Sunday, October 25, 2009

Herbs for Kids Instead of Antibiotics?

"Everything living on the Earth, from the outwardly simple blade of grass to Man(kind), is a self-constituted harmonious and eternal whole."
-Who Are We by Vladimir Megre

According to Julian Scott and Teresa Barlow, “There has been a great increase in chronic and recurrent illnesses affecting children.” In their book, Herbs in the Treatment of Children, Scott and Barlow also write, “Whatever the reasons, parents now face greater difficulties in keeping their children healthy and nursing them back to health once they become sick."

Has modern medicine with its incomplete exams and hasty antibiotic prescription writing had anything to do with the increased prevalence of health issues experienced by the current generation of children? Julian Scott, PhD and Teresa Barlow, BSc started out as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbalists who became amazed by the similarities between “western herbalism, Ayurvedic medicine, Tibetan medicine and African medicine.” One important similarity between these healing systems is that herbalists take the client’s constitution into consideration and do not necessarily deliver the same herbal formula to two different children, even if they are both presenting with, for example, “pink eye”; this type of individualized treatment is in opposition to allopathic Medicine, the mainstream system involving a person in a white coat.

An allopathic doctor, for example, will most likely listen to the child’s heart beat, notice the greenish-yellow exudate (gunk) in the corner of the child’s eye, and take note if the sclera (white of the eye) is red but does not necessarily take the child’s temperature or ask if there is an aversion to cold. When the conjunctiva of the eye is inflamed, a mainstream medical practitioner would say that it is due to viruses, bacteria, or perhaps allergies, and in shorter time than the parent waited in the waiting room, prescription for Vigamox antibiotic eye-drops in hand, parent and young patient are on their way out the door.

Scott and Barlow suggest that this may be where a patient’s health digresses, when on antibiotics. Having never adjusted the internal environment conducive for toxic growth, the child heads down a road of situation after situation requiring further antibiotic use. A parent usually is not comfortable with their child needing antibiotics yet again, but there seems to be no other realistic choice.

With a TCM practitioner, it is a slightly different story: the child is considered along with the acute conjunctivitis, enabling the practitioner to select an herbal regimen particular to the child.
Bob Flaws, in A Handbook of TCM Pediatrics writes, “In Chinese medicine, redness is typically associated with some sort of pathological heat in the body. There are five main patterns associated with conjunctivitis…In children, the two most commonly encountered patterns are the wind heat external invasion and the stomach heat hyperactive above.”

A child encountering a wind heat external invasion pattern might experience a dislike of cold, reddening of the sclera, a feeling of something in the eye, possibly a headache and fever, and a white coating on the tongue. In this case, the herbs chosen for this condition clear out the heat and chill.

A child encountering the second most common pattern, stomach heat hyperactivity, might experience frequent hunger, bowel issues, a yellow coating on the tongue, and yellowish discharge from the eye. The herbs would clear out the heat and address the stomach energetic channel and bowels.

Because the child’s detailed condition, constitution, and disposition call for different herbs, the formulas for the five different presentations of “pink eye” would each vary in their goals. Some herbs that are actually bactericides (without harming the intestinal flora) may also be added to the formula and the child’s diet is definitely discussed.

Though, amazingly, there is another factor that sets TCM apart from allopathic medical care. An adult presenting with “pink eye” would be treated very much in the same manner that a child would be by a “western” doctor. They would be seen briefly and sent on their way with antibiotics in some form or another.

While allopathic medicine and TCM share one similarity, the dosage of medicine is usually smaller for children, TCM practitioners recognize that children “face very different problems than those of adults,” write Scott and Barlow. The yin/yang (core energy interplay) is different in a child compared to an adult. It is very important to consider children individually when choosing herbs, when deciding how to prepare them (drink, powder, etc.) and when choosing other TCM treatments. For example, needles may not be appropriate for a young child, but are usually fine for adults.

One drawback to the administration of herbs is getting them into a child who does not like the taste. It is usually easy to succeed with antibiotic eye-drops and pills rather than convincing a youngster to drink more than one sip of something that is not liked. Fortunately, herbal powders can be placed into capsules and swallowed without the taste of the herbs interfering, sprinkled into a single serving of waffle batter, for instance, or may be administered in other creative ways that allow for considering the child’s diet. With herbs and kids, necessity is truly the mother of invention!

Parents can become informed and then answer the question for themselves, “Herbs instead of antibiotics?”

For more information, please see the essential oils article above and e-mail Debbie Allsup from her website's Contact Us page.

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