Back to school

Going back to school is a big and exciting transition for both your child’s psyche as well as his body. It is fun for kids to get a new backpack and lunch bag; new clothes are always cool, and the prospect of acquiring new friends is both invigorating and scary. As uplifting as the promise of these new items are, children usually begin having thoughts like, “What if the classes are too hard?” and, “What if the kids don’t like me?” , or “How am I ever going to wake up on time?” These questions echo the common thoughts that run through most kids’ minds, the weeks and days before the start of new school year. For moms the common thoughts are, “My kids always ends up with a cold after the first few weeks of school,” and, “What can I give my children when they are so nervous the first few days of school.” The good news is that there are plenty of herbs that can help kids and their moms strengthen their immune systems, and help quiet the new-school-year-jitters.

Since the herbalist’s goal is always ‘prevention first’, we teach our clients to anticipate their own, and their children’s stressors, in order to ‘nip them in the bud.’ After all, theses stressors are among the main factors that are responsible for resultant stress and sickness. While there are lots of herbs that are useful after a person has become sick or nervous, it is, nevertheless better to know the herbs that you can take to in order to prevent the colds, flu, and stress.

However, before we begin with learning about our herbal allies, it is important to remember that there are a few things that all kids should have.

  • The first is a jug of purified water that kids need to bring to school every day, and be encouraged to drink! Dehydration makes it more difficult for children to concentrate, which in turn makes it difficult for a child transition well. Therefore, hydration is an easy and inexpensive way to help a child both academically and socially, within the school environment.
  • The next thing is to give your child snacks that contain oats. Oatmeal in the mornings and granola bars—preferably the one’s without a lot of sugar—contain B vitamins which help calm the central nervous system.

Now that I have mentioned the basics, we can get back to discussing the herbs.

As a preventative measure, I like to give children a good herbal immune-mixture for two weeks prior to the beginning of the school year; to be continued on through the first month of classes. Nerves, tension and anxiety can suppress the immune system, allowing kids to be more vulnerable to the viruses and bacteria that just love to ‘hang-out’ in children’s classrooms. For a good herbal immune-mixture, my favorite herbal companies are: Herbalists & Alchemists, HerbPharm, Gaia, and Herbs of Light, and I prefer the herbs to be in a tincture form. Tinctures, which are processed in either grain alcohol or glycerides, preserve the potency of the herb, more than it is saved in capsule form. The above mentioned companies produce a children’s immune-mixture that available in glycerides, which are alcohol-free blends. You can purchase either immune blends, or cold and flu blends, because each of these have the herbs that not only fight infection, but even in times of good health, they stimulate and promote the immune system. The herbs should be given morning and evening during healthy times, and can be increased to three or four times a day if the child seems to be coming down with an illness. Moms can also take these immune herbs two weeks before school starts, because most moms’ immune systems also tend to suffer during stressful times.

If your child is nervous or tense about beginning the new school year, try some of the following herbal suggestions. The dose would depend on the weight and age of your child, but the usual dosage is three times a day—with breakfast, after school, and before bed. And you should know that these herbs are not addictive.

  • Skullcap is best used for nervous tension and anxiety feelings; you can feel the calming effect within twenty minutes of taking this herb.
  •  Lemon Balm is both a calming herb and an anti-viral. Therefore this herb can be given after school if a child is not able to relax, or at the first sign of a cold.
  • Fresh milky oats is an herb whose effect is not felt right away, and can take a few weeks to work, but it is greatly beneficial for the nervous system after long-term stress, and works well when combined with the other two herbs mentioned above.
  • Echinacea is one of my all-time favorite herbs, and has unfortunately gotten a lot of mixed press over the years. Notwithstanding, this herb, when taken at the first sign of cold or flu decreases both their severity and duration. Interestingly, I have found over the years that this herb does not seem to work very effectively for people with blood-type O. Not that it has any negative affect for people with this blood type, but it just doesn’t seem to stimulate their immune system in the same way that it does for people with the other blood types. And so another choice for them is an herb called Usnea. However, this herb must be ordered on-line because most stores do not carry it.
  • Valerian is herb that is best used if a person is in a nervousness state that is accompanied by sadness. This state can be recognized when a child becomes sad and weepy; often having trouble falling asleep, or when he falls asleep too often when he is nervous. This herb works best after a few days, when the system begins to calm down.

As an herbalist, who believes that prevention is best, I suggest that you don’t wait until your child has the full-blown symptoms of an illness, because it only becomes more difficult to treat. Therefore, for best results, nip that cold, flu or nervousness in the bud, before it has a chance to blossom into days absent from school.