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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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