When prescribed by a qualified naturopath or herbalist, children often respond very quickly to herbal medicine. Their little bodies want to function optimally and herbs can be the gentle little reminder they need to get back into balance.
BUT – how are you going to get herbal medicine into a child?
How do I get my child to take herbal medicine?
This is a question we come across quite often and for good reason. If you’re ever been prescribed herbal medicine yourself, you’re going to be familiar with the taste.
You’re probably thinking, “well that was hard enough for me to take – how am I going to get it into my child?”
Honestly this can put a lot of parents off and keep them from looking into naturopathic medicine as a treatment avenue for their children.
A quick background on herbal medicine
Sometimes the taste is part of the therapeutic process. We want bitter tasting medicine to stimulate the secretion of saliva and digestive enzymes. So when you mask that unpleasant bitter taste with something sweet, you unfortunately lose part of the therapeutic benefit.
Now, the need for bitter tasting herbs isn’t something that is usually indicated for young children. So the kind of herbs that you may have taken in the past are not necessarily going to taste anything like the herbs your child may be prescribed.
Why does it have to be in liquid form?
Prescribing herbs in liquid form gives naturopaths more control over what herbs to include in your child’s prescription. Every herb has a different action in the body and different combinations of herbs can do very different things.
Liquid herbs are often stronger than a herbal tablet and are absorbed faster and more effectively by the body. So this could mean your child only needs to take a few drops of a liquid herb twice per day, but would need to take the tablet alternative more often.
It’s also worth pointing out the difference in dosing
A typical adult dose of liquid herbal medicine is 15ml per day, that can be divided across 2 or 3 doses.
Depending on the age of the child we’re treating, the dose is usually significantly less than this. Often it’s just a couple of drops, once in the morning and once in the evening.
Because we don’t need to worry about losing any therapeutic benefits by masking the taste of the herbs, we can hide it in something yummy.
What are our options for masking the taste?
As a quick example, at the moment we’re giving our own children an orange flavored zinc and vitamin C supplement to support their respiratory tracts and immune systems. They’re also taking some liquid herbs to further support their immune systems and some herbs to support memory and focus now that they’re back at school.
We’re adding their yummy orange juice flavored zinc and vitamin C to their water bottles every morning. Then we put 5 drops of liquid herbs in as well. They can’t taste the herbs and they think they’ve hit the jackpot. In their minds, their naturopath mum is putting orange cordial in their water bottles every day and I’ve saved all of us the hassle of trying to get medicine into two kids twice per day.
WHY CAN’T THE HERBS AUTOMATICALLY BE COMBINED WITH SOMETHING TO MASK THE TASTE?
Because every child is different. Every child has different likes and dislikes and just because my own two children love orange flavoured vitamin C doesn’t mean that your child will.
Another distinct characteristic of naturopathic medicine is that treatments are personalized for each and every patient. So automatically prescribing orange flavoured vitamin C to every child along with their herbal prescription may not always be the way to go.
This is because I don’t want to prescribe unnecessarily – maybe your child doesn’t need additional vitamin C supplemented as part of their herbal prescription.
If you’ve already got a herbal prescription at home, what are your options?
Depending on the dosing instructions given by your child’s naturopath, you may be able to divide the dose up throughout the day. Maybe 1 drop 4 times a day diluted in water rather than all at once, so the taste isn’t as strong.
Alternatively, you can measure the dose in a syringe with equal parts water and administer the dose towards the back of your child’s mouth, aiming at their cheek. This will bypass their taste buds.
If they’re happy to have the dose themselves out of a medicine cup, make sure you’ve got a drink ready for them afterwards! A great healthy alternative to fizzy drinks or juice is a naturally brewed kombucha – they’re bubby and fruity and there’s a huge range of flavours.
Speaking as mums, we love the approach of adding the herbs to their flavoured nutritional supplement.
This way there’s no bribing, no one is getting upset, and we fill their water bottles up anyway so there’s no time lost on a supplement regime in the mornings which are obviously already busy enough for all of us.