The Next Generation of Herbalists: Teaching kids how to use herbs

In this video, I share a bit about my story of growing up foraging wild foods & medicinal herbs and how that shaped me as an adult today. It’s really what set me on my plant path and is ultimately why I’m an herbalist today! I also share some of the healing qualities of the herbs I’ve used my entire life and how you can share these safe, common herbs with your kids (they’re probably even growing in your yard!)

With my mom harvesting Elderberries

Though I never knew there was something called an herbalist, using herbs as medicine was a part of my family’s health care when I was growing up. My mom is a nurse who works at the hospital and understands modern western medicine, however at home with our family she always reached first for natural remedies to heal common ailments before using pharmaceutical medicines. That’s because she knows how powerful and yet safe herbs are for treating many conditions, as well as how many side effects & complications can be avoided by choosing to use holistic remedies instead of drugs whenever possible.

From the time I was a little girl, she showed me how to identify & use a few of the simple, easy to identify herbs that were growing all around us. I remember thinking it was the coolest thing in the world that I could pick a plant growing in my yard to take away the pain and swelling of a bee sting. Knowing I could take care of myself and my younger sister & friends in a situation like getting stung by a bee or getting a cut or scrape by making a Plantain poultice, filled me with a sense of confidence in myself and in the healing power of nature. 

Some might say I had an unconventional childhood, but using folk remedies & herbs was actually the norm only a few generations ago for most families. In fact, this is something we all have in common – no matter what lineage we come from, we all come from people who originally relied on medicines from
nature for healing. 

Picking Nettles with my sister

Reclaiming this knowledge and teaching our little ones how to interact with the healing plants that grow all around them is essential to the health of our families, culture and planet at this time. With the rise of the technological world, so many kids are lacking a connection to the real world – the Earth. It’s gotten to the point that there’s even a term “nature deficit disorder” to describe the behavioral & psychological implications of spending less time outside than humans ever have in history.

The thing is, picking plants and using them as food or medicine comes so naturally to kids! This really reflects how our relationship with plants is deeply wired within our DNA from thousands of years of interacting with nature in this way. Kids are more in touch with that intuitive sense, which comes alive when they’re playing in nature and spending time with the plants. The children I’ve worked with have totally understood that plants can heal them – without even having to explain it or make sense of it – they just get it. All we have to do is provide the space for them to explore this connection & discover the wonderful healing power of the plants that grow all around them.

So, in the spirit of sharing herbal wisdom with the kids in your life, here are four tips for getting started & enriching their connection with plants:

  1. Give them a plant of their own to grow.
    Even the youngest child can plant a seed, water it and watch it grow. Witnessing the miracle of life unfolding before your eyes is one of the most profound things we can experience. Kids get SO excited to check in on their plant every day and watch for the first little leaves to pop out of the soil. Watching their plant grow and develop is incredible and fascinating, but it also teaches them about caring for another being and how to be a responsible earth steward. This is a simple and yet powerful way to get your kids to interact with nature – even if it’s just from a windowsill in your house with a potted plant.
  2. Teach them how to identify and use the medicinal plants that grow around you.
    Who doesn’t have Dandelion growing in their yard? Or Plantain or Chickweed? You’d be surprised to find out how many weeds are actually edible or medicinal! (That is, if you don’t spray your yard with herbicides to kill the weeds). There are many easy to identify, safe herbs that are likely growing right around you which you could start sharing with the little ones in your life. If you don’t know how to identify herbs yourself, this is a great opportunity to get started – you and your little one can learn some basic botany & ID skills together with the right resources.
  3. Make medicine together.
    Instead of just giving your kids some Elderberry syrup when they get sick, get them involved in preparing the syrup they’ll be using during cold & flu season! Kids want to be a part of everything going on when they’re young, so having them help out and participate in preparing herbal remedies is SO empowering for them. This engages them in a way that wakes up their inner healer, helping them to feel like they’re a part of their own healing process. These skills will be with them for life and can give them a deep sense of confidence when they’re adults that they’ll be able to take care of themselves and their health.
  4. Read nature-based stories together.
    Children are already tuned into the imaginal realm in such a big way, so finding ways to nourish that connection to their intuition is essential to keeping their connection to the magical world of nature alive. Teaching through story is the ancient way all of our ancestors passed along wisdom, so we’re wired to learn through stories and to remember their important messages. Reading & telling stories which exemplify the wisdom and intelligence of nature is essential at this time in our culture where nature is often described as inanimate. Giving them a different perspective that shows how nature is truly alive and that magic is real will impact the way they see the world around them in a positive way.

 

I’d love to hear from you! Post your experience about how you share herbal wisdom with the kids in your life below.

 

Photo credit of kids in Echinacea field on blog homepage: Gaia Herbs

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