When our children are sick, they are often not sick enough to require a doctor’s visit, but nonetheless would benefit from something to soothe their discomfort. As a mother of four, over time I developed a repertoire of foods, vitamins, herbs, homeopathics and other safe and natural remedies that I could give my children at home. Here are some ways to naturally soothe your children.
Do not use essential oil with babies younger than three months and be cautious using them with children.
- Lavender oil is antibacterial and antiviral. It provides immediate relief for sunburn or the sting or itch of insect bites, and also helps in healing burns. Use lavender oil undiluted on the skin, or put a few drops in a lukewarm tub. A rag soaked in cool water with a drop or two of lavender oil added is soothing on the forehead of a sick person.
- Make an aromatherapy ear rub with several drops of lavender oil, and chamomile oil in one ounce of olive oil. Rub the oil mixture around the outside the ear and over the lymph nodes on the side of the neck, or dab a cotton ball in the oil, gently place it in the ear, and leave it in until the discomfort is relieved, replacing it with a fresh cotton ball several times a day.
- A warm massage is very comforting to a child who is sick with the flu or a chest cold. To one ounce of grapeseed or almond oil, add a few drops of lavender, and chamomile essential oils. Gently massage the chest, rubbing from the middle of the chest out toward the armpit to help loosen mucus. In addition to relieving discomfort, these oils have anti-infectious properties.
- Fennel and chamomile oils are soothing to an upset stomach. Put a few drops in water to take when tummy-aches strike (add a few drops clove, caraway, or anise oil for a pleasing taste). Or, add a few drops of chamomile and fennel essential oils to an ounce of almond or grapeseed oil and massage your child’s tummy with some of this oil mix.
I found that my children responded well to flower remedies as they are gentle and treat the emotional body. There are many helpful flower remedies and they are easy to learn about. See The Bach Flower Remedies by Edward Bach and FJ Wheeler. The most popular flower remedy and one that every mom should have in her purse is:
FOOD AS MEDICINE
Garlic has many medicinal properties so add it to your cooking on a regular basis. Garlic can also be used to make an ear oil or a foot rub.
- To make garlic oil, add four crushed cloves of garlic to a jar with a quarter cup of olive oil, let stand one to three days at room temperature, strain, and store in the refrigerator for up to six months. Garlic can be irritating to the ear canal in high concentrations, so be sure to dilute the garlic oil with other oils such as mullein and/or chamomile oils.
Ginger is a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. Add ginger to cooking, drink in a hot lemonade (see Soothing Drinks) or make a Ginger Foot Bath. Ginger is an aromatic so it not boiled as that would drive off the volatile oils, which are the active ingredient. Here’s the recipe for a Ginger Foot Bath:
- Bruise 4 to 8 Tablespoons of ginger root.
- Pour 2 quarts of boiling water over the ginger root.
- Let stand for an hour or so.
- Reheat and strain into a large enamel or metal pan.
- Add feet once water is cool enough.
Chicken soup actually does have health benefits. It can ease the symptoms of the cold and the flu. Here’s an easy recipe:
- 1 carcass roasted chicken (or necks and backs)
- green beans
- noodles or rice
Bring a big pot of water to boil with some bay leaf, garlic cloves, and the chicken carcass. Lower to a simmer and simmer for an hour. Strain out carcass and meat and add vegetables. When vegetables are nearly soft, add rice or noodles, and some chicken pieces from the carcass. If using brown rice, add with vegetables. Cook until vegetables are tender and rice or noodles are done. Season with salt, pepper, soy sauce, tomatoes, Worchestershire sauce, and chicken bouillon or other seasonings as needed. Add finely chopped parsley at the end. Soup is best the next day.
Echinacea tincture is good to have on hand to use at the first sign of an illness as it stimulates the body’s natural defense mechanisms. It is not for ongoing use though. Look for alcohol free tinctures for children.
Chamomile tea is calming and great before bed. This herb is an anti-inflammatory as well as a digestive aid. For diaper rash or other rashes, soak the affected area with a washcloth dipped in cool chamomile tea, or add chamomile tea to bath water.
Calendula. This herbal remedy is anti-inflammatory, astringent, and antiseptic, and it inhibits bleeding. You can find it in salve form, often in combination with comfrey and other healing herbs. Use it for cuts, scrapes, rashes, burns, bruises, strains, and sprains.
Slippery Elm Bark soothes a sore throat and Wild Cherry Bark acts as a cough suppressant. Look for syrups and lozenges.
Witch hazel. A good topical treatment for bruises, bites, stings, and burns, it is also useful for leg aches accompanying growing pains.
Classic homeopathic products include:
- Oscillococcinum for use at the first sign of the flu
- Teething Tablets to relieve the discomfort of teething
- Traumeel for sports injuries, or muscle strains.
- Aconite for illnesses that come on suddenly
- Belladonna for illnesses that come on violently
- Nux Vomica for over-stimulation
Arnica. Used for bruises, sprains, and sore muscles, this remedy is available in a cream or ointment, or can be given as a compress (apply a clean cloth soaked in a solution of 1 tablespoon of arnica tincture in one pint of water to the sore area). Homeopathic arnica tablets can be given internally.
Warm Lemonade with Ginger.
- Bruise 1 to 2 Tablespoons ginger root.
- Pour a pint of boiling water over the root.
- Let stand for an hour or so.
- Reheat. Add lemon and honey to taste. Sip.
Rose hip tea
Warm apple cider spiced with cinnamon sticks, ginger, and cloves (a natural anesthetic)
Apple cider vinegar (another natural anesthetic) and honey in hot water (if your child is over age one).
Aloe vera. Have this plant handy for wounds and all types of burns, including sunburns. Slice a leaf and apply the gel to the skin, or buy pure aloe vera gel.
Oil Massage. Use organic coconut oil to rub on your child’s skin as a moisturizer or for a massage.
Hydrotherapy. Take a hot bath. Get into a sauna or hot tub. Inhale steam infused with herbs. Soak you feet in hot water (see Ginger Foot Bath above) or wrap them in a hot compress.
Story/sing/rock. It soothes children to be close to us, so our voice and our touch can be the best soothers of all. Tell stories to your sick child. Sing to her. Put fresh flowers in his room. Use the rocking chair.
Humidity. If your child has a dry cough or one that sounds raspy or barky, humidity can really help. Hot water humidifiers are the best. Some units have receptacles where you can add essential oils or topical ointments.
WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR
Of course, these home remedies only work for everyday ailments not serious conditions. Read my companion article, “Call the Doctor?” for guidelines on when to call the doctor.
Peggy O’Mara is the editor and publisher of peggyomara.com. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering magazine from 1980 to 2011 and the editor-in-chief of Mothering.com from 1995 to 2012.. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four and grandmother of three.