Herbs for Kids: A Brief Guide

Safe herbal remedies help sick kidsAt Community Pharmacy, we field a lot of questions from parents about using herbs and other alternative modalities to support a child’s healing during common childhood ailments. Often the questions hinge on the safety of using herbs in the small, developing bodies of young children.

According to herbalist and educator Rosemary Gladstar, children’s bodies respond well to the healing power of herbs. Herbs can offer tremendous support and benefit for children’s health, whether used alone or in conjunction with allopathic medicine.  When herbs are administered wisely, says Gladstar, they do not disturb the delicate balance of small bodies and can be safely used for many childhood illnesses.

Most directions for using the various forms of herbal medicine (tinctures, teas, capsules, etc.) use adult doses, but there are numerous formulas for calculating age-appropriate child dosages.   For children who fall within the normal growth curve, Young’s Rule is widely used by herbalists to determine a child’s dose.  To use Young’s Rule, add 12 to the child’s age and divide the child’s age by this total. For example, to calculate the dose for a six-year-old child:
6  (child’s age) +12 = 18; then
6 (child’s age) ÷ 18 (total from above) = 1/3
From this we can see that a six-year-old child should receive 1/3 of the adult dose.

Clark’s rule calculates dose by weight:  to get the approximate fraction of the adult dose to give a child, divide the child’s weight (in pounds) by 150.  So, if your child weighs 50 pounds, give 50/150 or 1/3 of the adult dose.  If the adult dose is 30 drops taken three times daily, the Childs dose will be 10 drops taken three times daily.  Mary Bove, a naturopathic physician, says that by age 12, most children can take an adult dose.

The list of useful herbs for children’s health is extensive.   For brevity’s sake, I’ve included some that are not only extremely easy to use, but have the added benefits of being delicious and nutritious.  I’ve also included recipes simple enough to involve young children in their preparation — let them add the astragalus root to a pot of stew before you put it in the oven, help you tend a patch of lemon balm in the garden, or press cooked elderberries through a strainer and retrieve the juice for making syrup.

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous)  is an antibacterial and antiviral Chinese herb that is deeply supportive of the immune system.  Use astragalus to help prevent colds and flus.  The pleasant-tasting root contains the plant’s strongest medicine and can be added to soups and stews or brewed as tea.  Don’t be alarmed by it’s tongue-blade appearance!  An easy and delicious way to take advantage of this immune-boosting root is to add it to a pot of slowly simmering homemade soup, removing it after the soup is done cooking.   Astragalus is also quite tasty when decocted alone or as a companion to other immune-enhancing herbs.

elder-2652601_1920Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) The berries of the black elderberry are deep blue-black due to highly nutritious anthocyanin, which helps stimulate immunity to pathogens.  Elderberries go even further by preventing viruses from entering healthy cells and replicating.  Therefore, they are best used frequently at the onset of cold or flu virus.

Elderberries naturally lend themselves to making fruity, tasty syrup.  Kids love the purple color, and parents love that there are no artificial colorings or preservatives.  Add 1/2 cup dried or 1 cup fresh elderberries to a pan with 3 cups water and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 30-45 minutes.  Smash the berries and strain through a fine mesh sieve.  Add 1 cup honey (or to taste) to the juice.  Bottle and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 months.  Use only black elderberries, as red elderberries are toxic.  Please note that Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises against giving raw honey to children under the age of one, and some sources recommend waiting until a child is at least two.  Raw honey can contain botulism spores that, while harmless in older children and adults, can cause fatal diarrhea in the immature digestive tract.  You may substitute food grade vegetable glycerin for honey.


calendula for herbal salvesCalendula (Calendula officinalis) An ancient plant, calendula has been used for centuries as a dye for clothing coloring for food, and balm for burns, cuts and abrasions.  Calendula’s brilliant orange and yellow petals beckon children like colorful crayons, making the plant a perfect introduction to the world of herbal healers.

Calendula is often a main ingredient in herbal salves.  It appears to speed wound healing by proving the production of collagen and increasing blood flow to the area.  Making a salve at home is easy and fun.  Combine 1 1/2 oz. dried or 3 oz fresh calendula petals with 1 cup olive oil and simmer over very low heat for 20 minutes.  In another pan (use a double boiler, or a glass measuring cup set over a small pan of water), slowly melt 1/2 oz beeswax; pour it into the mixture of calendula and oil, and stir well.  Add 1/8 tsp. vitamin E oil, which acts as a preservative.  To test salve for consistency, refrigerate a small amount for 3-5 minutes.  If it comes out too soft, add more beeswax; if it’s too hard, add more olive oil.  When salve has reached the desired consistency, pour it into a jar and cover.


