When it comes to herbs and essential oils, babies and children are much more sensitive than adults. It is important to know which herbs and essential oils are safe to use and how to use them properly. This article is mostly about herbs for children over 2 years old, but there are a few points for treating babies.
But really, this information can be used for EVERYONE, especially the elderly, those on medications, people with allergies and those of us who tend to be sensitive to herbs and medications.
**For a FREE download of the list of herbs and essential oils for children, click here.**
I have some recommendations for keeping children healthy that are, in my opinion, way more important than using herbs. If kids don’t get the basics of what they need, an herb isn’t going to fill in that void. So here are my top suggestions for keeping your child well:
Remember: too much stress isn’t good for anyone, especially children.
Make sleep a priority. Children need plenty of sleep to grow and integrate all of their new experiences.
Feed your child good, whole foods. Eating a healthful diet when you are young sets up good food choices later in life.
Drinking plenty of water is also important.
It is a good idea so supplement with a good quality children’s multivitamin. Data collected by the U.S. government shows that the nutritional content of America’s vegetables and fruits has declined during the past 60 years — in some cases dramatically. Multivitamins ensure that your child gets all the nutrients they need, even if there are gaps in their diet.
Essential fatty acids such as alphalinolenic acid (an omega 3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (an omega 6 fatty acid) are called “essential” because our body can’t make them – we need to eat them. Essential fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. They make up the cell membrane for every cell in our body. They help with heart health, brain function, joint pain, autoimmune diseases, inflammation, and mood. Some of the best sources of essential fatty acids are fish, shellfish, flaxseed oil, hemp oil, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, leafy vegetables and walnuts. I particularly like a DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) essential fatty acid supplement for children as it supports healthy brain and central nervous system development. If the supplement is made with fish oil, choose a brand that is micro filtered and tested for heavy metals.
Watch the body. Bowel movements, urination and other excretions such as mucus can give us valuable information about the health of our child. What comes out of the body can tell us a lot about how things are going inside the body. Is your child pooping regularly? Is it well-formed and brown in color? How often are they urinating? It is a good sign they are drinking enough water if their urine is light colored. As child gets older, teach them to do assess their own eliminations. It may sound strange, but it is a valuable skill to have.
When your Child is Sick:
It is good to remember that illnesses stimulate the immune system. When my kids were small, I thought of every illness as an opportunity for their immune systems to learn something new. When a child meets a new “bug”, their acquired immunity helps them develop immunity to that organism when they meet it again.
Sometimes growth spurts, including teething, can cause illness. This is normal.
Most fevers are useful – fever is a normal and healthy immune response of the body to an illness. It is part of the normal infection-fighting innate immune process. Fevers can also increase with big developmental steps. It is always a good idea to watch a fever and treat it if it gets too high.
Using Herbs with Children:
These are my recommendations when using herbs with children.
Always use the smallest amount necessary for the shortest duration.
Use the gentlest herbs possible.
For babies, I like to use herbs externally. My favorite ways to do this are by making a strong tea and adding it to the baby’s bath water. Using a gentle herb infused oil, such as calendula oil, for massage, cradle cap and diaper rash can also be helpful.
Herbal glycerites can generally be given at 1 year old. Glycerites are not considered a good first food.
Children generally react very well and quickly to herbs, essential oils, homeopathics, and supplements. So if something isn’t working, you should know within a few days & try something else.
Some of my Favorite Children’s Herbs:
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
Arnica (Arnica montana), homeopathic or flower essence only
Burdock (Arcticum lappa)
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
Catnip (Nepita cataria)
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum)
Cleavers (Galium aparine)
Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)
Elder (Sambucus nigra)
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) (please use cultivated only)
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
Flaxseed (Limun usitatissimum)
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis)
Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
Horsetail (Equisetum spp.)
Lavender (Lavendula spp.)
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)
Linden (Tilia spp.)
Marshmallow (Althea officinalis)
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
Nettles (Urtica dioica)
Oats (Avena sativa)
Oregon Grape root (Mahonia spp.)
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Plantain (Plantago spp.)
Psyllium (Plantago ovata)
Raspberry (Rubus ideaus)
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Rose (Rosa spp.)
Rosemary (Rosmarimus officinalis)
Skullcap (Scutilaria lateriflora)
St Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum)
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Valerian (Valeriana spp.)
Vervain (Verbena officinalis)
Violet (Viola odorata)
Wild Cherry (Prunus serotina)
Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa)
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)
To figure out exact dosages for children age 2-17, use Clark’s Rule. The procedure is to take the child’s weight in pounds and divide it by 150 (the average weight of an adult). Multiply the fractional result by the adult dose to find the equivalent child dosage. For example: If an adult dose of tincture calls for 30 drops and the child weighs 30 pounds. Divide the child’s weight by 150 (30/150) to get .2. Multiply .2 times 30 drops to get 6 drops. This method can be used for elders, dogs and cats as well.
Essential Oils that are Safe for Children:
Please be very careful using essential oils with babies and small children. To find our more about proper dilutions and safety precautions, please read my article Are Essential Oils Safe? Part 2
These oils should be used for children 2 years and older. Please avoid using essential oils topically on babies, or around the chest area of nursing moms. It is always important to research an essential oil before using it. The Common Essential oil dilution for Infants and Children is a 1% dilution. This translates to 5-6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil.
Essential Oils for Children:
Calendula, CO2 extraction (Calendula officinalis)
Chamomile, German (Matricaria chamomilla)
Chamomile, Roman (Chamaemelum nobile)
Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Frankincense (Boswellia carterri) Please choose other oils as this plant is close to being listed as threatened.
Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)
Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
Mandarin (Citrus reticulata)
Neroli (Citrus aurantium)
Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium)
Tangerine (Citrus reticulata)
Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Yarrow (Achillea spp.)
I hope you find this information useful along your journey with your children and loved ones. I have found that starting to use herbs when children are young helps them widen their palate for different tastes, and more importantly encourages them learn better self care as they get older.
About the Author: The author of several books on herbal medicine and healing, clinical herbalist Elaine Sheff has been passionate about sharing herbal knowledge for over 25 years. Her latest book is Naked: Botanical Recipes for Vibrant Skin and Healthy Hair. Elaine is the Co-Director of Green Path Herb School, located in Missoula, Montana, where she strives to inspire and empower students and clients to remember their connection to the earth, the plants and their own healing process. She is a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild and teaches workshops, and at conferences, both nationally and internationally. Elaine has an International Certification in Aromatherapy from the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy. As a certified Instructor of the Natural Family Planning and Fertility Awareness Methods, Elaine has helped many couples to avoid or achieve pregnancy naturally. She has written numerous articles about her family’s journey with epilepsy and a special needs child. Elaine has written for publications including the Journal of Medicinal Plants and their Applications, Mamalode and AromaCulture magazine. Elaine’s workshops have been featured at conferences including the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference, Montana Herb Gathering, Northwest Herb Symposium, Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference, Spokane Herbal Faire, the Ecoexpo, Mountain West Herb Gathering, Inland Northwest Permaculture Convergence, and the Pacific Women’s Herbal Conference. You can often find her bent over an herb in her garden or marveling at small flowers in mountain meadows with her husband and sons. If you’d like to learn more about medicinal plants, you can connect with Elaine, and Green Path Herb School via the Green Path Website or through social media: Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, or Instagram. You can find out more about Elaine and her life work at GreenPathHerbSchool.com.
The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood
Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child by Valerie Ann Worwood
Naturally Healthy Babies and Children by Aviva Jill Romm
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