As holistic medicine moves consistently more into the mainstream, I am often asked, “Can I give my children the same herbal medicines that I take?”.
Parents have had good success with herbal self treatment, and they want their children to experience the advantages that natural remedies can provide. But they also want to be safe, and our children are our most precious responsibilities.
For the record, most people in the world use herbal medicines nearly exclusively for their health care needs, and this includes children. Older cultures with well established holistic healing systems have useful medicines for the range of childhood illnesses, from tummy upset to the flu. Most of these parents also use a daily general tonic for their children, such as the famous triphala combination from Ayurveda.
Most herbs that adults take can be used for children in reduced dosages. (Children’s doses are calculated by body weight as a percentage of a 150 pound adult dose. So a 50 pound child would take one-third of the adult dose.) The exceptions are herbs that are pungent, sexual tonics, or stimulants.
Pungent herbs, like chilies and black pepper, can irritate the tender digestive tracts of the young ones. They can’t tell you very well what hurts, so it’s best to be cautious.
Sexual tonics are not given before puberty, for obvious reasons. A pediatrician friend of mine treated her 9 year old son effectively for his disabling asthma with licorice root. Unfortunately, it initiated puberty. Stopping the herb stopped the sexual development. (For our purposes, children are considered adults, in a biological sense, when they reach puberty.)
Garlic loses out on two counts- pungent and sexually stimulating.
Stimulants are herbs that contain energizing constituents, including ma huang and guarana seed. Too zippy for their little adrenal glands, and of course, whose elementary school child needs more energy?
Culinary amounts, like garlic in the spaghetti sauce, or licorice to sweeten tea, are fine.