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The Willow Journal

Herbal Healing for Wee Folks

Herbal Healing for Wee Folks

herbs for kids, fevers and kids, how to help a fever

Herbal Healing for Wee Folks

No one likes for their child to be sick or in pain! We naturally want to spring into action and fix the problem, but perhaps we aren’t always 100% sure what the proper course of action is. I hope to share with you some simple and time tested solutions for the most common of childhood ailments, but first relax and know deep down that the resiliency of children is remarkable. Most childhood illnesses are a very natural part of growing and living and are no cause for alarm or panic. They are natural reactions to the act of living and usually can be treated at home with a good dose of common sense, and nurturing. As a society, we have lost touch with our ability to heal. We need not look further than the pantry, refrigerator, kitchen cabinets, or what is growing outside the back door for medicine to treat common colds, flus, fevers and common ailments. It is my wish to demystify this. It is not magic, or “silly“ folk medicine but practical wisdom with sturdy roots that have held strong over time. This is the brilliance, wonder and perfection of how how life used to be. Our mothers, grannies and great grannies looked no further than themselves, home and neighbors to treat so many of the common ailments of childhood. Unfortunately, we have turned away from that model to one based on pharmaceutical solutions for every bump or pain. Let’s explore why and how we can return to a more natural healing path with confidence!

In our modern world, where time moves at an exponentially fast pace, we have forgotten such simple things. We have demonized what is natural and have put blind faith into over-the-counter medications or medications that are made in a lab. The new holy robes are in the form of a white jacket. Everything is so medicalized and sophisticated these days and many parents are left feeling helpless and disempowered because they have little faith in their innate ability to nurture and heal. We have been conditioned to think that taking our child to the doctor is the best and prudent choice for any condition that is out of the ordinary, when in truth, a nurturing response coupled with time to heal and some simple natural remedies would be far more beneficial than a trip to the doctor and the resulting prescription that might follow. When I was growing up and got sick my grandmother would come over. We would pull out a deck of cards and she would brew up a big pot of hot lemonade with ginger and honey. She would wrap my blankets around me tightly, and I was so comforted by that simple act. In fact, I almost looked forward to being sick and to those moments when she came over and and we could spend that special time together.

Our connection to nature has been short circuited and we have lost touch with many ancient, time honored means of healing that have worked for thousands of years. For a host of reasons, we have put our faith in big pharmacy and diagnostics based on hierarchal authority. So many common childhood illnesses do not constitute going to the doctor and were once easily treated at home. The wisdom of generations has been thrown out the window in search of a quick fix that may come at a cost to both parent and child. The quick medical fix does not take into account a child’s emerging immune system, nor the fact that a quick fix is rarely the best answer. Most childhood ailments are easily treated, we simply need to slow down and embrace the nurturing aspect of parenting that should include healing the bumps and basic illnesses of childhood.

We are now seeing side effects of over prescribed and mis-prescribed drugs and the loss of the big picture when it comes to childhood ailments. Let’s take eczema for example. A typical visit to the doctors office for the treatment of eczema, which is a common ailment, will most likely end with a prescription for cortisone. This powerful drug is effective, but no consideration is given to the root cause, not to mention, the long term effect of such a strong drug.

The skin is a membrane that is permeable. All medications are absorbed and go into general circulation. Cortisone suppresses the immune system and we are seeing a relationship between suppressed immunity and asthma. A child that has been given cortisone is likely, later in life to develop problems related to suppressed immunity. Looking at the child as a whole and not jumping to a fast draw and easy solutions is critical. In treating anyone, it is important to know that time is valuable, that slow is not bad, that nature has it’s way and rhythm and when we use herbs to heal naturally we are getting in sync with a more natural pattern. By using natural ways to heal that support our system, rather than undermining it for the short term goal with quick fixes and powerful drugs, we are healing naturally and aligning our health with a natural pattern that we have stepped away from in this fast paced world.

