Herbal medicine has been part of our health and civilization for thousands of years. Hippocrates, father of medicine, who is from the island of Kos, treated patients using various plants and a scientific approach to diagnosis, without relying on religious beliefs or superstitions. Some of these plants are still used in the modern world and it has been scientifically proven that they work. Today, numerous people have been treating chronic illnesses with herbal medicine, often combined with modern medicine. But is there any danger? What about ‘special’ groups of people?
Even though plants seem more ‘innocent’ than drugs, in the natural world, they aren’t. Just a bit of some plants can have a very toxic effect on your body, leading even to death. Nature has great power we cannot imagine. Specifically, for certain vulnerable groups of humans, like babies and pregnant women, herbs should be used only after great consideration.
Although true evidence-based information about the safety of herbs in babies is limited, there are some safe pathways to their use. Adding herbs and spices in specific ways, from the age of nine months and older (not before!) can give all the positive effects without any risk. Exposing them to a variety of smells and tastes from a very young age will not just help develop their bodies, but also their minds. Exposure to all these stimulate brain development. Having essential oils in the house is the safest way to use herbs. A stuffy nose can be opened with eucalyptus oil, Lavender can offer a nice sleep, and orange blossoms can be a wake-up call for playtime! Similar effects result from herbal baths for babies – just prepare a ‘strong’ herbal tea with large quantities of ‘relaxing; herbs. Lavender, chamomile, calendula flowers, and thyme can offer your loved one a special treat.
For a baby, triggering the sense of taste is the best way to learn the world! Have you ever wondered why they put everything in their mouths? This is how they learn! Salt and sugar should be avoided before 12 months, however but why not make a ‘boring’ baby food more intriguing? Thyme, mint, rosemary, oregano, and lemon balm can boost salt-less meat or chicken. A more advanced taste can be paprika or turmeric. In fruits, add cinnamon and nutmeg – but be careful! Use small quantities and one at a time! As with the introduction of any other new solid food, add one new item for a few days and see how it goes. Before starting anything, ask your pediatrician, however.
* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.
Evropi-Sofia Dalampira is an Agriculturist-MSc Botany-Biology and PhD Candidate in Agricultural-Environmental Education and Science Communication.