As a parent, it can be rough to know the best way to help your child when she’s not feeling well—especially when you’re hoping to stick to a natural solution and still get her better fast. One option: Herbal remedies.
“Kids usually respond very well to natural remedies,” says Kami McBride, an herbalist and author of The Herbal Kitchen. “Many over-the-counter meds have side effects. especially when you use them long term—herbal remedies are less expensive and don’t carry the risk.” The best part: You can make many of them at home. These three simple recipes are a good place to start.
1. The Problem: Cold and flu season has hit your household, leaving your child with a sore throat and a pesky cough.
Herbal remedy: Thyme is great for loosening mucus in the lungs, and honey helps soothe sore throats, says Andrea Candee, a master herbalist and author of Gentle Healing for Baby and Child. Plus, since honey is a natural preservative, you can keep this sweet-tasting syrup in your fridge all winter long for colds, coughs, and sore throats.
- 2 cups of water
- 1 ounce of dried thyme leaves
- 1 cup of honey
- Boil the water in a small saucepan.
- Remove from heat and add thyme leaves. Steep, covered, for about 30 minutes until cool.
- Strain the liquid into a glass jar. Mix in the honey.
- Store, refrigerated, for up to three months.
Dosage: For kids 10 and younger, give on teaspoon of the syrup several times a day, as needed; give two teaspoons for kids between 11 and 13. For teens and adults: one tablespoon, as needed. (Remember, don’t give honey to babies under a year old, since it contains bacteria that can make them sick.)
2. The Problem: Your child is feeling anxious about an upcoming math test, and is complaining that his head hurts and his tummy aches.
Herbal remedy: “Many times headaches can be caused from indigestion or a nervous stomach.” says McBride. Peppermint, known for being a digestive aid, also increases circulation to the head.
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons peppermint leaves, chopped
- Bring water and peppermint leaves to a boil.
- Remove from heat and let the leaves steep for 30 minutes.
- Strain the liquid. Then, reheat and serve warm.
Makes 1 cup.
Dosage: Have your child drink 1/2 cup a the onset of a headache, and then another 1/2 cup up to twice a day as needed. If the peppermint flavor is too strong, you can dilute it with 1/4 cup of water, advises McBride.
3. The Problem: Dry winter air has left your little one’s skin parched and rough.
Herbal remedy: “Many children’s body-care products contain chemicals and petroleum-based ingredients,”McBride says. The olive oil in this natural skin salve is chock-full of nutrients that soothe the skin–and the beeswax helps to solidify the olive oil so it can be used as a moisturizer.
Dry Skin Salve
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons beeswax
- Add the olive oil and beeswax to a small saucepan.
- Simmer over low heat until the beeswax is melted.
- Pour the mixture into a sterilized container (like a small mason jar) and cool completely before using.
Makes about 1/4 cup.
Dosage: Apply liberally to your child’s skin in the morning and before bed, particularly on dry, patchy areas like elbows, knees, and lips (but it’s best to avoid the rest of the face).
Three tips to know
- Before you start tackling alternative remedies, do your research and talk to an herbalist, advises McBride. One place to start: The American Herbalists Guild (AHG), where you can find registered herbalists by state who have been granted membership to the AHG (americanherbalistsguild.com).
- When buying herbs, make sure you’re getting them from a reputable source, like a local herb or health food store, advises Candee. Or try a well-known online source, like Frontier Natural Products Co-Op (frontiercoop.com).
- Look for herbs listed by their Latin name (like mentha x piperita for peppermint), which can help ensure you’re choosing the right one. For help, check out the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s website, where herbs are listed by their common name as well as their Latin one (nccam.nih.gov). Also important: choose herbs that are aromatic and colorful, says McBride–if they’re brown or lifeless they’re old an won’t work as well.