Herbs for Toddlers and Young Children

Herbs for Toddlers and Young Children

If illness is the great teacher, it certainly doesn’t spare the littles. But as parents, we have such a diverse arsenal of herbal medicines available to us that using them one way that we can best show our babes to appreciate the natural world. Let's walk through some basic information about safely and effectively incorporating herbs into our everyday routines with our kids, using herbs for immune system regulation, digestive health, the nervous system, and skin health. 

Finding the Light This Winter

by Jackie Dobrinska

Staying healthy means staying in harmony with the energy of the season. The Tiajitu – the yin/yang symbol pictured to the right – is a map for this. It shows that as we flow into the watery blue of the yin, we must stay connected to the seed of the fiery red. There is yang in the yin and yin in the yang, just as there is light in the darkness and darkness in the light.

To stay in harmony during these darker days of the winter solstice and the weeks that follow we invite you to consider the following:

Get outside. See the light of the sun on a daily basis – for at least 30 minutes. This is especially true for those who work inside or who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. The sun helps increase serotonin levels, the “feel good” neurotransmitter.

Keep Active. Keep the blood moving by exercising your body and joints daily. Stretch, dance and walk. Choose activities that move in harmony with this slower season.

Stay warm and dry. In 5-element theory, winter is associated with the water element and the kidneys. Extreme cold can injure them, leading to emotional imbalances like fear and physical imbalance related to immunity.

Oil your body. Winter can dry the skin. Keeping it well lubricated will keep this organ – one of the largest in the body – healthy, vital and vibrant. (see “Rituals” sidebar) It will also protect our insides from the things we want to keep outside!

Cozy up with tea. During the winter, a plant’s energy is in its roots. We can help strengthen and tonify our own roots by boiling up fresh or dried root teas. Fresh ginger root is a favorite winter tea because of its warming properties.

Eat soups. Warm, grounding, nourishing foods keep digestion in good order during the cold winter season, and good digestion equals good health. Slow cooked roots, stewed whole grains, and salty miso and sea vegetables make excellent staples. (see “Soup” sidebar)

Take your herbs. St. John’s Wort, also known as “Bottled Sunshine” helps support emotional balance, nervous system function and immune system function. Wild Lettuce supports sleep function.

Relax & Sleep! During the winter we must be careful not to run our batteries down with stress and the plethora of holiday obligations. Instead, get plenty of sleep. Take time to relax with baths, body work, and daily massages (see “Rituals” sidebar).

Like the hibernating bear dreaming in her cave, the dark days of winter CAN bring much needed rest and respite when we allow it. Staying in balance means being in harmony with both the darkness and with the seeds of light contained within it. Doing so will nourish and carry you into more dynamic phases of the year, with more energy and ease.

There is NOTHING to Fix

by Lee Warren

I decided to sit and eat lunch for a change – relaxing to digest food is always seems like a good idea but doesn’t always happen.

Equipped with a wayward 'Sounds True' catalog that had come in the mail for my friend and former housemate, I started flipping through.

By the third page, I could feel tension in my body. By page five it was full blown anxiety.

This catalog reads like the Spiritual version of a high-gloss women’s magazine. I felt barraged suddenly by a seemingly endless list of things I need to cure in order to be a functioning human being. The inner equivalent to white teeth and no-smell-armpits.

As I read the book titles, I watched my mind (in parentheses):

  • Mindfulness meditations (Should I be more mindful?)
  • Enlightenment and the Brain (Other people are enlightened – maybe there’s a secret.)
  • Personal Transformation based on Kindness and Compassion (Am I kind enough to myself?)
  • Freedom from Depression (Is that for me?)
  • Living the Lakota Way (Maybe they know something I should learn.)
  • Hold Nothing Back (Am I holding back?)

The more I read, the more contracted I felt. By page 15, I got up to throw the thing in the trash.

Suddenly my lunch was more peaceful.

Is it me? Am I just too sensitive? Or is everyone trying to fix and change and tweak and alter us? I’m sure there’s even a book entitled, “You’re Fine Exactly How You Are,” which would then bring up anxiety for even wanting to change ourselves.

ARGHHHHH.

The overall message seems to be that something is amiss. That someone else has the answer. There’s a sense of dis-empowerment about it. Approaching these books should be like approaching something dangerous. Proceed only if you’re feeling strong.

The Wise Woman Tradition reminds us that we have wisdom within us.

It reminds us that there’s nothing to fix. I’m grateful that this voice exists among the forest of fixing.

