasting, but the inner bark of Ulmus fulva is one of the most soothing of all herbs to the digestive system, and it tastes rather like maple syrup. Every time I’ve encountered an infant with severe colic or allergic reactions to food, slippery elm has restored digestive stability and strength. Although no nutritional breakdown of this herb is available, Native Americans consider it alone adequate as an emergency foodstuff, and I have seen babies thrive on it as their primary nourishment for weeks at a time when they could tolerate no other food.
The basic preparation is as a gruel, rather than a tea, for slippery elm is so slippery that the tea resembles snot! Make the gruel by mixing a liquid sweetener (such as barley malt, sorghum, or maple syrup) with slippery elm powder, until it is all wet. Then add hot milk or water slowly until a slippery porridge results. (Do not feed honey to children younger than one year old. Botulinus spores, non-harmful to adults, may be present in the honey and cause botulism, a sometimes fatal illness in an infant.) You can also prepare slippery elm by adding it when you make hot cereals. Replace a spoonful or two of the dry cereal with slippery elm powder, then cook your cereal as usual. There is no known limit to the amount of slippery elm that can safely be consumed. For colic, add one or more servings of slippery elm to the diet to help quiet the intestines. In severe cases, give your infant only slippery elm for several days, then gradually resume normal feedings.
Copyright © 1986 by Susun Weed. Reprinted by permission of Ash Tree Publishing. http://www.ashtreepublishing.com