Herbs for Kid's Health

With the flu season rapidly approaching, I have stocked up on my herbal apothecary that I love to have around for my kids! (And myself)

Herbs are an amazing way to support little immune systems without any negative side effects. Plant medicine has been an important part of our lives and has saved us from many illnesses progressing into more serious issues. We have used herbs to support and heal from the flu, rotavirus, norovirus, stomach flu, parasites, mold toxicity, common cold, parainfluenza, wound healing, sleep issues, and so many other viruses and bacterial infections. Herbal education is now gaining in popularity and many more parents are using herbs instead of, or in conjunction with, allopathic medicine.

The purpose of herbs is not to AVOID infections completely. I think there is a misconception about illness that is perpetuated by pharmaceutical companies. Illness is not something to be feared. Many of the childhood illnesses we used to contract, as a human species, served a very beneficial purpose for our immune systems later in life. For example, naturally (non-vaccine) acquired measles virus antibodies actually protect us later in life from several types of cancers. Our immune systems strengthen when we contract and fight many different types of viruses, which is why we don’t contract the same strain of virus more than once.

We need some level of inflammation in our body to keep the systems running normally. Our lungs function with slightly elevated inflammation. If our bodies have no inflammation then we would not be alive. If our bodies have chronic inflammation (or autoimmune issues) then we would never get sick, so not getting sick is generally not a good thing. I believe, that the ultimate goal is to get sick infrequently (maybe once per year, or less), and to be able to fight the illness within a few days to a week with zero complications and without the illness worsening.

Having a healthy terrain is preventative medicine. A terrain (your body) that is strong and healthy does not react when invaders (pathogens, “germs,” “bugs”) enter, because it is able to release them without incident. When we are in a state of chronic stress, eating a Standard American Diet (SAD), not getting adequate sleep, eating high sugar diets, living sedentary lifestyles, over working ourselves, and drinking too much alcohol, only going outside to check the mail and to get to our cars, then our terrain becomes weak. That “chronic stress” lifestyle paves the way for these opportunistic “bugs” to invade our terrain and cause us to fall ill.

Maintaining a healthy terrain starts in the home. It starts with getting adequate sleep, optimizing organ function, maintaining stress levels so our bodies are not in chronic “fight, flight or freeze” response mode, eating a very colorful diet, and of course herbs. It not possible to out supplement a bad diet, but it is possible to support the whole body in the process of making lifestyle changes, or maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The top FIVE herbs that I use regularly with my kids are:

1). ASTRAGALUS ROOT. Astragalus root is a potent, yet gentle, immune system builder. Astragalus root is considered an adaptogen, which means it helps the body adapt to illness and stress in various ways. It contains three components that allow it to have a positive impact on human health: saponins, flavonoids, polysaccharides. According to Dr. Axe “saponins are known for their ability to lower cholesterol, improve the immune system and prevent cancer. (3) Flavanoids, also found in astragalus, provide health benefits through cell signaling. They show antioxidative qualities, control and scavenge of free radicals, and can help prevent heart disease, cancer and immunodeficiency viruses. (4Polysaccharides are known to have antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory capabilities, among other health benefits. (5)” Astragalus can help reduce inflammation in the body, regulates metabolic/diabetic issues in the body, helps protect the cardiovascular system of the body, it aids in wound healing, used to promote longevity, and prevent adrenal fatigue.

I like to use this herb as a tincture because it is an easy and concentrated form of the medicine. I give my kids 10-15 drops a day, and I take 1-2 dropperfulls a day. I also like having the root and tossing some into soups, broths, rice etc, to then strain, or I will make a tea out of the root. I know people take the powdered root in capsules as well, 1/2g – 1 gram 3-4 times a day. It is recommended to take higher doses of this herb at the start of the colder seasons to prevent and avoid illness, or minimize the duration. It is also recommended to stop taking this herb at intervals (after about 3 weeks) and take a week off. It is also advised to stop taking astragalus (and any adaptogen) at the onset of illness because of it’s powerful immune abilities it can actually trap illness in the body.

2). ELDERBERRIES. Elderberries are gaining in popularity! They are another gentle and amazing immune boosting plant. They are cautioned against people who suffer from autoimmune illness because of how potent of an immune builder these berries are. They aid in digestion, boosting the immune system, they can help reduce cholesterol levels, it can act as an expectorant to keep lungs clear and expel mucous, and it helps the pancreas function optimally to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels.

