As a child I remember drinking many different concoctions meant to heal — magic marker soaked in water, toasted teddy-bear (really!) and even dirt mixed with dew. Until early last year I assumed every child went through that stage. Last April, however, my perspective changed. I was busy doing gardening, cooking, writing and other tasks all afternoon while Safia was playing make-believe with her friend. After her friend left for the day she shared with me, ”Mama, Lily was feeling sick so I made her some peppermint tea, I gave her a chamomile tummy rub and a reflexology treatment in the tummy area of her hand and she said she felt better.” Safia was so proud of herself and I was, too. Not only did she have the desire to heal, as many children do, she had the tools to do it properly.
It never ceases to amaze me what children can do when we give them the proper tools and education. Children as young as three learn to pour liquids from a glass pitcher in Montessori and Waldorf classrooms. Not because they have super powers of coordination, but because their teachers believe in giving them the proper tools, teaching them technique and giving them opportunities to practice, allowing them to make mistakes in a safe environment, and empowering them to become active participants in their community. Using these same principles we can also teach children to heal themselves and to heal others. Just as we teach the child to pour from a heavy pitcher, we can also teach the child to combine herbs to produce a certain result. We can even use the same process show them the tools, teach them technique, make them aware of safety and show them the desired result.
Show Them the Tools
To keep the initial process simple I recommend teaching the child one method of healing. Herbal teas are the safest method as they are usually mild in strength, there is no danger of overdose as there might be with tinctures, and there is no risk of injury as there might be with concentrated essential oils. Toddlers and young children can be shown where different cold teas are kept in the refrigerator and pictures can be put on the containers to let them know what the teas are for. Older children from ages 7-10 are able to read labels on teas in the refrigerator. Children 12-years-old and up are able to make the teas themselves. For a toddler or kindergarten child their tools will be the pictured containers in the refrigerator. For child in first through fifth grade their tools will be a labeled container in the refrigerator and for a child 12-years-old and up their tools will be containers of dried herbs, teaspoons, water, and a measuring container.
Teach Them Technique & Safety
When teaching technique a toddler simply needs to know how to pour the herbs into a glass and what the pictures mean (perhaps a picture of a person blowing their nose for runny nose tea?) A young child needs to know how to read the labels and perhaps how to heat up the tea on the stove. The 12-year-old (and up) child needs to know how to boil water, how to measure a teaspoon of dried herb into a cup, how to pour a measured amount of boiling water over the herbs, how to time the steeping for 15 minutes, how to strain the herbs and then how and when to serve them. All ages should be given three important safety instructions: do not serve more than one glass of tea, do not use more than one teaspoon of herb, and an adult should be told about the tea being served (so they can monitor for possible side-effects or allergies as is customary in all herbal healing).
Show Them the Desired Result
For all ages the desired result can be illustrated with creative titles and pictures. For example, instead of calling a tea Immune Support Tea, which is a complex concept to understand, a tea could be called Sunlight Scares Away the Sickness Vampire Tea (or something different for a younger child, this is the name my 12-year-old thought up for her friends). A picture for this tea could show a sick person changing into a healthy person, illustrated like a super-hero change picture. I’ve provided some of our favorite formulas below with name and picture ideas to go with them.
Elderberries for runny nose and colds works better than a Kleenex!
1 tsp. dried elderberries
1 cup of water
Soak 1 teaspoon of elderberries in 1 cup of water overnight. Strain in the morning and drink. To make a larger batch of tea you can increase the quantities of each item by multiplying by the number of cups you want to prepare. So, for example you can make this same recipe with 4 teaspoons of dried elderberries and 4 cups of water. Serve the tea in 1/8 cup servings for toddlers, 1/4 cup servings for children and 1/2 cup servings for adults.
Gingerbread Ice-Skating Tea
This is a warming tea to help you stay warm while building a snow-man, ice-skating or other activities. It also contains the blood sugar balancing fenugreek so you can play longer and not have to come inside for a snack as often!
1 tsp. dried ginger
1 tsp. dried fenugreek
1 whole anise star
½ tsp. whole cloves
½ tsp. cinnamon
4 cups of water
Measure all the herbs into a glass container. Pour 4 cups of water over the mixture. Let the mixture sit overnight in the container. Strain the herbs out in the morning. Store in the refrigerator and serve ¼ cup at a time for children and ½ cup at a time for adults. This tea is best when warmed over the stove before serving.
Sunlight Scares Away the Sickness Vampire Tea
This tea helps chase away winter blues and strengthens the immune system too!
1 tsp. dried St. John’s Wort flowers
1 tsp. dried rosemary
2 cups of water
Measure herbs into a covered pot with the cover off. Boil 2 cups of water. Pour the boiling water over the herbs. Let herbs sit in the water (steep) for 15 minutes. Strain the herbs out. Serve the tea in ¼ cup servings for toddlers, ½ cup servings for children and 1 cup servings for adults.
Dr. Kristie Karima Burns, MH, ND is a dedicated certified educator in many fields. As a Naturopathic Doctor and Master Herbalist she teaches adults and children about herbs through TheBEarthInstitute and as a certified Wildlife Educator through APWE she supports Wildlife Education through her work at the Non-Profit Organization, PellaWildlifeCompany and through her production of a Certified Wildlife Educator’s Course online. As a passionate Early Waldorf Childhood Educator she offers lesson blocks, e-books and full Waldorf-inspired curriculum through Earthschooling.