Wouldn’t you love it if there were natural, plant-sourced, HERBAL alternatives to everything chronic you have been struggling with for your or your child, whether that be attention or digestive issues or immune support?
Today’s guest Dr. Mary Bove is a herbal medicine expert and takes us through the ins and outs of herbal medicine, when it works and what is often missed in application for kids.
Here’s a spoiler: Dr. Bove’s favorite herbs for kids under 5 are:
- Fennel Seed
- Chamomile Flowers
- Lemon Balm
You can use these in teas/extracts/baths/glycerin extracts and add them to water or juices, and so on….
You can read Dr. Mary Bove at firstname.lastname@example.org
And make sure to get your free Gut Health Kit at www.functionalnutritionforkids.com/guthealth
Disclaimer: The information in this Podcast is for educational purposes only. Vaishnavi Sarathy, Ph.D. is an educator, not a doctor, specifically not your child’s doctor. Please consult your physician before implementing any supplement or diet recommendations.
Wouldn’t you absolutely love it if there were natural plant source and Herbal alternatives to everything chronic you’ve been struggling with? Whether that’s for you or your child, whether that be attention issues or digestive issues or immune support? I know I would. Today’s guest is Dr. Mary bourbon. She’s an herbal medicine expert and she takes us through the ins and outs of herbal medicine in this episode. When does it work? What does it do that is often missed in applications for kids?
Welcome to function in nutrition and learning for kids. I’m your host Vaish. I’m a mom to an autistic nonspeaking teen with Down syndrome. I am a math and science teacher to neurodiverse kids, and a functional nutrition consultant to families of kids with disability. I’m a chemist by training and a TEDx speaker.
Now I know you wear many hats too. So I want to thank you for taking the time to listen to this podcast. I know you will take a lot from this particular episode because Dr. Bove talks about three favorite herbs, both for kids under the age of five and over and not giving any spoilers yet though, if you’ve seen the show notes, you’ve seen it.
One of the things she emphasizes is how diet and nutrition and gut health can be critical in treating long-term symptoms, even when used in conjunction with herbal medicine. In this context, you can get access to a freebie and some very key tips to gut health at this link, www.functionalnutritionforkids.com/guthealth. And once you have that ebook with you let’s take a deep dive into herbal medicine. I’m really, really happy to introduce Dr. Mary Bove today. Dr. Mary brings more than 40 years of herbalism experience and 25 years of work as a naturopathic physician.
Dr. Bove was previously the Director of Medical Education at Gaia herbs before transitioning to a current role on the Scientific Advisory Board in 2019. Since starting their herbal journey at age 18, Dr. Mary has helped him to three tenets, walk your talk, believe in the plants, and practice herbalism every day in your life. She says plants have a way of drawing you in. And her expertise runs really deep and she shares it permanently and patiently.
She’s also the author of an encyclopedia of natural healing for children and infants and his co-author of herbs for women’s health. As made by Dr. Bove has been present in hundreds of home births and a practice specializing in fertility and pediatric health are trailblazing work with herbal formulas for children led to a partnership with Gaia. Welcome Dr. Bove, thank you so much for joining us here.
Dr. Mary Bove:
Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.
I have a question right away. You’re one of the rare physicians and herbal experts that I’ve met that work with kids. And I want to ask you how different is using herbs for kids, as opposed to using them for adults? And then I mean, maybe we could stretch the same question to babies as well.
Dr. Mary Bove:
Oh, yes, it’s a wonderful question. And I think what for me, as a young mom, back in the 1980s, I really kind of found that there wasn’t much information on using herbs with kids. And I struggled to like find that information. And then I recognize that some of it were going to come from just kind of teasing out what you might know from the traditional piece on herbal medicine. And so one of the things that I think was very helpful to me is, as I trained as a physician, I began to understand how diverse children are.
So how you might treat a baby under the age of six months versus a toddler, you know, 18 months versus, you know, a child who’s more at five or 10 is going to vary partly on what kinds of development where they are in their human development, what kinds of illnesses might occur, and also their ability to comply with different herbal preparations. So what I recognize right away was that oh, there’s a lot of information in order to understand that we should be using herbs that are safe for kids. So I call that the herbal kid Materia Medical.
