There are many herbal treatments that are safe and effective for use with children of all ages. Here I will deal with the childhood illnesses and problems I am most often asked about.
The most important factor in dealing with any illness, whether acute or chronic, is diet. A proper diet goes a long way to alleviating problems and illnesses that stem from inadequate nutrition. Were you aware that medical studies are proving that diet can profoundly affect illness in children? It has also been proven that a lot of dietary factors are responsible for worsening such problems as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), hyperactivity, asthma, and others. A child who is getting what his or her body needs through good nutrition is going to develop more normally, be less prone to illness, and the duration of common illnesses is shortened.
Remember too that our children today are under a lot of stress, just as us adults are. Peer pressures, pressures in the classroom, dealing with separation anxieties and broken marriages are just some of the things creating stressful situations for our youngsters. This stress can manifest itself in many mysterious physical and mental ailments. Teaching your children when young how to meditate and relax is an important building block for their young lives, and is a useful tool that they will carry with them through adulthood.
ANXIETY, STRESS, EXCITABILITY
Externally, these problems can be alleviated with a warm herbal bath at bedtime. Combine a handful of lavendar and a handful of chamomile in one quart of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and let steep for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain, then add the liquid to a warm bath for the child. This is good for colicky infants as well. Allow the child to bathe and relax in the warm water. Internally, a cup of the infusion of chamomile and/or scullcap can be very beneficial and calming.
Chickenpox usually strikes in young children, but older ones do get it as well. To relieve the itching that usually makes the pox so unbearable, you can make a decoction of chickweed, comfrey, and rosemary. Apply the warm mixture with a clean cloth. Don't rub, as this will irritate the sores and can cause them to leave scars, but gently pat the solution on. Allow to air dry. This can be applied several times per day to relieve the itching. Internally, the child may benefit from a mild infusion of echinacea, catnip, chickweed, and yarrow. After the illness, and after any illness, the child's digestive system will benefit from acidophilus, or a cup of yogurt, to aid getting the beneficial bacteria in the digestive system back in balance.
Most of the same herbs used to treat colds in adults can also treat colds in children. You will want to reduce the dosages, however, or make milder infusions than normal. Steam or inhalant therapy can also help, using essential oils of lavendar, tea tree, eucalyptus, and/or peppermint. Make sure the child is getting plenty of vitamin C in their daily diet for the duration of the cold.
Colic is torture for the baby and the parent. There are easy ways to alleviate the problem, however. Give the baby a small amount of peppermint, chamomile, or catnip infusion in a bottle at the first sign of distress. It also helps to give the baby a warm bath that has lavendar essential oil added. The vapors have a calming, soothing affect on baby and parent. Breastfeeding mothers will want to add some fennel to their diet for a couple of days to help alleviate the colic.
Coughs in children are common, and usually accompany many of the normal childhood illnesses. A cough that continues for several days, or increases in severity, should be immediately checked by a physician to rule out other diseases. A mild infusion of mullein and coltsfoot usually helps the mild cough. Horehound and/or ginger can be added if a stronger combination is needed for older children. The child can also benefit from chest rubs of tea tree oil or peppermint oil. Both should be diluted in olive or sesame oil, and remember to do a patch test first to determine sensitivity. Inhaling the vapors of the essential oil of lavendar, and/or a warm bath that includes lavendar oil, can also help clear a cough. Cut back or eliminate dairy products in children that have a lot of mucous with their coughs, as dairy often adds to the production of mucous.
Cradle cap usually appears in the first month of an infant's life. Make a decoction of calendula and comfrey root. Rinse the baby's head with the warm solution each night, allowing it to air dry on the scalp. It may take a few days for this to clear up the problem. You can also massage olive oil into the scalp each night, washing it away thoroughly with a mild soap and water each morning. Leaving the oil on the scalp continually can actually increase the problem.
This is a common problem that is easy to deal with. It is usually caused by irritating diapers, prolonged contact with wet or dirty diapers, or even a reaction to the soap used to wash cotton diapers. Some foods and juices ingested by the infant can raise acid levels in the urine and stool, causing a skin reaction. Wash the baby thoroughly and dry thoroughly at each diaper change. Use plain mild soap and water, as some of those baby wipes can irritate, due to the chemicals in them. Leaving the diaper off for a while each change can also help clear up the rash. You can apply a cream made of calendula and/or aloe vera. You can also add to that mixture comfrey and/or chickweed. Remember that problem will not go away with herbs alone. You also need to determine the cause and eliminate it.
Diarrhea can cause dehydration rapidly in small infants and very young children. It can be treated with a mild infusion of meadowsweet, rosemary, and/or red raspberry. If diarrhea continues for more than three days, or is accompanied by blood in the stool, or severe cramping, seek emergency medical care immediately.
There is strong evidence that chemicals such as heavy metal pollutants, dietary allergies such as to wheat, corn, dairy, etc., and artificial colorings, preservatives, or flavorings, play a role in these problems. As such, you will want to treat by supporting both the nervous system and the liver, aiding in detoxification. A treatment plan should consist of chamomile, gotu kola, scullcap, red clover, milk thistle, and gingko biloba. A daily supplement of flax seed and/or grape seed oil has also shown to be beneficial. The herbal bath above can help, as well as inhaling or massaging with a calming essential oil such as lavendar. And most important, look at changing the diet to one that supports the body. Natural diet is best. Eliminate foods that could cause an allergic reaction, and add them back to the diet one at a time, watching for any changes in the child's behavior. Be sure the child gets adequate amounts of zinc and B-complex vitamins as well.
Internally give a combination of echinacea, chickweed, and astragalus 3 to 4 times per day. Reduce the child's intake of dairy, red meats, and peanut butter, as all have been shown to irritate this illness. Wash the sores carefully with an infusion made of calendula several times per day.
Flu can be treated internally with boneset, fenugreek, peppermint, echinacea, and mullein. Eucalyptus or tea tree oil can be inhaled to open blocked sinus passages, or rubbed on the chest to help open the bronchial tubes. Additional vitamin C and zinc are also beneficial.
Lice can be treated by placing drops of tea tree oil on a fine toothed comb, and comb the hair thoroughly every day for two weeks. Wash the hair nightly with a mild shampoo that has oil of thyme and tea tree oil added. Alternatively, you can mix together 4 cups of apple cider vinegar, 4 cups of water, 1/2 ounce oil of thyme; use nightly as a shampoo.
Measles is usually treated herbally in the same manner as chicken pox. Eye strain and discomfort is common with the measles, so keep the child in a darkened room. A mild infusion of eyebright may be used to ease discomfort in the eyes. This can be used as a wash for the older child, or for young children you can soak a clean cloth in the eyebright infusion and apply as an external compress over the eyes.
Mumps can be treated internally with a combination of echinacea, clover, chamomile, and peppermint. Externally, fresh chopped ginger applied as a compress can alleviate the pain of the swelling. Gentle massage of the swollen areas with chamomile oil is also beneficial. Inhaling eucalyptus oil also helps.
Teething pain can be soothed by giving a chamomile and/or lemon balm infusion internally. Mix a teaspoon of powdered slippery elm bark with a little water to make a paste, and rub it gently on the gums.
Tonsillitis can be treated with echinacea, mullein, chamomile, and sage internally. A gargle of salt water, honey and lemon (if the child is over the age of three), or sage infusion can greatly ease the discomfort.