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Custom Herbal Medicine for Children

Custom Herbal Medicine for Children

By David Shaw – Medical Herbalist c.N.C.


Hello I hope your day is well and thank you for reading our blog! Today I’d like to talk about a few different things:


  •  Custom herbal remedies
  •  Herbs for children
  •  ‘Soothe & Clear’ formula


Custom Herbal Remedies


This is a relatively new concept in the mainstream world when it comes to herbal medicine. Most people go to the grocery store – head to the supplement section and pick an herb off the shelf because either: they were told to go for that specific plant, they already know the plant and what it does or the sales associate helped them pick it out.  In the very near future people will be looking for herbal remedies specific to their bio-individuality.  Each person is unique in how medications, herbs and disease interact and present.  So medicine should be unique to each person.


A custom herbal blend is specific to each person’s constitution and health. In today’s example the four-year-old patient is on the back end of having a common cold and the patient’s parents want to help assist with clearing the symptoms.  How that cold presented this time is different than any other previous cold or the next cold. Colds can present themselves in many different ways including:


  • Dry cough with sore throats;
  • Wet cough with no sore throat;
  • Damp congested sinuses;
  • A runny nose without congestion but with inflammation;
  • Sinus inflammation with little mucous;
  • And the list can go on…


In reality the many different ways a cold can present itself and how that cold clears can be very different each time someone has a cold. This is where custom herbal remedies come in.


“Herbs can be very effective and help many different things but the right herb at the wrong time is the wrong herb.” This quote comes from one of my favorite Jiu-Jitsu athlete, Roger Gracie. To share one example: someone with a dry cough and sore throat will probably not have as much success with a drying herb like Hyssop as compared to another cough supportive herb like Marshmallow Leaf or Mullein Leaf.  Hyssop is essential oil rich.  These essential oils work at moving congestion by interacting with mucous in the lungs.  In the case of the dry cough, Hyssop would just irritate the lungs further when what is really needed is a soothing antispasmodic action.  Marshmallow and Mullein Leaf help clear any excess mucous and have a demulcent action to soothe a sore throat.


Herbs for Children


Herbal medicine for children is often overlooked or approached with caution.  To be direct, herbs are safe and effective when used properly. When using herbs for children, tea blends aren’t often the most effective choice. As most parents can imagine, getting a sick child to drink 3 child size cups of tea a day to achieve a therapeutic dose would be challenging. Quite often a more experienced herbalist will lean towards herbal tinctures using specific calculations of age and body weight to determine a safe and effective dose for the child. Most over the counter cough medication is not recommended. There are eve n studies showing that Buckwheat honey is just as or more effective than OTC cough medicine.


Soothe & Clear Formula


The formula we are talking about today is for a 4 year old boy who had a very mild common cold that lasted 2 days. For those two days he was in the acute stage with a runny nose, feeling unwell and having a little trouble sleeping. As mentioned earlier, cold symptoms can present differently every time. Sometimes children have high fevers. Sometimes they have no energy. Sometimes their bowel movements stop and they don’t want to eat or drink. These are all different ways the common cold or flu can present in a child.


The name of this formula is Soothe & Clear.  The herbs inside of this formula are:

  •  Holy Basil
  •  Plantain
  •  Cleavers
  •  Licorice


Holy Basil, Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) – This is such a well-known plant in the East, specifically India and Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine. Tulsi is a close relative to Sweet Basil which we use very often in our cooking or in salads. This plant has a very spicy taste to it and is often enjoyed by children.  Ocimum is used by some herbalists for children who are sick with a cold. In this scenario, we are using the plant’s essential oils to help clear excess mucous in the upper respiratory tract, increase digestion and support the nervous system.  Holy Basil is a nervine which means it is supportive to the nervous system.  It is known for its antiseptic-antimicrobial and antiviral potential as well as being anticatarrhal; which means it helps to break down and expel mucous.


Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) – A very beautiful plant that is often overlooked on dirt paths. Plantago is one of the nine sacred plants in the Druid tradition. Plantain is very drying just like so many other mucous membrane tonics. Other plants that fall in this category include:

  • Elderflower,
  • Goldenseal,
  • Ground ivy and


Mucous membrane tonics do exactly what their name implies which is strengthening the integrity of the mucous membrane so that excess mucous is unable to come out. For example, if a child has an excessively runny nose and it is preventing them from sleeping at night, these plants can slow the runny nose so he can get proper rest to heal more quickly. **It is important to use mucous membrane tonics carefully as over-drying is not necessarily better than being full of mucous.**

Cleavers (Galium aparine) – Cleavers are a cute clingy plant climbing anything and everything every spring in the Pacific Northwest.  Some people use this plant as a spring detoxification and juice Cleavers for a spring cleaning.  In the herbal medicine world this plant is known as a lymphatic.  We tend to add lymphatic herbs to cold and flu remedies to help move stuck and congested lymph glands.


Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) – This is one of the many well-researched plants in the herbal medicine cabinet.  Licorice can be used for so many different things. In this specific formula we are using Licorice to help soothe the mucous membranes and also to counter the drying effect of Plantain.  Licorice is also very helpful in adrenal support helping with energy.  It would also fall in the category as a mild laxative helping to move a congested liver after having a cold. The biggest benefit of this plant for a child’s herbal remedy is that it’s sweet and adds some good flavour to the formula so that the child will take it more willingly.


