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Natural Health for Children: An Essential Guide

Natural Health for Children: An Essential Guide

Dec 29, 2023 | Healthy Kids

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that I may earn a small commission from, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I use or have used myself. All opinions expressed here are my own.

The Power of Natural Remedies

As a parent myself, I am always on the lookout for natural methods to address childhood illnesses and ailments in order to avoid the side effects of pharmaceuticals or a trip to the doctor. If you are reading this, I know you most likely have the same approach! Having received many requests from parents asking advice for either treating an active illness in their child or best practices to avoid it altogether, I have put together a comprehensive guide in this post to help your family stay healthy and happy. Let’s get started!

First and Foremost, Safety

When approaching herbalism for use with your child, safety is key. Due to lower body weight and higher metabolism, it is important to dose correctly — and of course, avoid herbal medicines that may be problematic. I always recommend working with a naturopathic physician to establish the correct dosage for your child’s personal health history. With that said, a general rule of thumb can be found as follows with two options from The Naturopathic Dosing Guidelines:

  1. Clark’s rule uses weight in pounds: Child’s dose = (Child’s weight/150 lbs) multiplied by the Adult dose.
  2. Young’s rule uses age: Child’s dose = (Child’s age ÷ (Child’s age+12)) multiplied by the Adult dose (only used for children 2+ years).

Herbs to be avoided or used with caution:

Aconite, aristolochus, belladonna, blue cohosh, borage, broom, calamus, chaparral, coltsfoot, comfrey, germander, life root, lobelia, pennyroyal, poke root, sassafras, skullcap, tansy ragwort, ephedra, and wormwood.1

Take extra care with echinacea, gingko, ginseng, kava, St. John’s wort, and valerian as they can cause immune, bleeding, and cardiac issues. Valerian is generally safe, but because of the sedative properties, I don’t recommend using it with young children who may not be able to regulate properly.

I would also completely avoid goldenseal — particularly for newborns, infants, and toddlers as there have been reports of brain damage in some children.3 Chamomile, while safe for most, should be avoided if there is a known allergy to the ragweed family. Licorice is another herb that you do not want to overdo as it can cause increased blood pressure and other issues. See my additional notes in the safety section at the end of this post.

Please keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list. If you are unsure about a particular herbal remedy for your child, it is always best to consult with a naturopathic physician before use. It is also important to make sure the herbal remedies you use are of the highest quality to avoid contaminants such as heavy metals, chemicals, and other environmental toxins. The products in my apothecary are known for their exceptional potency, quality, and purity.

children in galoshes

Kid-Friendly Remedies

Anxiety, ADHD, & Autism. If your child tends towards anxious nervousness or ADHD, Lemon Balm and catnip are my go-to remedies. Gentle and calming without causing overt drowsiness, both these herbs are exceptional for children. Try either as a warm tea or lemon balm as a convenient tincture.

Lemon balm is also helpful for autism and cognitive health, which is why I included it in my popular Brain Bundle. For additional supplements, lifestyle tips, dietary recommendations, and herbal remedies, see my post, “Autism and ADHD: How to Manage Symptoms Naturally.”

Contagious Illness. One of my favorite, time-honored remedies for avoiding and treating contagious illness in children (and adults) is Elderberry. I have used it with my own children for years as a preventative during the cold and flu season — and also while we are traveling. If a bug does break through our defenses, we take it at the first sign of illness to lessen the severity and length. A safe and effective dual-extracted tincture is available in the apothecary. It’s an excellent option if you would like to avoid the excess added sugar typically found in elderberry syrups.

As an extra layer of defense, we apply a small amount of my All-Purpose (First Aid) Salve to the interior of the nose. Its antibacterial and antiviral properties help us to side-step any bugs that may be making the rounds in our community. A tin of this salve, along with our elderberry tincture and usnea tincture spray, can be found in my convenient Travel Pack.

Bee balm taken either as a tea or inhaled through a steam vaporizer eases the symptoms from colds, influenza, sinus issues, and sore throats. Licorice tea can also be helpful.

Greek yogurt in a glass jars

Digestive Complaints. For an upset stomach, ginger, chamomile, or fennel seed tea are outstanding. If your child has diarrhea, foods such as peeled apples, bananas, barley, oats, and peeled sweet potatoes may be helpful. Don’t forget to add salt to your child’s food with a high-quality salt (Celtic or pink salt) for electrolytes.

For diarrhea or constipation, make sure to include plenty of probiotic foods, including: active unsweetened yogurt and kefir, sauerkraut, raw apple cider vinegar with the mother, and miso. I also recommend soups made with bone broth, rice, vegetables, and chicken to help with recovery. Hydration is crucial too. Focus on herbal teas, broth, and fresh vegetable juices. A good probiotic is helpful as well.

Lastly, my Balanced Gut Blend helps to rebalance the microbiome and soothe the digestive tract — two important factors for recovery from an upset stomach, diarrhea, or constipation.

Ear Infections. It is important to keep a close eye on ear infections as they can lead to brain abscess, bacterial meningitis, acute mastoiditis, and facial paralysis in severe cases. Secondary complications of otitis media strike one out of every 2,000 cases. If your child has a high fever, visible pus, nausea, or vomiting it is crucial for your child to be seen by their health practitioner.

At the first sign of infection and mild cases, garlic and mullein ear drops applied in the ear canal up to three times a day are an effective remedy. You can also gently massage directly behind the ear in a downward motion to help drain the infection. Chiropractic adjustments are helpful as well. As with any infection, supporting the immune system is essential. Elderberry extract is an outstanding option for this purpose, and Yarrow can help to bring down a fever.

