One of the things that new parents work out fairly quickly is that babies don’t come
with a manual! There is a lot of divided opinion on many topics concerning children's
health chiefly because, in most instances, there is no definitive right and wrong
answer. This is also a simply huge subject and, given the length of time paediatricians
study for, no article of this size could ever claim to do anything more than scratch
the surface. This page is primarily concerned with complementary health and natural
remedies for babies and children.
Natural Remedies and Child Safety
Many natural remedies are among some of the gentlest treatments available, and so
are often ideal for babies and young children at appropriate doses, but there are
exceptions to this. When using herbal remedies with young children, half the adult
dose for 6-12 year olds is fine, and half again for younger children.
If you are ever in doubt or unsure, or you are concerned about your child’s symptoms,
then your local GP, health visitor, baby clinic or accident and emergency department
may be the best port of call. Home treatment should be used as an enhancement to
conventional care, not a substitute.
The following remedies should NOT be used with children at all:
Valerian This popular, gentle and effective herb is great for use in cases of sleeplessness
or anxiety, but should not be taken internally by children under the age of 12. This
would mean, for example, that our Calmer Chameleon aromatherapy products and Bedtime
Snorey pillow pockets are fine for children, but our Pyjama Par-Tea herbal tea is
not. All our other herbal teas are suitable for children.
Honey As with many of the best remedies out there, honey is a staple of both medicine
chest and pantry alike. It shouldn’t, however, be given to babies under the age of
12 months. The reason for this is that honey can contain botulinum spores. This is
a toxin which causes infant botulism, and honey is the number one preventable cause
of this illness. It occurs is such low potential concentrations so as not to be a
concern for adults and older children, but very young babies have not yet developed
a sufficiently robust immune system to deal with it, and so it should be avoided
until they are older. Thereafter, honey is an incredibly beneficial substance in
Massage oils, like ours, which are made with real essential oils, are great for grown-ups,
but may be too strong for children's delicate skin. Don’t use fragranced blended
massage oils designed for adults on children under 5, and dilute massage oils by
half with simple olive or grapeseed oil for older children. For massaging babies
or very young children, basic olive oil from your kitchen is perfectly fine.
St John’s Wort There are contrasting schools of thought regarding St John’s wort and
children. It’s very much up to the individual parent but, on a personal level, I
would suggest that there have been no safety trials with children and this potent
herb so, while there are known safe alternatives, such as catnip/catmint, passionflower
and chamomile, is seems silly to run any risk, whether real or not.
Great Home and Natural Remedies for Your Children
Young children may not be natural herbal tea drinkers, so the easiest way to get
them to drink is to make the tea before adding a strong-tasting fruit cordial, such
as blackcurrant, giving them a hot and comforting fruit drink. In addition to ready
blended infusions, try echinacea at the first signs of colds or ‘flu, german chamomile
for anxiety, sleep disturbances, stress, digestive complaints and colic, (even for
babies in small quantities). Other good herbal infusions for children include catnip/catmint
as a more suitable alternative to valerian (it’s not just for cats!) It’s fantastic
for colic and teething, as well as digestion. Fennel is also great for digestion
and colic. Finally, nettle is great for growing children: packed with more vitamins
and minerals than spinach, including stacks of iron and calcium, it’s a powerful
remedy of for allergies and hay fever.
Many children suffer terribly with ear infections, and it’s one of the most common
causes for trips to the doctor. They are terribly uncomfortable, and cause many children
(and parents!) a great deal of distress. It’s best to see a doctor with all ear infections
so that, before introducing anything to the ear, you can ensure that it is not ruptured.
To treat an ear infection, gently warm some olive oil with fresh crushed garlic and/or
mullein flower (available from most good herbalists or health food shops), then strain
and allow to cool to a comfortable temperature. Using a dropper, introduce some of
the oil to the ear.
Slippery When Wet Slippery elm makes a great cough syrup, and soothes sore throats,
too. To use as a cough medicine, mix 1 tablespoon slippery elm with a teaspoon of
ground cinnamon, a cup of warm water and a tablespoon of honey. This can then be
used by the spoonful as required - keep it in the fridge. It’s also a great soother
for burns. Mix a tablespoonful in a mug of hot water and cool. Keep in the fridge
and apply liberally to burns.
Liquorice For coughs, colds and congestion, liquorice syrup or tea is a good choice,
or simply give the child a natural stick of liquorice to chew if they are old enough.
Ginger Nut Ginger is the best herbal remedy for nausea, whether it’s sickness caused
by a bug or travel sickness. The easiest way to give this to a child tends to be
a ginger biscuit!
This simple but effective treatment is the ultimate in making treatment fun! Breathing
slowly and deeply will help get hysteria, stress or anxiety under control. Working
on a similar principle as getting a hyperventilating patient to breathe into a bag,
have the child blow long, slow streams of bubbles from a bubble wand. Getting a child
to breathe slowly and deeply can also help control pain, so it can also be used when
they have hurt themselves.
Lavender is a great treatment for headaches, but putting neat lavender oil of the
forehead may irritate a child’s sensitive skin. Mix 5 drops of lavender essential
oil with a tablespoon of witch hazel, and pour over a flannel, then apply the cool
compress to the child’s forehead. Once it is warm, place in the fridge to refresh.
This is great for both headaches and mild fevers.
As well as the myriad of good wooden and organic plush teething aids for babies to
chew on, frozen fruit such as chunks of mango in a muslin bag is a popular soother
for sore gums to chew on. Also, carrot and celery chunks from the fridge can make
great teething aids. Ensure that the pieces are too big for the child to put fully
in the mouth, and supervise children with vegetable pieces. In addition, chamomile
tea, made into ice cubes and placed in a muslin bag can be good for numbing the discomfort.
Finally, diluted clove oil makes a fantastic natural local anaesthetic, but not all
babies are keen. Place a single drop of clove oil into 15-20ml of olive or grapeseed
oil or glycerine, and rub gently onto the gums. Test for strength on yourself first!