Promoting Calm Focused Attention in Our Youth by Lesley Tierra, LAc, Dipl. Chinese Herbal Medicine
Calm Child is a clinically derived herbal formula, specifically designed to support many body systems that are critical to the health and well-being of children. It is truly a multi-purpose herbal treasure, useful for supporting the health of the immune system in winter, enhancing digestive processes, and promoting restful sleep, issues commonly experienced by most children. It also helps defend the system against the negative effects of stress, eases occasional restlessness, and promotes calm focused attention.
The Challenged Child
Difficulty in focusing and concentrating is one of the fastest growing problems for children today. This is a "new" problem, recognized as such over the last thirty years of the twentieth century. In the nineties, up to 5 percent or more of all school-age children were identified as having issues with focus (greater than 5 million children in 1995, over 25% higher than in 1985!). Since then, this number has continued to grow. Signs of the problem include the following and must be present for at least six months in more than one setting (home, school, etc.) especially before the age of seven: distractibility (inattention); inability to concentrate or focus; impulsivity (poor self-control); and excessive activity. Of course, measures of all of these are very subjective and are a part of the development of almost every child. Additionally, situations such as premature separation from parents, or unresolved emotional issues, or a family crisis, can cause children to withdraw or, conversely, act out due to an inability to appropriately express their feelings. Further, excessive and violent TV and computer games, lack of physical exercise, and poor diets can cause over-stimulation, internally and externally. Determining when such behavior is a problem is subject to interpretation. Too often, children are provided with a diagnosis before they are out of pre-school and are far too often prescribed pharmacological interventions such as amphetamines (Ritalin).
The Birth of Calm Child
My husband, Michael Tierra, originally formulated Calm Child for our own child, Chetan, then one year old, to address a wide array of potential childhood issues. His underlying intention was to use Calm Child for all children, based on his belief that most childhood emotional complaints are due to the unconscious pain of separation from the security and comfort of the womb. It was also based on the fact that historically, botanicals have been widely used to support the development of healthy children. Chamomile and lemon balm are perfectly suited for this purpose. Both are incredibly gentle-acting and deliciously fragrant botanicals that promote relaxation and calmness. Both also address underlying digestive imbalances that can give rise to occasional irritability and restlessness.
The Calm Child Formula
The herbs in Calm Child have a long history of use for calm focused attention in children:
Lemon Balm: In his herbal of 1640, the renowned English medical botanist John Parkinson quoted Serapion the Younger (802-849) who said lemon balm is used "to cause the mind and heart to become merry...to strengthen the weakness of the spirits and heart, and to comfort them..." This belief in the comforting effects of lemon balm persisted and was repeated by Avicenna, who stated "it makes the heart merry and strengthens the vital spirit." In the 16th century, the renowned herbalist Nicholas Culpeper reported on the use of lemon balm for melancholy and sadness. Herbalists and midwives today continue to use lemon balm for the same purposes.
Chamomile: Well-known in the nineteenth century, chamomile was used for crying, weepy children and to support calm digestion. Herbalists have long recognized a relationship between upset stomachs and restless children. Today, it is still widely used in homeopathy for babies' teething and children's clinginess. Other complementary ingredients in Calm Child include: jujube seeds (zizyphus), one of the most nourishing and relaxing nerve tonics used in Chinese herbalism; the incredibly nourishing berries of hawthorn and amla; the calming, aromatic, and digestive promoting effects of catnip, anise, clove, and long pepper; the legendary gotu kola for promoting mental well-being and attention; and the minerals magnesium (taurinate) and calcium (citrate), both necessary for normal nerve and muscular function.
Works in Three Important Ways
Together these botanicals work in three important ways to promote calm focused attention in children. They: 1) promote a calm relaxed nervous system; 2) provide added nourishment which is essential for normal brain function; and 3) support a calm and healthy digestive system which is often an underlying cause of childhood restlessness.
Calm Child was developed more than 20 years ago and has been used by literally tens of thousands of children worldwide. In my own clinical practice, I have found Calm Child to have a wide range of uses. It is great as a wintertime supplement, to support normal digestion, promote relaxation and sleep, and perhaps most important, to cultivate a strong, centered, focused sense of mental and emotional well-being, specifically in children though many parents of active children have benefited from it as well. When it is given in conjunction with a diet that is low in refined sugars and food colorings and additives, parents report tremendous success in dealing with teething, occasional headaches and digestive imbalances, increasing attention in school, or helping their children cope with the stresses of day care.
For best results, herbs are always given in conjunction with diet and lifestyle recommendations. When using Calm Child, make sure the child is eating sufficient protein for his/her needs along with lots of cooked vegetables and some whole grains. Include some fruit, but keep fruit juices to a minimum as they contain too much simple sugar for children. Eliminate sugar, white flour products, foods with colors and preservatives, and caffeinated products as much as possible. Be sure to give plenty of water (many children never drink water but depend on juices or sodas instead!). Also, children inherently have much more energy than their parent and teacher handlers who try to make them sit still and focus on something that has little meaning to them. Make sure they get plenty of physical exercise to burn off some of the energy that teachers and parents have difficulty harnessing.