♥ Herbal Remedies for Our Little Ones ♥
By Darby L. Partner CPM, LDM
Pure and radiant, children respond beautifully to the healing energies of simple herbal remedies. Starting from birth, babies’ and children’s illnesses and complaints of discomfort can be eased with the help of our plant friends. The power of herbs is truly amazing. Herbs can heal and soothe even serious childhood illnesses like measles, mumps, rubella and whooping cough, and ease simple belly aches and coughs.. With herbal remedies, combined with massage, a well-balanced, whole foods diet and a positive, loving atmosphere, children will grow up healthy, happy and with few illnesses.
Before Western chemically-made drugs were the norm, Wise Woman were healing their children, families and selves with the plants they foraged wild and pure from their natural surroundings.
We must get back to our roots, start trusting our instincts and Mother Earth’s gifts. If we begin to teach our children the art of healing naturally with pure plants, not only will they benefit, herbal medicine will become more widely accepted and the knowledge will prosper.
Herbal medicine is inexpensive and extremely safe. Anyone can learn how to wildcraft and grow herbs and prepare their own medicine. As simple as drying herbs for an infusion or a more complex process such as making a tincture, crafting herbal medicine is not a difficult task, its just takes some time, effort and love. Why not choose to heal your precious child with mild, inexpensive natural remedies? Plants have been used for healing since the beginning of human’s time and are the most researched and tried way of healing.
While giving birth to a new being herbal oils help the head slide out and assist with the stretching of mama’s perineum. Good herbal oils for this purpose are infused oils of St. Joan’s Wort, comfrey, calendula petals and rose petals. Liberally pour the oil on mama’s perineum as the baby begins to crown.
Once the little one has entered the world, its time to call upon our plant friends to heal and protect. Any bruises on baby’s head from the birthing can be healed with comfrey oil and arnica oil or arnica homeopathic tablets. Very gently rub the oil on the bruised area and cover with a hat. Repeat this process 3-5 times per day until the bruise has healed.
To treat baby’s new belly button, or drying cord/cord stump, clean with a drop of lavender essential oil on a q-tip. Or, make a tincture of rosemary leaves or Oregon grape root. Apply with a q-tip at each diaper change to disinfect and dry the area. A drop or 2 or echinacea root tincture on the new belly button/umbilical cord/cord stump will also help to discourage bacteria growth and eliminate mild infection. Used internally, echinacea root tincture will help heal an infected cord stump or new belly button.
Some babies catch eye infections at birth due to the yeast in mama’s birth canal or catch conjunctivitis or another type of eye infection during early childhood. Herbs to help little one’s eyes are eyebright, chamomile flowers and chickweed. Chickweed is the best for conjunctivitis. To heal conjunctivitis, make a poultice with the fresh plant. To make a poultice lay a piece of cheesecloth or clean cotton in a bowl, put the whole, fresh plant on top of the cloth, pour boiling water just over the very top of the herbs. Next, let it set until it is still quite warm, yet not too hot and apply the warm poultice directly on the place that needs healing. In this case, apply to the eye until the poultice is cool. Repeat the process four to ten times a day until the infection clears up.
Jaundice is caused when baby’s extra red blood cells are not fully broken down by the liver and intestines. Bilirubin, a by-product of the breakdown process is what tints the skin and eyes yellow. Check in with your midwife or care giver, but usually “a healthy acting yellow baby is a healthy baby”. Mama including dandelion in her diet through out pregnancy and after giving birth will help prevent jaundice. Eat the leaves fresh in salad, or juice them. Drink dandelion root tea and take dandelion root tincture. Catnip and agrimony infusions also help heal jaundice. Warm the room very well and put your naked baby in a sunny window for 15-30 minutes 1-3 times a day to clear jaundice. Breastfeed as often as possible.