Bottled Sunshine With St. J's

by Corinna Wood, Director, Southeast Wise Women

There is no other medicinal herb that bespeaks more of sunshine than St. Johnswort, or St. J’s, as we fondly call it. It loves sunny open places, blooms at the height of summer solstice, soothes the skin after sunburn, and even brings sunshine into our lives through its mood elevating properties.

The most well known, most widely used species of St. Johnswort is Hypericum perforatum, studied for its uses against depression, especially helpful for the kind of dark moods that come from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In fact, it is often said that plants grow where they are needed, and St J’s is a prolific “weed” in the Pacific Northwest, where dark and rainy winters contribute to a high number of SAD cases.

Additionally, St. J’s has constituents known to support the nerves and help the body against viruses, both when taken internally, and when extracted into an oil for use externally. In diseases where viruses affect the nervous system, such as cold sores, herpes, shingles, or chicken pox, St. J’s has brought relief for hundreds of years.

We have our own wild varieties in Western NC, including Hypericum punctatum, but it is not found in great abundance as it is in some other parts of the country. It’s best to plant this herb in your home garden – it’s easy to grow, strong in establishment, and will bloom year after year. You’ll appreciate the beauty it adds to your garden, as it’s truly lovely, with 5-petaled yellow flowers, small seed pods, and delicate yellow-green leaves.

St. J’s genus name (Hypericum) is derived from the word hyper, meaning above and eikon, meaning picture. This referred to the traditional style of hanging the plants around the house to ward off “bad spirits” (maybe an old fashioned word for depression).

Next spring, plan on planting some St. J’s in your garden, it will certainly bring a little sunshine into your life.

Portions reprinted from:
Make Your Own Bottled Sunshine With St.J’s by Corinna Wood & Lee Warren
First published in the Mountain Xpress, May 2010

July 26, 2011 — Red Moon Herbs

Anxiety, Depression, Stress? Treat Them the Wise Woman Way

by Corinna Wood, Director, Southeast Wise Women

 

So many people are experiencing mood disturbances these days. While the choice to use anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication is a valid one, the increase in use over the past decade has doubled, along with our stress levels. How can we address this issue in our lives on deeper lifestyle level and create more sustainable solutions?

 

My favorite interpretation of the Wise Woman Tradition, which speaks to the heart of this issue, is to:

Live in your body. Speak your truth. Love yourself.

Living in your body is all about nourishment, the foundation of the Wise Woman Tradition. If we’re not deeply nourished, it’s very difficult for us to deal with the situational anxiety and depression that comes our way. Most women suffer from a lack of healthy fats in their diets. Healthy fats, like raw organic butter and coconut oil, contribute to a healthy nervous system unlike anything else. A robust nervous system helps us be less emotionally volatile or prone to extreme bouts of anxiety. Reducing or eliminating stimulants will also help get you off the up and down wheel of anxiety.

Speaking your truth. The Wise Woman Tradition teaches us to embrace both the light and dark sides of ourselves – even those so called ‘negative emotions’ such as grief and rage. Women and men have often been taught to suppress these parts which, stored in our bodies, can create anxiety and illness. Name the fears and dark emotions with your loved ones. Be vulnerable and real about who you are and what you feel. Try expressing this dark stuff in a safe way by lying on the earth and letting your tears and anger flow . . . the earth can take your pain and turn it into food and medicine!

Loving yourself. Where in your life are you being nourished? Accentuate those parts and begin to look at what drains your energy. Your job, your relationship, your community? Is there a way to live more authentically who you are? Is there a way to live more simply to reduce economic stress? Can you reach out to others to create more community in your life? Can you find a way to get nourishing non-sexual touch such as massage or cuddling? Can you do a daily movement or writing or art practice, which grounds your energy and frees your soul?

Herbs

Herbs alone, just like prescription medicine alone, will not be a miracle cure. In combination with the lifestyle issues above, herbs will encourage your body and mind towards wholeness.

Three of my favorite herbs to soothe the nerves and ease anxiety are lemon balm, skullcap and catnip, all gentle, safe herbs in the mint family. Lemon balm is known as a mood elevator–if you’ve had a sniff of a leaf from the garden, you understand what that means! Skullcap is used to ease nervous tension and help with headaches and sleep disturbances. Catnip is used to for calming, pain, and bellyaches, which often accompany mood disorders.

May you discover yourself more deeply on your journey through the light and dark spiral of life.

February 14, 2010 — Red Moon Herbs