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Herbs with Nicky Treacy - Kids

Monday, 7 February 2005

Today we take a look at the best herbal cures for children from birth to five-years-old.

Nicky will also answer your questions and queries, so if you would like to put a question to Nicky, just call 1850 71 71 60, text STUDIO followed by your question to 53555 or e-mail us at

Common Ailments
COLIC:  A lot of new born babies suffer from colic.  Colic is the name given to the sharp, intermittent abdominal pains or cramps that occur in babies whose digestive systems are still growing.  All the internal organs as well as the rest of the physical body carry on developing outside the womb.  It is also common in bottle-fed babies who are sensitive to cow's milk and can occur in babies who have had a difficult birth.

Colic doesn't always start directly after the birth but comes on after a few days or even a few weeks.  Babies pull their legs up or stretch them out and cry a lot, often after a feed.  They may become constipated or you may notice a change in the colour of their stools.  They can have colicky periods, usually in the early evening or suffer from more serious colic that lasts through the night - and at its very worst, all day too.  This is every parent's worst nightmare.

Herbal Cure                                                                             
Give your baby some fennel-seed tea.  Simmer a teaspoonful of seeds in a pint (1/2 litre) of water for ten minutes.  Strain and cool and give it to your baby in a bottle or on a spoon.  Do not add sugar or honey.  Fennel Tea, €6 per 100gms is available from all good health stores.

TEETHING:  Teething is one of the great milestones of your baby's development, but it can be a painful and distressing period for both baby and you.

It's incredible to think that babies develop tiny teeth buds in their gums when they are still in the womb.  These buds stay dormant until the first tooth appears, usually at six months of age, around the time babies start on solid foods.  The lower incisor is generally the first to emerge.  A full set of 20 milk teeth erupts around the age of three.

The start and duration of the teething process can vary vastly between children - some are even born with one or two teeth, while others don't have any until they reach 12 months!  Teething patterns tend to be hereditary, so knowing when you and your partner began to cut your teeth may provide some clues.

Teething Symptoms
Like grown-ups, babies each deal with pain differently, so some babies will have an easier time than others.  Most babies, though, will get a little grouchy and irritable.  Extra cuddles help to soothe their discomfort.  The first signs of teething usually begin a few months before the first tooth appears.  The most obvious symptoms of teething are:

. Red & sensitive gums.
. Flushed cheeks.
. Drooling.
. Gum rubbing/chewing.
. Irritability/crying.
. Wakefulness at night.

Teething gets blamed for a variety of complaints, such as fever, runny noses, diarrhea and rashes.  Remember, teething should not make your baby ill, so if you're not sure of the cause of your baby's discomfort, consult your doctor.

Herbal Cure                                                                        
Chamomile tea costs €5.00 per 100grams and is available in most health stores.

VITAMIN C:  Children need lots of vitamin C when they are growing up.  Vitamin C has come to be known as a wonder worker.  It's easy to see why:  In addition to its role in collagen formation and other life-sustaining functions, vitamin C serves as a key immune system nutrient and a potent free-radical fighter.  This double-duty nutrient has been shown to prevent many illnesses, from everyday ailments such as the common cold to devastating diseases such as cancer.

Herbal Cure                                                                       
Rosehip is loaded with vitamins for the winter/autumn months given as a prophylactic or when a child is recovering from infections.  Costs €4.60 per 100g and is available in most health stores.

ECZEMA & NAPPY RASH:  Eczema, or dermatitis as it is sometimes called, is a group of skin conditions which can affect all age groups.  The severity of the disease can vary.  In mild forms the skin is dry, hot and itchy, whilst in more severe forms the skin can become broken, raw and bleeding.  Although it can sometimes look unpleasant, eczema is not contagious.  With treatment the inflammation of eczema can be reduced, though the skin will always be sensitive to flare-ups and need extra care.

The causes of eczema are many and varied, and depend on the particular type of eczema that a person has.  Atomic eczema is thought to be a hereditary condition, being genetically linked.  It is proposed that people with atopic eczema are sensitive to allergens in the environment which are harmless to others. 

In atopy there is an excessive reaction by the immune system producing inflamed, irritated and sore skin.  Associated atopic conditions include asthma and hay fever.

Other types of eczema are caused by irritants such as chemicals and detergents, allergens such as nickel, and yeast growths.  In later years eczema can be caused by blood circulatory problems in the legs.  The causes of certain types of eczema remain to be explained, though links with environmental factors and stress are being explored

Herbal Cure                                                                           
Chickweed ointment for nappy rash/eczema.  Chickweed is available widely throughout the countryside.  Not available in health food shops.

URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS:  Urinary tract infections occur especially during toilet training years.  When functioning properly, the urinary tract is a marvel of efficiency.  Throughout every 24-hour period, it thoroughly cleanses approximately 200 quarts of fluid, returning most of it to the circulatory system and eliminating the remaining two quarts as urine through the bladder.

As with most parts of the body, however, when this system breaks down, it causes pain and discomfort.  And unfortunately, it breaks down quite frequently.  Urinary tract infections (UTIs), second only to respiratory infections in frequency, account for ten million visits to the doctor each year. 

Herbal Cure
Couch grass for €5.00 per 100g and corn silk at €5.00 per 100g, both available in health stores.

Call the National Institute for Medical Herbalists on 0044 1392 426 022 or visit their website to find a Medical Herbalist near you.