While we know Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is the mantra of a greener lifestyle, once you really embrace organic foods, cleaning with environment friendly products, recycling as much as possible, the next logical step is to care for yourself and your family naturally as well.
Transitioning from over-the-counter and prescription medications for every ailment to treating with diet, herbs and essential oils (AKA “plant medicine”) is a huge change for many people.
Popping a pill for every illness is so easy and has become so ingrained that a change to plant medicine can seem a daunting task.
As with any other lifestyle change, it is a process and not one to be taken lightly. That being said, the long term rewards are great if you make the change the right way.
Education is Key
As a society, we are constantly bombarded with information about side effects caused by every possible medication. Just as with medications, there are side effects caused by herbal remedies and essential oils as well. If you’re using herbs and oils for medicinal purposes, you need to educate yourself about what you’re using before you use it.
You need to know not only what to use but when and how to use it. Just as you wouldn’t self-prescribe medication for a serious medical condition, you should treat plant medicine with the same respect.
Always get a sound diagnosis before treating with plant medicine just as you would with any other medication. At the outset of your path toward natural health, find a good local naturopath to talk to when you need additional information or help. And make sure you consult a naturopath, a midwife, or other licensed healthcare professional well-versed in natural healing if you have any of the following issues:
- Acute pain that doesn’t go away
- Your condition changes suddenly or drastically (and not in a good way)
- Your symptoms keep coming back
- Your symptoms don’t improve after a full week of consistent treatment
If you’re serious about using plant medicine, it is vital to find a trusted source for information. Folklore and traditional healing are educational and fascinating, but make sure you’re getting information that has been thoroughly researched. Some highly regarded sources are Earth Mama’s Herb Gallery, Aviva Romm, Rosemary Gladstar, the American Botanical Council, Dorene Peterson and the American Herbalist Guild.
When using plant medicine, more is not necessarily better. You’re much better off using small doses on a scheduled, consistent basis than giving a big dose at one time, especially with children.
As Melinda Olson, founder of Earth Mama Angel Baby says “Something to remember about plant medicine is it is processed by your body the same way your body processes food. Nettles, for example, are delicious when steamed and eaten like spinach. But, the antihistamine effect is short-lived. You wouldn’t ask your body to be sustained long term with steamed spinach, you need to eat again to be sustained.
Herbs usually go through your body quickly, which means the benefits do, too.” This is a great rule of thumb to remember when thinking about how plant medicine works in the body.
Other things to keep in mind when using plant medicine or essential oils are:
- Children are smaller and their ability to process drugs or herbs is not the same as adults. Always use a reduced dosage for children.
- Mild infusions or weak teas (¼ teaspoon or ½ teaspoon of herb to one cup of boiling water) are a good way to give herbs to your children. Always make a fresh batch each time.
- Use mild herbs for children.
- When using essential oils topically on children, use about 1 drop to 4 teaspoons of carrier oil. Their skin is thinner and they will absorb more than an adult.
- Consider the age of the child you’re treating. Some oils and herbs should never be used for infants and still others shouldn’t be used on children under the age of 10.
- Inhalation is one of the best ways to use essential oils for children. Invest in a good quality diffuser and distilled water. Diffuse for thirty minutes, stop for thirty minutes, diffuse for another thirty minutes, stop for thirty minutes, etc.
As with any lifestyle change, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of information out there. Don’t expect to be an expert overnight. Start small with a few good, all purpose herbs and oils and go from there.
When asked which five herbal remedies or plant medicines she would always keep on hand, Earth Mama Melinda Olson recommended lavender (for its antibacterial, calming and uplifting properties), yarrow (as an antifungal, antibacterial and for its ability to stop bleeding), calendula (a wonderful wound healing herb, it has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties), lemon balm (for tension, restlessness and irritability) and nettles (a great antihistamine and a must have for spring tonics).
Begin with these five herbs, some organic jojoba, coconut, olive or almond oil, self-sealing tea bags, a glass pot or teapot to heat water, and you have a great starter kit for herbal healing.
Five simple herbs may not seem like much but that is one of the wonders of plant medicine. One herb can have several constituents that make it effective for several conditions or ailments. Instead of taking a handful of pills every day, imagine having a cup of herbal tea instead! The more you learn, the more you’ll add as you see what works best for your family and what you can do without.
Above all else, have fun with compiling your plant medicine chest.
- Find local wild crafting experts and take your children on a nature walk and pick your own plants and herbs.
- Get your children in the kitchen for a nightly ritual of making homemade chamomile tea.
- Start your own herb garden. You can do this in minimal space and it makes a wonderful family project.
If you start them early and make it fun, you will be giving your children a lifetime of healthy living and family traditions to pass on for generations to come.