Please Enable JavaScript in your Browser to Visit this Site.

top of page

Keeping Kids Healthy During Winter

Patches of Thyme

"For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul"(Proverbs 2:10 NIV)

As we head into fall, winter and the holiday season those with children may be thinking about the illness' that are passed around and around. The immune system is the body's strongest defense against infection. As herbalists many of us have had our kids right there in the gardens, and the kitchen growing up. I know mine did. Take your kids out to the garden, show them that plantain leaf just picked can help the itching from a bug bite. One of our daughters grew up reaching for the calendula salve every time she went in the pool. Having your children outside also is imperative for Vitamin D. As we do this we will be passing on some wonderful ancient traditions. Young children can benefit so much from the gentle healing of herbs. Let’s discuss some ways to keep our children healthy during this upcoming season.

Nutrition can play a huge role in keeping healthy. Keeping your diet to wholesome healthy foods can go very far. Things like kiwi and strawberries are full of vitamin C, as is broccoli and kale. Extra vitamin C is helpful for fighting off an infection or an illness. Cranberries are high in vitamin C and are very beneficial to ward off kidney and bladder infections. Cucumbers also are great for kidney and bladder help as they are a very gentle and natural diuretic. If you have teens in the house they will enjoy making a skin tonic as it is great for acne help. Pop some grapes in the freezer for a yummy sweet treat. Your kids will get the added benefit of extra vitamin A, B, C, and including calcium, and potassium. Snacks like this can help avoid the sugar cravings. Make some bone broth and have your kids help you chop vegetable to make a delicious nutritious soup. Add plenty of garlic and onions to help the immune system stay healthy. Some medicinal herbs can also be added directly to a soup. Some to try would be dandelion root, burdock root or astragalus. This goes without saying but keep the white sugar away as much as possible as it weakens the immune system.

Keeping your children on their regular schedule as much as possible is another way to keep them healthy. Putting them down at night at the same time is not always easy during the holiday season but helpful for keeping them healthy. Giving them some downtime during the afternoon perhaps with a healthy snack, a book or a movie. Making sure they have some form of exercise every day also is a good way to burn off energy and relieve some stress or anxious thoughts.

Some herbal supplements that could be helpful are:

Elder (sambucus nigra) According to Matthew Wood, elder was so widely used in folk medicine that it comprised a whole pharmacopoeia of the common folks. Shakespeare ranks it up with the worthies of medicine. [3] Elderberry is very common and for those that do not use many herbs, most have heard of or used elderberry. Elder is an antiviral, anticancer and depurative along with being a mucilage. Historically elder has been used for healing. Chris Hafner an herbalist in Minneapolis believes in the affinities of elder for infants and children. [3} Elderberries can be dried and used in a tea or elderberries cooked down into a syrup or jam.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Chamomile is one of my very favorite to grow in the garden. It is part of the daisy family and just has beautiful delicate little white flowers. it has a very gentle soft scent that smells subtly like apples. This is a very peaceful herb to have in your garden. "The Lord gives strength to his people, the Lord blesses his people with peace"(Psalm 29:11) is an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, depurative, nervine and diuretic. This herb is all around one of the best around for children. {1} It is very gentle and can be used as an oil or tea. It can help a colicky baby or the student who needs a bit of settling after school. It may boost serotonin which helps our wellbeing. {3}.

Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) Marshmallow is an anti-inflammatory, demulcent, emollient and antibacterial along with being a mucilage. This herb is very easy to grow in the garden. It was one of my youngest daughter’s favorite herb in the garden. It is helpful for sore throats as it coats the throat. It can be helpful for both constipation and diarrhea. As a respiratory help it works as an expectorant.

Catnip (Nepeta cararia) Catnip is a tonic, carminative and a diaphoretic. This is a wonderful herb for children who get restless or anxious about something. As a mild nervine it can calm them enough or works well to help them get to sleep without the grogginess in the morning. As a fever reducer it is helpful as it brings on sleep and perspiration. It can be quite bitter but combined with chamomile it would be quite pleasant. It is well known as causing excitability in cats but the complete opposite in humans {1}. Catnip is great to add to your arsenal of herbs for the fall season.