In the end the formula Soothe & Clear was a success. It was able to:

  • Dry up excess mucous in the sinus
  • Help stimulate digestion
  • Increased energy
  • Help the child feel better

**Herbs while safe and effective can be pushy.  In this specific instance Holy Basil is also stimulating to digestion and increases energy. Make sure to talk with an herbalist to understand exactly which herb is right for you and your children**


I hope you enjoyed this article if you have any questions please feel to reach out by email or through the website below. We can start the conversation regarding a custom herbal remedy for you or your child. Quite often a 15 minute phone conversation can help us get enough information to help connect you to the correct plants. We also offer more in depth full consultations for people with more complex or chronic conditions.


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David Shaw – Medical Herbalist, c.N.C.

Email: herbalist@errantherbal.com


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Different Types of Herbal Extractions and How to Understand Your Tincture Strength

Different Types of Herbal Extractions and How to Understand Your Tincture Strength


As I’ve been setting up my herbal dispensary I have been thinking a lot about what information that is needed in the health world for people interested in herbal products. This is one of many blogs that will be written to help shine some light in the herbal medicine world.


The focus of this blog will be different types of herbal preparations and understanding alcohol tincture extract strengths.


Different Types of Herbal Extractions:


–           water infusion

–           water decoction

–           alcohol extract

–           vinegar-based extract

–           vegetable glycerin extract



Water infusion –  this is your typical tea where you place the herbal tea blend into hot water and let it steep for 15 to 30 minutes.  There are a lot of techniques in this process that can be elaborated on including: covering your tea while it steeps, overnight infusions and different lengths of times to get different strengths of tea.


Water decoction –  a decoction is often used with harder plant materials like roots and bark.  In this process we place the herbal blend directly into a pot and bring the water to boil.  We then simmer the water with herbs for up to 30 minutes to an hour and then pull it off and let it cool for another 15 to 20 minutes.  This will provide a stronger extract of the plant constituents from these harder plant parts.


Alcohol extract –  this is by far herbalists favourite method of dispensing herbs.  Alcohol extracts can take anywhere from 14 days to 40 days to properly extract all of the plant constituents.  Alcohol extracts pull out more plant constituents than any other method.  The only stronger method is to do capsules ingesting the whole plant material but can often require lots of capsules throughout the day.


Vinegar-Based extracts –  this is another method that is used to extract plant constituents and can often be seen in the very popular and extremely powerful Fire Cider.  Vinegars extraction capability is somewhere between a strong decoction and an alcohol extract in regards to its potency.   Another highlight with vinegar-based extracts is that some plant constituents do better in a vinegar base rather than an alcohol base.


Vegetable glycerin extracts –  this method tends to be reserved for extracts that don’t necessarily need to be as strong. This preparation is often used with young children and people who abstain from alcohol.  The biggest drawback with this method is vegetable glycerin is not as strong of an extraction method as alcohol or vinegar which means for the average person they would need a bigger dose.


Alcohol Tincture Strengths:


This is quite often the most misunderstood part of herbal medicine when it comes to people in search of tincture extracts.  Working with an herbalist will be the fastest and easiest way to understand herbal tincture extracts and what your proper dosage is.   This blog will act as a quick reference guide in helping you understand the strength of your herbal tincture extract.


Most often when you purchase a tincture at a store or inside of a herbal shop the strength of the tincture will be noted somewhere on the bottle.  The tinctures you find in an herbalist dispensary are quite often much stronger than tinctures you find at a grocery store.  This is not a hard fast rule but herbalists know the therapeutic dosage range of their herbs and can fit more in their formulas with stronger extracts.





The tinctures at the grocery store tend to be at a strength of 1:4, 1:5 or 1:6


The tinctures you find an herbalist dispensary can range from 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, 1:5, 1:8 all the way to 1:10


(1:1 and 1:2 strengths are often fresh plant extracts)       (1:8 and 1:10 are restricted herbs)


For our example we will use:  Black Cohosh     1:3    60%


  • For every 3 milliliters of this specific tincture you take you are getting the dried herb equivalent of 1 gram of Black Cohosh root.


  • If the strength of the tincture above was 1:4,  it would require 4 milliliters to achieve 1 gram of plant material.


(Dry herb)       1:3       (Alcohol extract)


Herbalists are specific when they choose the strength of their tinctures. Some want as strong as possible while others want what is most versatile, and often they want both.  Plants like Lemon Balm should almost always be fresh plant extracts and should be at the strength of 1:2.  Some herbs are so strong herbalists prefer a more diluted extract.  Cedar is one of these herbs.  Cedar is so strong that having a 1:4 or 1:5 extract blends better in a formula when compared to a 1:1 or 1:2


Knowing this if you find a tincture extract at 1:2  and you’ve been using 1:4,  you can half the dose you’ve been doing and still have the same therapeutic effect.


(a simple rule the lower the numbers paired together the stronger the extract)  ← This does not always equate to better though..



This is a really short explanation of what I learned in college and it can help someone understand further the strength of their tincture. If you ever have any questions or comments or thoughts please feel free to reach out to our online herbal dispensary. our goal is to help connect people to herbalists so that we can teach you how to use the plants. Sovereignty and health  for each person is part of the mission of Errant Empire Herbal Medicine.  We want to  teach the community how to reconnect with the plants again.


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