Natural Alternatives to Common Medications
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Cough and Congestion
Apply an herbal vapor rub of menthol and tea tree oil to the bottom of the child’s feet and put their socks back on. The decongesting menthol vapor will help them to breathe and the antimicrobial properties of the tea tree oil will be absorbed through their skin, says Mars. For nasal decongestion, try irrigating the child’s nose with a cleansing neti pot. Sears recommends kid versions of herbal remedies Sinupret and Bronchipret
Diarrhea and Constipation
“Probiotics are the most extensively researched remedy we have out there for diarrhea,” says Baral. Studies in the journal Pediatrics have shown probiotics to shorten bouts of diarrhea in infants and school-age children, and prevent the onset of antibiotic-induced diarrhea in kids. Look for yogurt, powder or capsules containing 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU) of Lactobacillus GG. Sears suggests the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) to quell diarrhea. For constipation, reach for apricots, peaches, pears, plums and vitamin C.
Drop four drops of warm mullein garlic oil into the ear. Sears says the warm oil will calm the inflamed eardrum and the antibiotic in the garlic will get to work on the infection. Olive oil will work in a pinch.
While it’s common for kids between the ages of 3 and 5 or 8 and 12 to complain of dull aches deep in their legs, there is little consensus about what causes them. Mars has found that it helps to supplement their diet with calcium and magnesium supplements in kid-friendly powdered form, or foods that contain these nutrients.
Deglycerrhizinated licorice (DGL), slippery elm and aloe all may be able to help soothe inflamed esophageal tissue, says Baral, “But they need to be given under a doctor’s supervision.” Also take a hard look at dietary triggers: Common culprits include dairy, chocolate, tomatoes and mint.
One of the most commonly recommended natural treatments for addressing seasonal allergy symptoms is stinging nettle, believed to modulate the production of the histamine that prompts noses to run and eyes to water and has been shown to be safe in adults. It comes in tincture, tea and capsule form. Mars also likes Allergena region-specific homeopathic allergy medicines, which deliver traces of local pollen to help the body develop immunity to them. Alternately, substitute citrus juices for milk during allergy season. Vitamin C has been shown to normalize histamine levels, while dairy products can boost mucous production.
Stir one teaspoon of salt into eight ounces of water and gargle. “It is antiseptic and will make the pain go away,” counsels Mars. She also recommends using the infection-fighting herb Isatis root, in tincture or capsule form. McClafferty says to try a spoonful of honey; it has antimicrobial properties and may act as a cough suppressant.
Oil of clove contains a compound called eugenol that serves as a natural pain killer and antibacterial agent. Baral recommends mixing no more than one drop of clove oil with honey and rubbing it on the gums (not recommended for children under 12 months). Or, saturate a clean cloth with calming chamomile tea or wintergreen tea, a natural analgesic, and let the baby chew on it.
When children suffer from common ailments, it is natural for parents to wish to soothe their suffering as quickly as possible. Just be aware that, along with the physician and the pharmacist, there is still an important role to play for “Doctor Mom.”
Lisa Marshall is a freelance health writer and mother of four who lives near Boulder, CO. Connect at Lisa@LisaAnnMarshall.com.