It’s the growing season for herbs and kids! So whether you have garden beds or potted plants on your front stoop, these herbs are easy to grow. Fresh herbs make good glycerate tinctures that are perfect medicine for children. Include your children in the process and they will appreciate the benefits even more! All the herbs listed below can be picked in season and dried for tea and/or made into a non-alcohol tincture. These medicines are especially helpful for children between the ages of 6 months and 7 years. For younger infants, the herbs are administered via the mother’s breast milk.
Make tinctures in vegetable glycerin by crushing or blending the herb into the glycerin and storing in a jar in a warm, dark place for a month or two (the longer the stronger – up to 3 months). Check on the jar periodically, stir the contents and make sure all plant material is covered. When finished, strain off the glycerin, pressing out the liquid until all medicine is captured. Store the glycerate in a dark glass jar in a cool place. Storing in the refrigerator will allow it to last two years.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
The tea of this flower is great for applying directly to heat rashes and sunburn. Make a good strong tea before you leave for the pool or beach and store in the fridge so it is cool and ready to use! You can also freeze the tea combined with aloe and store in ice cube trays to cool burns. This herb is anti-microbial can also be taken to treat swollen lymph glands of the neck or groin, or used as a wash for wounds. It doesn’t tincture well in glycerin but does tincture in olive oil. Pick flowers fresh and lightly dry them indoors away from direct light (about 6-10 days). Then break the flowers apart and infuse them in olive oil, being sure they are well covered. Store the oil-covered flowers in a warm spot, and open every week to wipe up any condensation on the inside of the jar and lid, then re-seal. After 2-3 months, you can decant the oil and use for making salves or apply directly to scrapes, diaper rash and burns.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
The lovely flowers of this herb can be dried for tea, though it is very bitter, so adding lemon balm or mint helps the flavor for kids. It is easier to dispense as medicine in tincture form and is used for modulating the immune system, including fevers. It helps with allergies, tummy aches and calms nerves. Give it to your child when there is loss of appetite after illness. Combine it with lemon balm to help over-active minds focus.
Cleavers (Galium aparine)
When you find this gangly herb growing along streams or the moist corners of your garden, pick it fresh. It stores best as a tincture so put in a blender with glycerin to blend and let sit for 3 months. Use for urinary tract infections and over-mucus production as typically happens with colds or allergies. It will also treat swollen glands and is highly nutrient rich as well.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea or E. angustifolia)
The root is still one of the best herbs for stimulating the immune system, especially for children with compromised immunity. Take the root to prevent illness or just at the beginning of an illness to boost immune response. Otherwise, once your child is in the midst of illness and in the inflammatory phase (red, rashes, high fever etc.), it is better to use the flowering tops of this herb. In the summer, pick some flowers and leaves to blend with glycerin for making tincture. The high concentration of bioflavonoids in the flower heads will reduce inflammation (including allergies) and will help dissipate some of the more uncomfortable symptoms of illness. Use topically for spider and mosquito bites.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm “brings joy to the heart”, say the old herbals – certainly its scent does! Use this herb to regenerate the nervous system, especially if your child has gone through a trauma of some kind, whether it is moving house or death of a relative. It works very well for headaches and can also be added to catnip tea as a sleep aid. Add this herb to other medicines or homemade popsicles to make them extra yummy.
Linden Flower (Tilia spp.)
There are many species of this tree that are used in landscaping and the flowers of all of them are medicinal. They usually bloom in late spring or early summer. Gather the beautiful, subtle-smelling blooms for making a tea or tincture. The tea is mild in flavor so most kids don’t mind. This herb is anti-viral, lowers fevers, and calms the heart, and addresses anxiety. It is also safe for breastfeeding moms who might need to calm their nerves as well!