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Drugstore Alternatives When Your Kids Have “The Ick”

Affiliate Disclosure | in Natural Remedies | by | with 43 Comments

[info_box]Today’s guest post come from the fabulous Katja Swift, who is filling in for me this week while I work on a super secret project. You may recognize her name as the genius behind the almond pancakes, but don’t think of her as the pancake lady because she is oh so much more! Katja is a clinical herbalist currently serving as the director of the Commonwealth School of Herbal Medicine. She has guest lectured at Dartmouth Medical School and the University of Vermont Medical School, but what REALLY impresses me about her is her work to pass anti-GMO legislation and her brilliant plan to save the whales.[/info_box]

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 – generally defined as a feeling of ick – 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, it’s easy!

Just 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 garlics 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!)

You can buy all these herbs online 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 Opportunity

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!

Photo credit: Erich Ferdinand, Jodi Green, Ell Brown

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43 Responses to Drugstore Alternatives When Your Kids Have “The Ick”

  1. Megan says:

    Love the suggestions! Do you know if any of these are NOT recommended while pregnant or nursing? Also…could consuming the garlic in the days leading up to birth help properly colonize your birth canal, or should that all be done topically? Thanks!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Megan – Katja emailed me this morning to say that she’s going to check in around 5pm and answer questions, so I’m sure she’ll get to this. About colonizing the birth canal – yes, eating probiotic rich foods would certainly help, but you’d want to start much earlier than a few day prior. Although if you’re already near the end it’s still a wonderful thing to do . . . more probiotics in your breastmilk!

    • Alina says:

      You can prepare the birth canal by putting kefir or probiotics themselves into the birth canal over night. That should do a good job colonizing the birth canal. I was told to start around 30 weeks pregnant, but anytime would be better than never!

    • katja swift says:

      Hi, Megan!

      All these suggestions are fine for pregnancy. The things you really want to avoid are emmenagogues – things that will start blood flowing if you have a sluggish period. That’s stuff like mugwort or pennyroyal – not the “normal” stuff. Those herbs really don’t have too many other uses (except some as anti-parasitics!). But anything that is a “food herb” – things like oregano, sage, thyme, garlic, ginger, cayenne – or any of the common illness herbs like mints, chamomile, linden, elder – all these are safe for anyone.

      As for the birth canal, I agree – get started now with a good quality probiotic! You might like kefir, or kombucha, or real sauerkraut/kimchi… But if those aren’t appealing, i like Pharmax brand probiotics, which you can get online.

  2. Brittany says:

    I love this. Thank you so much! My son is too young to understand this stuff right now (6 months), but I need to learn it so that it’ll be easier teaching him! I’ve got a nasty cold right now! I need to try some of that sweet pickled garlic and some tea!

    • Heather says:

      I agree. Nettle tea sounds so good right now. Thank you, Katja!

    • katja swift says:

      Oooh, Brittany, and if you have some thyme, oregano, or sage around, you can even make tea out of that! My very favorite is a thyme steam – that always makes me feel better! Just boil a pot of water, sit over it with a towel over your head (a “tent”), and toss in some thyme. It’ll steam everything right out! :-)

  3. Le says:

    Wonderful information…. we are always looking for alternatives. thanks
    Has only one any exp/opinion on Colloidal Silver?
    Also currently looking for an option to Malaria tablets for an upcoming trip to Costa Rica (Carrib. Coast)?

    • katja swift says:

      Hi, Le:

      I’m not a fan of colloidal silver myself, though I know other people like it.
      There are several herbs that can be used for malaria prevention, but this is a little more tricky. I do know of some protocols for it, but I haven’t seen them tested in the real world: it would be better to find someone who has direct experience with this.

      have a great trip!

  4. Samantha says:

    I’m wondering about the nettle tea. A few years ago, I went to see an herbalist, and she gave me a tea that had nettle in it. For the first time ever, I had extremely tender breasts around my period, and she said it was the nettle. When I quit the tea, the tenderness went away. Any ideas why this is and/or if there is anything I can do so that I can drink nettle tea and be comfortable? Thanks!

    • katja swift says:

      Hi, Samantha:

      That does not sound like something nettle would cause – I would really want to know what else was in the tea, and some more about your health at the time before I put blame on nettle for that.

      You could always try nettle all by itself, and see if you have those symptoms again – that way you would know for sure! But if you don’t want to try it, you can substitute dandelion leaf and red clover flower for high mineral goodness, and of course plenty of seaweed!

  5. Alina says:

    Are you talking about herbal teas already prepared that you could get at whole foods? Or buying the herbs themselves and preparing your own tea? If either one is fine is one method more effective?

    • katja swift says:

      Hi, Alina:

      Well, both can be effective. If you like to concoct things in the kitchen, then get bulk dried herbs and mix your own blends up. But if that’s not your thing (or maybe it is, but at the moment you have a kid taking up your concocting time!) then some brands of bagged tea are fine. I really like Traditional Medicinals brand – they are very high quality, and widely available. I also really like Organic India brand Tulsi tea – Tulsi (holy basil) is so good for so many things, you can never go wrong with Tulsi!