We should be considering how big are those children because most information out there is about adult doses and so a practitioner or mom or herbalist might have to figure out what’s a dose for five-year-olds you know, based on the fact that I have the information of an adult dose. And current information and research and science I think also helped us to understand safety.
Being able to look at some of the traditional plants used with children like spearmint or lemon balm or chamomile and see now there have been safety studies and effective dose studies to help lead us there. But back when I started, there really wasn’t and I have to thank my two adult children for being such little kind of experiments for me often with using plants or herbal medicine.
So I bet did you have to rely a lot on your intuition as well as to you know, you know how this works. So is it going to work for kids or not?
Dr. Mary Bove:
Yes, I definitely relied on my intuition on bits and pieces I would get from other herbalists. So I was fortunate enough to have my training in the UK. And the traditional view of using plants stems from a long history of the Medical Institute of medicinal herbalists there. And in some ways, it really is strongly steeped in the view of herbal medicine. herbs in the United States often tend to get integrated into naturopathic medicine and functional medicine. And so the views are, are different. And we have more what we would say, standardized herbal medicine or more, I’m kind of leaning towards capsules and tinctures versus extracts and teas that you might see in the UK.
so I found that I had to, like ask lots of questions, put a lot of kinds of pieces of information together to draw some, some conclusions. And then, you know, also to really just kind of watch what, what kinds of herbs really made it through as far as like, being useful for kids like what were the ones that for 50 or 60 years, the herbalists have used those, but they’re not going to use them if they’re not effective. Right.
And you brought in a really important, interesting point about capsules, and versus you know, versus think, versus tinctures are, these are the different ways that herbs are used. I, I want to wait until I asked this question because I think of capsules as a very, I may be wrong, but as very allopathic way of having. And it’s like just like, you know, a pill for an ale but except now you have an herb right.
Yes, I’m wondering what actually, maybe I should just ask it now, what do you think about that? Is that are there some preparations that are more effective than others? Do you have an opinion, about dosing herbs, the way people those supplements or even drugs?
Dr. Mary Bove:
I think those are excellent questions. And they’re definitely questions that I think of as growing pains in the kind of herbal world. First of all, I think that many people just think herbs and they think either, you know, culinary Herbs, or a nice tea or capsule. And there are hundreds of different herbal preparations out there that a good herbalist could use. And what I found was that going back to herbal preparations, and the different varieties, made all the sense in the world to work with kids, whether that be a foot bath or glycerin, or made into a popsicle, or a honey bun. And I find that when we’re just having a capsule like you say, it’s like we take a capsule, it’s a medicine, oh, I’m sick.
Well, herbs aren’t necessarily about being sick. It’s about keeping you healthy and keeping the tissue and the body running smoothly. So you go drive your car 3000 miles, and you want to change the oil, so drive smoothly for the next few 1000 miles. Well, if we utilize our physiology and our day-to-day life, we should do things to tone it up and, and support it during the seasons or during challenges.
I think that herbs offer that, that piece, and they also offer a piece of empowerment, and the ability to do self-nurturing. So when you take the time to mix some herbs and infuse it into tea, you smell it, you’ve taken self-care time or care for your child. And that’s different than just popping a pill. And I remember once a 10-year-old coming to see me who had a serious condition. And she looked at her mom and she said,
Well, why am I taking all these pills? If you told me I’m not sick? And what question and it just like the light bulb went on, and I thought she’s right, you know, but there are times with serious conditions and illnesses where I think a concentrated form of a nutrient or Phyto compound in a plant would be useful. So There are times where I think it is applicable, but 100% of the time as a supplement or herbal supplement, I think those people miss some of the healing power that comes through the other ways of eating or tasting or smelling or applying herbs to the skin in that sense, sense.
That’s a wonderful answer. Thank you. And taking from that question, have kids help? Are there any common conditions, whether they’re acute or chronic, that you see in kids that make you wonder if only I could tell this? I mean, so and so apparently use herbal medicine, like you feel that herbal medicine is neglected for, for a few conditions that it could work amazingly for? Are there some conditions like that?
