sick kids in a vintage hospital

I love handing adults little vials of foul-tasting “herbal elixirs,” or handfuls of giant-size horse pills. I say “here – take this – it will make you feel better.”  And they do.  And it does. 

Adults are easy. Kids, not so much… Medically, they could take the same medicines.  But often, they just won’t

If you’ve got that golden ticket of a child who’s willing to down echinacea or lomatium root; or who can swallow pills, congratulations.  The rest of us need to look for medicine that’s first safe and effective (of course), but also good tasting.  Here are a few options for toddlers and young kids. 

Elderberry: Flu Fighter (and more?) 

Elderberry is, as the name suggests, a kind of berry.  And as being a berry suggests, it tastes kind of sweet and kind of tart.  Mostly tart, but nothing a little sweetener can’t fix.  Most products come in syrup form, already sweetened.  The kid versions are pretty sweet; the adult versions often less so.

Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is the European variety, and an effective flu remedy, supported by solid research.  It enhances immune defenses just a bit, but mostly works by directly interfering with how the flu virus penetrates our cells.  It’s a useful preventative in low-moderate doses, and great in higher doses when you’re actually fighting something. 

Please note, however that its primary mechanism is flu specific.  In other words, it doesn’t do much against infections that aren’t the flu.  At least that’s true with European Black Elderberry.  There is another species of Elderberry, native to North America, called Sambucus canadensis.  There’s less research on the Canadian variety, but preliminary data suggests it could be effective against colds as well as flus.

Colloidal Silver: The “Silver Bullet” for Germs.  (Ha ha).

Colloidal Silver is, as the name implies, a precious metal micronized and dissolved in water.  Don’t worry, there’s not a lot of silver in the bottle: the bottle will cost less than fine jewelry.       

In fact, there’s so little silver (enough to work, of course) that most products taste like water.  The stronger versions taste like… slightly dirty water.  Either way, nothing apple juice won’t hide. 

Colloidal silver is the one great thing we have in natural medicine that kills both viruses and bacteria[1].  So, it can fight off just about anything.  I use silver a lot.  Where I really am glad to deploy it, though, is with something coming on that feels just a little scary.  Maybe “scary” is the wrong word.  But you know those situations where you can’t tell if this is going to be just another cold, or if you’ll be calling the pediatrician around midnight for reassurance?  Yeah, those situations. 

Colloidal silver is nice to have on hand, generally speaking.  It’s a good contact antimicrobial.  Great to put on various “ouchies” that might get infected.  Also, in your eyes for a sty.  Here at Debra’s, we’ve used colloidal silver in our kitchen for decades, as our go-to first aid for burns.   

Really Good Herbal Formulas!!

A good herbal formula is like a good recipe in the kitchen: the whole is greater than the sum of its ingredients.  Unfortunately, I’m trying to keep this under two pages, so no time to go into all that.  Just allow me to say that any good herb company, founded by herbalists, run by herbalists, and formulated by herbalists, is going to make good formulas.  Right now, I’m really happy with a company called Wish Garden.  Their founder from 30+ years ago is still very much in charge, and she’s a nationally renowned expert on herbs for kids (and pregnant women).  She formulates products that work and taste good.  I use them at home.   

The two major kids’ formulas we sell are called Cold Seasons and KungFu Fighters.  Cold Seasons is more of a lung-y formula.  Good for colds in general, but especially when there’s also coughing, especially if it sounds wet.  It helps clear and thin the mucous from the lungs.  Meanwhile KungFu is more of a general cold formula, especially head colds.  You know those trails of snot that can park above a child’s lips and stay there for hours or days on end?  And then you wipe them, and then their little nose starts getting all red from wiping too much?  That’s when you reach for the KungFu.  (Or, you can just use both formulas.)

Mullein-Garlic Ear Oil – For Earaches

Almost every old-school Western herb company makes a version of this formula, which you drop into the ears.  Mullein to loosen wax buildup, garlic to fight infections.  Sometimes some St. John’s Wort as an additional antiviral and for nerve pain, or a berberine-containing plant to kill bacteria.  Our Debra’s brand is as good as any, and better than most.  Keep the bottle in your pocket so it warms to body temperature.  Apply a few times a day.   

Eucalyptus Oil – Breathe in the Decongestion

When you smell something, it’s because there are molecules in the air – and in your nose – and soon, in your lungs.  And when you smell eucalyptus specifically, it means there are molecules in the air that fight bacteria, stimulate the immune system, and clear mucous.  For lung or nasal congestion, put a few drops of eucalyptus oil in a diffuser, a humidifier, or on scrap cloth or facial tissue around the crib or bed.  Use enough so you smell it.  Refresh when you don’t smell it anymore. 

What to Feed Your Kids When They’re Sick

Whatever they want!  Although go easy on the sugar and dairy. 

Homeopathy for Sick Kids

a Note from Our Friend, Begabati Lennihan, RN, CCH

For the uninitiated, I should point out that herbalism and homeopathy are very different things; herbalists and homeopaths sometimes like cats and dogs.

So it was an honor when Begabati asked me to chip in a few paragraphs on herbs for her book. It’s an absolutely pleasure to have her chime on homeopathy here.   

“Children LOVE homeopathic remedies! and they often ask for them . . . to my surprise, even four-year olds come up with their own version of the Latin names, and two-year olds toddle over to the remedy cupboard to pat the door when they are sick.

These remedies are the best ones to keep on hand:

Ferrum phosphoricum 6x, which I call “Nip It in the Bud”, is the remedy to give the day before kids get sick – a little pale, off their feed, not interested in their favorite games, maybe a low fever – but no real symptoms yet. This cell salt will often fend off an acute infection:  colds, ear infections, sore throats. If not, try these:

Arsenicum 30c is often the best remedy for the first stage of a cold, with sneezing and a watery drippy nose.

Pulsatilla 30c is for the middle stage, when the mucus is starting to get thicker – and the child is acting clingy, whimpery, needy, maybe a little teary, but easily consoled with a hug and a kiss!

Hepar sulph 30c is the other great remedy for the middle stage with creamy mucus – but the child who needs it is irritable, “leave me alone”, and oversensitive to everything – heat, cold, drafts, and being touched. 

Kali bich 30c is for the booger stage – thick sticky mucus that might even come out in long strands when you try to wipe your child’s nose. 

For all these remedies, a typical dose is 2 pellets dissolved in the mouth, three times a day. You can give them more often if your child is really sick. Give enough to get the ball rolling, to jump start the body’s own healing mechanism. Slow down, then stop as your child gets better.” 

[1] That’s not entirely true.  We have lots of good anti-bacterials.  But they mostly get destroyed by digestion.  So, great if you can put them right on the festering wound, or the infected gums; up the neti pots, or into the stomach for a stomach ulcer.  Less so if you’re trying to get them from the mouth to the lungs.