One of the challenges of children swallowing a tea, capsules or tincture is that herbs don’t taste like everyday food. Children can be reluctant enough to try something new, especially so when they already feel poorly.
I have found the best way to counter this is to make herbs a part of everyday life rather than something new and strange that only happens when one is sick.
Are Herbs New or Part of a Healthy Lifestyle?
Use plants as spices in food or as a pleasant iced peppermint tea on a hot summer day. Make salad or pesto with dandelion leaves. Herbs should be familiar to the child. Don’t introduce something new, strange and exotic during the flu.
Do You Grow or Collect Herbs as a Family Activity?
Children will be more open to tasting and drinking healing plants if they are a part of the gardening and growing process. Everyone likes to pinch a few mint leaves near the kitchen door or snip off some basil from a potted plant in the window. The gardening approach can be as simple or involved as makes sense for the individual family.
If wildcrafting, have the young ones be part of the identification, picking, and drying process. Children need to be involved with long term projects rather than the shorter, one-time-period lessons so common in mainstream schools.
There are several ways to prepare herbs; to make the change from a jar of dried leaves to something palatable to an eight year old. Children are more likely to eat vegetable soup if they are part of the chopping process in the kitchen. It is the same with herbs. Involve the child in the salve, tea, cough syrup or chest rub creations. This gives them an active part of the healing process rather than having something done to them in a passive way.
Is Connection to Nature a Part of the Family Life?
Nature provides, nourishes, heals. Many people don’t realize this because they are cut off from the outside world. This is becoming more of an issue with each generation as electronic games become more addicting and the outside world is presented as something dangerous and foreign.
Going camping, bike riding, fishing, having pets and gardening are all great ways to connect with the natural world, the real world. This connection can carry over to the use of plants to help bring us back into balance.
The book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv is an excellent resource for more ideas in this area.
Must Herbs Always be Sweet or Can Your Child Ingest the Flavors of Nature?
Many herb books give tips about making herbs more palatable by adding honey or some other sweetener. While this may be effective short term, it misses the bigger picture.
Nature and real food have a wide range of flavors and textures. The flavors of herbs and wild greens will taste different from processed food. Being familiar and open to these different experiences is a big part of using herbs as a lifestyle as opposed to using them simply as an alternative to drugs.
Using a sweetener to change the natural taste of an herbal preparation is not the end of the world. However, it is better if the child is able to appreciate food (and herbs) that are not always sweet and creamy or salty and crunchy.
Obviously, this is a gradual lifestyle change and not something to start when a young one has a fever of 101.5! I have seen many adults make faces the first time they taste wild greens or sip nettle tea. I remember those days myself. Now, almost any flavor of herb tastes good to me because I know it is part of the whole picture, of knowing a plant well. Children are very capable of liking flavors beyond syrupy sweet if given the chance.
One of my students had an eight year old boy who never ate vegetables. It seems he lived on carbs and meat, for the most part. A big change came when he was introduced to the wild green, goosefoot (Chenopodium spp.). Eating leaves from the forest was novel enough that he ate his share of vegetables all summer while playing outside.
This is a very different experience from putting frozen spinach on the dinner plate and expecting a child to be excited about it.