Kids Herbs Handout Tchipakkan © 2008
The first thing anyone has to say with any herbal lecture is that no one except medical professionals is allowed to practice medicine without a license. When you go to a doctor, if you are using any herbs you should always tell him or her. He may not know about herbs, but he can look them up and see if they will interact with anything he wants to give you. When you take herbs and drugs together, or two herbs or two drugs, they can act differently than if you took them each separately. That’s for anyone. But when you are a kid, you have to check with your parents. There’s a difference between what you can do, and what you may do. Your parents may know something you don’t- and even if you know something they don’t, you still may have to convince them before you can do it. It’s not worth getting in trouble.
Some herbs are growing outside, some you can find in the spice cupboard. Make sure you have permission before you pick or use anything. Getting permission also includes tools like knives, books, mortar and pestle, or the stove. Different families have different rules about kids using these tools. Always get permission first.
Don’t believe anyone who says herbs are all safe. If they didn’t do anything, we wouldn’t bother using them. They do help heal us, but that means they can also hurt someone if they are sensitive, or if the dose is wrong, or if it interacts with something else. If you ever use something and it begins to hurt, sting, turn red or bother you, stop using it, spit it out, wash it off, and get help. It may be something else, but always be careful.
Many herbs just grow where you can find them. The first book you’ll want to get is a field guide for your own area. Since I live in New England, I like the Peterson Field Guide East/Central for Medicinal Plants. When you pick a plant, make sure it hasn’t been sprayed with anything. Most of the sprays people put on lawns and garden are poisonous. Also, if the plants are growing near a road, the fumes from the cars can leave a poisonous residue on them. Some things you can see on a plant like bird or dog droppings, thin coatings of poison you can’t. If it’s within 100 feet of a road, don’t use it. (I will say here though, that soap and water are your best medicine- they will wash off most germs. Washing your hands often is the best way to stay well, and it’s better to not get sick than to treat it with an herb after you are.)
Pick leaves when they are young, before the flowers form, if possible. Pick flowers when they have just opened, pick fruit when it is ripe, seeds when they turn brown, and collect roots in the fall. Dry herbs in the shade. Harvest herbs in the morning when the dew has evaporated, and before the sun is too hot. Only pick what you are going to use, and don’t pick more than one third of whatever is growing in an area. Never pick endangered plants. Thank the plants and give them something in return- water them, send them some energy, pick up and take away trash in their area. If you take the whole plant, you can tie them by their stems and hang them head down to dry, if just the leaves you can dry them on a screen or a clean cloth.
Ways to use herbs:
Poultice: Crush the fresh herb and put in on your skin, or moisten some dried herb with warm water and put that on the skin.
Compress: Make a strong infusion, and dip a clean cloth in the warm tea, and put it on the skin, change cloths as it cools.
Teas: take a teaspoon of herb and put it in a cup of boiling water, let it sit for three minutes if you are drinking it for flavor, for 5-10 minutes if you are taking it for effect. Strain and drink. Leaves get boiling water poured on them, that’s an infusion. Seeds, bark and roots get put in the boiling water and simmered (not boiled) for 3-5 minutes, that’s a decoction. If you are mixing the two, simmer the roots, then take off the heat and add the leaves, and let sit.
Oil: put the herb in a jar and cover with olive oil. Cover and let sit in the sun, shaking once a day. After 10-14 days, strain out the herbs. Label and store in a dark place. You can also gently heat the herb in the oil for about an hour, but I prefer cold infusing. St Johns Wort flowers turns the oil a lovely red.
Ointment: take an oil and melt a little beeswax in in- about half and half makes a nice soft ointment.
Tincture: Fill a bottle or jar with the herbs and cover with vinegar- let sit for 3-4 weeks, shaking every day, strain, and lable. Vinegar tinctures last a year, (if an adult helps you, you can use alcohol and it will last ten years). Use enough vinegar to cover the herbs. Tinctures are used by the drop- usually for very nasty tasting herbs. (Vinegar tinctures do tend to rust the inside of the lid.)
Syrup: Make a tea of an ounce of herb and a pint of water, reduce to a cup. Strain, then add honey- at least 2 tablespoons.
Always put on all the ingredients, as well as the date on the label.