Dr. Mary Bove:
I do. I think that what’s what comes to mind or like more of the types of things like repetitive otitis media or chronic rhinitis and a topic issue, maybe with eczema or, you know, a piece like that, and or stomach issues where there may be stool issues or stomach aches. And I think, there a lot of times, what happens for those children is a lot of times they kind of just don’t have enough of the kind of support or foundation in their immune function to deal with what’s going on. And I think that that the microbiome contributes to that the prenatal environment contributes to that the diet that they’re keeping food, introduction, breastfeeding, all those things contribute to it. But when you see the child who’s got that kind of symptoms going on many times, in my practice, I would say,
Okay, let’s get them on good essential fatty acids, and make sure that they have bioflavonoids. And let’s get some of the detoxifying herbs and build them up with things like stragglers and elder flowers and elderberry and chamomile for their gut. It’s just and we don’t think of those as like strong plants or you know, really like medicine or drug like plants, but they make a huge difference in the quality of the innate immune system in the mucous membranes and helping with colonization and helping to manage the normal day to day inflammation, so it doesn’t get out of hand.
And many times I think the plants work very well when there’s a good nutritional foundation. So I do think things like essential fatty acids, bioflavonoids, and zinc are important for young, developing immune systems, and often those types of things are compromised in the prenatal environment. And so hence, the child may not have the most optimal levels of those nutrients. And I think if they’re there, it helps the herbs work better.
That makes sense. And that actually answers another question that I was going to ask you about, if you thought that, you know, or what are some complementary approaches that you might see that magnify the effects of herbal medicine? So you spoke about, you spoke about diet? Right. So are there any other things that you find that are complementary and synergistic?
Dr. Mary Bove:
Yes, I, you know, as I mentioned, those three particular supplements really stand out to me, I like, you know, to see high polyphenols. So, you know, the more colored fruits and vegetables or plant-based kind of sources for the child, sometimes, you know, the mom will come or the dad will parent will come and say, Oh, they don’t eat any vegetables. And my next question to them is, well, are they eating fruits? You know, if they’re eating a variety of fruits, I’m quite happy, you know, oh, they’re like, oh, no, there’s all that fruit sugar.
It’s like, that’s not a problem. It’s the variety of plant-based, you know, the exposure we can give them and if that comes from blueberries, and blackberries and pears, and then all the better. They also think that getting them out outdoors being out in the outdoors, as long as there’s not like, you know, wildfires or say, but I do think that also is used is a useful dynamic for building health, as well as having, you know, good, loving time and that that time where they get nurturing whether that’s massaging or laughing or cuddling when they read a book. I think that’s important, too.
Nice. Yeah, I agree with you. I have a couple of questions regarding what you said. And I’m just going to pick them one at a time. Did you mention tonifying herbs previously? And can you explain what that means what a tonifying herb is?
Dr. Mary Bove:
Yes, it’s a, it’s a term used in herbal medicine kind of to describe plants that are revitalizing that are supportive to the tissue. So a tonifying, her might actually help to keep the integrity of the will say, the gums and the membranes lining the mouth will say, and so if those tissues are compromised one, maybe through inflammation, you could use something to tonify that and get it back to what we would say it’s its most optimal function. So we think of tonics, things that nurture the tissue or are nutritive. So a plant, like will say, for instance, nettles, nettle is a nutritive plant that has anti-inflammatory qualities, but it’s very high in many of the nutrients that we might use in our health picture.
So that would be a tone of fine plant, use to build someone’s health, often it’s, they’re used post a, an issue. So like, with a child who always has will say, a runny nose, we know that there’s a lot of mucus kind of some inflammation, some irritation going on, after a while, that’s going to create a strain on the cells of the tissues, and it may create some more chronic inflammation.
By working with plants that tonify the mucous membranes, you can kind of mediate that. So it’s kind of at the end of the day going in and soothing, you know, tightening, tucking it in and, and getting it ready and letting it revitalize itself for the next day. So in the current world, we think of plants called adaptogens, that help us adapt to stress. And in the old time world, we might have called those plants, you know, nerve tonics tonifying to the nervous system. Now, we have more, more language to depict things.
Yes. I’m, there are two questions that come off from this, there’s so much, and thank you for all the detail that you’re giving in, because I’m just developing more and more clarity, I think even my mental language is increasing as I listen to you. And as you talk about, you know, trying to find the nervous system or, you know, just helping the body adapt to stress, I’m assuming that you, like you, said earlier, this isn’t just like popping a pill every now and then. But it’s a more consistent routine. And, and perhaps that it takes time because I think a lot of times, there is this expectation that everything should work the very next day, is how does this work in herbal medicine.
