One of my biggest challenges with Nolan is trying to get essential nutrients into his body. He is an incredibly picky eater at this point, and while he was sick over the last month or so, his food choices dropped down to just a few options. He spent two weeks eating only noodles with nutritional yeast and oil, and seemed to crave it to the point that he would dip his fingers in the yeasty oil at the bottom of the bowl to get every last drop out. (I used a whole range of healthy fats–extra virgin olive oil, cold-pressed hemp oil, duck fat, grassfed butter, bacon grease, coconut oil, to name a few–in LIBERAL amounts to boost his calories and at least give him a extra few fat-soluble vitamins.) Now he is eating a handful of foods again, but there are huge holes in his nutrient intake even on the best days, and protracted illness significantly depletes your body’s internal stores.
Unfortunately for me, and for many other parents with special needs children, Nolan’s picky eating makes it especially difficult to sneak nutritional supplements into his food. He can’t swallow pills, doesn’t eat gummies or suck on lozenges, and only drinks water and tea, which he scrutinizes for discoloration that might mean I’ve doctored it up. Through extensive trial and error, I have found a range of products that he will tolerate in his water–I mentioned some of the cold and flu options in an earlier post.
The one supplement I have never had good luck with to date, however, is a multivitamin. We have been using Klaire Vitaspectrum, which was actually designed to support the nutritional deficits of children on the autism spectrum, but it can’t support him if he won’t take it! The problem we have had with this product is that it tints the water yellow and has a flavor that he apparently dislikes; it also doesn’t fully dissolve, so there is always a tiny bit of gritty substrate in the bottom of his cup. I have never figured out how dilute it or otherwise doctor it up sufficiently to get him to drink an entire dose.
Instead of using force or subterfuge to inject a multivitamin supplement into Nolan’s paltry diet, I recently decided to try a different approach–I have been making him a simple nutrient-dense herbal tea with just two basic ingredients: nettle and oatstraw.
The nettle is the infamous stinging nettle plant, which can be consumed fresh as a green that tastes like spinach or used dry as an herb or tea. Nettle is high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, chromium, selenium, and trace minerals like manganese, silica, iodine, phosphorous, and sulphur; it is a good source of vitamin C and K1, B complex vitamins, beta-carotene and chlorophyll, as well as anti-inflammatory bioflavonoids. 10% of nettle is easily absorbable amino acids, more than any other vegetable. As with many foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, nettle is a galactagogue (milk-supporting food), and is safe to use both during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is a very mild diuretic and helps regulate blood pressure, so you’ll want to approach with caution if you are on blood pressure medications; it is also a natural antihistamine, so it may be beneficial to take for allergies, asthma, or eczema.
Oatstraw is the leaves and stems of the oat plant leftover once its seeds have been harvested. It has a high content of vitamin E, B complex, beta carotene, calcium, magnesium and other minerals such as silica. One statistic I found suggests that just an 8oz cup of nettle or oatstraw infusion contains 300 mg of bioavailable calcium! Oatstraw is known for not only building bones, teeth, hair, skin and nails, but also has a calming effect on the nervous system. One source I found suggests that oatstraw helps repair and rebuild the myelin sheaths that provide protection around around our nerves for healthy function, and it is potentially useful against anxiety and depression; it may impart increased emotional flexibility, as well as increased focus. As a galactagogue, oatstraw is safe and supportive to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Approach with caution if you have a gluten sensitivity; however, oatstraw rarely causes negative reactions even for those who cannot eat oats themselves.
Making an herbal infusion of these or other herbs is as simple as pouring cool filtered water over the dry herbs in a quart jar, shaking it all up, and allowing it to steep overnight, up to 12 hours. Then strain out the spent herbs and drink the infusion cool, warm, sweetened or plain. We like it with a drop or two of peppermint stevia. If you forget to steep the herbs before bed, you can also infuse them in hot water for 10-15 minutes, but be aware that the flavor may be more pungent.
This particular herbal combination is a good one to cover your basic micronutrient needs, but fee free to add others for flavor and additional nutrients. I am no herbalist—although I hope to learn much more about this fascinating topic one day soon—but here are two options that jumped out at me as I researched this post:
- Rosehips: Rosehips are rich in vitamin A and E, and an even better source of vitamin C than citrus fruit like oranges–they were used to stave off scurvy in Great Britain during World War II. They are also an excellent source of lycopene.
This website has an extensive list of herbal sources of vitamins and minerals for further research in this area.
If you are interested in trying out your own multivitamin infusions, I would highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs as a source of high quality products. They offer discounts for bulk purchases, and a pound each of dried nettle and oatstraw will last you quite some time. I buy most of my herbs from them, as well as other supplies for homemade body care products, like carrier and essential oils, beeswax and natural clays; they also carry supplemental food products like spices, teas, and sea salt. If you click through the affiliate link below or in my sidebar, I will earn a small commission on purchases.