Herbal Medicine For Families

Fennel Seed is great for tummy upsets, gas, and colic.
Fennel Seed is great for tummy upsets, gas, and colic.

As a parent, herbal medicine can feel both very accessible and mysterious. It is accessible in that every drug store, grocery and health food store has herbs on the shelf for sale, and there is a plethora of information on the internet. But it can still feel daunting to take or give your child an herb; questions come up around dosage, whether studies have been done on the herb and whether it matters, how long you are supposed to take it, when you should start feeling better.

One of my passions in my work and studies in herbal medicine, is making it accessible to people, giving them a starting point, some guidelines, and how to prevent information overload.

Herbal medicine offers both a preventive approach to health, and many options for treating long term illnesses and also short term symptoms, such as teething pain in babies, colic and the common cold. You can take oatstraw tea for every day stress and anxiety, hyssop, sage (and a host of others) for the common cold, clove tea or oil for tooth pain, as examples.

But there are often dozens of options, which is both wonderful and confusing!

One of my herbal medicine teachers says “A lot of people know a lot about herbs, but they don’t really know about herbal medicine.” Many people hear about an herb that is ‘good for them’ and they start taking it. They have arthritis so they start taking black cohosh, or they are depressed so they start taking St. John’s Wort. It may or may not help. That is because this ‘gunshot’ approach does not work for using herbs for long term conditions. For long term illnesses the ideal approach is to use a combination of herbs in specific proportion.  

There are a few herbs that can be frequently helpful for mamas, infants, and toddlers:

  • Fennel seed is great for tummy upsets, gas, colic, and indigestion.  If you’re breastfeeding, you can drink the tea, and it will pass through your breast milk to soothe colic.
  • Chamomile is good for so many things.  Tummy upset, cranky toddlers and kids, and stressed out adults.
  • Oatstraw, Motherwort, catnip and lemon balm are also for stress and anxiety, and each has some slightly different attributes and some, such as motherwort are used for more specific situations.

They are all great additions to a family medicine chest.

If you would like to learn more about herbal medicine for your family, Montclair B.A.B.Y will offer a three-part series on the use of herbs for pregnancy, birth, postpartum, caring for infants and children, and how to nourish yourself on Feb. 24, March 10, and March 24th.  Read more online here.

Virginia Ahearn is a Practitioner of Herbal Medicine, a Certified NJ home-birth midwife, and a Postpartum Doula.  She is dedicated to teaching wellness with herbs through private instruction and group classes.  

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