chamomile soothes tummies and eases tensionChamomile (Anthemis nobilis or Matricaria chamomilla) Chamomile’s smiling flower faces are as sweet as its fragrance.  It’s amazing that this beautiful little plant contains so much beneficial medicine!  Chamomile is good for easing an upset tummy, soothing inflamed skin and taming irritable tempers.  In A Kid’s Herb Book, Lesley Tierra recommends this recipe for Tummy Ache Tea to ease indigestion and aid in eliminating gas:  Pour 1 cup boiling water over 2 teaspoons dried chamomile, 1 teaspoon dried lemon balm and 1/4 teaspoon ginger.  Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  Strain, sweeten to taste and dispense in 1/4-1/2 cup doses.


lemon balm soothes a restless moodLemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) A member of the mint family, lemon balm is calming, antiviral and easy to cultivate.  Its Latin species name, officinalis, tells us that lemon balm was “officially” used by medieval monks and nuns who often acted as doctors.  Typically, lemon balm is used to induce a sense of serenity, but you can also find it in topical remedies for cold sores due to its antiviral properties. Lemon balm tea safely soothes an irritable, restless mood and is best prepared as an infusion because of its lemony and fragrant volatile oils.  Use a large handful of fresh or 1 teaspoon dried lemon balm per cup of tea.  Boil water, pour it over the herb cover and let mixture sit for 15 minutes.  Strain and enjoy!

Written by Carole Blemker, R.N., R.D.
Edited by Amy Baker and Jennifer Helmer

Herbal Teas for Inner Warmth

Herbal Teas for Inner WarmthWinter just doesn’t get much crazier than this! As we contend with the snow, ice, record-breaking temperature fluctuations and arctic wind chills marking this winter season, it’s more important than ever to stay warm, inside and out.  Herbal teas are delicious and effective allies in fighting the cold (and fighting colds and flu!).

Did you know that some herbs have warming properties? Think about chili peppers … hot, right?  Though you wouldn’t want to steep a pot of straight cayenne tea, adding a pinch to a basket of chai spices can add warmth and depth to your mix.  Other plants boast similar, though less intense, warming qualities.  Think ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, black pepper and fennel … even pine needles!  Such herbs often have other benefits, too, like aiding digestion, improving circulation and thinning mucous.

Prepared Herbal Teas

While we love blending our own herbs and spices, we adore being able to quickly pull a high-quality tea bag or two from the drawer and steep a pot in minutes.  At Community Pharmacy and Community Wellness Shop, we offer a large assortment of  thoughtfully blended herbal teas to keep you warm and cozy through the winter.  And if you’re dealing with a health issue that demands some TLC, we’ve got you covered there, too.   Some of our current favorites:

Traditional MedicinalsBreathe Easy (fennel, ginger, licorice, peppermint, eucalyptus and bi yan pian), Gypsy Cold Care (elderflower, yarrow, hyssop, ginger, cinnamon and more), Ginger & Chamomile.

GaiaBronchial Wellness (eucalyptus, grindelia, helichrysum, licorice, peppermint, plantain, star anise, thyme), Sinus Comfort (cinnamon, Eucalyptus, Ginger Root, Green Tea, Holy Basil, Licorice, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage Leaves, Thyme)

Organic India – Turmeric Ginger (turmeric, ginger, tulsi, black pepper, cinnamon, clove)Sweet Rose (chamomile, tulsi, rose, lemongrass)

Yogi – Breathe Deep (licorice, thyme, eucalyptus, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger), Echinacea Immune Support (echinacea, elderberry, mullein, licorice, peppermint, lemongrass)

Four Elements – Love, Joy, Passion ( Lemon balm, borage, passionflower, damiana, hibiscus, rose, stevia, cinnamon, ginger), To Your Health (nettle, echinacea, dandelion, red clover, burdock, elderflower, rose hips, orange peel, cloves)

Juniper Ridge –  Douglas Fir Spring Tips, White Sage & Wild Mint

Keep a variety of tea blends in your cupboard or drawer and steep them when you need to warm up, or any time you just need a little TLC.   And be sure to pop a few in your purse or bag so that you can have a delicious, healthy, steaming cup at the ready, even when you’re out and about.

By: Amy Baker






Introducing Community Wellness Shop


Beginning Saturday, February 11th, our Middleton location will be known as Community Wellness Shop.  We will no longer be filling prescriptions at our Middleton location, though we will continue selling herbs, supplements, homeopathics, natural body care products and over-the-counter medicine.  Our hours will remain the same (MondayFriday 10am – 6pm; Saturday 10 am – 5 pm).  Why the change?  While our retail sales in Middleton continue to grow, maintaining our prescription area in Middleton is not a viable option for our business.

To our current Middleton prescription customersTHANK YOU! We are sincerely grateful for your loyalty these past 15 months, especially during the change to limited prescription hours.

Unless you contact us sooner, we will be transferring all active prescriptions from our Middleton location to our downtown location on Friday, February 10th. If you’d prefer to transfer your prescriptions to a different pharmacy, please contact the pharmacy of your choice directly and they will make the transfers for you.

We are excited to serve our community with the same high-quality products and expertise. We hope that you continue to choose Community Wellness Shop (University Ave. in Middleton) and Community Pharmacy (downtown Madison) as your local health resource.