Taking your children outside to gather springtime herbs provides you with an excellent opportunity to teach the little ones about precious plants that live in your neighborhood.
If you are all suffering from cabin fever, searching for herbs provides exercise and much-needed fresh air – and can help turn kids into nature-lovers. Be sure to provide age appropriate information. Emphasize the importance of not eating wild plants without your approval. Teach the children to gather plants only from clean areas. Children need to be taught to collect small amounts of plants from locations where the herbs grow in profusion. I recommend gathering herbs which are very simple to identify and can be used for children’s health.
You may use your herbs fresh or dry them for future use. You also can prepare them in a wide array of forms including tinctures, syrups, salves, and pills. Herbal infusions are simple to prepare. Be sure to include your children in the medicine-making process. They love to measure, stir and pour. If your children get ill, they are likely to be more amenable to taking a remedy which they helped to prepare. Label your herbs and herbal products carefully. Store them out of reach of children.
Kids Love to Gather Plantain
I think that plantain was the first herb that I picked as a child. While I did not know that the herb was useful medicinally, I liked the seed stalks and the cool feel of the leaves. I used to pretend to make soup from plantain when I was very young.
Plantain is abundant. It is a non-native species from Europe. Tradition tells us that Native Americans once referred to plantain as “White Man’s Foot” because it grew wherever European settlers built communities.
There are two main kinds of plantain. Plantago major has broad leaves while Plantago lanceolata has narrow ones. Both may be used interchangeably. I prefer the broad-leafed variety because it has a higher content of the lubricating compound, mucilage. Plantain seeds are so lubricating and fibrous that they are used to produce the commercial stool softener, Metamucil.
Try making a cough syrup from plantain. It soothes irritated throats, and helps to thin thick mucus so that it can be expectorated easily. Plantain relieves inflammation and is cooling to the body. Combine it with elderberries or elderflowers for maximum effect.
You can use plantain to relieve tissue stagnation, too. It has astringent and diuretic qualities.
Plantain is a nutrient dense food. Some people eat young leaves. I am not fond of them, so I prefer to add plantain leaves to soups or teas made with mint, lemon balm or other flavorful herbs. Plantain is rich in vitamins A, C, K and fiber. It contains substantial amounts of calcium, magnesium and zinc. The herb makes a great spring tonic.
My favorite way of using plantain is to pick a leaf and apply it directly to a sting, rash or minor wound. The astringent actions stop bleeding and reduce swelling. The leaves sooth irritated, itchy tissues. Show your children how to use plantain topically so that they will be prepared if they get a mosquito bite or other affliction while playing outside. They usually love to demonstrate this skill to their friends.
It’s Violet Time!
When I was a little girl, I used to go in the woods and sit in a huge patch of violets. It is still one of my favorite memories. In addition to being beautiful spring flowers, violets make wonderful additions to spring salads. The leaves and the flowers may be used.
Violets are an excellent source of vitamin C and iron. They contain rutin, a substance that strengthens veins. Like plantain, violets make a good cough syrup. Research indicates that violets may protect the body from the formation of cancer.
While you are gathering violets for healing purposes, be sure to take home a bouquet of the delicate blossoms. Pick extra leaves and flowers. Show your children how to press them in a flower press or old telephone book. On rainy spring days, they can take out their collection and use the leaves and flowers to make herbal art projects.
Chickweed for Springtime Health
Chickweed is an abundant herb which is mild in flavor. Add chickweed leaves to salads or steam them and serve them as a cooked green. Chickweed is one of the best herbs to use to treat skin irritations. It effectively treats hives, dry skin, diaper rash, eczema and psoriasis.
Crush the leaves and cover them with olive oil. After a couple of weeks strain out the solids. You may use the oil as is, or make it into a salve. I add a little bit of natural vitamin E to my herbal oils to keep them fresh longer.
Chickweed may be used as a nutrient rich spring tonic. It is very soothing to the digestive and respiratory tracts. Studies indicate that chickweed might help to lower levels of unhealthy cholesterol.
Chickweed may be frozen so that you will have it available year round. It is mild tasting and one of the easiest greens to include in a child’s diet.
Teach your children to gather herbs and help them begin a life-long love of natural health.
What herbs do you gather? Share your tips in the section below: