Herbal Medicines for Children with Rob Santich

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Herbal Medicines for Children with Rob Santich

Having a sick child can be worrisome indeed, and treating children can be both tricky and rewarding.

One of the biggest hurdles when prescribing to children is compliance. When it comes to herbal medicines, lets face it, they weren't designed by nature to always taste pleasant and in fact, sometimes their unpleasant taste is a feature of their therapeutic action.

Today we're joined by herbalist Rob Santich who shares his decades of experience in finding novel ways to deliver herbal medicines to children. Rob takes us through the importance of building trust with children, how to determine children's dosing with herbs, and some creative ideas for making them palatable or alternative methods of delivery. 

Covered in this episode

[00:47] Introducing Rob Santich
[03:46] Hands-on herbal medicine
[06:24] Herbal medicine compliance with children
[12:23] Modern children seem to be less 'well'
[14:38] Building rapport with children and parents
[18:41] Navigating paedatric dosing
[23:15] The art of herb selection for palatability
[24:14] Method of delivery options
[26:48] Learning and behavioural disorders
[28:39] Essential oils
[29:42] Traditional remedies of Aboriginal medicine
[34:52] Herbal concentrations and processing methods
[37:21] The future of herbal medicine is strong

Andrew: This is FX Medicine, I'm Andrew Whitfield-Cook. Joining us on the line today is Rob Santich. He's a practicing naturopath best known for his passion for using herbal medicines. 

In 2008 he co-authored with Kerry Bone, the authoritative text Healthy Children: Optimising Children's Health with Herbs, Rob has lectured in many of the naturopathic colleges in New South Wales including at the Grad Diploma and Masters in Phytotherapy at the University of New England in Armadale. 

Although Rob is a general herbal practitioner he has a special interest in the treatment of children having four of his own age from 35 years to 17 years plus 4 grandchildren now. Rob has a heartfelt passion for traditional healing methods and ceremonies and has studied with both Australian Aboriginal and Lakota healers. He regularly visits the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, USA to do ceremony and study of the many medicinal plants growing there. And I warmly welcome you to FX Medicine. How are you, Rob? 
Rob: Great. Thanks. Thank you, Andrew. No, I'm really good. Despite the fact I've been doing this for 35 years I think I'm getting younger. Of course, the longer you do something, the better you get at it. 
Andrew: Must be all the herbal creams you make and put on your face. 
Rob: That's what it is, exactly. And I got sunburnt yesterday here in Melbourne. 
Andrew: Now tell us about your career because, boy, you would've seen some changes. 

Rob: Absolutely.

Andrew: How did you start off? I mean, you would've been considered a druid, wouldn't you? 
Rob: Well, exactly, exactly. So, you know, my herbal education started on a Friday night in Glebe Town Hall. 
Andrew: Really? 
Rob: Denis Stewart, the Southern Cross Herbal School. 
Andrew: The master. 
Rob: He hired a room, you know, for his Sydney students at the Glebe Town Hall with a narcotics anonymous meeting below us with all the rah, rah, rah and all that. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: And then you did your science with nature care.  
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: So yeah. It was, you know, kind of pioneering I guess and it was, you know, it was great. I loved it. And because he...you know, what Denis would do, he would bring a whole heap of potted medicinal plants and the whole back of the, you know, the room was full of, you know, potted medicinal plants. He made a great effort to instill, you know, knowledge and passion about the herb itself. It was great. I'm really grateful for Denis's education and I still see him to this day. So it's good, we've been good mates all these years. 
Andrew: Absolutely. I'll always hang off on one of Denis's best sayings. And he says, "A glass..." What is it? "A glass of good red wine is not judged by how much resveratrol is in it." 
Rob: That's right. It helps but it's not the only thing. 
Andrew: And I guess the salient warning there is, don't just think that standardisation is your quality indicator. It is not. 
Rob: No, that's right. Exactly. Exactly. 
Andrew: But you would've said...like I've got a lot of respect for your ilk, your peers, because you indeed really knew the actual living plant. 
Rob: Yeah, that's right, exactly. So that...and that's what I try to, you know, maintain because I still run kind of, workshops, you know, just by myself and a few helpers and take people into the field. And we're doing another one on...I've teamed up with Andrew Pengelly who is...Andrew is one of my teachers. He taught me botany because he worked with Denis and the Southern Cross Herbal School. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: So we've been mates all these years. But he's been teaching in America. You know, he got his PhD on an Australian native here in Australia and then it was very difficult for a PhD to get a job in Australia in those...back in those years, in herbal medicine. So he got...he moved to America. 

Anyway, he's back so, you know, and he's as equally as passionate as I am about, you know, fieldwork and being involved with plants. And so we've had one late last year up at...it was actually Denis Stewart's property in Rothbury. But the next one is going to be in Queensland, in rural Queensland and in...at Mountain Barney. And there's a lot of wilderness area around it. So it's a combination in, you know, home style type accommodation, they get their meals.. and there's me, Andrew, a guy that runs the Byron Bay Distillation Company. I forget...I've met him once. And a few other people. So it's got an essential oil kind of feel to it, this one. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: So, you know, because I've got a little still and fairly self-sufficient in native essential oils. You know, I use a lot of essential oils in topical preparations and get people to...and I've got a decongestant rub which is great for kids. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: You know, it's in a laponite gel. And laponite is a clay gel. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: It's a ringing gel so like you...remember hair gels and stuff like that. If you flciked the jar, it wobbles. 
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. 
Rob: So it's a clay that is very hydroscopic so it takes on a lot of water and it sets and then into it you put, you know, proportions of the essential oil. So what you've effectively got is a Vicks type preparation without the paraffins and stuff in it. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: Parents really love it, you know. Parents really love it. It's really effective for children. It smells beautiful, it's unique and a lot of unique Australian oils in it. And it's, you know...doesn't have paraffins in it so it's great. It's a good product. 
Andrew: Let's go back to these early days where you got to know the plant, use the plant and then find out ways and preparations in which you can actually get them used by your patients. Because let's face it, specialising in kids, they're going to be pretty reticent to a lot of herbal extracts. Correct? 
Rob: Absolutely. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: Absolutely. Absolutely. So compliance is a big, big issue. But I think first of all if, you know, the herbalist has tasted it and knows, you know all the remedies.. and so, you know, your selection criteria is first of all taste. “Okay, you know, I can't give that one because, you know, a child will..." No matter whether, you know, the child is used to herbal medicines or not. If it's hideous well, then they're not going to take it. It's as simple as that. 

So knowing the taste of your remedies is a good thing. And then there's other tricks, you know. There's tricks, you know. All kids like things that are sweet so you can sweeten it up. Now in days gone by it would've been, you know, sugary syrup. Now we don't do that anymore but you can use...you know, you'd make a formula for instance and two thirds of it would be the herbal formula and that herbal formula would be selected already on the basis of taste, as well. So you wouldn't include things like valerian and you know, hideous ones. 
Andrew: Picrorhiza.
Rob: So picrorhiza, yeah. I had a patient of mine used to call it “pick your eyes out.” It's so bad you want to pick your eyes out immediately. That was a very pretty good description. 

Anyway, so, you know, you've already...and you've come up with, you know, a totally relevant, totally indicated formula but you sweeten up so you can add, you know, honey to it, you can add, you know, maple syrup, other types of things to cut it down but, you know, the bottom line here is that goldenseal will always taste like goldenseal. You know, it'll come through. That bitterness will linger. So, you know, then, you know, the remedy, the dose is then followed by, you know, a drink of a water or something, you know. Bribery is good in, you know, in an instance like this. There's nothing wrong with bribery. 
Andrew: I'll always remember. My eldest son, his fifth word was echinacea and...yeah, a three syllable word. It was cracker. And my youngest son used to take a...I think it was liquid fish oil. And without any hesitation whatsoever but he’d always, always want to get his lolly afterwards. There was always this, you know, "Can I have my squirm now?" Yeah. So I'm not saying that I was necessarily doing the right thing but it was only one. 
Rob: You know, it's...getting it into them is the battle and there's a compromise in terms of the sweet afterwards, well, then so what, mate? You know, so what? It's good. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: You know, the benefits far outweigh, you know...getting it in is better than not getting it in. Is my thoughts. Is you do whatever it takes. 

So there is another trick of mine too that's described in the book. It's, you know...so all else has failed, right? So you sweeten the remedy and the parents are on board, you know, continually trying to get it into the child and it still doesn't work. You can make up...now those are the truly committed. You can use a juice with agar gel. You know, you can buy agar, you can buy organic agar gel. So you can make...you make your own jelly, right. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: Or you can just buy jelly, you know. And it's all full of sugar and garbage, so it’s preferably not the option. But, you know, again it depends on how much time a parent has and a lot of them don't have a lot of time to mess around with, you know, stuff. Anyway, so you make a jelly whichever way you make it and then you pour it in the small ice cube... 
Andrew: Aliquots?
Rob: Containers. Yeah, you know, the small compartment. 
Andrew: Portions, yeah. 
Rob: And then you say you decided on the dose. You know, you made a formula and you figured out the dose and it might be like four drops, three times a day. And you just drop those drops, four of drops or whatever it is into each of those compartments and it immediately disperses in the jelly. You don't need to mix it at all. Just...and you can see it disperse through the jelly. 
Andrew: Wow. 
Rob: And then you bung it in the fridge. And then the child has a jelly. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: But goldenseal will always taste like goldenseal. There’’ll be a transient bitterness and so you address that with, you know, cold water or whatever. 
Andrew: Yeah. But do you know what? Like the funny thing is with goldenseal admittedly as an adult, is yes, it was bitter but there was nothing like that action. I've used no herb that gets that action on sinusitis. 
Rob: You got it. You got it. You got it. That's right. You absolutely got it. We have a lot of supposed alternatives because the fear of...when goldenseal got ridiculously expensive because it's threatened in the wild and it's still threatened in the wild and so then, you know, you had the growers coming on and to replicate...and I understand why it's so expensive because to grow goldenseal you have to replicate the dappled sunlight of the Virginian forest floor. That isn't easy. 

Andrew: Oh my god. 

Rob: That's shade cloth and the whole number. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: And then you wait years for your crop. So is it any wonder that it's ridiculously expensive? 
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. Was it caring for your kids that gave you that sparked, this interest in specialising if you like in treating kids? 
Rob: Absolutely. And, you know, at the time...and I'm not quite sure now if there's a unit in paediatrics in undergraduate education? 
Andrew: I don't think so. 
Rob: Not quite...no, I don't think there is? But the thing is that when you go into practice who do you see? You see mothers and their children. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: And so I learned on my own children. I learned what you could give them and what you couldn't. And how much you should give them. 
Andrew: Have you seen a change in either the types of conditions or indeed maybe the severity of conditions that you see in kids over the years? 
Rob: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think it's in line with, you know, that kind of nutritional degeneration that the Western Price people talk about. That, you know, the health of subsequent generations worsens with, you know, poor diet from generation to generation. So you see that. 

So yes. I think the children that I'm seeing now are way sicker than what they used to be. And that this sort of concept that we have about, you know, children's vitality, it's greater than an adult and often they just need a little bit of help and their health bounces back. You know, that was true 25 years ago. It is not true today for most unfortunately. And the riddle is deep, you know, there's been a lot of complicating factors, you know? You know, long term antibiotics, you know, lots of vaccinations, poor diet, moulds in the house, you name it, you know. It's a really complex kind of a... 
Andrew: What about kids being loaded with, you know, the stresses of the adults, you know, and just compounding generation to generation? Do you see that? Do you actually see kids coming in with anxiety, mood disorders now? 
Rob: Yeah, I do. Exactly. I don't think the education system really helps. I mean, there's a lot of...you know, when they're older and they're subject to NAPLAN-type testing and all this sort of stuff. 

You know, and there's a lot of criticism about that. From key educators and people that have a more holistic kind of view of, you know, what an education should be. Although I don't think we got it right. 
Andrew: What I think is one of the greatest shame... we're getting a little bit off topic. Is the changes. You know, they'll try one thing in the education system and say, "Right. We're doing it this way. Why? Because we spent money on it. And so we're doing it this way for the next three years," and then they go, "That failed. So we'll do the...we'll go back to the old way." 
Rob: That's right. Exactly. Exactly. 
Andrew: So what about your treatments? 
Rob: Well, we're all survivors of the public education system. That's what I say to my children.  
Andrew: That's right. 
Rob: I survived. It's up to you now. 
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. What about your treatments? Have you found that because the kinds and severity of the different conditions presenting have changed? Have your treatments changed or have you changed dose or...? 
Rob: No, I haven't changed things but, you know, it's a process, you know. You're a practitioner. You know. It's a process. You can't address everything all at once even though the temptation is to, you know. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: Because the patient wants to get well and they want...the parents want them to get well and they want everything to be addressed, you know, that sort of scope…but you can't. It’s as simple as that. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: So you just explain that and once you have their confidence and everybody's on board, you know, you work through the riddle. You work through the health riddle of that person. And, you know, going back to basics. Apply basic principles. Start with the gut. Start with detoxification. You know, if you don't know, if there's no clear picture and sometimes there's not. 
Andrew: And do you find that that then expresses the real culprit that you're dealing with? 
Rob: Yeah, exactly. That's quite… 
Andrew: As you move forward? 
Rob: Yeah. That's right. The real culprit is, you know, emerges. 
Andrew: It's been said many years ago to me there's nothing new under the sun. Do you find that you, you know, always remember the old ways, the old treatments, the old styles even perhaps of treating. And then you'll get a newfangled treatment, the new supplement, the new kid on the block and it's...you know, some of them are worthy, you know, some of them come in and they stick around. 
Rob: A lot of them are worthy. A lot of them are worthy, yeah, yeah. 
Andrew: So tell me how you blend that. 
Rob: You know, I'm excited when new things come along. I am genuinely excited when, "Oh, my God, you know. Sounds great." And then you have to use it, you have to get experience with it and some things fall away and some things stick with you. But I'm mainly a liquid guy, right? 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: So I mainly use liquids. I do use tablets but only some. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: You know, herbal tablets. And so, you know, I have a very huge dispensary. It's massive. It's one of your bigger dispensaries. And I don't use them all all of the time and you go through phases of different types of disorders which you use this spectrum of remedies. 

But I'll tell you at one...you know, remedies that I use a lot is liver digestive remedies and adaptogens, with kids. And, you know, then the, you know, the systems under stress that I see the most in kids is the nervous system, their digestive system and their respiratory system. 
Andrew: Right. 
Rob: So those types of remedies. 
Andrew: Rob, what about having consideration when blending natural therapies with pharmacological therapies that, undoubtedly, you'll encounter because, you know, little Johnny's had his fifth burst ear drum and the mother was fearful of a long-term adverse outcome with hearing or something like that. 

Rob: Yeah, that’s right. 

Andrew: So how do you work in using herbs with pharmaceutical medicines? 
Rob: Well, you're given no choice. You have to. If they're coming to you for, you know, another view and, you know, it's not a natural therapist's job to take any medications away. Is it? 
Andrew: No. 
Rob: So we can't do that. So you have to...and then you just, you know, go to reliable sources for potential herb-drug interactions and work through...and make your remedy choice based on an indication. You know, this herb...you know, this bunch of...these bunch of herbs are indicated for whatever's going on here. Check them for any drug interaction. And you just proceed through it like that. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: And, honestly, I have not… in all the years...this would include adults too. There's been very, very few. In fact, I can say, quite safely say that I have had absolutely no adverse interactions between pharmaceuticals and herbal remedies. 

And, you know, like there was quite a number of years where I was, you know, in a clinical support role and I can tell you that the majority of the questions were herb-drug interactions. And also fear around, you know, prescribing herbal medicines for children. There's a great deal of fear because, you know, practitioners haven't received any education at the undergraduate level. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: But there's no, you know...and the way that I think is? Well, you know, if the medical profession doesn't think twice about administering the most toxic of medications, from birth, what are we worried about? 
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Good point. 
Rob: So, you know, use common sense here. And...but you have to know your herbs, you have to know dosage, how much to give. 
Andrew: I mean, even with pharmaceutical medicines the dosing calculations or normographs that have been used for decades are now coming into question again. So it's like, "What are we doing with...?" It's not like they've got it down pat. 
Rob: They haven't. That's right. 
Andrew: So let's go into dosage considerations. What form do you use? 
Rob: Okay. So there's a...you know, first of all a young child has a greater kind of energy expenditure for...than an adult, right? So and there's calculations and those calculations are based on, you know, from, you know, from drug therapy pretty much. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: So for a child that is, you know, less than two this is the formula. You...it's 1.5 times their weight in kilos plus 10 gives you the percentage of the adult dose. Right? So if a child...an example would be, you know, just to make this easier. So the child is 20 kilos so it's 1.5 times 20 plus 10 and that's 40. So it's 40% of the adult dose. So...and that's the standard dose. So you put a formula together as you would an adult, 20 mil of this, 40 mil of that, you know. You construct it on a weekly dosage calculation. 

And an adult would take, you know, the average kind of adult, you know, between 70 and 80 kilos would have 5ml three times a day or, you know, 15ml divided by 2, twice a day. Or whatever works. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: So it's that final dose that you subject to that 40% to. So it's the 5ml three times a day. Yeah, so around about 2ml. 

And, you know, and we've got to say this, is that herbal dosing is forgiving. Largely. Right? It's forgiving. Plus, there's a whole heap of individual responses. So there's the sensitive, there's the not so sensitive, there's the drop doses, you know, that you can only ever give drops and, you know, they're sub therapeutic as far as we're concerned but they still work. And then there's the people that you have to, you know, hugely exceed the recommended doses to get anywhere. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: So it's forgiving. But, you know, it's important with children that you get it right. So for children under 2 it's the 1.5 times their weight in kilos plus 10 gives you the percentage which you then apply to your standard dose and you can apply that to a tablet as well, right? 

So using the previous calculations if it's 40% of the adult dose, so if the, you know, minimum dose for whatever tablet that is you selected for that child and it have to be an older child, about a school age child, then they can start to take tablets. However, you know, herbal tablets are usually like, you know, the size of horse tablets. So it's...you know, using that example, 40% of the tablets. So the parent needs a tablet cutter to chop off the 40%, crush it up, put it in something. You know, you can put it in like a natural jam or something like that and give it to them on a spoon. 
Andrew: But would you tend to favour then liquid herbs over a solid form dosing because you can dose that percentage more accurately? 
Rob: Yeah. Yes, I do favour that. Exactly. Yeah. Plus, it gives you...if you need to rapidly change the formula, you know. 
Andrew: Ahh, yes. 
Rob: It gives you that dosage flexibility. So, you know, most children would go away with either a 25ml or a 50ml dropper bottle, right? So they're not...if something untoward or something you've not expected happens and they can't take that remedy they haven't wasted very much money. 
Andrew: Do you find that you might favour different herbs, maybe better tasting? I don't know other characteristics that I'm thinking of. But when you're treating kids as opposed to adults. Even though in the same group of herbs like nervine or adaptogen or, you know, a diaphoretic, something like that. Do you tend to favour different types of herbs for kids? 
Rob: Yeah, exactly, yeah. The gentle...the ones that lay on the gentler side of the spectrum. You know when you look at a bunch of herbs that all have the same action and are indicated for that action? 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: You know, there's the strong ones, true to the weaker ones. So, you know, for a child I would select the weaker ones and then another, you know, thought running through my head is, "How does it taste, that weaker one?" 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: So the less intense...you know, the...and the less intense taste but that doesn't mean really that an individual's not going to respond to it in a good robust way. 
Andrew: What about the base? Like, you know, traditionally we use alcoholic extracts, fluid extracts but then you've got... 
Rob: Ah, ha. My favorite topic. 
Andrew: Oh okay. So then you've got glycetracts. So for instance, marshmallow in an alcoholic extract, absolutely abhorrent. In a glycetract, yum. Like you put that into somebody who's got a cough, wow. 
Rob: The glycetract of marshmallow can act as a taste corrector. So you've got, you know, a range of herbs together that are not tasting so good. You can sweeten it up with the glycetract of marshmallow. Right? And that's good for that. And plus, and you know, if it's indicated for, you know, some kind of, you know, spasmodic gut or inflamed gut thing it's going to help there. Plus, it's a reflex demulcent so it'll reflex into the urinary system and the lungs and soothe. So you get all that extra, extra activity. 

But, you know, I don't get too hysterical about alcoholic extracts. You know, say you've got, you know...and particularly around the alcohol issue, because alcohol is traditional menstruum, right? And it is a really, really good extractor of a vast range of active principles plus it's a good preservative. You also got to look at it too. So if alcohol is an issue...and alcohol can be, you know, a religious issue, you know, rare people can be allergic to it and all that kinda stuff. But most people are okay with, you know… 
Andrew: Oh it’s small amounts. 
Rob: You know, so you've got...you know, you put, you know, a remedy together and the average, you know...you've averaged it out. It might have, you know, 50% alcohol so...and that child is having three drops of that remedy three times a day. 50% of that is alcohol. It is insignificant. 
Andrew: For goodness sake, don't have a ripe banana. 
Rob: For goodness sake. Exactly. Exactly. Because you'll be fermenting more than that off that ripe banana. That's right. 

So things have got to be put into perspective. The benefits outweigh the risks. Most children can deal with it. You know, their alcohol dehydrogenase is developing and by the time they’re school age, you know, they have...you know, majority of them have, you know, the alcohol detoxification capacity equivalent to an adult. It's as simple as that. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: So, you know, if a child is otherwise okay, there's no sign of, you know, any liver issues, I have no problem whatsoever in giving alcoholic extracts. 
Andrew: Yeah. What about kids with particular types of say neurodevelopmental disorders? You know, you've spoken at the Mindd Forum. What do you do when you're dealing with somebody with Asperger's or ASD or even autism? 
Rob: This might lead us off of ingestibles for a little while because I don't actually start with ingestibles. Because I know that they're not going to take them. So first of all, they've got to get used to you. And so what I actually use is energy devices and I use...you know, these are TGA registered devices. And so I started with a Scenar. Now I use...it's a device called a Physiokey. So it's a...you can measure the skin resistance. It gives you a number, you know. So you can put it on in various areas of the skin and get a number. And that number is meaningful. So now after a while, you know, after a couple of talking sessions with the parent mainly, you know, the kids are okay now with me coming a little bit closer and being able to place these devices, electrodes, basically electrodes down their spine. And I can get an immediate handle on the state of their nervous system. And so not only is it a diagnostic. It's also a treatment. So once I calm them down a little bit and their body becomes more responsive. The Russians call it dynamic. More dynamic, more able to roll with the punches rather than being stuck in any particular direction. That's the time to give remedies. And then you have to be open as to, you know, how are they going to be administered. 
Andrew: Yeah. What about essential oils? 
Rob: Love them. Absolutely love them. So yeah. And, you know, the lemon balms. Those types of essential oils are very, very calming. So having those, you know, diffused into a room, putting those in laponite, you know, and having them, you know, placed on a child's foot or wherever, you know. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: And having a calming influence that way I think is a good idea. So you have to be creative and you kinda go...you know, we've got a lot of tools at our disposal and I think sometimes we get locked into, "I have to give, you know, a herbal medicine. I have to give that tablet." There's other ways you can go about things initially to calm a person down. I think...and that's really the mission for us all first up with lots of people. 

First of all, you know, developing trust and then calming them down and then, you know, coming in with other remedies. 
Andrew: Yeah. Talking about things that are at our disposal. We're seeing more and more, not a lot but more and more some Maori herbs coming across to Australia and they've got a great system of medicine. 
Rob: Oh, they do. They do. 
Andrew: Over in New Zealand. What about Australian indigenous medicines, though? 
Rob: That's been a little bit more difficult because I've been involved for a long time. Now they had a kind of a different way. And it was...and I think it comes down to this; And I'm talking specifically about the Australian Aboriginal experience. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: First of all, you know, there's one thing that characterises Australian plants that, you know...when you...you know, so you might be looking at, you know, a species of plant that are all the same. It's all, you know, the same species, same genera. But they'll have different phytochemistry, you know, be made up from a bunch of different phytochemicals. So there's phytochemical huge variety in eucalypts and every, every plant. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: So there's your problem right there and I remember being taken out by an aboriginal elder and, you know, on a part of his medicine song line right? 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: I mean, a little part of it. And he said, "See those three plants there?" He said, "See them three there?" He said, "They're all the same to you and if you wanted to use them you could pick any three, wouldn't you?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "Well, they're not all the same to me." He said, "One on the end there is my medicine." 
Andrew: Oh, okay. 
Rob: Right? And he knows. He knows somehow, you know. And this would be consistent. I'm pretty sure of that, that that would have, that particular representative of that particular bunch of plants is the one with the phytochemicals. So there's usually consistency there, right? 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: And it's that story of the...you know, it's only the Amazon shaman that know the difference between the two chemotypes of Cat’s Claw just by looking at it. 
Andrew: Right. 
Rob: It's that type of stuff, right? 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: So that really characterises as Australian plants. And that's why it's been tough in, you know, getting some of these plants into mainstream. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: Plus, they're terribly sensitive as well, you know. At least in New Zealand. There's a treaty and, you know, the relationship building is a little different in New Zealand. The relationship here is still fraught with difficulties. 

My friend Andrew Pengelly, he did his PhD on a particular plant. It's called dodonaea viscosa variety angustifolia. So it's a dodonaea. And you often see it. It's quite a pretty looking plant. The common name is hop bush. 
Andrew: Right. 
Rob: And it's used in landscaping and stuff and there's a kind of a bronzy variety of it throughout the Sydney region. It's a common understory plant in the sclerophyll forests around Sydney.  
Andrew: So this is angustifolia, so this is the thin leafed variety? Is that right? 
Rob: Exactly, exactly. That's right. Which only then grows, you know, up the Hunter somewhere. Anyway, so it has use worldwide. It's a peripatetic plant. And what it is, it's a cross between comfrey and arnica. 
Andrew: Oh, really? 
Rob: Yeah, which is a remarkable combination...you know, and I use… I go and make my own extract of hop bush. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: And use it as a topical for healing and trauma and... 
Andrew: Bruises. 
Rob: Yeah, exactly. 
Andrew: Same risk with blistered skin?
Rob: Yeah, no, not a problem. No, no problem. 
Andrew: Not a problem? Oh, my goodness. 
Rob: Not a problem because it doesn't have the saponins…

Andrew: Right. 
Rob: …which is the issue is with arnica. 
Andrew: What other considerations can you help our listeners with, with regards to kids? Any hints and tricks that you've learned along the way? 
Rob: Well, one thing I've noticed is that...there's a...you know, I've been a parent for quite a few years and so, you know, my eldest is 35 who I'm staying with at the moment and the youngest is coming up for 17, right? 

So and you go to the...you know, they've all been with the same primary school and just have different kind of attitudes that, you know, the parents have these days where they don't necessarily parent. They're more a friend. They try to be a friend. And so...and that's all good. Except when it comes to administering things that the child doesn't want and a lot of parents give up on that. They can’t, you know. So you need to, you know, really get them on board. So that's a thing. 

Then don't be worried about the alcoholic extracts. It's okay. Unless there is a genuine concern from the parent about alcohol and then you are immediately limited in your choice for remedies. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: So it's tablets or glycetracts. Now there's not a huge range of glycetracts on the market. And for good reason because not everything is suitable to be extracted as a glycetract or preserved in glycerin. That's why there's such a small range of them. 

And there was a company years ago that came out with an entire range with glycetracts and they didn't last. It didn't last more than 5 years. Because they got off in time, they get gloopy and all that kinda stuff. 
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. 
Rob: So don't be worried about the alcohol. 
Andrew: What about the concentration? I mean, Denis Stewart has a...he sometimes tirades about this, you know? And it's basically...comes... 
Rob: One in one. 
Andrew: Yeah, well, it...one in one, other people will, you know, vehemently defend the one in two and certain manufacturing techniques. I have issues, you know, particularly when I used to listen to...and I call them “old greats”, but I will be killed by Ruth Trickey if she hears me say that. But it was Ruth Trickey that opened my mind up and she...I remember her sort of saying, you know, about the old herbalist. We're talking druids, we're talking the, you know, monasteries that used to act as herbalists, things like that. 
Rob: Exactly. 
Andrew: They didn't do one in twos.