Diaper rash can be caused by yeast infections or thrush, irritation from disposable diapers, sensitive skin, an allergic reaction to the soap used to wash the diapers, reaction to an antibiotic drug or a reaction to a certain food lactating mama ate. Diaper rash can be healed with herbal oils and salves. Plantain, comfrey, St. John’s Wort, calendula flowers and chickweed are all very healing for diaper rash, either in a salve or oil form, used together or as a single. Use probiotics to heal a diaper rash caused by thrush: mama should take the capsules internally, also open the capsules and sprinkle on the rash directly, and dab inside baby’s mouth. Wash mama’s nipples in apple cider vinegar before nursing. Also, if pacifiers are being used, wash these in apple cider vinegar before using as well. Use cloth diapers and change them frequently. When changing baby, always wash off baby’s bottom gently with a warm damp cloth and apply a generous amount of herbal oil or salve on the affected area. Letting baby “air-out” by letting the baby go without a diaper for a few hours a day always helps also. Be sure your laundry detergent is natural and biodegradable, without added fragrance. Note any acidic food mama or baby may be eating, and eliminate.
Baby tummy aches and colic are caused by air bubbles in baby’s tummy and needing to burp, eating too fast, mama’s diet, or tension. It is important to have a mellow, relaxing environment for baby when she is nursing. Use chamomile flowers, catnip, fennel seeds, lemon balm and anise seed to enhance digestion and to relax baby’s tummy. Nurse in a position baby prefers, in a quiet environment, with love and gentleness. Mama changing her diet may help to heal baby’s colic as well. Some foods that mama should avoid to prevent colic are: broccoli, brussels sprouts, turnips, radishes, kale, collards, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, garlic, chocolate, peanuts, sugar, and white flour. I remember my baby had an awful bout of colic at about 6 days old after I drank fresh kale juice!
Cradle cap, or baby dandruff is not a serious or contagious problem. It can be treated with herbal oils of comfrey, calendula, St. John’s Wort and plantain, oak bark or witch hazel bark infusion rubbed on the scalp. Coconut oil is also a helpful external remedy for cradle cap. Internally, burdock root tincture will help balance the oil production of the scalp. Burdock root is a tonic and needs to be given daily for at least three weeks.
The body’s natural defense against infection is fever. I always caution parents against using baby Tylenol or aspirin to reduce their baby’s fevers, as the fever is actually the body”s tool to heal itself. Unless a fever is above 103 and goes on for many days and does not drop, it is helpful to allow the fever to do its work of fighting off the bacterias that are causing baby to be sick. The possibility of convulsions is rare, but increased with high fevers. Use echinacea root, Oregon grape root and/or the medicine from the elder tree to prevent infections. Echinacea root can also be used to treat fevers. The blossoms of the lovely elder tree is a superb remedy for treating infant’s and children’s fevers. Elder flowers reduce frighteningly high fevers without fail. Make an infusion or a tincture out of the beautiful, cream colored late spring blossoms. Other herbs that help reduce a fever are chamomile (which also promote rest, very important in any illness), boneset, borage, catnip, lavender flowers, lemon balm, meadowsweet, peppermint, self-heal, violet flowers and yarrow. You can combine these herbs or use them as singles, but it is very important to give your child or baby a dose every hour. Tepid herbal baths or sponge baths are a very helpful way to get the fever down. Elder flowers, peppermint and yarrow flowers is a famous old recipe for feverish states to encourage sweating. With sweating a fever can be reduced.
There are many herbs that ease the discomforts of a child’s cold and speed up the healing process. My favorites are echinacea and astragalus roots to boost the immune system and provide extra energy, Oregon grape root to fight against bacteria and elder berries to fight viruses, boneset and meadowsweet to relieve aches and pains, reduce a fever and clear catarrhal congestion, and peppermint, a stimulating decongestant. When using echinacea, use in 2 week intervals with a 1 week break in between. Fresh ginger infusion with honey and fresh lemon juice is a remedy I always reach for. Lemon balm is a gentle yet strong anti-viral that can be used to heal viral infections. Boost the child’s vitamin C by providing an abundance of fresh citrus fruits and giving rose hip and hibiscus tea and tincture. A combination of these remedies used frequently through out the day will help clear a cold. Also very important during any illness is to eliminate sugar, dairy products and processed foods from the diet, this will help one heal quicker.
