Herbal remedies for children- battling the winter bugs

Many mums and carers often ask me what they can get over the counter (OTC) for their loved ones to ‘up their game’ in fighting off the inevitable bugs that accompany autumn/winter months.  Vomiting bugs and all the weird and wonderful viruses that circulate with gusto are already on the loose.

I think its important to remember in the context of this discussion that bugs and infections are a ‘normal’ part of child development. They educate their immune systems against the next encounter with the same bugs. Crucial to this normal response is the role of the  ‘fever’.

A  caution here; in a very young child a febrile convulsion is a real risk if the child is under 2yrs and the temperature goes beyond 38 degrees Celsius (that is not to say it can’t happen in a child up to 5 yrs). A fever is the physiological mechanism of resetting our internal temperature in order to kill off the viral or bacterial invader, suppressing this in an otherwise healthy child can in fact cause the illness to be more prolonged.

The traditional ways of bringing down a fever include stripping a child down so they are cool or sponging the body to keep it cool, ensuring they have plenty of fluids (an ice lollipop can be good here depending on the age of the child). As a mum of 2 children I have rarely had to resort to the usual Ibuprofen to reduce a fever. That said do i have it in my cupboard? yes, and I have used it when the children were young and it was very effective and I was glad of it. There are plenty of herbal teas like catnip, chamomile, yarrow, and elder flower which can be given to a child to help reduce a fever, drop dosages of tincture are also effective in small quantities of water.

For over the counter remedies I have found that PUKKA Elderberry syrup is excellent, it has a good concentration of elderberry without any artificial sweeteners and has a synergistic combination of ginger and thyme, both of which are anti-infective and will loosen and move mucus. The other herbs in there are also very complementary, Aniseed to sooth the tummy and also break up and expel mucus, Liquorice is antiviral and soothing to a cough, Horseradish similar to ginger has anti-inflammatory and expectorant qualities too, then the Ayurvedic formulation of Trikatu including the ginger, pepper and long pepper will warm up any snotty gunky child (or adult) from the inside out.

Other bases to cover when it comes to coughs and colds with children is the simple but effective ‘rub’ remedy. I have found this to be so helpful over the years. A simple base oil with a mixture of Lavender (Lavendula officinalis) and Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus smithii) essential oils rubbed in all over the front back and sides of the chest (the concentration will depend on the age and size of the child), I have even rubbed it into the soles of the feet, this can be very effective done last thing at night and is a nurturing experience for a child who is tired and distressed to ease breathing and soothe the nervous system.

Disclaimer: Eucalyptus essential oil should not be used on children under 2 years, please seek advice from a professional if you are unsure how to use essential oils- this information is meant as a guide only. If you are looking for a professional tailored approach then seek the advice of  your local medical herbalist.I can be contacted @ info@herbalist.ie or 08720440301 .