Many parents don’t have the time that is needed to wait out a cold or the flu. We feel such urgency to get back to work and back to earning that our natural inclination to nurture and support in times of need is undermined. For some people, fear comes into play. No one wants to see their child in pain or discomfort. But of course, discomfort and pain are vital parts of growing on so many levels, and to short circuit this is to undermine your child and to create a person that has no ability to persevere through adversity. No one likes fever or discomfort, but perhaps if we reassess our fears we can see them as an opportunity to dig deeper into nurturing. Let’s look at fever in particular, as it is scary for many.

Fevers are a natural function of the immune process.Fever is what the body does to stimulate the immune system. It's how we grow strong children. The natural responses might take time, but are a bridge to a pattern of health that is life long.

Another example that I see often is the very common childhood ear infection. Many parents come to the herb shop with complaints of ear infections, and wanting the quick fix, they have gone to the doctor for antibiotics. That worked briefly, but then they are at the herb shop a week or month later, with the same complaints, this time hoping to heal the underlying problem that was the root cause in the first place. After a protocol of time tested remedies, the problem is usually fixed. When we find the time to bond and establish patterns of health, natural healing can be our go-to for all the common illnesses of childhood.

Below you will find some traditional herbal remedies that are time tested for some of childhoods most common maladies.

For fevers I recommend: Relaxing diaphoretics:

Elder Flowers (Sambucus nigra): Used as a relaxing diaphoretic. It opens the pores when a fever rises and allows the body to sweat. This allows the tension in the muscles and nervous system to relax and allows for blood to flow from the core to the surface.This has a soothing and relaxing effect. Great for restless agitated fevers that are hot, dry, painful and possibly with irritability.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria )gentle relaxant helps to releave the pain of fever, allowing for rest and repair. improves circulation so that vital energy flows through to he body.

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum: Relaxing. Allows the vital force to flow. Very specific for the feeling of bone breaking fever that alternates between cold chills and hot fever. This is a very bitter tea, but nothing quite relieves pain like this.

Stimulatiing diaphoretics:
Brings blood from the core to the periphery by using herbs that are warming. This is helpful for the child who is cold, listless and in the initial stages of fever where it is making you feel cold and clammy. They may be sweating, but they feel cold. Many of your kitchen spices can be helpful. Ginger for fever with nausea. Cinnamon is warming and good for diarrhea, mucilaginous and helps to coat the mucus membranes, Cayenne to really get the blood moving and increase peripheral circulation.


Colds, flu and congestion will benefit from this simple hydrotherapy technique.

The Cold Sock Treatment is a simple hydrotherapy technique that is especially effective for relieving nasal congestion in bed at night (frequently better than medications and without the side effects). It also helps to stimulate the immune system in the upper respiratory tract and is relaxing for aches and chills, and helps bring

on a more restful night’s sleep when sick. We find it helpful in such conditions as colds, "flu" (not the "stomach flu"), earaches, sore throats, and sinus infections. It is useful with people of any age from infants to the elderly. The Cold Sock Treatment is especially good to use with the nasal congestion of colds and influenza.

In the evening before going to bed, prepare by having a pair of cotton socks and a pair of wool socks. They must be at least 90% cotton and 90% wool, respectively. Most sporting goods stores and some department stores carry wool socks. For small children you can use safety-pins to hold a wool sock on that is too large, or rap wool cloth around each foot.

Step 1. Soak the foot part of the cotton socks in cold tap water and wring them out thoroughly. Place the socks close to the basin or bathtub used in the next step. Note: If your feet are already warm (e.g., you have already been in bed) you can skip to Step 3.

Step 2. Put your feet into a basin or bathtub of hot water to warm up your feet. Soak them for a few minutes until they are hot and pink.

Step 3. Remove your feet from the hot water and quickly dry them off. Immediately put on the cold wet cotton socks, and then over them, put on the dry wool socks.

Step 4. Go directly to bed and keep the feet covered through the night. The therapy does not work if you or your feet are uncovered, such as when walking around or sitting in a chair uncovered.