Dr. Mary Bove:
You’re so right on there. And it is it’s, it’s a hard mindset to kind of grasp, and you have to keep it in mind day to day. And I think there’s that there are two keys to that. One is that, as a practitioner, you have to remember that and not be impatient and give it the time. But you also have to get your patient to also recognize that. And so I often will say,
Well, if it took three months to break down, or you’ve had this call this issue for three months, it’s gonna take 10 times as long to refax or, and that’s what I tell myself is like, give it that time. And then I also think that one of the things we’re trying to do is not just get rid of the symptoms because sometimes the symptoms are like the voice of the body screaming out, it needs attention. And so it’s saying, you know, I need attention.
So when you get rid of the symptoms, the body starts screaming, stop screaming out, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s at its optimal functioning health, right? So that’s where the herbs kind of continue to share up that foundation. And so you’re looking for deeper kinds of signs that the wellness is back, whether that’s with energy or skin quality, sleep quality, and those take longer, you know, sometimes I would use a questionnaire that would just have some simple questions like that on it and then re-give it to the mom or dad, three or four months later.
And just in that perspective, be able to see, hey, we have had this transition, even though we still have some of these issues. And I, again, I think going back to that pill popping thing is we’re expecting everything fast. Well, you know, Mother Nature doesn’t work fast, the body doesn’t really, you know, work fast in that sense. And so I think it helps us to slow down our mental piece and cultivate a little patience with ourselves.
I think that makes sense. Because what I’m getting from what you’re saying is, if something works fast, what you’re probably doing is you’re just addressing the symptom because you can suppress the symptom really fast which you can do, but you can’t really heal fast. Is that correct? Yeah.
Dr. Mary Bove:
Yeah, exactly. And not that we don’t want to turn down the symptom. So I do think curbs, you know, many herbs can offer some symptomatic treatments and relief, which is good. And but recognizing that there’s more, there’s another layer behind that.
Right? Absolutely. We’re, we’re in this, in this age, perhaps an unprecedented age, we’re not only adults, but so many kids have chronic chronic chronic health conditions. And I know that estimates vary, but I’ve been, I’ve been seeing about 80% of autistic kids experience chronic digestive issues, specifically, and whatever those may be, but some sort of digestive issues, and definitely neurological issues.
I was going to ask you, what is the role of herbal medicine when you’re working with kids that are experiencing chronic conditions? But we’re going to change that question. How do you use herbal medicine? Do you have like a favorite class of herbs? Whether that’s I know, you mentioned tonifying or adaptogens? And that’s the only class I know so far. But do you have do? How do you use herbal medicine when you’re working with kids that have chronic conditions digestive, usually or otherwise?
Dr. Mary Bove:
Well, it’s a big question. Yes, and, and I do often think that digestion and digestive health and the microbiome is a deep root, a foundational piece to work on. Now, I can remember back in the 1980s, when I first started practicing naturopathic medicine, there was one lab that did digestive analysis back then. And the possibility that the gut could actually make a difference on how much sinusitis there was, was like a new kind of concept.
But in herbal medicine, I remember my teacher from the 1970s talking about the need to make sure that the gut was functioning well, in order to have good basic health. And I think we look at traditional healing systems throughout the world will often come back to that. So when I work with a kid with a chronic issue, whether that’s chronic asthma or stomach aches, or ADHD, or autism, I often look to see what is the quality of the gut, and how is it working?
And now we have so many more sophisticated ways to look at that. But it’s one of the things that I think is important is to not just stop with the child’s gut, is to take a history as to what was the prenatal environment like, and how was the mom’s microbiome health during the pregnancy and or lactation? Because that definitely influences that dynamic. And I think often with chronic health issues with kids, particularly with neurological issues. And that the atopic issues, it’s, it is the prenatal environment, the mom’s predispositions it wasn’t there’s allergies in that picture and the overall toxic environment in our world.
