Herbal remedies are often much better choices for illness than over-the-counter or prescription pharmaceuticals. It’s true that antibiotics are miracle drugs, but miracles wear out when we use them every day: bacteria become stronger and the antibiotics don’t work as well over time. Not only that, but our bodies get lazy if we always let pills do our work for us. For non-threatening illnesses, it’s a great benefit for the immune system to work it out with only the support of herbs, instead of the “command control” of drugs.
Using herbs to help in times of sickness is something anyone can do. You don’t need special qualifications to drink peppermint tea, and no one needs a prescription for chamomile. These herbs are common, but don’t think that means they aren’t effective! They are common precisely because they are so effective that they didn’t fall out of use, even in our highly modernized society!
To teach your children how to use herbs when they’re sick, start while they’re healthy! Buy some tea that you can have on hand for a cold and fever – peppermint, linden, or elderflower are all good choices for any cold or fever, and they taste good, too. Make some tea ahead of time and drink it together, and let your child tell you which is his or her favorite. When your child is sick, remind her about the tea, and ask which kind she wants.
Raw garlic is a very potent germ-fighter, but not everyone likes the taste. Try sweet pickled garlic! Peel enough cloves of garlic to fill a small mason jar 3/4 of the way full. Then pour honey over the garlic until the jar is about 1/3 full of honey, and pour vinegar in to fill the rest. Shake or stir well, and leave it to sit for 4 weeks (shaking or stirring occasionally). You now have sweet garlic pickles! If the kids (or you!) get a cold, have one or two pickled garlic cloves a day to help kick the cold and get you feeling better. You can also take one clove a day as preventative medicine when folks around you are sick. This is a very easy project to do with children – it takes a while to peel all that garlic, which gives you plenty of time to talk to them about your health priorities.
For everyone anytime, a cup of nettle tea will do wonders! High in minerals and vitamins, nettle tea has a special affinity for the kidneys and adrenal glands. So many of us don’t get the sleep we need each night, and nettle can help restore nutrients to a part of the body that is under stress for children and adults in our society. But not only that, nettle is great for allergies! If your child has dust, pollen, mold, or pet allergies, make nettle tea a part of their daily routine. I like to add a bit of licorice root to help balance out the flavor – but not too much: licorice is very sweet! (Licorice root doesn’t taste like black licorice candy, so don’t be afraid to try it even if you’re not a fan of black jelly beans!). It’s particularly great to let the nettle tea steep overnight, as this drastically increases the amount of minerals in every cup.
You can buy all these herbs online from an herb supplier like Mountain Rose Herbs, or locally if you have an herb shop or a food co-op in your area. All of these herbs are “food herbs” – safe for children and adults and fine to use daily.
Making their own medicine is great for kids, but being sick is also a teaching. When they’re sick, talk to them about the herbs you are using. Take the herbs with them to share their experiences (but also to protect you from catching whatever they have!). When you are sick, let them treat you! They will remember the garlic pickles and the linden tea: allow them to give these things to you when you are sick. Not only are they learning compassion, but they’re also learning that taking care is not a one-way street: Mom and Dad need to be cared for just as children are. When a child sees that they can care for you when you are sick, they will also understand when you need time to take care of yourself when you are well.
If your child is very sick, then find a good clinical herbalist in your area, a naturopath, or a pediatrician you trust. But for the common cold, cough, or fever, the self-reliance they’ll learn by using natural remedies will be as much a benefit as the strengthened immune system!
Read the rest of the series:
For a complete guide to navigating adolescence and herbs for teens, check out our Supporting Kids Through Puberty course! It includes webinar-style and standard video sessions chock full of strategies to make the years of puberty more peaceful for everyone in the family. By the end of this program, you’ll know dozens of ways to incorporate herbs into your teen’s food, drinks, and self-care routines to keep them (and you!) healthy and resilient as they transition into adulthood.
This article was originally written for mommypotamus.
Join our newsletter for more herby goodness!
Get our newsletter delivered right to your inbox. You'll be first to hear about free mini-courses, podcast episodes, and other goodies about holistic herbalism.