The best way to take this is as a syrup! Making the syrup at home is very easy and there are lots of good recipes online. Getting kids involved in the syrup making is a wonderful way to get them curious about staying healthy! My favorite way to take them is 1tsp daily for maintenance, and 3tsp daily while sick. As always, it is encouraged to take breaks from taking any herbal remedy to give the body time to adjust and adapt and to make sure the medicine continues to work on the body.

3). ACEROLA CHERRY. Acerola cherries are very high in vitamin C, which make it beneficial for the skin, collagen production, and immune health. It is also used as an anti fungal, antidepressant, for diarrhea and athletic endurance. This fruit helps with digestion, prevents early aging, helps keep skin soft, supple, and wrinkle free, it also helps protect eyesight. Acerola cherries are really helpful for weight loss as well! This fruit has more vitamin C than oranges and strawberries, and is surprisingly a significant source of vitamin A. This cherry is also found to be rich with antioxidants which protect from free-radical damage. I prefer food based vitamin C “supplements” instead of processed vitamin C supplements.

I use the powder most, as I don’t have access to the fresh fruit. I will make a tea of acerola cherry powder, but adding 1/2 tsp for the kids and 1 full tsp for myself, add warm water (not hot, as heat destroys the nutrients) and add some local raw honey for a warm tea in the afternoons. My kids love their “vitamin C tea,” and it’s a wonderful way to give their systems an extra boost during the cold/flu season. The powder is can also be easily added to your elderberry syrup recipe! In addition, I add the powder to smoothies, oatmeal, sprinkle it on cereal, in peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, or yogurts.

4). CHAMOMILE. Chamomile is such a sweet herb. Even the look of her flowers is so gentle and sweet. Chamomile has a sweet and light fragrance. It is used as a tea, in a bath, as poultice or as a tincture. Chamomile has many medicinal qualities, including the use of fighting the common cold, eczema, digestive upsets, colic in babies, hemorrhoids, and boosting the overall immune system. It has been shown to help inflammatory conditions, osteoporosis, anxiety, diabetes, sore throat, wound healing, and the most common and well known use is it’s calming ability to aid to sleep in the evenings. When making a tea of this medicinal herb, it should be steeped for no more than thirty minutes, as it releases extremely volatile oils (after 30minutes) that have a negative effect on the body when consumed. This herb is wonderful for people who have anxiety that goes to their stomach. Because of chamomile’s gentle nature, it is especially good for elders and children. This herb is best used as a tea, 1-2tsp added to hot water and steeped for less than 30 minutes.

5). ALFALFA. Alfalfa is the last, but definitely not least herb on my list. What this herb lacks in taste, it makes up for with a powerful punch of nutritional properties! Alfalfa actually means “Father of All Herbs.” It is very well deserving of it’s name. It has a long historical use for being in livestock feed, especially for dairy cows. It has equal benefit for humans as well! Although, it is used much more in Europe than in the US. Alfalfa is commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to support the digestive system and to stimulate the appetite. It is loaded with minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, sodium, potassium, chlorine, silicon, and other trace elements. It is also a good source of Vitamins E, C and K (which is important for blood clotting). It is used as a blood detoxifier, can reduce cholesterol levels, can reduce blood sugar levels, reversing tooth decay, easing morning sickness, increasing milk supply, boosting the immune system, supporting healthy digestion, supporting the pituitary gland, and relieving all forms of arthritis. It has the highest amount of chlorophyll than any other plant, which makes it extremely effective at cleansing the blood.

This medicine can be used in its many forms. I like this brand as it has a minty flavor, and it is pretty easy to get the kids to take it. I use the powder regularly in smoothies, because it has such a mild flavor, it goes easily unnoticed. I also add the powder two nut butter and jelly sandwiches to pack an extra punch of nutrients! It can be added to dinners, soups, cereal in small amounts. I love making a “vitamin” tea with alfalfa and oatstraw to add extra nutrients to my kid’s diets to ease stress about how much and what they are eating.

I hope this herbal “flu” guide helps ease your concerns and boosts your children’s (and your) immune systems!

If you are familiar with these herbs have you used them before? What are your favorite immune boosting tips?

Many thanks for reading.

Mandy Flanders