Rob. No!

Andrew: They didn't do cold percolation. 

Rob: No they didn’t. 

Andrew: You know, they had a whole different way of looking at a quality aspect. 
Rob: That's right. And I mean, those guys are really alchemists, right? They picked by according to astrological principles and that whole. It was a different, you know, style of herbal medicine. And they also… macerate, right? So gentle...a gentle, you know, soaking of the herb over time. 

Now, you know, we're just about to have a whole range of liquids come onto the market which is going to challenge everybody's, you know, education to date around, you know, what is a good way to make an extract, right? And, undoubtedly, we'll do a podcast on that when it comes time. 
Andrew: Okay. 
Rob: But these are all made through maceration. 
Andrew: Right. 
Rob: They're soaked for a long period of time and there is a remarkable difference between using these old principles and a more modern industrial process that rapidly percolates. You know, you can have your remedy done in 48 hours. These remedies, they take weeks and months. 
Andrew: Wow. 
Rob: And what I noticed immediately was soft and wide. And anybody that knows, you know, aromatherapy knows that it's a whole extract with all of the little nuances and things, you know. Those little...all the little peaks in the, you know, HPLC. 
Andrew: Well, see, this...so you...what you're saying here really reminds me of what Denis Stewart said, you know? That a good glass of red like a Grange...you know, a Grange Hermitage is not determined by the resveratrol. It has so many...

Rob: That’s right. 

Andrew: So much more complexity to it. 
Rob: We acknowledge it. 
Andrew: Sure. 
Rob: But then we look at the...we want the congeners, we want the little nuances and, you know, the sublime elements. 
Andrew: Yeah. I still have this skepticism and I still need to be convinced. But I do believe truly that there's a richness to the history and culture, the knowledge, true knowledge, of the use of these natural extracts. Which if we get too industrialised in it, we're going to be little doctors, we're going to be little pharmacists. And that's fine if you want to do pharmacy or medicine. 
Rob: Yeah, absolutely. Exactly, exactly. But what we do is different. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: It's different. You know, I absolutely agree with you and then I think that there is now a lot of interest in looking back, of how we used to do things and, you know, our role now is to blend the old with the new and it's, you know...you can walk these two roads. There's no a problem. I've got...I'm like you. I have no problem with science. But, you know...because it's informed. It's informed us incredibly, right? Just medical science, understanding the body better, understanding the interactions between the herbs and the body better, you know? All that body of knowledge is huge and I acknowledge it. It's incredible. I love it. However, it doesn't answer everything. 
Andrew: Yeah. 
Rob: You got a patient sitting in front of you and it's a huge riddle sometimes. 
Andrew: Thank you so much for sharing your expertise. I can't wait. I'm going to come and hang out with you. 
Rob: Please. 
Andrew: Yes. That would be great. And I’ve got to say I'm going to put the details of that course that you're doing up at Mount Barney on the Gold Coast. So if we can get those details we'll put them up on the FX Medicine website. 
Rob: Okay, mate. Great. You know, there's a whole flyer and stuff on it. So, it’ll be awesome. So, you know, long live our modern herbal medicine mixed with, you know, vital herbal medicine. We've got a strong future, mate. We really do. 
Andrew: Couldn't be better said. This is FX Medicine, I'm Andrew Whitfield-Cook.

Additional Resources

Rob Santich
Book: Healthy Children, By Rob Santich and Kerry Bone
Denis Stewart
Weston A. Price Foundation
Dr Andrew Pengelly
Ruth Trickey


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FX Medicine Podcast
FX Medicine is at the forefront of ensuring functional and integrative medicine gains the recognition it deserves and ultimately establishes itself as an integral part of standard medical practice. Hosted by Dr Adrian Lopresti, Dr Michelle Woolhouse, Dr Damian Kristof and Emma Sutherland, our podcasts are designed to promote research and evidence-based therapeutic practises, acting as a progressive force for change and improvement in patient health and wellbeing.