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I started looking for alternative medicine when I was 18. I had just had my first baby, and wanted to provide her with natural remedies for common ailments such as colds and bumps and bruises. With each child, I got crunchier and crunchier. I particularly grow a lot of herbs that take care of sinus infections. I’ve suffered from chronic sinusitis since high school–resorting to a septoplasty and antibiotics for years.
Fun fact: All plants at Disney’s “Tomorrowland” are edible!
I think that my husband might have lived a very sheltered childhood. He knows what dandelions are, or at least he says he does. We had a ton in the yard, and several days later there were these white little poofy things instead. He had no idea what these poofy things were! Lord help me… I explained how dandelions turn into these poofy things because they’re asexual. The technical term is apoximis, which means it self-pollinates. We would blow on these as kids (okay…maybe not just as kids. I still do it!), and their little seeds would blow all over the place, thereby creating more dandelions! Ingenious little buggers, eh?
The dandelion is a member of the sunflower family. If you are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, daisies, or iodine, you should avoid dandelion.
Ask your doctor before giving dandelion supplements to a child, so your doctor can help you determine the dose. Eating dandelion in food is safe for a child.
Ask your doctor to help you determine the right dose for you. Some traditional doses include:
- Dried leaf infusion: 1 – 2 teaspoonfuls, 3 times daily. Pour hot water onto dried leaf and steep for 5 – 10 minutes. Drink as directed.
- Dried root decoction: 1/2 – 2 teaspoonfuls, 3 times daily. Place root into boiling water for 5 – 10 minutes. Strain and drink as directed.
- Leaf tincture (1:5) in 30% alcohol: 30 – 60 drops, 3 times daily
- Standardized powdered extract (4:1) leaf: 500 mg, 1 – 3 times daily
- Standardized powdered extract (4:1) root: 500 mg, 1 – 3 times daily
- Root tincture (1:2) fresh root in 45% alcohol: 30 – 60 drops, 3 times daily
German Chamomile –
I love chamomile tea to help relax after a stressful day. This is said to help with hay fever, soothe tired eyes, and calms the body. It has anti-inflammatory properties, which helps with sore throats, hemorrhoids, acne, pink eye, wounds and ulcers.
Ask your doctor before giving chamomile tea to a child. Children under 5 should not take more than half a cup of tea per day.
To relieve colic: Some doctors suggest 1 – 2 oz. of tea per day. Your doctor may recommend other doses.
- Tea: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 – 3 heaping Tbs. (2 – 4 g) of dried herb, steep 10 – 15 minutes. Drink 3 – 4 times per day between meals.
- Tincture (1:5, 45% alcohol): 30 – 60 drops of tincture 3 times per day in hot water.
- Capsules: 300 – 400 mg taken 3 times per day.
- Gargle or mouthwash: Make a tea as above, then let it cool. Gargle as often as desired. You may also make an oral rinse with 10 – 15 drops of German chamomile liquid extract in 100 mL warm water, and use 3 times per day.
- Inhalation: Add a few drops of essential oil of chamomile to hot water (or use tea) and breathe in the steam to calm a cough.
- Bath: Use 1/4 lb. of dried flowers per bath, or add 5 – 10 drops of essential oil to a full tub of water to soothe hemorrhoids, cuts, eczema, or insect bites.
- Poultice: Make a paste by mixing powdered herb with water and apply to inflamed skin.
- Cream: Use a cream with a 3 – 10% chamomile content for psoriasis, eczema, or dry and flaky skin.
Echinacea not only smells wonderful, but is said to help with UTI’s, sinusitis, yeast infections, ear infections, athlete’s foot, hay fever and slow healing wounds. You probably have seen a lot of herbal cold remedies using Echinacea, too! Some studies suggest that those who take Echinacea (such as in the form of tea) at the onset of a cold experience relief sooner than those who don’t.
You should work with your child’s pediatrician or an herbal practitioner trained in children to determine pediatric dosing.
Use alcohol-free preparations for children.
For general immune system stimulation, during colds, flu, upper respiratory tract infections, or bladder infections, choose from the following forms and take 3 times a day until you feel better, but not for more than 7 – 10 days:
- 1 – 2 grams dried root or herb, as tea
- 2 – 3 mL of standardized tincture extract
- 6 – 9 mL of expressed juice (succus)
- 300 mg of standardized, powdered extract containing 4% phenolics
- Tincture (1:5): 1 – 3 mL (20 – 90 drops)
- Stabilized fresh extract: 0.75 mL (15 – 23 drops)
Apply creams or ointments for slow-healing wounds as needed.
Elderberry is one of my favorites to grow. They kind of remind me of little Japanese Maples (except with berries!) with their beautiful colors. In my garden, I have black lace elderberry. You can make a tincture, syrup, capsules and lozenges. The bush grows little berries, but it’s important to cook them because in their raw form, the berries contain chemicals similar to cyanide. You can make jellies and pie, too!
Elderberry is great to take in syrup form when you start to come down with a cold or sinus infection.
Do not give elderberry or any product containing elder to a child without first talking to your pediatrician.
- Sinupret: 2 tablets taken three times a day for bacterial sinusitis
- Sambucol: 4 tbsp. a day for three days for colds and flu
- Tea: Steep 3 – 5 g dried elder flower in 1 cup boiling water for 10 – 15 minutes. Strain and drink three times per day.
One of the most used medicinal herbs is lavender. You see it in lotions, soaps, tinctures, essential oil, teas, and extracts. It is used to treat insomnia, agitation, alopecia, fungal infections, acne, wounds, and eczema. I even add lavender to homemade crackers!
- Oral use in children is not recommended.
- May be used topically in diluted concentrations to treat skin infections and injuries, such as minor cuts and scrapes. For proper dilutions speak with a knowledgeable health care provider. There are some aromatherapy formulas for children as well; again speak with a knowledgeable provider for dosing. Never use lavender on an open wound; seek immediate medical attention.
- A small study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 concluded that lavender and tea oils in some shampoos, soaps, and lotions may cause gynecomastia, breast development in a male, in boys. If you have any concerns, ask your doctor about using lavender for a child.
The following are recommended adult doses for lavender:
- Internal use: Speak with a knowledgeable health care provider to find the right dose for you.
- Inhalation: 2 – 4 drops in 2 – 3 cups of boiling water. Inhale vapors for headache, depression, or insomnia. If you have asthma, talk to your doctor before using essential oil inhalations to see if they are right for you. There are some people who find essential oil used in inhalation form irritating to lungs and/or eyes.
- Topical external application: For ease of application, add 1 – 4 drops per tablespoon of base oil (such as almond or olive oil). Lavender oil is toxic if taken orally. Only use the oil externally or by inhalation. Also, avoid contact with eyes or mucous membranes, such as the lips and nostril.
A website I use often for alternative medicine is the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide. This is one of the strongest sources I go to for information on my medicinal herb garden!
There are many other herbs to grow in your medicinal garden, but those are some of my favorite! What do you grow?