Hometown Herbalist: Back to school


Pencils, backpacks, papers, and likely a whole lot of energy – the return to school is a notoriously wacky time of year. Young kids are bubbling with excitement about the year ahead, while simultaneously mourning the loss of abundant free time and late morning wakeups. All this can combine to create a somewhat challenging set of behavioral obstacles for the parents.

Simple plant medicines can offer a huge amount of relief not only to the adults in your families but to the younger members as well. While caution should be heeded in using new herbs with kids under the age of 5 (just as you would be cautious about them trying new foods), there are many safe and effective herbal remedies that can be used with the whole family. From stress to upset tummies, to the germs that loom at the schoolyard, below are a handful of plants that can prove to be more than useful during the transition from home to school.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

A tried and true member of the herbal medicine family, chamomile is a gentle yet effective nervine for a variety of ages. Often overlooked because of how “common” of a tea it is, there is a reason that this sweet little herb has been used for so many years. Traditionally used as a calming herb to help soothe anxiety and relieve stress, the warm tea makes a wonderful before bed treat. Sweetened with a little honey, chamomile tea has a flavor that is agreeable across many palates.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

Known as a carminative (helping to dispel gas), an antispasmodic, and a gentle nervine, mint is a go-to herb not only for its cooling and calming effect but for its action on the digestive system as well. Historically used for upset stomachs or indigestion – this pleasant tasting backyard plant is a staple in herbalism. Peppermint can be made into an iced tea for a midday beverage or added to cocoa for a relaxing evening treat. Served warm or hot, it is one of my favorite herbal teas.

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)

A powerhouse for the immune system due to its strong antiviral action – elderberry is an excellent herb for the whole family, especially as we move into cold and flu season and become more exposed to germs at school and work. Elderberry can be made into a syrup that not only tastes good but is thought to be fortifying to the immune system as well. It’s the first herb I reach for whenever there’s a bug going around.

To learn more about Herbs for Kids – sign up for my upcoming workshop with Song Sparrow Playgarden. This workshop will be held on Saturday, October 20th from 10-12; $35/person, or bring a friend, partner, or spouse and pay $50/couple. To get more information or to sign up today email eastbayherbals@gmail.com.

Note: The information presented in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not medical advice. For more information about local, seasonal, herbal remedies and regional botanical information, check back on the first Sunday of every month for the Hometown Herbalist column.

References: Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism the Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press, 2003.

Anna Marie Beauchemin is a trained Clinical Western Herbalist and Biologist. Born and raised in Martinez, California, she is passionate about sharing her craft with her community and helping people to find balance and wellness in their lives. She runs a community apothecary in downtown Martinez – offering herbal consultations, custom formulations, education and outreach, and community herb walks. For more information visit her website at eastbayherbals.com, follow her on Facebook and Instagram @eastbayherbals, or email at eastbayherbals@gmail.com

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