Different kinds of coughs needs different remedies. A feverish cough is eased by pasque flower, lobelia, elder blossoms, plantain and marshmallow leaves. A cough with excessive mucous is helped by elecampane root, horehound, hyssop, coltsfoot and Oregon grape root. A dry cough needs to be soothed and loosened by herbs with relaxing and demulcent properties to help expel mucous. Coltsfoot, marshmallow root, licorice root, mullein and wild cherry bark can all be used.
Herbs such as marshmallow root, plantain, thyme, coltsfoot, mullein leaves and flowers and elecampane root are helpful remedies for a sore throat. If the child is old enough to gargle, a sea salt and warm water gargle will greatly reduce the viral load. Thyme, sage, cleavers, echinacea root and Oregon grape root infusions or diluted tincture all make a soothing herbal gargle. Throat sprays of these herbs are also very beneficial. The herb cleavers helps throat ailments because it is a lymph node cleanser.
Children’s coughs and sore throats can be soothed with an herbal cough syrup. They taste sweet and help to coat and moisten the throat. Some powerful herbs to include in your herbal cough syrup are coltsfoot, thyme, wild cherry bark and hyssop. To make an herbal cough syrup first make a very strong infusion by filling a double boiler with the herbs, then cover with water. Simmer extremely gently in the double boiler for 24 hours, do not allow the infusion to boil. You may have to add more water during the process as the herbs soak up some of the water. Stain, and discard the herbs. Mix 1 cup of local honey with 2 cups of the strong herbal infusion. Add 2 tablespoons of brandy to preserve the syrup. Label with the date, and ingredients and store in amber bottles in the refrigerator. Give a child age 3 and up 1 teaspoon per day, 3-4 times per day during a cough or sore throat. A younger child, age 6 months through age 3, give ¼ – ½ teaspoon 3-4 times per day.
You can also use this recipe to make an elderberry syrup. Elderberry syrup can be given to babies and children on a daily basis during the cold and flu season, to boost their immunity and fight viruses: Elder berries are an incredible anti-viral. Give a child age 3 and up 1 teaspoon per day, increasing to 3-4 times per day during an illness. For babies 6 months through age 3, give ¼ – ½ teaspoon per day, increasing to 3-4 times per day during an illness. Rosehips and hibiscus flowers can be added as well to both the elder berry syrup, and the cough syrup for a natural and potent source of vitamin C. A good ratio is 75% elder berries, 15% rose hips and 15% hibiscus.
“Thieves” essential oil from Young Living, or DoTerra’s “On-Guard” are amazing allies for sore throats, as well as colds and flus. It also makes a great anti-bacterial hand spray that can also be used as a sore throat spray. The combination of plants used in this essential oil were said to have been plants that the thieves would carry with them to protect themselves when going into the houses of people suffering from the Plague and stealing from them! Use the hand spray through out the day to keep nasty cold and flu germs away.
To ease congestion steam and inhale 2-4 drops of peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus oils in steaming hot water. Put a towel over the child’s head, with their face above a steaming pot of water with the essential oils and breathe deep! Remember to take the pot off the heat while doing the steam and supervise carefully.
Teething is such a painful time for babies, but it is inevitable. You can tell a baby is teething when he begins to drool a lot, is irritable and clingy, does not want to feed, or has trouble sleeping. She may run a fever, and often has a runny nose. Check her gums, if they are red and hard, with little bumps where the teeth are coming in, she is teething. Add 1 drop of clove essential oil to 2 tablespoons coconut oil and rub on baby’s gums to numb them. Catnip, chamomile flowers, fennel seed and lemon balm infusion and tincture will ease teething. Give to baby frequently through out the day. Mama can drink the infusion or take the tincture and baby will receive the medicinal effects through her breast milk. The following is an excellent, and fun teething remedy: Make an infusion with any or all of the above herbs, take small pieces of cloth, or small washcloths and soak the cloths in the infusion. Roll the cloths long-ways into a roll and freeze on a plate. These “teething-pops” are amazing for a teething baby who can sit up and suck on the frozen, herbal clothes, or, you can hold them in baby’s mouth for her. The cold soothes gum pain, while baby receives the healing properties of the herbs. I have also heard amazing success stories from mamas who have used baby amber teething necklaces.