Respiratory Ailments. Mullein and lungwort lichen are powerful respiratory herbs that can help ease lung congestion and tightness of breathing, calm coughs, soothe asthma and COPD, and support the healing of lung infections. Both are included in our Bronchial Blend.

Seasonal Allergies. You may find your little one suffering from allergies when nature bursts forth in the spring. When this happens, I turn to stinging nettle — either as a tea or high-potency tincture (my preference and what my son uses). Stinging nettle tea or tincture can also be applied topically for bites, stings, and burns to ease pain and promote healing. My All-Purpose (First Aid) Salve is highly effective for this purpose as well.

Helpful hint: When using tinctures for children, you can dilute them in a small amount of water to make them more palatable.

child sleeping

Sleep. It is an unfortunate fact that children often struggle with sleep, just like adults. A small mug of German chamomile or catnip tea is an option an hour before bedtime to help settle nervous energy. Make sure you have established a healthy bedtime routine as well. A warm bath with a few drops of lavender essential oil; avoiding the television and devices two hours before bedtime; and reading, massage, and other calming activities are highly recommended.

My Sleep Blend can also help for occasional sleeplessness if given an adjusted dose based on your child’s weight, as noted above. It does contain valerian, so I do not recommend it for children under the age of five.

Strep Throat. Another common childhood ailment, strep throat is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. It is highly contagious, so it’s best to keep your child home from school and away from others until healed.

Symptoms include a significant sore throat and difficulty swallowing; swollen lymph nodes; white or yellowish coating on the throat and tonsils; red spots on the roof of the mouth, headache and body ache, and a high fever. If not addressed, it can progress to serious complications, such as scarlet fever and PANDAS.

Immune-supporting herbs such as Elderberry are helpful. Our Usnea Tincture Spray is also outstanding for destroying the strep bacteria when sprayed on the back of the throat in low doses — see my notes in the safety section below. Gargling with warm salt water and a drop of thyme essential oil can help to ease symptoms, as does licorice tea.

Nicole Apelian holding Nicoles Apothecary Lemon Balm Tincture

To Wrap Up

Herbs can be an excellent ally in keeping your family healthy during the cold and flu season — if used correctly. Some should be avoided altogether for children. When in doubt, always consult with a naturopathic physician.

My top remedies include Elderberry, Balanced Gut Blend, All-Purpose (First Aid) Salve, Usnea, and Sleep Blend, which can be found in my apothecary. For the additional herbs listed in this post, Mountain Rose Herbs is an excellent resource for dried herbs.

I always keep my herbal medicine chest stocked with these remedies so that they are on hand when needed — and I recommend the same for you.

It is my hope that these tips are helpful for you and your family. Here is to a happy and healthy winter season and beyond!

Nicole Apelian

Nicole’s Apothecary Products in this Post

Nicole's Apothecary All Purpose Salve

All-Purpose (First Aid) Salve

Nicoles Apothecary Balanced Gut Tincture

Balanced Gut Blend Tincture

Nicole's Apothecary Brain Bundle

Brain Bundle

Nicole's Apothecary Bronchial Blend Tincture

Bronchial Blend Tincture

Nicole's Apothecary Dual-Extracted Elderberry Tincture-04

Dual-Extracted Elderberry Tincture

Nicole's Apothecary Usnea Tincture Spray

Dual-Extracted Usnea Tincture Spray

Nicole's Apothecary Lemon Balm Tincture

Lemon Balm Tincture

Nicole's Apothecary Sleep Blend Tincture

Sleep Blend Tincture

Nicole's Apothecary Stinging Nettle Tincture

Stinging Nettle Tincture

Nicole's Apothecary Travel Pack bundle

Travel Pack

Nicole's Apothecary Yarrow Tincture 03

Yarrow Tincture


While it is uncommon, some people have an allergic reaction to chamomile. People with allergies to the Asteraceae family, including ragweed and chrysanthemums, should not take chamomile.

Long-term use of licorice root or high doses can have serious side effects. Most of the side effects are due to the presence of glycyrrhizin, so using DGL licorice reduces the risks. Watch for these symptoms: low levels of potassium in the body, hypokalemia, muscle weakness, fluid retention and swelling, metabolism abnormalities, high blood pressure, heart rhythm irregularities, and potential drug interactions.

In some people, mullein can cause skin irritations, stomach pain, and breathing difficulties. These are uncommon allergic reactions; discontinue use if these symptoms occur.

Usnea lichen is a highly concentrated medicine and should not be taken continuously in large doses. Take it as needed for specific problems. I personally use a spray in my throat almost daily as a preventative for illness but the spray is a very low dose (versus taking a large amount of internal tincture daily) and I have had no ill effects or abnormal liver enzyme readings. Taking too much usnea internally for extended periods of time can cause liver damage, so use with caution.

  1. “Herbs are helpful, but use with caution in children” Rachael Zimlich, RN, BSN, Contemporary Pediatrics*, September 20, 2017.
  2. Loyola University Health System. (2018, April 16). Ear infections can lead to meningitis, brain abscess and other neurological complications. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 10, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180416142450.htm
  3. “What is Goldenseal?” Ross Phan, PharmD, BCACP, BCGP, BCPS, Very Well Health, June 2023. https://www.verywellhealth.com/goldenseal-what-should-i-know-about-it-88331

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