The Natural Medicine Cabinet
This is an herb with a bright yellow flower that is wonderful used homeopathically, or as a topical remedy for pain & inflammation. If your child is accident-prone, -- or even growing-pain-prone, topical arnica gel/cream/ or lotion is indispensable. We started using this when my son was a baby -- a little bump on the knee or noggin and the pain would disappear almost instantly, rarely a black & blue mark to be found. Mama repurposing: arnica is great for sore or strained muscles -- it has saved my hamstrings more than once after an intense yoga class.
aloe vera gel is really the sap from the aloe vera plant, and a wonderful anti-inflammatory, making it my number 1 go-to for anything from sunburn to kitchen-burn. My son likes to cook, which makes it a great kitchen plant -- break off a leaf, put some sap on the burn, and a small crisis is averted.
Epsom Salts: really magnesium sulfate, Epsom salts relax, soothe and reduce inflammation in sore muscles when added to bathwater. Magnesium is relaxing to children and adults, and a mild laxative, so epsom salt baths are nice for winding down an active child at bedtime, or gentle promoting bowel function. Add baking soda to an epsom salt bath for a gently detoxifying effect.
Chamomile: what can’t it do? I keep chamomile on hand as a tea before bedtime, and is my first line of defense for digestive irritation, the beginnings of illness, or promoting relaxation in an irritable, restless or hyperactive child. Safe enough for babies, it is still powerful as a pain-reliever, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial (ie kills viruses and bacteria) and relaxant. It is often the front-runner in formulas for colic. It is also rich in calcium. 1 Tablespoon per cup of boiling water, or one tea-bag should do the trick. (In babies, once tea is lukewarm, you can administer by the dropper-full.) It can also be taken as the homeopathic chamomilla -- especially for teething pain.
activated charcoal tablets or powder are a powerful remedy for absorbing stomach acidity -- which makes them great for stomachaches, nausea, general indigestion. Take as directed, usually 1 or 2 capsules. Just don’t give charcoal with vitamins or medicines -- it can absorb them too.
DHA: also known as docosahexaenoic acid, DHA is an omega-3 essential fatty acid found most abundantly in microalgae and fish oil. DHA is indispensable in children’s brain, central nervous system and eye development, and impacts learning, concentration, and even the ability to control behavior. Abundant in breast milk, quantities go down significantly when children switch to solid food. Because it isn’t safe to eat too much fish nowadays (due to mercury contamination), high quality, purified supplementation is a wonderful part of a daily regimen. It is one of the supplements I would take to a desert island.
Another supplement I would take to a desert island, probiotics are a wonderful part of any daily regimen for your child. probiotics are wonderful for an amazing variety of conditions, especially digestive trouble such as diarrhea, eczema, and as an immune booster. Find a formula that includes lactobacillus acidophilus (sometimes just called acidophilus) and bifidobacterium bifidum. Infants should only take supplemental probiotics intended for infants; they can be especially beneficial as a daily supplement for bottlefed little ones, or children who have had to take a lot of antibiotics. For younger children, you can also add one or two capsules of probiotic to their bathwater, for some gentle exposure. (one caveat to this safe and effective remedy: I usually don’t recommend probiotics to children with autoimmune conditions, unless prescribed by their primary caregiver.)
is a panacea for any illness, and to bolster the immune system. When cold and flu season strikes, or at back-to-school time, or any time a child is rundown, has allergies, is on the verge of illness, or recovering from illness, I recommend vitamin C in divided doses throughout the day.
Digestive Enzymes: digestive enzymes serve two distinct functions -- to help digestion, and to help reduce inflammation and mucous in the body. I use different enzymes depending upon which function I am aiming at. For inflammation, I recommend protease enzymes, taken at least one and a half hours before eating, and 45 minutes before the next meal so that it goes straight to work in the body, and not on a tummy full of food. I use digestive enzymes most often for mucous-producing ailments such as stuffy nose, or ear infection.
