Your local health food shop is likely to have a large array of dried herbs; most of the herbs mentioned in this fact sheet should be readily available. Chat to the staff about blends that go well together and any special indications or contraindications. Remember, like all new foods for a little one, you should trial your herbs for the first time one at a time to check for any reactions.
Infusions/tisanes are delicious and quick to make from fresh or dried herbs. What’s more they are an easy way of extracting the flavour and healing properties from herbs.
A standard infusion can be made by adding 25g dried herb or 50g fresh to 600ml of boiling water. Pop the herbs in a warm pot, pour on the boiling water and cover immediately to prevent those lovely essential oils from escaping. See healing recipes at the end of this sheet.
Optional additions such as sweeteners, if you really feel they are needed, may include honey, licorice powder (check with your health practitioner before use if your child is on any medications), or slices of fresh ginger. Your tea will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
You and your family can enjoy your tea a number of times a day; just ensure it is cooled before offering to little ones. Generally, herbal teas don’t contain caffeine, but it’s still a good idea to check the packaging when using prepared tea mixes. If you want to take a more cautious approach dilute the tea further, until there is only a faint aroma. While my children were toddlers they happily drank infusions in their water bottles and loved them. Another great option in the summer is to make icy poles with herbal mixes and diluted orange or lemon juice.
Decoctions are a great way to prepare coarse herbs. The hard plant material, such as root or bark, can be boiled for a period of time. Slippery elm is a good example; it’s a very useful and safe herb and can be used in pregnancy to help with hemorrhoids or constipation.
A standard decoction can be made by using the same proportions as for a tea, but instead place the herbs in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain, then drink the same amounts as for an infusion.
Syrups are an ideal way to give herbs to children because they mask the taste of more unpleasant-tasting herbs, particularly bitter herbs. When honey* is used as the sweetener it makes a fantastic warming winter medicine.
Cough and cold syrup
Start with 50g of dried herbs, for example four parts peppermint (28g), two parts hyssop (14g) and one part thyme (7g). Next add one litre of water. Bring to a boil, let simmer for 30 minutes and then strain. This should leave you with about 600ml of liquid. Pour 1.2kg of brown sugar into the liquid, stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and the solution just rises to the boil. Do not let the water evaporate. Bottle, label and refrigerate once cooled.
Syrups can last for three months if stored properly in the fridge. See below for more suggestions.