Herbs for you and baby
Herbs in your Home Suitable for You and Baby
A great number of our medicines, even those used on an almost daily basis, are derived in some way from plants. For example, aspirin, the active compounds (salicylates) of which were originally sourced from the herb willow bark. Interestingly, it’s estimated that up to 10 per cent of all plant species (some 25,000 to 75,000) have now been used in traditional medicine, with about 1 per cent (250-750 species) being scientifically verified as therapeutically beneficial. Even today, about 25 per cent of prescription medicines source their compounds either directly or indirectly from plants.
So, while the West seems content to move health in the direction of pharmaceutical preparations, a large proportion of the world’s population still relies primarily on plant medicines.
It’s believed that the use of whole herbs over isolated compounds provides health benefits that our bodies can better use, and with fewer side effects. Herbal medicine is one of the most ancient forms of medicine; scientifically there is an increasing amount of well-documented evidence supporting its use. The World Health Organisation (WHO) supports the use of traditional medicines and has published directives to encourage the use of ‘folk’ and ‘traditional’ medicine and help mandate its safety2. This makes sense from both an economical and health perspective.
Mother Nature stands supreme as a provider. So let’s take a closer look at how herbs in our gardens and homes may nourish and nurture us.
Why use herbal teas?
Herbs from your garden (grown without pesticides) or cupboard are well suited to childrens’ as well as family complaints and can help in the gentle effect of restoring temporary imbalances in health and wellness.
To aid their palatability – in a similar vein to Mary Poppins and her ‘teaspoon of sugar’ –
herbal teas/tisanes may be sweetened with honey (though not in children under one). However, most children will happily drink unsweetened herbal teas if you start them early enough, and they will appreciate and recognise the pleasant aroma and taste of delicate tisanes, particularly the fragrant chai spice winter concoctions.
Are herbs safe?
Generally healthy people who incorporate the use of common herbs, are very unlikely to experience any adverse effects. The same applies to children, although it’s important to remember that children are growing at a rapid rate, their bodies are still maturing and so too are many of their organs and systems, and as a consequence they will require much smaller amounts than an adult. The traditional use of herbs is considered to be safe and beneficial and, what’s more, they can also be of good nutritional value.
Bubs 0-6 months old, those not yet on solids, or those still being exclusively breastfed should not be offered herbs unless directed by a suitably qualified practitioner. At this tender age babies are still developing their intestinal immunity and their healthy gut bacteria is under construction.
Children under a year old may be given herbs via mum’s breastmilk: mum takes the herbs and then feeds the baby. This is very useful when using carminative herbs (herbs that help with flatulence and colic), such as fennel or ginger.
It is very important to note, that many herbs are contraindicated in pregnancy. Even culinary herbs should be used with caution.
If you have an existing illness or are on medication it is best to discuss any medicines, supplements or herbs with your qualified healthcare professional first.
There are many ways to prepare herbs and many ways they can be used. Other options include a tea bath or a compress of herbal tea applied to the tummy or affected area.
Is a tea better than a herb in cooking?
Sometimes. Any form of processing may result in a slight loss of some parts of the plant compounds. Herbs such as garlic lose some of their medicinal properties when we cook them. Herbs with strong aromas are particularly vulnerable, as the essential oils responsible for the lovely smell are heat sensitive. But… never fear, that doesn’t mean that all of the therapeutic properties are lost. For example, the humble cup of tea, even after being well-brewed, still retains its tannins and polyphenoids, which act as antioxidants. However, it is important to note that herbs have been used traditionally in cooking to prevent bacterial contamination. Before antibiotics, spices such as cinnamon, cloves, pepper and nutmeg, were more valuable than gold[3-5] for their therapeutic effects in providing protection against food contamination. Cooked herbs and spices in food retain many of their medicinal effects: measures such as adding fresh raw garlic into food after cooking can help to retain its full benefit as a food medicine. Natural yoghurt with fruit added will provide benefits to the intestinal canal, before the sugars of the fruit start to degrade the good bacteria.
For more information see Pregnancy Diet.
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