Garlic has antimicrobial properties which make it a perfect line of defense for any ailment. Garlic oil in particular can be used topically for earaches and ear infections --2-3 drops as needed in the affected ear stops pain, and kills unwanted bacteria.
Slippery Elm Bark
is safe for babies and children, and wonderful for coughs and constipation. Slippery elm bark powder has a sweet, maple-y taste that makes it perfect for cough lozenges, or mixed with water or juice.
Yin Qiao Jin: is a very effective and famous Chinese formula. Taken at the onset of any illness involving sore throat and/or fever, it can help to cool the body, stop the illness in its tracks, or at least shorten its duration.
this syrup is like a mini-miracle in gooey, sweet form -- I can hardly choke it down, but my son LOVES it. Good for both coughs and scratchy or sore throats.
a topical miracle, this is to our family what Windex was in A Big Fat Greek Wedding -- we swab it on all minor skin conditions at first sight. Antiseptic in properties, it can be safely applied to insect bites, bruises, and rashes -- including diaper rash. It can also be used for other family members -- both as post-pregnancy sitz bath, for hemorrhoids, or dabbed on blemishes & acne.
can be used internally as a tea or topically. Wonderful for respiratory infections (1 Tablespoon per cup of boiling water), I rely on it more often topically, for small cuts and rashes, cradle cap, and eczema. Not good for pregnant women.
also known as huang qi in Chinese medicine, astragalus root comes dried and looking very much like a natural tongue depressor. It is a strong immune-booster, and strengthens weak digestion and weak lungs. I use it most often in an immune-enhancing soup, 2-4 long pieces simmered along with veggie broth, carrots, and shitake mushrooms.
is often referred to as a “blood purifier”, which makes it a great internal remedy for eczema, psoriasis, acne, and other skin conditions, both as a tea and a topical wash.
Tiger Balm or White Flower Oil
the menthol in these remedies reminds me of goodnight kisses from my mother (she’d put mentholatum under her nose at night to ease her breathing). In children I’d use it more for achy limbs, growing pains, on the upper back &/or chest during respiratory infections, and at the back of the neck for headache. Start with a little and see what your child likes, it tingles...
I love this ointment, especially rubbed on the inner wrists and temples to calm an agitated, hyper or restless child.
This is as simple as it sounds. Get a kind without preservatives, or make your own, then spray it in each nostril to thin mucus and prevent or fight infection.
And in the pantry...
Garlic is a gift from nature for immune boosting and fighting infection (except when my husband eats it raw, in which case all of us around him consider it nature’s curse...). For your child, you can boil 2-4 cloves for thirty minutes, squeeze lemon and honey or maple syrup, and you have an amazing antiviral, antibacterial & antifungal that your kid will love.
Lemon: rich in vitamin C, full of antioxidants, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, lemon slices in hot water with a bit of natural sweetener sounds too good to be true, but may just be the best home remedy available. Keep them organic if possible for maximum nutrient content.
2-3 thin slices steeped as a tea, or a handful of candied ginger or ginger syrup is great for all things digestive -- especially nausea and motion sickness. There’s always a bottle of Ginger Brew in our pantry too, for upset stomach.
in children over 15 months of age, honey is a great sweetener, not just because it tastes great, but because it has trace minerals and antimicrobial properties -- makes it the perfect addition to that lemon water... Good for allergies too, especially if you pick a local variety.
Apple Cider Vinegar
good for everything from getting digestion going with its natural enzymes (mix with apple juice and water to dilute), to combatting thrush and other yeast infections -- and can double as shampoo in a pinch. Great for heartburn in adults.
Bicarbonate salts are wonderful topically for soothing skin that is irritated from anything ranging from sunburn to insect bite or sting. Either make a paste by adding a little water and rub it on site directly, or put 1/2 cup in your child’s bathwater.
I love thyme, either fresh or dried, for a sore throat. It is antibacterial and soothes pain. Use 1 teaspoon dried, or up to 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme for each cup of water. Add honey if your child is over 15 months old.