The Best Calming Herbs to Use to Soothe your Child

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM

If you have a child who struggles with issues like hyperactivity or anxiety, it might be tempting to use conventional medicines but these medications have a variety of side effects and many parents prefer to try more natural options such as calming herbs. There are a number of herbs that are safe for your child to take and they can make a big difference in their behavior and mood.

Childhood Problems

A child with ADHD may be helped by calming herbsUnfortunately, there are a number of mental and emotional issues that can affect children. According to sources, more than 1 in 8 children suffer from anxiety, and some reports claim that between 5 and 11 percent of school-aged children have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), though this figure is contentious in some circles. These are frightening statistics, and if your child suffers from one of these problems, it can be difficult to know what to do. These types of disorders produce a range of behaviors that can be extremely disruptive or frightening including the following:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to sit still
  • Aggression
  • Fidgeting
  • Irritability
  • Impulsivity

If your child exhibits some of these symptoms it can be tempting to just dismiss them or explain them as part of being a child, but it’s important that you don’t do that. With any type of behavioral or mental disorder, getting treatment as early as possible is vital for a good outcome. And if you ignore the issue, hoping that your child will grow out of it, it could leave them even further behind their peers in every way and make it that much more difficult for them to catch up.

The normal treatment for these kinds of disorders usually involves a combination of medications and cognitive behavioral therapy. These treatments are intensive, require a lot of adjustment to ensure that they’re right for your child, and can even be dangerous for your child’s health.

The Problem with Medications

Medications are an important benefit of modern medicine, and they’re often vital in improving people’s quality of life but that doesn’t mean they’re without their drawbacks. Medications that treat mental or behavioral disorders, in particular, can be dangerous, have a range of side effects, and may even have unexpected negative effects on your child’s body and development. But that doesn’t mean that you can completely dismiss the idea of medication, nor should you stop a medication regime without a doctor’s supervision. In fact, when it comes to medications and your child’s health, you need to work closely with your doctor to ensure that you’re not doing more damage by halting or changing their medication regime. So if you’re concerned about medications that are meant to soothe your child, make sure you talk to your doctor about your concerns before you do anything else.

Before Giving Supplements

Before you try to give your child any calming herbs, you need to be aware that there are still a number of drawbacks to this approach. It can be tempting to think that natural remedies are completely safe, but this just isn’t true. Before you try any calming herbs on your child, make sure you’re aware of the following issues:

  • Herbal supplements may have side effects, so make sure you’re aware of them before you start your child’s new regime and stay alert for signs of trouble.
  • Herbal remedies aren’t as tightly regulated as other medications, so make sure you buy high-quality products without additives or preservatives.
  • Some supplements can interact with other medications, so make sure you introduce calming herbs with the help and assistance of a medical professional.
  • And finally, don’t completely dismiss the idea of medications. Sometimes a problem is severe enough that medications are the best solution as well as the only one that really works. Don’t make your child suffer if they really need medications to function.

Do Calming Herbs Work?

Chamomile, one of various calming herbs, in a child's handsResearch is divided on the efficacy of herbal supplements in treating hyperactivity or other behavioral problems in children. Most of the time, when parents notice these types of behaviors they tend to go straight to their doctors for medication, so there hasn’t been a lot of research on the alternatives. But some studies do suggest that calming herbs can have a positive impact on troubling behavioral symptoms in children, so they’re worth trying if you’re struggling to find a workable solution for your child. Make sure you have your doctor’s assistance at all times while you’re trialing these alternatives.

How to Use Herbs

Never give your child any herbs or other medications without consulting their doctor first. This is vital to ensure that the herb is safe for your child and that it won’t react with any other medication they’re taking or with other conditions they might have. Also, be careful not to give your child more than the recommended dose. Herbs are generally safer than medications, but they can cause major problems if you take too much. And finally, make sure that you’re also using other therapies to help your child. It isn’t enough to just give them a tablet and hope that it works. You need to work with your child and other health professionals to teach them healthy behaviors and to learn strategies yourself for dealing with negative behaviors.

Potential Causes of Behavioral Problems

No one really knows what causes hyperactivity, anxiety or other disorders in children, though there is a lot of speculation. These disorders can occur at any age and have been linked to emotional causes, such as lack of parental bonding or discipline, as well as foods like sugar, which may cause hyperactivity in some children. There may also be environmental factors that cause behavioral problems such as heavy metal contamination or noise pollution. Disorders such as ADHD and anxiety also can occur at the same time, causing a confusing mix of symptoms, or be the result of other conditions such as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) that can affect even children.

What is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome?

