Teething is when babies first start getting teeth, usually around 6 months of age. For some babies, teething isn’t a big deal and doesn’t cause any pain. But for others, when teeth begin to push through their gums, they seem to become more irritable.
Teething can be a difficult time for parents too, because an irritable baby can be harder to manage and take care of. One way many parents treat teething is to give their child something hard to chew on. Most babies this age like to bite and chew on things, so it often helps them feel better.
It is thought that tender gums may cause your baby’s temperature to rise a little, but if your baby develops a fever, see your doctor, as there could be a something else causing it.
If you’ve heard of arrowroot, chances are it’s because you’ve given an arrowroot teething biscuit to a baby. This unusually named powdered starch is good for babies because it’s allergen-free for most babies and also may have some stomach-soothing properties.
Arrowroot starch comes from the tuberous roots of plants such as tapioca, kudzu, and cassava, also known as manioc. These tend to grow in warm climates and are staples of the native cuisines of the Caribbean and South America.
You might be able to find these tubers in the produce section of your supermarket, but you probably don’t want to make arrowroot powder at home. To get to the starch that becomes arrowroot powder, the tuber has to be peeled, boiled, ground, and then dried. The result is a little like cornstarch, only coarser.
When you mix arrowroot with water, you get a jelly to which you can add all kinds of flavors. For example, British cooks of the 19th century used arrowroot to prepare jellied beef consommé, a gelatinous broth served cold. Arrowroot is also traditionally used to make custards and dessert jellies.
Like cornstarch and potato starch, arrowroot is a good thickening agent in sauces. Try substituting it for flour or any other common starch in a recipe. Usually, you only need to substitute the starch with one-third arrowroot.
When cooking, whisk the arrowroot into a cold liquid before you add it to a hot liquid. Adding arrowroot, or any cooking starch, to hot liquid will prevent the starch from breaking down properly and leave your food lumpy.
Don’t look to arrowroot for any nutritional benefit. While it contains no gluten or other potential allergens like corn or soy, it offers next to nothing in terms of vitamins, minerals, or protein.
Despite coming from a fibrous root, arrowroot’s highly processed form offers no fiber. Eaten in large quantities, it can even cause constipation. This may be why arrowroot is credited with stomach-healing properties. There’s little scientific evidence to back this claim, but most foods used to make jellies, like gelatin and alum, can also be used to curb diarrhea.
In everyday baking, arrowroot doesn’t make a good substitute for wheat or even gluten-free flours, but it can be used to make teething biscuits for tender mouths. Baked arrowroot biscuits become very hard. You know just how hard if you’ve heard a teething biscuit banged on a highchair tray. That’s good news for your baby, since no dangerous chunks will break off in their mouth.
You can also make arrowroot crackers using chicken broth. The result will be a plain, dense cracker that is perfect for flavorful dips and toppings. Your gluten-free friends will be especially grateful.
Arrowroot has also been known to help with diarrhea. This study reports that arrowroot helped treat diarrhea in a group of adult study participants with irritable bowel syndrome. Although the results were promising, the study was done with a small number of participants, so more research must be done to determine its true effectiveness.
Arrowroot has many uses, including acting as a substitute for flours or starches in cooking, and possibly treating diarrhea, but processing it and using the powder to bake into biscuits is one of its best uses. Giving your child an arrowroot biscuit is a safe and natural way to give them something hard to bite on during the teething process. Because of their hardness, arrowroot biscuits won’t break off into your child’s mouth and therefore aren’t a choking hazard. Also, they are natural, not plastic or synthetic, and have even been known to soothe stomachs.