I think that that can interrupt nutritional development, and then stress if you look at this, the impact of stress hormones on fetuses growing into the uterine, you’ll find that there are direct calm, compromises that occur through growth and development, behavioral development, in the inter uterine environment is in fact as affected by stress hormones, and so forth. And so we, we now, I think of these things as multifactorial, it’s not just one issue. It’s multiple issues that have created this breakdown. And we have less than optimal, you know, physiology, or occurring in this child’s immune development or microbiome development or whatever. It is.
But it’s always a good idea to start with a gut you’re saying, right?
Dr. Mary Bove:
Yes, I think it really is. And I think with kids, there are some easy ways to start with a gut in the sense that you going back to food is medicine, many of the aromatic plants that we love in herbal medicine, like our mention, or rosemary, and our basil, and those types of plants have a direct effect on brain development, neurological, you know, peripheral neurological development, and on the gut, health and gut development in a child’s gut, and microbiome develops, you know, quite quickly over the first two, two and a half years of life.
There are things that we can do to encourage that by, you know, encouraging chamomile tea, or chamomile, fennel tea into their diet, or some spearmint tea into their diet or using some of those things in cooking, when you’re in introducing foods such as cinnamon and fennel, and those types of culinary plants that do bring nutrients to help with the development of those issues.
If I can, you know, Could you share with us maybe three or four herbs or plants that parents you would recommend as part of a toolkit and how to use those, and how frequently to use those. So you would say do you have like a, like a group of plants that are your, if you don’t know anything about herbal medicine, just get these things and use them regularly? That kind of stuff? Yes,
Dr. Mary Bove:
yes, I was, I’d say my three like go twos for children, particularly children under the age of five, you know, that maybe a little bit more sensitive to taste would be fennel seed. Mm hmm. Kevin, male flowers and lemon balm,
nice in any form? Well,
Dr. Mary Bove:
I would say that all of those could be used in tea form. And all of those could be used in extract form. Now, no, the other thing is, is like if I had a cranky, like nine-month-old, I might actually use lemon balm and Kevin Mel’s tea is very strong in the bath water. Nice, as well as giving, you know, a teaspoon dose that you know, to calm them down. And that that would be the so these three herbs can be used as, as you know, foot bass or herbal bass, they could be used as teas, and you could get glycerin of those and use them. And those are sweet, right?
Yes, and those are sweet. So the thing is, is that when you extract a plant in alcohol and water to make an alcohol extract tincture, it that’s probably the most optimal way to get the most the broadest amount of compounds out when you extract it and glycerin it that doesn’t extract that broad of compounds so you’re more apt to be extracting that aromatic compounds the flavor the scent in some of those compounds that are attached to other sugars.
So So sometimes glycerin isn’t the best form to use. But a lot of what it does extract it’s kind of what we’re we’re looking to use with kids so for lemon balm glycerin or mmm glycerin it, that would be fine. So I might be if I had a child who had any type of stomachache, gas, bloating, colic, or constipation, I would use a combination of fennel and camera meal either as a tea or glycerin.
Now like it says a child wouldn’t drink tea maybe a three-year-old is not going to drink a cup of tea. So at that point, I might have an extract and use like five to six drops of each of those in a tiny little bit of juice or honey water or something that the child likes stuff to drink and quickly give it to them that way or with a dropper so that then they’re not having to drink a whole cup of tea and mom’s kinda, you know, force it down them, but they got their dose.
So they’re an extract like that can be helpful. But if they’re drinking as you know, some cold water or a little bit of water mixed with a little bit of like a juice during the day and you fill up their sippy cup, instead of filling it with water, fill it with some chamomile tea and a little bit of splash of blueberry juice and every day they’re getting that Kevin male tea or a little bit of the lemon balm tea if they if in that could be very useful and helping to encourage good digestion, no buildup of gas and to support the muscle layer in the gut if there was nervous tension, and I think we know that kids store their nervous tension in their gut often.
Oh, I see. And that’s that actually, this this this combination of teas and the way that you’re, you’re suggesting that they couldn’t get sounds really wonderful, actually. I mean, I would just assume that the, and you’re also building a tolerance to a different flavor profile? And yeah. What about older kids? would? Would it still be the same herbs? Or would you add anything on? Like, maybe kids older than seven, eight or so on?