Many babies get diarrhea and constipation. The foods the child is eating can be the cause, so can other factors such as reactions to bacteria and viruses, teething, fever, emotional upset or as a complication to an infection elsewhere in the body. To help heal the body of diarrhea, increase baby’s fluid intake and for a child who is old enough to eat, keep it simple. Vegetable broths, miso soup, plain rice or mashed potatoes, oats and slippery elm gruel are all helpful foods to give a child who has diarrhea. Blackberry root tincture is a specific for diarrhea. I used to go out in the yard and dig up the prolific blackberry roots when my first son had diarrhea. Blackberry root, raspberry leaf or root, meadowsweet and slippery elm bark are remedies for diarrhea. Other herbal allies for diarrhea are: chamomile flowers, ginger root, thyme, fennel seed and peppermint. Be sure to always keep baby and child hydrated during diarrhea. To support hydration give a natural electrolyte and hydration drink: Mix 1 quart pure water, 2 Tb fresh lemon juice, 2 Tb honey and a generous pinch of sea salt. (Do not give babies under 6 months honey, however you may substitute agave or maple syrup for honey.) This drink is also useful in keeping a mama hydrated during labor and childbirth.
If constipation is developed by baby or child, it is important to eliminate certain foods that could be contributing to the problem. These foods are: dairy products, wheat, eggs and refined, processed foods. Include in the child’s diet foods that help her to have healthy poops: fruits, vegetables, fiber from whole grains, liquids, molasses and dried fruit. Foods that supply bulk in the system are especially helpful. These include carob powder, slippery elm bark, flax seeds, psyllium seeds and Irish moss. Rosemary Gladstar has a good recipe to include these in your child’s diet:
“Jump for Joy Balls: Make a special candy by grinding prunes, figs, apricots and raisins together. Mix in powdered psyllium seed, slippery elm bark and fennel seed. To flavor, mix in carob powder, coconut and ground walnuts. Roll into balls and serve as a nourishing snack.”
Teas to ease constipation can also be made from slippery elm bark, Irish moss, psyllium seed, fennel seed, spearmint, peppermint, orange peel and cinnamon.
Ear infections were my most painful childhood memory. Ear infections are common in babies and children. Babies’ ear canals can easily get plugged up with excess mucus and get infected because their ear canals are not fully formed and do not drain well. The best remedy for ear infections is an ear oil made from infused oils of garlic, St. John’s Wort flowers and mullein flowers. Warm the oil to the temperature of mother’s milk, test the temperature, and drop 2-3 drops into each ear canal. Repeat every hour as needed. It is important to treat both ears because the infection can be passed back and forth. You can also quickly make a garlic ear oil: mince a large bulb of garlic and place in a small pot and cover with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, warm gently for one hour and strain through a cheesecloth or a metal sieve. Refrigerate unused portion. Herbal infusions of chamomile flowers, echinacea root, hyssop, licorice root or peppermint combined with cleavers or calendula flowers can be given to heal ear infections. Any of the previously mentioned herbs in tea or tincture form to help a cold, flu or infection will also be beneficial. Use meadowsweet and/or lavender tincture as natural painkillers. Use a hot water bottle or hot pad on the ears to help ease the pain.
Children so often fall and scrape their knees and elbows. Have on hand a “magic healing oil or salve” to soothe the hurts. Calendula, comfrey, self heal, chickweed, and plantain are all soothing skin herbs. When a child gets hurt, be sure to give them lots of love, and tell them the plant fairies have a magic healing ointment for their cuts! Apply these skin-healing herbs as a poultice as well. Make an antibacterial spray to clean cuts and scrapes by filling a 4 ounce spray bottle with pure water. Add 6 drops of lavender, clove, rosemary, eucalyptus, lemon and/or cinnamon essential oils. You can also use this spray as an antibacterial hand spray. Manuka essential oil from New Zealand is an incredible antibacterial and wound healer. I recommend manuka oil for every first aid kit. Lavender essential oil, fresh aloe vera and St. John’s Wort infused oil are healing remedies for burns. Calendula blossom poultices work wonders for rashes and itchy, irritated skin.