When the Cold Sock Treatment procedure is followed correctly the feet will start warming up within a few minutes of getting covered in bed. The congestion will usually start to be relieved within 30 minutes. It will often work better than a decongestant or antihistamine to relieve congestion during sleep. In addition, it is not uncommon to see a small child or infant fall immediately to sleep after they are put to bed with the Cold Sock Treatment. After approximately four hours the socks should be totally dry, the feet warm, and the symptoms will be much improved (if not gone).

If necessary the Cold Sock Treatment can be repeated through the night or used on consecutive nights. In repeating the treatment in the same night or if an illness starts during the night, it is not necessary to warm the feet in hot water since they will already be warm. Simply apply the wrung out cold wet socks and the dry wool socks and go back to bed.

Similarly, a cool cotton cloth on the throat with a neck warmer on top activates the lymphatic system.


In Colorado we are high and dry. Most folks in the SW are living between 6000-9000 and the air is thin and dry dry dry! The respiratory infections that I often see are different from the east or west coast where there is an abundance of humidity. My first premise when working with kids is to liquify and add humidify. A humidifier in the bedroom with some aromatic essential oils is soothing and healing. Disinfecting essential oils like eucalyptus, thyme, and rosemary are also wonderful.

A steam inhalation is one of the best home remedies for cold and coughs and is also an effective sinus infection home remedy. Steam inhalations can also to relieve sore throats and catarrh.

Inhalations are easy to do and can be made more effective by adding essential oils, especially oils with decongestant, antibacterial and antiviral properties. Some of the most useful oils are Eucalyptus, Pine, Lavender, Rosemary, Peppermint and Tea Tree.

How to Make a Steam Inhalation:

Simply heat up water up to boiling on a stove or in an electric kettle. Remove from heat and pour the water into a large bowl. Add 3-4 drops of essential oil, cover your head and the bowl with a large bath towel, place your face above the bowl but not so close that the steam will burn your face, and inhale the hot steam for several minutes. I do up to ten minutes or until the water cools down.

Make sure you don’t burn yourself, and supervise kids closely with the steaming bowl. If you have a cold, a persistent cough or a sinus infection, steam inhalations can be done several times a day. This is not recommended for people with asthma.

Many of these readily available culinary herbs are highly anti-microbial and loaded with volatile oils that will disperse into hot water for a simple steam inhalation. Just think spaghetti sauce!

For convenience, the following essential oils are great to have on hand. Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, and Marjoram


  • Colds: Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus or radiata) is one of the best oils for colds; it is antiviral, antibacterial and decongestant. Other useful oils are Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) –antibacterial, antiviral, decongestant and relaxing, Pine (Pinus sylvestris) – a good decongestant, Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) – one of the best antiviral oils but not as good for clearing up the nasal passages as Eucalyptus. Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is an effective decongestant but it is quite strong and not everyone can take it.

  • Coughs: Eucalyptus steam inhalation is one of the easiest home remedies for coughs. The oil relieves congestion and if there is an infection, it also fights the bacteria. For dry and irritating coughs, try Benzoin (Styrax benzoin) or Frankincense (Boswellia carterii).

  • Sinus infection: a steam inhalation several times a day can relieve the pain, the congestion and the infection. Try Eucalyptus, Lavender, Peppermint, Pine, Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) or Tea Tree.

  • Sore throat: steam inhalations can ease irritation and soreness in the throat, whether it is caused by an infection or if you’ve just been talking too much. Benzoin, Lavender and Thyme are all good choices.


A Mullien Garlic ear oil is an essential remedy to have on hand when ear aches strike in the middle of the night. When in a bind, one can simply crush and then strain one clove of garlic into 2oz of olive oil.

To Use: Gently warm oil in a hot water bath to just warm on the wrist. Place 3 to 5 drops of infused oil in both ears and take a warm wash cloth and gently cradle each ear. The warmth is incredibly soothing and the oil will fight infection and reduce inflammation.

Here are some common facts about fever from Seattle Children’s Hospital that we can all agree on!

Many parents have false beliefs myths about fever. They think fever will hurt their child. They worry and lose sleep when their child has a fever. In fact, fevers are harmless and often helpful. Let these facts help you better understand fever.

