Parent and Children Resources – Common Herbs for Women and Children
Herbs have been used for centuries by indigenous peoples, including in the Hawaiian culture. Now that the government
and the drug companies are recalling commonly used pharmaceutical drugs, more and more people are beginning to look
to botanical herbs and natural substances for relief from their medical conditions.
In our modern world where toxic chemicals, xenotoxins (chemicals which disrupt hormone levels), heavy metals, pollutants,
herbicides, industrial waste contaminants, bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections run rampant, it is comforting
to realize that nature has provided us with natural plant medicines which can help to de-toxify, to de-stress, to
balance, and to disinfects the body.
Slippery Elm Powder
Slippery elm powder(ulmus fulva) is perhaps my all time favorite herb for women and children. It usually can be
found in health food stores as a fine, soft silky powder. It comes from the inner bark of the elm tree. Mixed with
water or juice, it can be drunk to soothe upset stomach, nervous stomach, and diarrhea. Taken in this form, it travels
down the digestive system from the mouth to the stomach to the intestine and soothes the lining of the gut.
It is a demulcent, meaning that it is soothing to the mucosal membranes. A popular children’s formula is to
mix a few tablespoons of slippery elm powder with juice or water, cook over low heat, adding a little honey, stevia,
maple syrup, or zylital, some fruit, such as bananas or papaya to make a gruel or healthy oatmeal porridge recipe. Slippery elm is also
a nutritive, which means that it has a strengthening effect upon people who are elderly, sick, or malnourished. Slippery
elm powder can also be added to infant rice pabulum or cereal. Topically, slippery elm powder can be mixed with olive
oil and/or cocoa butter to create an ointment which prevents skin from becoming itchy and dry.
Here is the formula: Mix together ½ cups of olive oil and 3 tablespoons of slippery elm bark in a skillet
and gently fry for 5 minutes. Be careful not to let the oil or herb burn. Add 2 tablespoons of cocoa butter. Fry
for 10 minutes, strain, then pour the strained liquid into a labeled, dated jar. Refrigerate until solid. Discard
after 2 months or if it smells rancid. This ointment is good for preventing diaper rash or cradle cap. If the rash
does not improve or respond after 3-4 days, or if the condition spreads or worsens, consult a physician.
Fennel seed (foeniculum vulgare) is an excellent stomach and intestinal remedy which relieves flatulence and colic
while at the same time stimulating the digestion and appetite. It has a calming effect upon the bronchial tubes,
thus, making it excellent for bronchitis and coughs.
Fennel wears many hats. First as a carminative, which means that it soothes the stomach, and also as an expectorant
which is good for clearing out the mucous and phlegm during respiratory infections. It is also an aromatic, which
means that it has a pleasantly strong odor. It can be used as a flavoring agent in cough syrups. Another property
of fennel is its ability to increase the milk flow in lactating women. So it is wonderful to make a tea out of the
seeds if you are a nursing mother and do not have enough milk. However, if you have too much milk, you may want to
forgo fennel tea and flavoring. Fennel has also been used in recent herbal preparations to purportedly increase breast
size. Fennel contains a strong volatile oil and might also have a weak estrogen receptor site effect, so it is best
not to use this herb during pregnancy.
Motherwort (leonurus cardiaca) is my all time favorite herb for menopause and menstrual balancing. It is excellent
for stimulation of delayed or suppressed menstruation, especially where anxiety and tension is involved. It is useful
as a relaxant tonic for menopause and is an excellent heart strengthening tonic, especially for overactive heart
rate or tachycardia.
Motherwort wears many hats first as a sedative, which has a calming effect upon the system, then as an emmenagogue,
which stimulates menstrual flow, and as an anti-spasmodic, which relaxes muscles, and finally as a cardiac tonic,
which strengthens the heart muscle. This herb contains bitter glycosides, however, the taste is a gentle licorice-like
taste to many women. It also contains a volatile oil and tannins which give it a slight astringent taste. It is best
taken in liquid tincture form or in standardized and/or freeze dried capsule form.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is a gentle soothing herb noted for its endless list of medical and household
uses. It is an excellent gentle sedative for both children and adults alike, useful for anxiety and insomnia. Made
as a strong tea, it can be used as a mouthwash for sore and inflamed ulcers and gingivitis of the gums or teething
Topically it has proven useful for wound healing, inflammation of eyes, skin, and mucosal membranes. As a gargle
it is good for sore throats, and can be used as a steam inhalant for nasal congestion and phlegm. For digestive gas
and flatulence, it has soothing properties for the stomach. Chamomile has a strong anti-inflammatory action upon
any surface of the body.
Herbs to be avoided during pregnancy include:
- Autumn Crocus
- Black Cohosh
- Blue Cohosh
- Golden Seal
- Male fern
- Polk Root
While the above herbs are not strong enough to induce abortion or miscarriage, they should not be taken during pregnancy
because of their toxicity to the body and the fetus.
The herbs mentioned in this article are just a few of the many botanical plant substances which can be useful to
us in helping to ease many common symptoms or complaints. For the most part, it is not necessary to use more potent
chemical drugs when natural plant preparations can provide the same or better relief without the harmful side effects.
I encourage all of you to have fun with natural herbs, to discover their wonderfully healing properties, and to
experiment with making your own medicines in the form of teas or ointments or washes. I think that you will be pleasantly
surprised at the discovery that the body may actually enjoy or crave taking natural substances. One benefit to using
natural medicines is that it will not mask the symptoms nor suppress them. However, what these plant medicines will
do is to allow the healing power of the body to unmask and to reveal itself just as nature intended. A final caveat:
if there is no improvement to a medical condition in a few days, do not wait for the problem to spread or get worse.
Please see your doctor.
By Dr. Leia Melead
Resources for Parents
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