There are different forms of herbal medicine and many ways to administer herbs to children. Tinctures, infusions (strong teas), syrups, herbal baths, salves and oils are all forms that can be made at home from herbs and a menstruum. Alcohol, glycerine and apple cider vinegar are all menstruums for tinctures. Water is the menstruum for infusions, honey and water for syrups. Almond oil or olive oil are used to make herbal infused oils, and use infused oils with beeswax, cocoa butter and/or shea butter create a salve.
Alcohol tinctures should never be given alone to babies or young children because the alcohol may burn their sensitive mouth and gums. Vegetable glycerine is a great menstruum for children’s tinctures, they taste sweet and babies and children welcome them. Alcohol based tinctures should be diluted in water, juice or tea. To remove the alcohol in tinctures add the drops to a cup of freshly boiled water, the alcohol will evaporate off, leaving the medicinal qualities of the herbs.
Bitter tasting teas and infusions can be combined with naturally sweet herbs to make them more acceptable and taste better for children. Try mixing herbs like licorice root, fennel seed, anise seed, star anise, mints, hibiscus and cinnamon with other less sweet medicinal herbs for flavor. Teas can also be mixed with juice or milk.
Herbal baths are a wonderful way for baby to receive the healing essence of herbs. The warm water opens the pores of the skin and the herbal nutrients flow in. The skin is the largest organ of elimination and assimilation. Herbal baths are healing and soothing, especially to the nervous system. Make two quarts of herbal infusion and add it to the tub. Spiral the water around with your hand to mix the herbal energy into the bath water. An herbal bath with chamomile, lavender and lemon balm can be used to ease a hyper, stressed or anxious child. Use essential oils as well, just 2-3 drops in a full bathtub. Lavender is especially calming for all. Also try 3 drops of rose otto, rose geranium, blue chamomile or jasmine essential oils in baby’s bath.
Mother’s milk is the most effective way to administer herbs to nursing babies, as well as very convenient. When a mother drinks the herbal infusion or tincture it goes into her blood stream and then into her milk making it readily available to the nursing baby. Mother should drink 6-8 cups of infusion per day and both mother and baby will benefit from the plant friends. To enrich and increase Mother’s milk use hops, fennel, borage, fenugreek and anise seeds.
Other creative ways to administer herbs to children are frozen herbal tea popcicles and powdered herbs mixed in food. Herbal powders can also be mixed with ground dried fruit and nuts, coconut, carob powder, honey and nut butter and rolled into balls to make a yummy herbal treat!
Dream pillows are a pleasant, soothing addition to your baby’s bed. Make a small pillow out of flannel and stuff it with your herbal dream mixture. Some wonderful herbs to add to your dream pillow mixture are hops strobiles, lavender flowers, chamomile flowers, rose petals and mugwort leaves. Sleeping on this special pillow will give both baby and parents a relaxing, deep sleep and give baby’s head a smell of herbs when she wakes up! Dream pillows help parents remember their dreams and aid in releasing energy and thoughts through their dreams.
Herbal oils can be used after bath, for massage, for healing and for an all-purpose baby oil. Make your own herbal oils by infusing fresh herbs in olive, apricot and almond oils. Fill up a jar with your cut up herbs. My favorites are calendula, chamomile flowers, comfrey leaves, rose petals and plantain leaves. Comfrey and calendula are best freshly dried. Then fill the jar again with almond or olive oil. Olive oil tends to mold quicker than almond oil. Use a chopstick to get the air bubbles out. Cap, label and let sit for six weeks. After six weeks, decant the oil by straining the contents of the jar through a kitchen sieve or a piece of cheese cloth. Squeeze the plant material to remove all the healing oil. Add 3 drops of vitamin E oil to the whole jar as a preservative. Compost the plant material and bottle your herbal oil in amber bottles.
To make an herbal infusion: An strong infusion is what we need to heal our illnesses, just teas will not do the trick. To make an infusion put 2 handfuls of herbs in a quart mason jar, tea pot, or pot. Boil water, add boiling water to the herbs but DO NOT boil (reduces healing benefits of the herbs). To heal with herbal medicines, infusions should be taken 4-6 times per day.