Echinacea (E purpurea) Echinacea is widely known to improve the immune system. For children it is a nice alternative to pharmaceutical antibiotics. This herb is an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulant and antiviral. It increases the body's protective line of defense, being very potent but still very safe. If taken at the onset of a cold or flu it can be very effective at fighting off the illness. It grows well, and it is full of beautiful purple coneflowers. Christopher Hobbs has quoted herbalist Brian Weissback of San Anselmo, Ca, saying "echinacea’s primary indication is lymphatic stasis with inflammation and immune depression. " This tends to be the traditional viewpoint and kind of downplays the attitude that echinacea is a cure-all. {3}

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) Lemon balm is an antiviral, antiseptic, nervine, sedative and anti-depressant. The aromatic lift is very calming alone. For children that may get over stimulated during the holiday season this could be the perfect thing in the afternoon or evening to calm them down.

"Then God said, Let the land produce vegetation seed bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it according to their various kinds"(Genesis 1"11 NIV)

Dosing is an important topic and there are a few different ways herbalists go about it. There is the Young's Rule; Add 12 to the child’s age. Divide the child’s age by this total. An example of this is the dosage for a four-year-old; 4 divided by 16 =.25 or 1/4 of the adult dosage. Then we have the Cowling's Rule; Divide the number of child's next birthday by 24. Example; Dosage for a child who is 3, turning 4years old; 4 divided by 24 = .16 or 1/6 of the adult dosage. These are all taken directly from Rosemary Gladstar {1}.

Another way to look at is a simpler way and it is called the Simpler's method. I for one tend to use this method. It tends to be simple and can be used for most types of herbal preparations. “Parts" are the term used to describe how much is used. {1} For example: 2 parts of chamomile to 1-part lemon balm could mean 2 cups of chamomile and 1 cup or lemon balm or 2 tablespoons of chamomile to 1 tablespoon lemon balm. It is very easy to transfer this method to any type of herbal preparation.

Some different types of herbal preparations especially suited for children are:

Infusions: This is simply a tea. A good ratio for an infusion might be 3 tablespoons for about each cup of water. This is a great effective way to get an herb into a child. It is easy to add a little honey and it is yummy for them. If you are looking for a very mild infusion steep for about 20 minutes or so. For a stronger infusion steep for 30-45 minutes. Infusions as medicinal should be given over the course of the day.

Lozenges: These can also be called herbal candy. These can work well for some of the mucilage herbs that need to coat the throat. They can be flavored many ways. Honey, coconut, raisins or nuts can all be ground into lozenges. (disclaimer: honey should not be given to babies under the age of 2)

Syrups: This is very common especially for the herb elder. Syrup is good way to make an elder herbal preparation. Syrups tend to be sweet and are easy for a child to take. An easy way for dosing on syrup is about 2 ounces of herbs to 1 quart of cold water {1}. Cook down until you have a nice thick tea. Strain the herbs out and add in about 1 cup of sweetener. (generally, honey is used, but molasses, maple syrup or a vegetable glycerin could also be used. Cook enough so all is blended. Store in a glass jar. Keeping it in the refrigerator it should keep for many months.

Tinctures: Tinctures are very concentrated and very effective. For myself I use the Simpler method or the folksy method. Put your herbs in a glass jar and cover with vodka. It is important that the herbs are completely covered. Using fresh or dried should be fine; if using fresh you will need to use more. {4} Keep in a dark place for at least two weeks. This time period is called the maceration period. Straining the herbs out through a cheesecloth after the time period will give you a nice wonderful tincture. One to two drops in some water or juice should be a fine start. Starting in small dosages with a tincture should be enough for the body to rebalance itself.

Holiday season can be so much fun for children. They think about all the anticipation of family gatherings, getting out of the routine, and time away from school. There are ways to keep your children healthy during this time. For nursing mamas keep in mind that the best way for your child to get herbal preparations is through your milk. Drinking three-four cups of tea a day should be enough to get the herb in your baby. It is not necessary to use all these herbs. Use what would work for the situation your child might

be in.

"He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers" (Psalm 1:3 NIV)


1. Gladstar, R, Books, S &Catalano R. (1999). Herbal Remedies for Children’s Health, United States Workman Publishing Company

2. Ellingson, D. (2006) God's Healing Herbs. Greeley, CO: Cladach Pub

3. Wood, M (1997) The book of Herbal Wisdom; Using plants as medicine. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

4. Hoffman, D., & Hoffman, F.N. (2003) Medical Herbalism; The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions Bear & Company

Featured Posts
Recent Posts