Calming Herbal Medicines and Kids
Eric Bakker ND
When it comes to calming kids, there's no doubt that effective herbal medicines exist, after all - people have used herbs for relaxation and calming for countless generations. My pet hate? Children taking pharmaceutical drugs to "calm down" or for sleeping problems. I have four children and have always used herbs and homeopathic medicines frequently at home as well as in the clinic and have never had to resort to these toxic pharmaceuticals on any occasion. The following six herbs are my pediatric favourites, try them, they work well. You will find that each child will have his or her preference, and it often is a matter of taste. There are various effective commercial herbal teas available in addition to liquid herbs which I personally find tend to work the quickest. Here is a brief description of the most popular calming herbal remedies for your children:
My first choice for calming children, chamomile is a fragrant member of the daisy family. Used for centuries to resolve gastrointestinal problems, chamomile has mild anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and muscle-relaxing actions, which makes the herb perfect for small children, even babies, since it can soothe without over-sedating. Take the tea between meals, chamomile teabags are readily available. Chamomile can also be taken as a tincture, and as a homoeopathic remedy, try 30c for teething or colic. We used lots of this one with one of our sons with great effect when he was teething, highly recommended.
Derived from the lemon-scented leaves of a perennial mint plant of southern Europe, lemon balm has been used since the Middle Ages for a multitude of symptoms including anxiety and restlessness in kids. Lemon balm may be taken as a tea, and is often packaged as part of a herbal blend. It is great for children because of its good taste and because it is considered one of the safest relaxants. Smells good and tastes great and easy to grow in NZ, but beware, it may take over your garden unless contained.
Primarily used as an aromatic, lavender can be a great, mellow relaxant for children. A drop or two of lavender essential oil on a tissue, on a pillow or even in the humidifier can be an ideal, risk-free method of soothing your child. Dried leaves can also be used to make a potpourri. Try some fresh lavender cuttings in your child’s bath, my 9 year old daughter’s favourite. I recommend lavender for insomnia, headaches in school kids as well as for irritable children.
Native to both North America and Europe, catnip has been used throughout history as a sedative. Usually ingested as a tea, catnip is a fairly mild herb that, when taken in reasonable doses, helps with anxiety issues, bedwetting. When your child has a fever give it as a warm infusion with some honey, lemon and a pinch of ginger . Catnip is both effective and safe to give to children, and may help with worms as well.
Passionflower comes from a climbing vine that yields passion fruit; it has a long history as a herbal sedative. I find this one good for restless or stressed children with tension headaches. More accepted in Europe than in NZ, the herb is most often found as a tea, but is also available in a herbal tincture. Not generally good for under 2 years old, its bitter taste often requires it to be blended with sweeter herbs such as lemon balm.
Hops is a sleep-promoting herb that works directly on the nervous system. This herb also has a very aromatic quality, and I can even recommend those kids who suffer regular insomnia have a little pillow made from it. Also ingested in tea, tincture or capsules, hops will take about a half hour to take effect. Hops can be a good sedative and can help to make your child a little bit drowsy; I find this one is best for the older kids, particularly from 7 years up.