AFS is a stress-related illness that causes the adrenal glands to become fatigued and less able to help your body deal with stress. Your adrenal glands are an important part of your neuroendometabolic (NEM) stress response, systems that make changes in your body to help deal with stressful situations. Stress is a normal part of life, and a certain amount of stress is even good for your body. When a child is born constitutionally weak, the body is unable to handle the stress of growth, infection, or environmental insults. But when the body is stressed for a prolonged period, your adrenal glands, even for children, can become too fatigued to help your body cope properly. And when this happens one may experience a number of frustrating symptoms that linger even after the stress has been removed.

AFS in Children

Calming herbs and AFS in childrenIt may seem strange to think that a child could have AFS, but that ignores the role of stress in causing this disorder. These days, children often have a lot of pressure on them. They have to succeed academically, navigate the troubled waters of their social relationships and take part in a number of after-school activities such as sports. This can create a lot of stress for children over a prolonged period of time and could result in adrenal fatigue. This disorder is becoming more common these days in young adults and teenagers, but there are also signs of it in pre-teens. With these age groups, not only do they have to deal with the stress of their lives, they also have hormones that are out of control combined with a brain that is underdeveloped to make the kinds of decisions they have to make. This is a potent combination that causes a lot of stress for nearly all young people. HIgh achievers and athletes tend to be most at risk. Symptoms tend to be very hard to detect unless one is on the lookout. They include fatigue, reduced exercise tolerance, sensitivity to noise, food and chemical sensitivities, easily irritable, insomnia, inability to deal with the social environment, and frequent infection.

Calming Herbs for Children

There are a number of herbs that can help with the shifting moods and behavioral problems associated with normal aging and disorders such as AFS. Most of the time, treating these through more natural remedies involves a combination of approaches including behavioral therapy, dietary adjustments, relaxation techniques, and supplements or herbs that can support the new regime. This is a treatment avenue that is well worth pursuing, as it will teach your child techniques and strategies that will help them throughout their lives.

Californian Poppy

Calming herbs: Californian PoppyCalifornian Poppy is a common cure for anxiety and insomnia and it’s safe enough to use in treatments for anxiety and ADHD in children. There are no known side effects for this herb.

Chamomile or Valerian

These are both powerful relaxants that can be used with children. They’re very safe and may also help your child re-establish more natural sleep patterns. Chamomile can also calm digestive difficulties, which are often associated with stress and disorders such as AFS. These herbs are much better for the body than conventional treatments for stress and insomnia, which are usually fairly addictive because they’re non-habit forming.


A number of studies have suggested a link between magnesium deficiency and anxiety. It can be found in a variety of foods such as rice, oats or seeds, but if the food is processed the magnesium is often lost. Make sure you talk to your doctor before you supplement with magnesium as it can have side effects or affect certain diseases.


Melatonin is often used as a sleep aid and can help to re-establish a good sleep routine. It isn’t always appropriate for children, so you need to get your doctor’s consent before you try this remedy. But once you have that, melatonin can be extremely effective. Sleep is incredibly important for proper functioning in all humans, but it’s especially essential for children. Despite this, a number of sources claim that many children just don’t get enough sleep to function at their best. Strangely enough, children who are sleep-deprived often react in the opposite way than you might think. They get hyped up, find it hard to sit down and concentrate, and may display irritability. And these are all symptoms of disorders like ADHD and anxiety.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

There has been a lot of talk in health circles lately about fatty acids. They have a number of benefits for the brain and the body, so it’s usually a good idea to take them even if you don’t have anxiety. However, Omega 3 deficiency has been linked to anxiety and depression, so may be able to help soothe your child while it’s building up their general health at the same time.


Calming herbs: PassionflowerThis herb is gentle and safe and it has very few side effects, so it’s safe for children. Passionflower can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety such as mood swings and irritability, and it’s also a natural relaxant as well.

Vitamin B

Vitamin B deficiency has a strong negative effect on the central nervous system and can actually cause anxiety symptoms. This vitamin can be found in a variety of foods, but if your child’s diet is limited they may need a supplement. Vitamin B supplements are safe and effective and can improve your child’s overall health and lower their stress levels.

Final Thoughts

Adults aren’t the only ones who suffer from stress and they’re not the only ones who may show signs and symptoms of AFS either. Unfortunately, as life gets more complicated, more and more children are showing behavioral, emotional and mental issues such as ADHD or anxiety that may be associated with prolonged stress and the negative effects this can have on the body. If your child is showing some of these symptoms, there are a number of calming herbs that can help soothe them naturally and safely. Just make sure you discuss it with your doctor before you try these kinds of solutions to ensure your child’s safety and overall health. Selected natural compounds such as macca, licorice, green tea, ashwagandha, and Rhodiola should be avoided.

© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Every child is different and finding calming herbs that work for your child will probably take time. However, herbs like magnesium, chamomile, Vitamin B and Omega 3 have been shown to have positive effects in some cases of hyperactivity and anxiety and may be worth trying with your child.

Calming herbs