Does your family have a favorite herbal remedy, like peppermint tea for upset tummies or lavender balm at bedtime? Herbs offer comfort for a number of common childhood ailments. “Not only can [natural medicines] ease symptoms, they can get at the root of the imbalance or deficiency that’s causing illness,” notes Linda B. White, MD, author of Kids, Herbs, Health.
“Worldwide, more than 80 percent of the population uses herbal medicine as their primary form of healthcare,” states Richard Liebmann, ND, executive director, United Plant Savers. With the herbal industry increasingly backed by scientific research, plants are gaining twenty-first-century credibility.
Always check with your doctor if you have any questions about a botanical remedy, particularly when using it in combination with another treatment. Most remedies are available in easy-to-take forms that include teas for sipping, oils to apply topically, and capsules, which can be broken apart and artfully disguised in more appealing foods. Pint-sized patients should take a smaller dosage; check “How Much Is Enough?” for guidelines.
Bruises, sprains, and cuts
Reach for calendula (C. officinalis) when treating strains, sprains, scrapes, and burns (it even does double duty for bug bites). Apply this herbal gel, or prepare a bowl of calendula tea and then dip a clean cloth into the preparation to apply as a compress to the injured area. If skin is broken (or burned), aloe vera gel, either directly from the plant itself or in the form of a commercial gel, can bring relief and start the healing process.
Pass the tissues, please
Topping the list for cold and flu is echinacea (E. purpurea), widely respected in both the U.S. and Europe. Capsules, teas, and tinctures are effective on coughs, colds, flu, and sore throats, particularly when used at the first signs of illness.
Eucalyptus (E. globulus) is an especially soothing treatment for coughs accompanying a cold. For relief, rub essential oil or salve on the chest, but be sure to dilute the essential oil with vegetable oil when using on children. Never administer internally.
All things gastrointestinal
Spicy ginger (Zingiber officinale) helps get nausea under control—remember downing ginger ale when you were a kid? Ginger is effective whether prepared as a tea with honey, a slice of crystallized ginger, natural ginger ale, or in powdered form.
Aromatic and delicious, peppermint (Mentha piperita) has been used to treat everything from stomachaches to the plague. It’s still a powerful antidote to gas pains and indigestion when administered as a tea or tincture.
If constipation is the culprit, psyllium seed husks provide a great source of fiber—they’re the main ingredient in Metamucil. Dissolve one teaspoon in juice or mix into applesauce and then follow up with a big glass of water. Before you know it, your kids will be back on their feet again. And you can heave a sigh of relief.