Herbal remedies for childhood conditions

Posted on: 10th March, 2014

Category: Health & Lifestyle

Contributor: West Cork People

Based in Ballydehob, Jacqueline Kilbryde is a practicing herbalist with over 25 years experience. She is a member of the National Institute Of Medical Herbalists, the oldest body of professional herbalists in Europe (established 1864) and a member of the Irish Register Of Chinese Herbal Medicine (established in 1999).

Children are susceptible to a range of illnesses, especially as their immune systems are young and developing. Building up a child’s immune resilience is important and, as prevention is often better than cure, a wholesome diet will lay the foundation for a healthy immune system. Plenty of fresh air, exercise and a happy environment are also important ingredients.

A diet reliant on too much sugar, salt, refined carbohydrates (white sugar and white flour and associated products), greasy and fatty foods, processed and preserved foods, sweetened and fizzy drinks, too much diary produce (milk, cheese, butter, cream and yoghurts) will invariably run down the immune system and make a child much more susceptible to infections and allergies. Upper and lower respiratory conditions are common in young children and are spread via droplet infection by coughing and or sneezing. Children often wipe their nose, eyes and mouth passing on infection from one child to another rapidly.

There are many herbs that can be used in the home but if in doubt or if a child’s condition worsen always consult a practitioner.

Symptoms commonly associated with respiratory infections include sinusitis, tonsillitis, ear infections, coughs and chestiness. Fever may be present, and such symptoms are often seen in the common cold.

Treatment of the common cold:

To raise immune resistance, sips of Infusions of Echinacea and Astragalus can be given throughout the day and Vitamin C supplementation is invaluable.

If fever is present, avoid solid food and increase liquids to increase elimination of toxins via the urine and to prevent dehydration.

Make a cordial of Peppermint and Elder flowers, sweeten with honey and give a small cupful 2x daily. These herbs encourage sweating and reduce fever. Other herbs to reduce fever include Catnip, Yarrow and Limeflowers.

Put the preferred herbs in a jar and coat and cover with honey. Leave this to macerate for two weeks, then strain the herb and bottle the honey. This can be given as a syrup or diluted with water as a cordial.


Stuffy nose:

Essential oils of Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Chamomile can be used to alleviate blocked airways and help breathing. Put one drop of each on the pillow and the fumes will ease the stuffiness.

Sweetened teas (with honey) of Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Eyebright and Elder flowers will alleviate blocked nasal airways and clear excess mucous. Ginger is also wonderful and you will have to check what flavours and tastes your child will tolerate.



A gargle made from an infusion of Sage leaf, Marigold Flowers and Clevers are anti-infective and will ease the swelling of the tonsils. An infusion is made like a cup of tea, steeping the herbs in boiling water for 15 minutes and straining them before use. These herbs can also be taken internally to clear infection in the lymphatic system…tonsils etc.


Cough and Chestiness:


Liquorice Root

Many herbs can be used here as anti-infectives, to encourage expectoration of stubborn mucous, to clear a cough and phlegm and to open the airways. Notably these are Thyme herb, Mullein, Elecampane, Coltsfoot, Black horehound, Liquorice root, Marshmallow root and leaf, the list is endless! If the presenting cough is dry and harsh demulcent herbs are excellent such as Irish Moss (Carrageen) and Marshmallow.

The use of a vapouriser in the child’s room at night is invaluable.


Ear Infection:

Pierce a capsule of garlic oil and put two drops into each ear and place cotton wool in the ears to prevent the oil escaping. This can be done twice daily.

Infused oil of Mullein Flowers is another important remedy for sore ears. Put the yellow flowers of Mullein in a jar and cover with olive or sunflower oil. Place the jar on a sunny windowsill and leave for at least two weeks after which time the oil is strained and bottled and the flowers discarded. Use two drops in each ear two to three times daily.

Essential oils of Chamomile and Eucalyptus can be also be rubbed to the back of the ear, for external use only. Put one drop of each oil in a carrier oil such as almond oil before using. Never use essential oils neat as they may burn and irritate the skin.