These are some good herbal books:
Jack Ritchason, Little Herb Encyclopedia
Louse Tenney, Today’s Herbal Health
Andrew Chevallier, The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
Frankie Avalon Wolfe The Complete Idiots Guide to Herbal Remedies
Readers Digest Magic and Medicine of Plants
Peterson’s Guide to Medicinal Plants
These are some of my favorite herbs, organized by what they are good for:
Allergies/Asthma: Chickweed, elderflower, Garlic, Mullein, Parsley, Violet
Bad breath: Cloves, Parsley, Peppermint
Bladder problems/ bedwetting: basil, birch, chamomile, Comfrey, corn-silk, cranberry, Horsetail, Nettle, Parsley, Peach, Plantain, Red Clover, Shepherds’ Purse, Yarrow, Yellow Dock
Bruises: Capsicum, Comfrey, Calendula, Mullein, Rose Hips, Thyme, Wintergreen, Yarrow
Bug bites, stings: Echinacea, Plantain, feverfew, Plantain, Rose Hips, St. Johns Wort, Yarrow, Yellow Dock
Burns: Aloe Vera, Chickweed, Comfrey, lavender, Plantain, Red Clover, Yarrow
Cramps, menstrual: Caraway, chamomile, dandelion, Calendula, Peppermint, Plantain, Rose Hips, St. John’s Wort, Violet
Colds/ flu: Anise, basil, capsicum, catnip, Chickweed, Cinnamon, Echinacea, elderflower, Garlic, Ginger, Lemon, Lemon Balm, Licorice, Mullein, Peppermint, Raspberry, Red Clover, Rose Hips, Sage, Yarrow
Cold feet: Capsicum
Constipation: (drink more) chamomile, Licorice, Nettle, Peach, Peppermint, Raspberry
Cough: Anise, Borage, Chamomile, Chickweed, coltsfoot, elderflower, fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Licorice, Calendula, Mullein, Nettle, Parsley, Peach, Plantain, Raspberry, Red Clover, Sage, St. John’s Wort, Thyme, Violet
Cuts/scrapes: Comfrey, Echinacea, Horsetail, Calendula, Mullein (diaper rash), Nettle, Plantain, Self Heal, Shepherds Purse, St. John’s Wort, Yarrow
Depression: St. Johns Wort (careful about the light sensitivity side effect)
Diarrhea: blackberry, blueberries, catnip, Cinnamon, cloves, comfrey, Ginger, Calendula, Mullein, Nettle, Plantain, Raspberry, Sage, Shepherds’ Purse, St. John’s Wort, Strawberry Leaves, Thyme
Earache (compress): chamomile, elderflower, Garlic, Calendula, Mullein, Rose-hips
Fevers- drink soothing teas- mint, chamomile, elderflower, feverfew, Ginger, Lemon, Peppermint, Plantain, Raspberry, Rose Hips, Sage, Strawberry Leaves, Thyme
Headache: Basil, celery, chamomile, feverfew Ginger, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Rose Hips, Sage, Thyme, Wintergreen, Yarrow
Hiccups: Catnip, sugar
Insomnia/ bad dreams: Catnip, chamomile, Garlic, Lemon Balm, Mullein, Peach, Peppermint, St. Johns Wort
Migraine headaches: feverfew- preventative
Nails, brittle: Horsetail
Nausea, car sickness/vomiting: Alfalfa, Anise, Catnip, Cinnamon, Cloves, Echinacea, fennel, feverfew, Garlic, Ginger, Lemon Balm, Peach, Peppermint, Pineappleweed, Raspberry, Sage, Strawberry Leaves, Thyme, Wintergreen
Nervousness/stress: celery, chamomile, mints, elderflower, fennel, feverfew, Lemon Balm, Mullein, Peach, Peppermint, Raspberry, Red Clover, Sage, St. John’s Wort, Strawberry Leaves, Thyme
Nettle Sting: Dock leaves
Nosebleed: Horsetail, Yarrow
Poison Ivy: Jewelweed, plantain, sweet fern
Salads: Bee Balm, Borage, Nasturtium, Calendula, Johnny Jump up, Wood sorrel, Dandelion
Sore Throat: Capsicum, chamomile, Echinacea, Garlic, Ginger, Lemon, Licorice, Raspberry, Rose Hips, Sage, Thyme, Wintergreen
Stuffy nose/sinus: blackberry, Chickweed, coltsfoot, comfrey, elderflower, feverfew, Garlic, Lemon, Mullein, Peach, Sage, Thyme, Yarrow
Teething: chamomile Raspberry
Toothache: Anise, Caraway, clove, Garlic, Ginger
Warts: Cinnamon, Garlic
Zits, skin problems: birch, burdock, catnip, Chickweed, dandelion, Echinacea, elderflower, Nettle, Calendula, Plantain, Red Clover, St. John’s Wort, Strawberry Leaves, Violet, Yellow Dock
Aloe Vera, Anise, Basil, Bee balm, Birch, Blackberry, Borage, Burdock, Calendula, Capsicum, Caraway, Catnip, Celery, Chamomile, Chickweed, Cinnamon, Clove, Coltsfoot, Comfrey, Corn silk, Cranberry, Dandelion, Echinacea, Elderflower, Evening Primrose, Fennel, Feverfew, Garlic, Ginger, Horsetail, Jewelweed, Johnny Jump-up, Lemon, Lemon Balm, Licorice, Mullein, Nettle, Nasturtium, Parsley, Peach, Peppermint (spearmint), Pine Needles, Pineappleweed, Plantain, Pumpkin seeds, Raspberry, Red Clover, Rose Hips, Sage, Self Heal, Shepherds Purse, St. Johns Wort, Strawberry Leaves, Thyme, Violet, Wintergreen, Wood Sorrel, Yarrow, Yellow Dock
Feel free to e-mail me with questions, corrections or additions. Tchipakkan@tds.net