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"Expert" Questions and answers on herbs -- for children, goldenseal, and more

Q: Are there alternative herbs to the endangered goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)?

A: Goldenseal is native to eastern North America, where Native Americans used its bitter-tasting, yellow roots to treat a wide range of conditions and infections. Because goldenseal has been overharvested to supply mainly the North American market, wild sources have been severely depleted. Considered a protected plant by several Eastern states, the federal government, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), goldenseal has been cultivated to prevent extinction while supplying increased demand.

If you can’t purchase a product made with cultivated goldenseal, try a few nonendangered alternatives, such as the roots of both yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica) and Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium). Well-known in Latino communities, yerba mansa is an anti-inflammatory that helps heal sinus infections, stomach ulcers, and gum and lung inflammations. It is also antibacterial and antifungal. Also long used by Latinos, Oregon grape (and its related species) has strong antimicrobial and antibiotic properties and is used to treat stomach inflammations and bacterial or fungal infections.

(Published in Delicious Living, February 2004)


Q. If you choose an herbal remedy for your children, how can you get them to take it?

A. You're wise to teach your children to take charge of their health, and using natural remedies can be a part of that. Herbal remedies are suitable for many common childhood ailments, such as teething, headaches, colds, allergies, flu, and stomachaches, but be certain the treatments you choose are safe for children and come in doses appropriate for each child's age and size.

Picking an herbal medicine is only half the battle, however. Winning the battle means getting your children to take their medicine, preferably without a lot of fuss. A pleasing taste is especially important. A great reference for parents is Kids, Herbs, and Health by Linda B. White and Sunny Mavor (Interweave, 1999), which lists herbs safe for children along with a chart of taste ratings by kids. As parents instinctively know, a spoonful of something sweet actually does help the medicine go down. Infants can get their medicine through Mom's naturally sweet breast milk, or, if you're bottle-feeding, mix a single dose appropriate for an infant into formula, which is also already sweet. For young children, try syrups (don't give honey-sweetened syrups to children under age 1) or herbal glycerites. A glycerite is an alcohol-free herbal extract made with glycerin, which has the consistency of syrup and is naturally sweet, yet easy to digest. It's a good option if you don't want the hyperactivity that can come along with a measure of heavily sugar-sweetened syrup. Older kids may like honey- or maple-syrup-sweetened medicinal-strength herbal teas. Peppermint, chamomile, rose hips, and lemon balm make tasty teas for children. Also, several herbal companies have lines of alcohol-free products specifically formulated for children.

(Published in Delicious Living's e-newsletter, June 18, 2003)
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