Another common condition encountered in children. Gastroenteritis is usually caused by a virus or a bacteria. It can produce vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pains and sometimes fever. It is spread by contact by hands, from eating infected food or by swimming in contaminated water.

For vomiting, use teas of Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Marshmallow, Slippery Elm, Agrimony and small amounts of Ginger. Ginger root is an excellent remedy to alleviate vomiting. Fennel can be given to reduce colic and griping and soreness (also Chamonile, Lemon Balm.)

NB: Dehydration is a serious complication and replacing lost fluids is very important. Give frequent warm drinks and tepid water. If the child continues to vomit or has persistent diarrhea, professional help must be sought.

For Diarrhoea, use Astringent herbs such as Agrimony (these arrest excessive secretions) and Carminative herb such as Fennel, Dill, Peppermint and Ginger to soothe colic, bloating and soreness.



Another common childhood condition and often results from allergies. An allergic reaction is an exaggerated response by the immune system, which perceives innocuous substances, as harmful. These can be numerous such as foods (beef, tomatoes, oranges, shell fish, dairy produce, wheat), preservatives and colours etc. There may be culprit allergens in the atmosphere resulting in contact dermatitis as well. These can be dust, dander, pollen etc.

In eczema the affected areas of skin become very dry, inflamed and itchy and secondary infection is common from scratching. Stress and emotional anxiety can also trigger eczema and it is a condition that often runs in families. Pinpointing and avoiding culprit foods is essential. Supporting the immune system and correcting deficiencies are also important and a nutritious diet plays an important role here.

Herbs to support the adrenal glands, which are always under stress in allergies should be used and are Echinacea, Astralagus, Borage and Licquorice.

Herbs to reduce inflammation and redness (made up as infusions) include Burdock root, Clevers, Nettles, Red Clover, Witch Hazel.

Topical applications to soothe itchiness, Chickweed and Marigold flowers, Golden Seal. These also cool the skin and reduce redness and dryness.

Marshmallow root and Marigold flower (Calendula) made into creams soothe dryness and nourish the skin.

Aid elimination of toxins with fresh fruit and vegetables and herbal diuretics such as Dandelion leaf, Nettle leaf and gentle laxatives as Yellow Dock, Aloe Vera, Psysillum seed.





To soothe anxiety use Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Limeflowers, Vervain, Wild oats, Scullcap,


Head-Lice Infestation (Lastly but not least!):

Pediculosis is described as an infestation of the scalp by the genus PEDICULUS. Parasites generally display successful life cycles infecting their host with tenacity. Head lice is no exception showing an indiscriminate worldwide distribution. Children are commonly affected, as lice move from head to head on close contact and infestations may reach epidemic proportions rapidly. It is thought that careful combination of essential oils can rid the head of lice. Again these must be blended in a carrier oil, such as almond oil, before application to the scalp, nape of neck and behind the ears.

The oils include…Tee Tree, Lavender, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Thyme and Lemon

However my herbal remedy of choice is Quassia…Picrasma excelsa.

The part used is the stem wood and comes from a tree growing 10 meters in height, indigenous to the Caribbean and South America.

A preparation is made by a decoction of the stem wood, in water. This is simmered for 30 minutes and taken off the heat, strained and the liquid kept. This liquid is then applied, rubbing it well into the scalp, behind the ears and nape of the neck. It kills lice and nits on one application.

The hair can be combed and washed the following morning or evening. It is a very very bitter herb and applying it with gloves is advised. The use of the preparation can be repeated a few days later.

Quassia has an action of preventing lice making contact with the head, as the bitter quality of the herb repels them. If head lice is a problem at school, than a small amount of the preparation can be applied to the scalp to prevent infestation.

This herb is strongly anti-parasitic and its close relative Picrasma amara has a long history of use in reducing and managing agricultural parasites such as aphids.

For further information and queries on the herbal remedies used in this article please contact Jacqueline on 086 3369642, or email jackiedaher@hotmail.com.

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