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Your Herbal Medicine Cabinet 2

If you want to see what we shared in Part 1, you can find it here...

What we'll share today are some common signs of illness you may notice in your child.

  • changes in eating habits

  • behavioral changes (crankiness, irritability, lethargy, fatigue, uncooperativeness, drowsiness, sleep disturbances...)

  • complaints of illness (sore throat, swollen glands, headache, runny nose, stomach ache...)

  • complaints of pain or discomfort

  • chills, fever, rapid pulse (or unusually slow) respiratory changes (slower, faster, wheezy...)

  • bowel or urinary changes (frequency, color, odor, consistency...)

  • skin changes ( temperature, color, moist/dry, rash, sensitivity such as itching..)

  • ears ache, hearing seems "off"

  • eyes are watery, glassy, dark circles appear under the eyes

  • dizziness, clumsiness

  • vomiting

  • coated tongue

  • disinterested in play (this may be one of the first, significant signs we notice)

  • voice changes (hoarseness, whining...)

Any of these signs signal the perfect time for some herbal tea, the choice and quantity based on how the child is feeling. It's also a great time for things like special attention, extra rest, and a move to more nourishing foods. These basic steps can offset the illness or at least help to minimize their discomfort, and hopefully, the length of the illness. Sometimes, by catching the early signs of illness, we can ward off the deeper-seated symptoms and avoid something more major. A good reference to have on hand for pediatric symptoms is this website, HealthyChildren, where you can browse symptoms and help determine what may be going on with your child.

Of course, if you see many symptoms or your child seems seriously ill, visit your primary healthcare provider.

So you have an idea of what is going on, and now you want to start offering some herbal concoctions. One of the easiest ways to share herbal medicine with children is by the use of water dosing...teas, infusions, decoctions, syrups, and even in the bath. These are typically dosed at 1/4 to 1 cup, 4 times daily or sipped continuously throughout the day.

Teas...the most basic of herbal preparations. Simply steep 1 tsp to 1 Tbs of dried herb into 1 cup of boiling water, covered, for 12 minutes or longer. Best-suited herbs include peppermint, catnip, lemon balm, chamomile, fresh ginger root, lavender, and seeds such as fennel and anise.

Infusions are essentially medical-strength teas...most herbal material is steeped longer than and with more water than for most teas. The result is a darker, richer, stronger-tasting 'tea' now contained in a pint or quart jar.

To make an infusion we usually start with 1 oz of chopped, dried herb or 2 oz of chopped, fresh herb in a pint or quart of boiling water. This will be steeped for anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight. The amount of water in relation to the plant material depends on the desired strength wanted.

In general: roots and bark -- use 1 oz dried root to 1 pint of boiling water, steep 8 hours

leaves -- 1oz dried or 2 oz fresh to 1 quart of water, steeped for 2-6 hours. Nutritional leaves (such as nettles), steep for up to 8 hours; thick leaves (such as uva ursi) require up to 6-8 hours as well.

flowers -- being more delicate, 1oz dried flowers to 1 quart water, steep for a maximum of 1 hour

seeds -- gently crush seeds with a mortar/pestle and steep for up to 30 mins. Usually 1/4 to 1/2 oz of seeds per pint of water.

Decoctions are concentrated infusions, made as a strong brew to be taken in smaller doses, making it perfect for children who may not tolerate a larger quantity dosed as a cup at a time. This method is especially suited to roots such as yellow dock and dandelion (leaves, flowers, and seeds are not typically used with this method as the longer steeping time kills off the constituents of the more delicate material).

Decoctions are made the same as infusions, but steeped for 8 hours or longer, then strained and gently simmered to reduce the liquid to 1/4-1/2 the original amount (it can take an hour to reduce a pint by half). Allow to cool at room temperature and then refrigerate. Unsweetened, a decoction will last in the fridge for up to 3 days. 2 TBS honey per 1/2 cup of liquid or 2 TBS brandy per cup of liquid can extend the life of the decoction to 3 months.

dosage is generally 1 tsp to 1 Tbs, 2-4 times per day.

Syrups -- made from your decoction process, syrup has a distinct advantage over all other methods... the sweetness makes them readily accepted by children. Simply take your decoction and sweeten it by adding an equal amount (by weight) of sweetener. Typically this is 1/4-1/2 cup of honey per 1 cup of decoction. Add it while the decoction is still hot so it fully dissolves, bring it back to boiling while stirring, and immediately pour into clean jars and label. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate. The added sweetener will extend the storage life by several months. Dosage is similar to a decoction.

Herbal Baths -- useful for all manner of complaints, from strained and sprained muscles, to injured skin, exhaustion, irritability, congestion, and fever.

foot bath -- container large and wide enough to fit both feet together preferably, and will hold enough water to cover the ankles. A typical amount is 1 quart of herbal infusion to 2+ quarts of hot water.

sitz bath -- basin large enough to sit in, with water covering the hips. A typical amount is 1 quart of infusion to 2 quarts hot water.

full bath -- fill a cotton cloth or sock with at least 1 oz of herb and hang on the faucet as tub fills for a mild infusion of herbs or prepare a quart jar of herbs as an infusion and add to the entire tub once prepared.

steam bath -- very therapeutic for upper respiratory and congestion and fever issues and can be created by closing the shower curtain or simply the bathroom door. You can also create a steam pot by adding a quart or 2 of water and bring to a boil. Add in a handful of herbs (especially suited for this process are mint, sage, thyme... or add 3-4 drops of any of the mentioned herbs or eucalyptus) Cover immediately, gather a couple of chairs and a large blanket. Seat yourself under the blanketed chairs with your pot and breathe in the steam. When you've had enough, bundle yourself up and head to bed.

Poultices and Compresses -- create easy methods of applying herbs externally to specific parts of the body. Simply formed by bruising or even chewing the fresh herbs into a pulpy mass to apply directly onto the skin. You can also mash fresh or dried herbs with a little warm water and spread onto a thin cotton cloth to apply to a larger area. a hot water bottle can be placed over the clothy to help retain warmth. Poultices are best used for stings, bites, localized infections, wounds, boils, abscesses, swellings, and tumors.

To make a compress, soak a cloth in a hot infusion or decoction, wring out the excess liquid, and apply the cloth to the affected area. Replace as it cools. a hot water bottle can also be added on top to help retain the heat.

Herbal preparations are simply to include in your home health routine.


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