When it comes to giving herbs to our children, many of us are uncertain and concerned. After all, children’s bodies are smaller than ours, so how do you know the right dosage? And aren’t there all kinds of horror stories about kids having terrible reactions to herbs? Added to these concerns are doctors and pediatricians who often discourage the use of herbs in children.
First, to answer the title question – are herbs safe for kids? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that it depends on the herb and the problem the child is having. Following are some brief guidelines on giving herbs to children.
When in Doubt, Give Less
If you are unsure of a dosage, give the smallest possible dose. You can adjust the dosage to fit your child’s weight – the adult dose is usually for a 150-pound adult, so a 25-pound child would receive 1/6th the dose. However, if you aren’t sure, err on the side of less. Remember, less is often more when it comes to herbal remedies.
Herbal Preparations Aimed at Kids May or May Not Be Effective
There are controversial studies regarding the effectiveness of herbs in many children’s remedies. However, remedies and blends sold specifically for children are generally safe.
There are herbs that are generally considered safe for children, and are still quite effective. Here is a list of some of those herbs.
Chamomile – Peter Rabbit’s mother was right – chamomile tea does help calm the nerves. As long as your child does not have a ragweed allergy (the chamomile flower is related to ragweed), this soothing tea can be taken at regular strength by young children. You can also brew up some chamomile tea and mix small amounts of it in the child’s regular drinks during the day to help calm nerves and anxiety. Many children enjoy chamomile sweetened with a little honey or stevia.
Mints – Peppermint and spearmint are safe herbs that are helpful for children. For one thing, peppermint and spearmint taste good and can help flavor other teas that may not taste as good. Mint teas can help soothe digestion and are quite safe for children. Again, honey and stevia make good sweeteners.
Lemon Balm – This lemony herb makes a delicious beverage, hot or iced. It is quite safe, but also quite effective – it’s antiviral and helps soothe and calm. It promotes sleep as well. This is an herb that can be brewed into a “lemon-balm-ade” and drunk through the day, or it can be brewed hot and enjoyed with honey.
Fennel – This time-honored remedy for colic in babies is considered a safe herb for children. Brewed into a tea, fennel seeds help digestion and soothe the stomach. It has been shown in studies to be as effective as commercial gas relief drops. It tastes a bit like licorice and makes a pleasant tea.