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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

quick allergy testing for herbs and essential oils

A question I have been asked recently is, "How do you know what herbs and oils are right for your child?" My little person is almost 4 now, and he's been given herbs in one form or another from only weeks old. I do love my herbs. In this house we have salves and lotions, infused oils, tinctures and honeys, essential oil products, daddy's aftershave... My son is exposed to a lot of variety. It didn't all come at once, though. Little people do not have fully developed systems and organs and sensitivity when giving them homemade medicines and remedies is very important.

First, some common sense. I don't call it common sense to sound insulting. I'm guessing you will read these few points and say, "oh, is that all?" Nope, I have no magic formula for automatically knowing this stuff. I glean knowledge from countless others who have gone before me and I merely use it all for my benefit.
  1. Give nothing to your child anything to which you yourself or the child's other family members are allergic.
  2. Give nothing to your child anything to which you yourself or the child's other family members are intolerant without first testing and being sure they have no reaction.
  3.  Buy some books. There are many reliable guidelines written for the use of herbs and essential oils particularly for children. I do not want to take responsibility for telling you how to dose here, as there are many, many variables that affect those numbers -- how you made your medicine, where the herbs are from, how old it is, tea versus tincture, the age and health and history of the child in question. You know all the variables that I cannot account for in one article. If you feel flummoxed by the variety and really don't know where to start, I highly recommend these two books: Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, and The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, by Valerie Ann Worwood.
  4. Do a skin patch test.

    • Brew a small amount of tea with the herb in question, and "paint" a bit of it onto the inner part of your child's forearm. Wait for 24 hours. If there is no reaction, the herb is likely fine. Proceed with the usual caution, dose with care, and if there is still no adverse reaction it is likely that the herb poses no allergic threat to your child. If a rash or skin irritation forms on the arm, make a note to avoid that herb with your child.
    • For essential oils, dilute one drop of the oil in question into 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of any base oil you already know is not reactive with your child. Apply to the inner part of your child's forearm. Again, wait and watch for 24 hours. Given that no adverse reaction appears, increase the dose to 5 drops essential per 1 tsp base oil and perform the patch test again. If there is still no reaction it is likely that the oil in question poses no allergic threat to your child. Again, if a rash or skin irritation forms on the arm, make a note to avoid that oil with your child.
IF your child has a negative reaction to any herbal or naturopathic medicine, stop use immediately. If you deem the reaction to be treatable by home care, use your discretion.

IF your child has any of the following warning signs, whether due to the inefficacy of a home remedy or in negative reaction to a home remedy, seek allopathic medical attention immediately, and bring with you a list of all medication and herbs the child is on or has used. 

Warning signs can include:
  • shallow breathing
  • high fever
  • low grade fever persisting for more than 4 days 
  • sensitivity to light 
  • vomiting 
  • difficulty or pain with urination or moving bowels 
  • blood in urine or stool
  • rash
I have said many times, I love herbs. I really do. But am not at all adverse to allopathic medicine. After all, today's allopathic medicine evolved from herb medicine. It doesn't mean that naturopathic remedies are now outdated -- not at all. But where a more advanced treatment is necessary and available, by all means, use it!

I would never advise a person to wrap their broken arm in a comfrey leaf for two weeks and expect them to heal properly. I would send them to a doctor for a proper setting and a cast, and whatever pain relief they might need. And then I would make them up a cal-mag tea to increase healthy minerals their body needs to heal the broken bone, maybe a salve to apply to sore shoulders when the sling gets irritating, and probably a salve to help heal up any discoloration and bruising they might have sustained elsewhere during their fall. Similarly, I would never advise you to just use herbs as you please, nor to avoid allopathic help in favor of home cures. Herbs are medicine. Use responsibly.

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