MYTH.My child feels warm, so she has a fever.

FACT. Children can feel warm for a many reasons. Examples are playing hard, crying, getting out of a warm bed or hot weather. They are "giving off heat". Their skin temperature should return to normal in 10 to 20 minutes. About 80% of children who act sick and feel warm do have a fever. If you want to be sure, take the temperature. These are the cutoffs for fever using different types of thermometers:

  • Rectal, ear or forehead temperature: 100.4° F (38.0° C) or higher

  • Oral mouth temperature: 100° F (37.8° C) or higher

  • Under the arm Armpit temperature: 99° F (37.2° C) or higher

    MYTH:  All fevers are bad for children.
    FACT:  Fevers turn on the body's immune system. They help the body fight infection. Normal fevers between 100° and 104° F (37.8° - 40° C) are good for sick children.

  • MYTH: Fevers above 104° F (40° C) are dangerous. They can cause brain damage.

  • FACT: Fevers with infections don't cause brain damage. Only temperatures above 108° F (42° C) can cause brain damage. It's very rare for the body temperature to climb this high. It only happens if the air temperature is very high. An example is a child left in a closed car during hot weather.

MYTH:Anyone can have a seizure triggered by fever.

FACT. Only 4% of children can have a seizure with fever.

MYTH. Seizures with fever are harmful.

FACT. These seizures are scary to watch, but they stop within 5 minutes. They don't cause any permanent harm. They don't increase the risk for speech delays, learning problems, or seizures without fever.

MYTH.All fevers need to be treated with fever medicine.

FACT. Fevers only need to be treated if they cause discomfort. Most fevers don't cause discomfort until they go above 102° or 103° F (39° or 39.5° C).
MYTH. Without treatment, fevers will keep going higher.

FACT. Wrong, because the brain has a thermostat. Most fevers from infection don't go above 103° or 104° F (39.5°- 40° C). They rarely go to 105° or 106° F (40.6° or 41.1° C). While these are "high" fevers, they also are harmless ones.

MYTH.With treatment, fevers should come down to normal.
FACT. With treatment, most fevers come down 2° or 3° F (1° or 1.5° C).

MYTH.If you can't "break the fever", the cause is serious.

FACT. Fevers that don't come down to normal can be caused by viruses or bacteria. The response to fever medicines tells us nothing about the cause of the infection.

MYTH.Once the fever comes down with medicines, it should stay down.
FACT. It's normal for fevers with most viral infections to last for 2 or 3 days. When the fever medicine wears off, the fever will come back. It may need to be treated again. The fever will go away and not return once the body overpowers the virus. Most often, this is day 3 or 4.

MYTH. If the fever is high, the cause is serious.

FACT. If the fever is high, the cause may or may not be serious. If your child looks very sick, the cause is more likely to be serious.

MYTH.The exact number of the temperature is very important.

FACT. How your child looks is what's important. The exact temperature number is not.

MYTH.Oral temperatures between 98.7° and 100° F (37.1° to 37.8° C) are low-grade fevers.

FACT. These temperatures are normal. The body's normal temperature changes throughout the day. It peaks in the late afternoon and evening. A true low- grade fever is 100° F to 102° F (37.8° - 39° C). SUMMARY. Keep in mind that fever is fighting off your child's infection. Fever is one of the good guys

We grow strong children to be open and receptive to life and its natural processes. We expose them to dirt and germs, and nature, because it is unnatural NOT to. We talk about love, we talk about sex, we talk about dying. We talk about things that scare us so they don’t take hold in our subconscious. We can offer so many nurturing and effective home and herbal remedies that heal and support the common illnesses of childhood while growing our faith in the power of family, love and nature.

The following information is of an educational and general nature and should not be construed as legal advice. You should consult appropriate written and professional sources to answer questions related to your individual situation. Exercising one's rights often entails some element of risk, and you should verify all information relevant to your situation before acting; the author and publisher disclaim any responsibility or liability for any loss incurred as a consequence of the use of any information herein.
sources: Fevers Myth and Facts Seattle Children’s Hospital via Jim McDonald