To make an herbal tincture: Fill a mason jar with fresh or dried herbs: Wide-mouth works best. Pack down the herbs as this will make a stronger tincture. Use everclear alcohol mixed half and half with pure water (always mix before adding to jar), or use a 100 proof vodka. Add alcohol to jar. Use a chopstick or knife to help reduce air bubbles. Fill to top with alcohol. Cover with lid, tightly. The next day, open and add a little more alcohol to top. Cover again. Label with the name of the herb, alcohol proof, and date put up. Shake as often desired. In 6 weeks your tincture will be ready, but it can set longer, too. Make a glycerine tincture (sweet for children) by substituting half vegetable glycerine and half water instead of alcohol. (Make the mixture before adding to jar). I always add a splash of brandy to my glycerine tinctures, to help bring out the properties that only alcohol will extract. Shake often and store in a dark place. When your tincture is ready to decant, strain through cheesecloth or a metal sieve. Discard herbs and put the finished tincture in a jar and/or tincture bottles. Label well.
Herbal Baby Bath: Calendula Blossoms, Rosepetals and Lavender Blossoms.
Herbal baby bath includes herbs that are healing to baby’s skin and have a natural cleansing effect as well. Use in a muslin bag, cheesecloth sachet or add the herbs loose to the bath. Or make an infusion and add to the bath after straining. It is very lovely to bathe in this herbal bath with your newly born baby in the first days postpartum. Because babies under 6 months of age can receive medicinal effects of herbs through their skin, herbal infusions can be made, and used as an herbal baths for healing as needed.
New babies do not need soap. Gentle cleansing with warm water or herbs is enough. If you do choose to use soap be sure to choose a very pure brand, with no Sodium Laurel Sulfate, (SLS has been shown to cause eye damage in babies and children) or other chemicals/petroleum by-products. Aubrey makes a gentle and pure baby shampoo, Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild is a healthy soap choice.
Calm Baby Tincture: Chamomile, Catnip, Fennel, and Lemon Balm in vegetable glycerine with a splash of brandy. This calming and gentle vegetable glycerine tincture is excellent for babies, children (and grown-ups!) Use to ease colic and gas. It helps to calm an upset baby. It is a perfect remedy for teething, as well as colds, flus and belly-aches. This tincture is also used for anxiety, stress and hyperactivity in the young child. Lavender flowers can also be added, and this combination can also be used as an infusion.
Baby Healing Oil: Calendula blossoms, Rose petals and Chamomile infused in Sweet Almond Oil. Use this baby healing oil for baby’s bottom between changings, and for diaper rash. Fresh St. John’s wort blossoms is an excellent addition, and will make a lovely red oil. Reach for it to use as a massage oil when you give your baby, child or other loved ones a massage. Also a lovely pregnant belly, or mama-body oil. Decant the oil after 6 weeks, and add the essential oil(s) of your choice to your decanted Healing Oil. Use approximately 6-10 drops per 2 cups of Healing Oil. Some essential oils I recommend: lavender, rose, ylang ylang, chamomile, geranium, sweet orange…
Our children are beings of light! They are full of pure love and joy…They deserve the healing power of medicine as pure as themselves…medicine that works with their new, young bodies, not against them. Plants are our healers and our friends. They are the choice to make again and again as we raise our precious children.
Divine guidance and blessings to all the children of the earth…that they may grow strong and healthy in love, with the wisdom to help the earth live.
BE WELL ♥
1) American Herbalism Edited Dr. Micheal Tierra
2) Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susun Weed
3) Natural Medicine for Children by Julian Scott, PhD
4) The Herbal for Mother and Child by Anne McIntyre
5) Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West by Micheal Moore
About the author:
Darby has been gratefully utilizing the healing power of plants, wildcrafting and growing medicinal plants and crafting herbal medicine since 1994. She has been serving birthing women since 2001 in Eugene and Portland, Oregon, Big Island, Hawaii, Cuernavaca, Mexico, Kerala, India, El Paso, Texas and an Amish community in Wisconsin. She is a Certified Professional Midwife and a Licensed Midwife in Oregon and she is also a Waldorf-certified early childhood teacher and mother of 2 home birthed boys, ages 8 and 16. She can be reached at www.unfoldinglotus.com. and www.holisticmidwifery.com
and her email is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Copyright 2012 Darby L. Partner
Disclaimer: For educational use only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.