Nicola Parker, of Health and Herbs, writes about finding the right-tasting medicine children won't run away from.
Treating children with medicine can be an art form.
dispense herbal medicine, I usually blend tinctures which have a very strong, ethanol-like taste.
On top of this, some of my most potent herbs can be quite bitter, so with children it becomes necessary to pick and choose herbs according to how palatable they are.
This is something I usually never do.
Long before I started my formal degree, I was trained in natural medicine by people who had learned their craft through decades of experience.
They carried this no nonsense, grass roots, belt and braces attitude that I loved.
Sometimes, life isn’t easy.
We have to make changes that we don’t like or take measures that make us uncomfortable, before we can see positive change.
So during my final, when my examiner criticised my formula for being too bitter, I confidently informed him that “medicine is medicine, I want it to work, not taste nice”.
He laughed at my affirmation, but he couldn’t argue.
In fact, he passed me and my bitter-tasting mix with distinction.
This only grounded me in my belief that the most effective medicines are not ones that taste nice.
Children, though, are a whole different kettle of fish and after feeling smug in front of my examiner, I’ve since been humbled by children on many an occasion since.
Convincing a child to take something that tastes unpleasant can be a huge drama, one that can be as bad as the problem you’re trying to treat. I can’t give a child a tincture of valerian to help them sleep.
It stinks. Can you imagine the tears and tantrums? Not exactly a formula for a restful nights sleep.
So I’ve had to swallow my pride and get a little creative and do you know what?
With a bit of creativity, herbal medicine can be a delight for children.
The secret is in finding the magic in it and celebrating it as something joyful.
One of the easiest and tastiest ways to make a herb taste delicious is to turn it into a syrup.
Want a bedtime syrup for an over-anxious child? Gather some lavender and chamomile or buy some from your nearest herbalist and find yourself 30 minutes to spend in the kitchen.
If possible, get the anxious child to create the syrup with you.
Suddenly, it’s not medicine any more, it’s flowers.
Better yet, sugary flowers.
Add a dollop to warm milk for a sleepy bedtime drink and voila.
Tasty, peaceful bedtime remedies.
If you want to avoid all the extra sugar, brew some herbal teas to turn into home made ice lollies in the freezer.
With the hot weather, roasting us in our gardens, who doesn’t want a cold ice lolly?
Cinnamon and peppermint can ease tummy pains, making it the perfect after dinner treat for little ones that struggle to cope with wind and achy bellies.
A dollop of syrup or cordial will add some sweetness if needed.
Cinnamon is yummy and warming, so it can also be blended with thyme and licorice to thin mucus and aid in coughing up stubborn phlegm.
Another great way to get children to take herbs is to get them to eat them. Nettle is an excellent herb for eczema due to its natural antihistamine action, but to a child (or an adult) it can look more dangerous than delicious.
Blitz it into smoothies made from apple or kiwi, which taste sweet and delicious.
I was once told to blend it with egg to make green omelette for Halloween, by a herbalist with a little boy that loved the idea.
If you’re interesting in learning more about making your own herbal medicines, I’m running workshops in Lancaster and Morecambe during early Autumn.
Children often need much lower doses of herbs than adults, so if you’re unsure, give your local herbalist a call to make sure something will be safe.
Making your own medicines can be great fun and if you’re making recipes for children, I’d encourage you to let them get involved. Healing yourself can be very empowering and it’s never too early to empower someone of the path to good health.
For more information about anything in this column, contact Nicola at her clinic, Health and Herbs, on 01524 413733.