As a mother and herbalist I delight in sharing my love of nature and its offerings with my children, family and friends. In the full swing of global warming and climate crisis, our connection to nature, our land, our flora and fauna should be stronger than ever, right? Not always so.
However, I believe a way to support this fundamental connection is to teach our children their connection to the natural world and the part they play in Mother Nature’s bountiful gifts along with her vulnerability.
Using the senses to directly connect to our natural world in itself is medicine for our souls.
Did you know that when you walk in the bush or forest, brushing against, touching the plants and just being in their presence, you are actually breathing in their aromatics – and receiving their benefits.
“And that is where today’s story begins – with the trees, the forest, and the ancient knowing which exists within each human and arises from our connection to the Wild – the place from which true nourishment has always come.” SOPHIA ROSE
Herbs can offer such beautiful sensory experiences for children. The rich aromatic smell of a Lavender bud, the fresh and uplifting taste of a delicate peppermint tea, watching the bees dance their buzzing ballet on the pretty chamomile flowers and the delight of picking little fistfuls of soft velvety sage to deliver to Mummy for the dinner.
You don’t need to have a full herbal apothecary or large abundant garden to use herbs and their medicine in your everyday life. It can be as simple as having a few planted pots on your veranda, a small container garden, or corner of a garden bed dedicated to a few herbal treasure.
Here is a small guide to inviting a stronger connection for yourself and children to nature, to herbs and their benefits into your everyday family life.
The planting of a seed or seedling for a child is something of wonder, excitement and patience. The act of little hands touching the earth, tending the soil, planting a delicate seed or seedling, watering it gently with care every day and then finally… it sprouts, it grows and it blooms. If a child can tend to something that they have so carefully given life to, then in return it will give back to them and the reciprocal cycle continues.
A lovely easy herb to grow from seed for children is Calendula, as it is a safe herb, a fairly hardy plant, will grow well in both pots, containers or a garden bed, and their golden sunshiny flowers have multiple medicinal properties. It self seeds well and is easy to collect and save the seeds from too. You will often see Calendula in natural skin care preparations for its gentle soothing and anti-inflammatory properties especially for babies. It is wonderful for wound healing, eczema, chaffing, nappy rash and burns.
Calendula is also used internally to support the immune system and generally lift the spirits. The golden petals of the Calendula flower are edible.
Children will delight in picking the petals from the flower head and scattering them on sweet or savory foods. I use the dried whole flower heads throughout the year in my broths for immune supporting properties. Broth can be frozen into cubes or small jars and make a wonderful addition to soups, stews, pasta or rice dishes which children find very palatable. One of my daughter’s favourite meals is buckwheat noodles cooked in broth.
Likely the most popular and well known herb. However, just because something is so well known doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call on it regularly for its abundant medicinal offerings.
I call on Lavender every day with my family. Lavender is a very hardy and drought tolerant plant. Children will love to plant little seedlings of it, watch it come back year after year and enjoy the rich fragrant spikes that shoot up every summer. Little hands love the ritual of picking Lavender flowers into a wee basket. Lavender’s actions are calming, soothing, pain relieving, antiseptic and antimicrobial to name some.
I love to work with the whole plant and the essential oil. The essential oil can be very strong for little ones which is where using the whole flowers is a better option.
When Lavender is in full flower is the time to harvest and before the full heat of the day. Hang small bundles upside down in a dry place (out of direct light) and within 10 or so days when the plant feels dry, rub off the flower buds and store in an airtight container for use throughout the year. I like to pop small handfuls into a piece of muslin tied with string or rubber band and pop into your children’s bath to encourage relaxation and help to cleanse and heal scrapes and bruises. Lavender in a securely tied cotton bag or pouch popped under the pillow for older children is a lovely way to encourage restful sleep.
For a grumpy pre-schooler, I always love to make scented footbaths with lavender buds stirred into warm water or a drop of essential oil to soak little weary feet and they will inhale the calming scent.
Chamomile is a beloved herb around the world for its gentle sedative and calming effects and is extremely safe for children. In the garden it has a fairy world like quality with abundant blooms of delicate pretty white flowers with a golden centre and apple like scent.
Children will love to pick these little flowers and put into a tea pot with warm water for a tea party for friends or dollies!
Chamomile as a tea is safe to ingest and is widely used to relax or induce sleep. It also has wonderful benefits for the digestive tract including relieving indigestion and gas. You can steep the dried flowers as a tea and then put a splash of this into a glass of water for children especially before nap time or if they are feeling fractious. I called upon Chamomile when my daughter had chicken pox and put some dried flowers and ground organic oats in a piece of muslin and popped in the bath which relieves itching and coats the skin in a lovely sheath of calm – would also work well for eczema.
“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread”. EDWARD ABBEY
Written by Cushla Bower