      The most effective method is the method you will actually DO. :-) Bulk tea can be better, but ONLY if it’s a good quality herb to begin with, such as stock from A teabag can be just as good, IF it’s a good teabag, and Traditional Medicinals is definitely top-notch. I even have several varieties of Traditional Medicinals on my shelf, because sometimes if i don’t feel well, I just don’t want to blend up a tea!

  6. Margo says:

    Thanks Katja, I always love your posts. I Learn something new, natural, and useful. Thanks

  7. Jenny says:

    What kind of vinegar is used in the sweet pickled garlic. I think my kids would really love making and taking these. They are troopers with raw garlic and broth but this might “help the medicine go down.”

    • katja swift says:

      I like Eden brand raw apple cider vinegar, myself. White vinegar is good for cleaning, but it’s pretty dead – you definitely want something that’s still alive, and is good quality.

  8. Froukje says:

    Great idea, the sweet pickled garlic! I want to try it since we are garlic-lovers :-)
    Do I have to let it sit for 4 weeks in the refrigerator? Or should I let it sit on the counter

  9. Britt Bolnick says:

    Question: I made the sweet pickled garlic which smells AWESOME at 2 weeks, but almost as soon as I put it up the garlic cloves started turning greenish. Smells fine, tastes fine, but has anyone else had the garlic cloves turn green? I want to make some as presents but I want to solve the green garlic issue first.

    Any thoughts, folks?

    • Heather says:

      UPDATE to original response: It happens sometimes and does not mean the garlic is unsafe to eat. “If fresh garlic is picked before it is fully mature and hasn’t been properly dried, it can turn and iridescent blue or green color when in the presence of an acid. It may be caused by an allinin derivative.”

      Hi Britt! Hopefully Katja will see this and reply, but I think you may have a bad batch. Mine are about two weeks along also but there’s no green. Either way, I’ll try to get an answer for you!

    • Janet White says:

      Mine turned green, too! help!! this is my second batch. I threw out the first one, hoping to succeed a second time. But it’s going green, too.

  10. jo campbell says:

    Would like the recipe for pickled garlic that has the spices in it. We were given a jar of Amish Wedding pickled hot garlic with lots of red pepper; it was spicey sweet and have avoided several virus’ and colds.
    thank you

  11. Diana says:

    I am making the pickled garlic now. However, some of the cloves are showing blue coloring on the ends. The garlic is completely submerged in the liquid. There is no noticeable “fuzzy” mold. Is it still good? I used raw organic honey (melted) and organic apple cider vinegar in a pint size Ball jar. I did not refrigerate them, they are on the counter (it’s been brewing about 3 days). Any tips or suggestions?

  12. Jenny says:

    Would it be ok to add a little whey to the batch of garlic? Would that matter at all?

  13. Janet White says:

    This is my second batch. I threw out the first one because it turned green, hoping to succeed a second time. But it’s going green, too. HELP!!

    • Heather says:

      Are you talking about the garlic? If so, that’s normal :)

      “Garlic is known to contain sulfur compounds which can react with minute traces of copper to form copper sulfate, a blue or blue-green compound. The amount of copper needed for this reaction is very small and is frequently found in normal water supplies. Raw garlic contains an enzyme that if not inactivated by heating reacts with sulfur (in the garlic) and copper (from water or utensils) to form blue copper sulfate. The garlic is still safe to eat.” Source:

  14. Mustard Seed Vinaigrette | Natural Wonderer says:

    […] onions to add even more goodness in the form of good bacteria.) 2-3 cloves of garlic (I use this recipe for sweet pickled garlic to reduce the potency of the raw garlic and add beneficial […]

  15. All Natural Cold Remedy | Wade Made says:

    […] plan to make this pickled garlic to have on hand in this coming cold and flu […]

  16. Sophia says:

    I just put a batch in 2 days ago and it’s gone green already. Should I still let it ferment the full 4 weeks? Really unappetizing looking. Has anyone actually eaten their green pickled garlic and lived to tell about it? I’m scared to eat it, much less give it to my already-sick kids!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Sophia, it happens sometimes. A change in color does not necessarily mean the garlic has gone bad. “If fresh garlic is picked before it is fully mature and hasn’t been properly dried, it can turn and iridescent blue or green color when in the presence of an acid. It may be caused by an allinin derivative.”

      “Garlic is known to contain sulfur compounds which can react with minute traces of copper to form copper sulfate, a blue or blue-green compound. The amount of copper needed for this reaction is very small and is frequently found in normal water supplies. Raw garlic contains an enzyme that if not inactivated by heating reacts with sulfur (in the garlic) and copper (from water or utensils) to form blue copper sulfate. The garlic is still safe to eat.” Source:

  17. Fawcette says:

    Do you put the lid on the pickled/fermented garlic? I saw one recipe that said to cover it with a paper towel and secure with a rubberband for the first 2 weeks, then put a lid on it.


  18. marci says:

    Hi Heather! I’ve been looking for natural remedies. I’m going to try your sweet pickled garlic. One question, do you refrigerate the garlic or leave at room temperature?

    Thanks for making my day!

  19. Emilia says:


    It sounds soo goood. Want to make it but have strong intolerance for vinegar… could substitute with lemon???

    Thank you.
    btw loooove your website

  20. Jamie says:

    I made these about 10 months ago and forgot about them up in my cupboard. Can I still use them?

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