Once we start eating healthier, we start to look for other ways to improve our health. As we ditch the Doritos, often we start to question the medicines we use to treat ourselves as well. Antibiotics and over the counter pharmaceuticals are often not the best way to treat children – they can lead to weakened immune systems, reinfection, allergies, and other problems. But most childhood ailments and illnesses respond very well to natural treatment!
Even here in the Northeast, we’re starting to think about Spring, and along with that comes the standard “seasons changing” illnesses: the flu, colds, ear infections, sore throats, etc. Here are some easy remedies that you can try for your family next time something’s going around!
Soothe Little Ears With A Homemade Poultice
As a child, I was particularly prone to ear infections, but no one figured out that I have a dairy allergy until I was an adult. If your child has recurrent ear infections, make sure to consider eliminating dairy products, or gluten, or both – they are often the root of the problem.
But whatever the cause, my favorite remedy is something you probably already have in your kitchen: Onion! Slice an onion in rings about 3/4 of an inch thick. Sauté lightly in olive oil, until it’s hot all the way through and softening. Wrap the onion slice in a clean soft cloth and lay it on the ear like a heating pad – be sure to test the heat first so that little ears don’t burn.
Why does it work? The sulfur in the onion is carried into the ear via the steam, and kills the infection. Also, the heat is soothing, especially when the swelling is painful. Always treat both ears, as ear infections can travel back and forth between ears via the interior canals. Repeat as often as necessary – I usually find that doing this every few hours for a day is enough to end the infection altogether.
[Note from Mommypotamus: If you’re looking for more ideas like this, check out this post on natural remedies for ear infections.]
Scratchy Throat? Make a Tent!
For sore throats, as well as upper bronchial infections, another kitchen favorite comes to mind: Thyme! Thyme is markedly antibacterial and antiviral – so whether it’s just a cold or strep throat, thyme’s got you covered.
Our favorite way to take thyme is as a steam – you may remember your grandmother doing this. You take a pot of boiling water, set it on the table and lean over it with a towel over your head. Toss in a handful or two of dried thyme and inhale deeply! (Do not add the thyme while the water is boiling – wait until you’re ready to sit and breathe.) Make sure to have a handkerchief nearby if you have any congestion, because this will clear it out quickly. This remedy is also excellent for styes or other eye infections.
For children who are too young to be left alone near a pot of boiling hot water, you can drape blankets over a table to make a tent. The tent will keep the steam contained for them to breathe in, and then you and your child can climb into the tent together, where you can keep little fingers away from the pot.
For children old enough not to touch the pot and burn themselves, they can be in the tent by themselves or they can sit at the table with a towel over their heads. This is a good, fun way to take your medicine – they’ll feel silly, but you’ll know the medicine is getting where it’s going.
How? The antimicrobial action of thyme is in the volatile oils, which are released when the dried herb is heated. The steam of the hot water carries the volatile oils through the entire respiratory system, into every nook and cranny in the lungs. The medicine doesn’t have to go through the digestive system and get to the lungs and the airways through the blood, it’s right there at the source. Once you’ve finished with the steam, boil the water with the thyme in it again for about half an hour to release all the minerals in the herb – now you have a nourishing tea that will help rebuild the resources you’re using to fight the infection!
Air Purifying Spritzer
A lot of people like to use Lysol or other air fresheners when people are sick in the house, to kill the germs in the air. You can do the same job more effectively and without the chemicals with herbs! Fill a spraybottle with water, and add to it 10-20 drops of essential oil of rosemary, and 10-20 drops of essential oil of lavender.
Use this in place of the Lysol – just walk around the house spraying the bottle, and you’ll kill off all the germs floating around. This mixture was found, in the French state hospital system, to be as effective as standard hospital sanitizer, but in fact longer lasting, because the oils stay on whatever surfaces they land on longer than the alcohol-based sanitizers. Not only that, but it smells great! In our house, we use this mixture to clean countertops, the kitchen table, the bathroom sink – just about anything.
Homemade “Kool Aid”
One last trick for today: So you want to be healthier, but your 5 year old wants Kool-Aid. What to do? Why, you reach for your herbs, of course! Here’s a recipe that’s kid friendly, supremely healthy, and sure to please everyone. You’ll need rose hips, hibiscus, orange peel and lemon peel. These should be available in the bulk section of your local health food store, and if they don’t have them or can’t order them for you, try www.mountainroseherbs.com.
You can mix these ingredients to taste, but I like 3 parts rose hips, 1 part hibiscus, and 1 part each of the lemon and orange peels. Per quart of water, add two or three tablespoons of the herbal mixture (depending on how strong you want to make it), and bring to a boil. Simmer the mix for 20 minutes, and then let it cool.
The flavor will be sweet-tart; you can add some honey or dark maple syrup to sweeten. The result? A super high-vitamin naturally bright red Kool-Aid replacement! Rose hips are one of the best sources for vitamin C – one rose hip has as much vitamin C as four lemons! There’s vitamin A in there too, along with a whole host of bioflavonoids (which are antioxidants). Hibiscus has nutrients that nourish the cardiovascular system, and orange and lemon peels have vitamins C, B1, folic acid, many bioflavonoids (over 60!), and a whole host of other vitamins and minerals! And when it’s cold and flu season, toss some dried elderberries into the mix, or add elderberry syrup as a sweetener, and you have a potent and delicious immune-boosting brew.
So what are you waiting for? This is one brightly colored kid drink that mom and dad will love!
Next up: Natural Therapies for Seasonal Allergies: Learn how to build a stronger you and get through allergy season without the Kleenex!