Home herbalism is who we are and how our families work, healing practiced around the kitchen table around the world and across the centuries. Thank the Good Green Earth that home herbalism happens as a reflex, intuition built on a foundation of herbal fluency that allows us to live as herbalists in every moment.
Caring for our own children is the entry point into herbalism for many of us, inspired by the awe of a new life to look for safe, natural, inexpensive means of nurture.
Not All Things Must Be Tea:
Choosing a Method of Preparation
Ticking Time Bomb of Miserable Toddler
Often when we prepare medicines for toddlers and young children, we are focused most on what the easiest, fastest method is, while our child is busily climbing the cabinets or screaming bloody murder or some other behavior that requires the bulk of our attention.
Many preparations appropriate for this age group can be made well in advance and stored, which is ideal; others can be thrown together quickly as needed. Anything that doesn’t fall into one of those two categories should be closely examined for usefulness, and most likely discarded until they’re older if you can’t find a way to prepare it that allows you to do it NOT during a crisis, when they need your focused attention.
The principle of synergy guides formulation, in that we look for herbs that magnify and expand upon each other’s effects. This can also be true of remedy forms: there is tangible love in an infused honey, and honey’s own medicinal effects can magnify a formula for sore throats or wounds or inflammation. The water that boils to make a steam is stimulating and invigorating, as is the thyme or eucalyptus we add. A digestive preparation in vinegar has additional digestive stimulation and live cultures, as well as superior mineral content to a tea.
Another important consideration is what can we actually get into them? An unwell toddler or preschooler can be a very stubborn adversary indeed: perhaps reconsider that slurry. We discussed electuary herbs, or herbs that make a formula taste good, in the previous issue. Electuaries increase the efficacy of formulas: they actually take it, so it actually works. The discussion of electuary herbs in the previous article applies to methods of preparation as well. Infused honey, syrup, oxymel, vinegar, yogurt, bath, and ice cubes can be delicious and/or fun, which makes it far easier to administer medicine and helps the young child consent to what needs to happen. More About This
Solubility is absolutely essential when choosing a remedy form. Does the medicine you’re trying to make dissolve in the route of administration? Choosing the most effective extraction method goes a long way toward having a useful apothecary for the young child, as you will probably not be able to get vast quantities into them. More About This, Here Too
What are the energetic properties of the method of preparation? Is it warming, cooling, stimulating, dispersing, constricting, drying, moistening? Can you choose a method of preparation that magnifies the energetic properties of the herbs? More About This
Developing a sense of self and autonomy is an essential developmental task for this age group, so everything we as a community can do to support their sense of bodily autonomy and consent is wonderful. In terms of remedies, offering them medicines that are delicious or fun to take allows them to consent and be treated with respect; if we offer them a valerian slurry (ick, don’t) we will have a battle on our hands that does not reinforce any positive messages about their personhood.