Dr. Mary Bove:
Yes, so I think when we get to a child-like seven or eight or school age going to school, we may want to add in things like elderberry and echinacea, those plants can be useful if they get an upper respiratory, cold, or they get a rhinovirus, that type of thing. So and there are a lot, of nice preparations out in the market that combine elderberry syrup with eco Niche. So you can get them there kid friendly.
We see now a lot more put into like dummy style. I’m not a big fan of gummies in the sense that, you know, they can bring their own kind of questions with that, whether it’s tapioca or gelatin and so forth. But I do think finding a way that it works for a child and some shot children, you may find that the only thing they’re going to take but many of those elderberry Serbs are quite palatable and quite nice mixed, you know, with a tea, or with water in their sippy cup.
I really love that. Finally, kind of changing tracks a little bit as this is, this is my last question is what advice would you give practitioners who are not using herbal medicine in their practice? It’s kind of a quote, I didn’t put that nicely but or you can change that too. There are a lot of functional medicine practices. And there are people like me, who don’t necessarily know how to use herbal medicine. Right. So is there? Is there a way that we can integrate herbal medicine? Or maybe refer out or how do we bring herbal medicine into our practice?
Dr. Mary Bove:
Yes, I think that’s a hard question in some ways because there’s, I wish there was like one place to point to get all that information. One thing I would say is that there are specific curbs that have been kind of looked at over and over again with kids so you can find more research on it. So it might many practitioners find that they like to start with a few plants that have been well researched for safety and efficacy.
Lemon balm would be one of those lemon balms and valerian has been looked at in combination quite a bit for ADHD, insomnia, hyperactivity, a number of aspects, and the same thing with elderberry and Echinacea. So I would say start by having a read of those plants doing a search and kind of looking at what’s there and get comfortable with that. Also, herbs can be used in food forms. So going back to something traditional like golden milk, where you’re using some teamwork with some spices mixed into a plant-based or animal-based milk of their choice with that becomes a way in which they may feel comfortable and prescribing something like that.
And there are many golden milk formulas out in the market now. So that a child might that a practitioner might find well if I do it as a, as a warm beverage or as a, you know, a culinary augment to it, that might be a good way to start. And there are resources more and more resources I think out there as far as published books on working with kids. So we do see a few more herbs for kids are natural medicine for kids’ books out there.
I see. And thank you for that. And one of the things that thank you for your time in this podcast as well. One of the things that I am I’m taking from this podcast is the ease with which you’re saying that herbal medicines and just herbs in general can be used on a daily basis and you have some you know interesting ways like using them in a bath using them. You know you can smell Selling them and you said teas and tinctures.
I think he said glycerin said, there are so many ways in which you can integrate herbs on a daily basis. I think I’m also guilty, at least for my son of using them on and off and many times in pill form. And just because I hadn’t given it that much thought so I, I really liked how you’re integrating herbal medicine into daily life and kind of looking at it from a different perspective than just popping a pill. Is there? Is there a way that that parents can contact you to work with you? Do you still work with me? You know, one on one with clients?
Dr. Mary Bove:
I do some of that. And they could contact me through my email. Okay, which is horrible. I don’t know if I should say it, or I can
put it in the show notes. Okay, good. Okay, I’ll share. I’ll share your email in the show notes if that’s okay. Yeah.
Dr. Mary Bove:
That would be great. Thank you.
Thank you so much for your time, Dr. Bove. This was this was an amazing conversation. And it’s it’s always and this perspective is very valuable. And you put it.
Dr. Mary Bove:
that way. Yeah. Well, and thank you for your work in helping to get that out to all of the people who can help it get to kids and others that need that type of information.
Wow, that was really cool. Consistency is actually one of my issues and following through with herbal medicine. And it’s pretty clear from the doctor what Dr. Bove sets that consistency is specially KEY in this situation. KEY in capital letters right. Now, if you want to pick one change that you can do every day going forward, you can pick one of the things that Dr. Bove says one of the herbs that she talks about, or you can go to functionalnutritionforkids.com/gut health. That’s one word for a free eBook with simple powerful changes to impact gut health.
My signature course roadmap to attention and regulation, it’s often called Roar is opening up in a month and you can get on the waitlist at www.functionalnutritionforkids.com/roar. Again, that’s functionalnutritionforkids.com/roar. Until next week, happy Herbs. I hope you find a favorite herb that works for you. Mine by the way, is lavender. Bye