5 Herbal Teas to Support Your Child’s Health
“Catnip for children? I thought that was only for my furry feline baby!” Surprise! Catnip is good for human children, too. Though some people are hesitant to use healing herbal teas with their children, the right ones can not only provide an alternative beverage to milk, juice, and water, they can also support their health. I routinely recommend the following five herbal teas which are safe for kids and can help with some common complaints, varying slightly in their indication and function.
Teas that benefit children
Children of all ages can drink these teas, including breastfed infants. Chamomile and peppermint are especially good to use with colicky babies. When giving a tea to an infant, offer it directly to the baby between feedings, no more than a tablespoon at a time. Too much tea can fill an infant’s stomach so they will not want to breastfeed, decreasing stimulation at the breast which decreases milk production.
Yes, if you have cats, they will complain about sharing their plant with your child. But now you can have a happy cat and a happy child! Catnip is used to support digestion, the immune system, and relax the nervous system. It is also helpful for children who may suffer from headaches or insomnia, and is supportive when fighting a cold. Because it has a bitter taste, it is nice to add some sweetener such as stevia leaf, or honey. Remember not to give honey to a child under 12 months of age as there is a risk of contracting botulism.
The ever popular peppermint tea is great for children who are constipated and have gas, bloating, abdominal cramps, or spasms by stimulating the intestines to move the contents out of the body. Constipation can be a result of several different factors and should be followed up with a provider if it has been going on for more than a week. Too much peppermint tea can exacerbate or cause reflux, so I recommend no more than 2-3 cups of peppermint tea a day.
Chamomile also supports digestion and is great to drink before meals to stimulate the digestive process. If a child has an upset stomach from eating too many sweets, chamomile is the herb of choice to ease the discomfort. Additionally, chamomile relaxes the nervous system and acts as an anti-inflammatory, which makes it a wonderful herb to use with a teething child or a child who is hyper or stressed. For teething, the tea can be frozen into little ice cubes and placed in a food feeder to suck and chew on. For anxious children, I recommend the child drink a cup of warm tea an hour before bed to help them relax and prepare for sleep. If you have a child who is having issues with bedwetting, have them drink the tea shortly after dinner.
Fennel is another great digestive support herb and helps with gas, stomach cramps, and spasms. Kids will love its sweet taste. Special indications for the use of this herb are children with decreased appetites or suffering from nausea and vomiting. If nausea and vomiting are the issue, it is best to have the child drink small sips at a time.
Hibiscus is a beautiful flower that grows in warm climates and is a great immune support herb. It is best used for children who have a cold, or a lot of phlegm. It is high in antioxidants and vitamin C. It has a strong sour taste and a pretty red color that children love. One caution with hibiscus is that this herb can act as a mild laxative.
Grow your own tea garden!
Catnip, peppermint, chamomile, and fennel can all be grown in the garden. For older children, it’s a fun project to grow their own medicine and later collect the fresh leaves and flowers. The herbs can also be dried and kept to be used for tea later in the season when the plants are dormant. To dry an herb, you can tie the stems together and hang up in a place away from sunlight. Sunlight will damage the drying herb. Once your plant is dried, collect the leaves or flowers and store in a glass jar in a cool, dark cupboard.
If growing your own isn’t possible, you can buy these at many stores or try finding them in bulk to cut down on packaging. Unfortunately, even tea needs to be purchased with a critical eye. I have had patients believe they had a reaction to certain teas but later learned they were not reacting to the herb, but the added components in the tea. Certain brands of tea use artificial flavors, sugar, or other additives which may be described as “natural flavours.” This is a broad term with no standard meaning. Avoid purchasing teas with these ingredients, and make sure you are getting just the herb you want.
A cuppa good medicine!
- Boil a cup (8 oz/250 mL) of water and pour it over a tablespoon of the herb.
- Catnip, peppermint, chamomile, and fennel all have essential oils which are part of the medicine, so it is important to cover the tea cup as the herbs steep in the boiled water.
- Allow to steep for 10 minutes if using the leaf, flower, or berry of a plant as is the case for catnip, peppermint, chamomile, and hibiscus tea. Fennel is a seed and needs to steep a total of 20 minutes.
- Remove the herb from the tea with a strainer, and let the tea sit covered until it has cooled.
With anything new, it is important to watch your child for any reaction after you introduce it. Reactions can look like a rash, headache, or symptoms that are worse than before the tea. If you notice any of these, have your child discontinue drinking it. Also, it is important to drink these teas in moderation and avoid excess. For a symptomatic child, I recommend up to 3 cups of tea per day of the chosen herb.
This will be a very strong but good medicinal tea and your child will enjoy the warm, comforting effects it delivers. Especially if there’s a cat nearby to snuggle up to!