"Most run-of-the-mill childhood illnesses are self-limiting infections, meaning kids get over them on their own," says Linda B. White, MD, coauthor with Sunny Mavor, AHG, of Kids, Herbs & Health (Interweave Press, 1998). "There's a place for herbs because they give that little boost for self-healing." These three common childhood conditions respond well to herbs:
Middle Ear Infections are a frequent cause of trips to the doctor, but research shows antibiotics often aren't necessary. White recommends echinacea to boost immunity, antimicrobial herbs such as garlic, and warm herbal eardrops, found in natural products stores. "Usually the drops will contain garlic because it is antimicrobial; St. John's wort, which is mildly antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory; and mullein, which is mildly analgesic," White says.
Sore Throats can be a little tricky because of the possibility of strep throat. The only way to confirm a streptococcal infection is with a laboratory test. Until strep test results come back, "gargle with goldenseal, Oregon grape root or thyme tea," White recommends. "If it isn't strep, continue with gargles and give echinacea to boost immunity, licorice or marshmallow root to soothe inflammation, and thyme or Oregon grape root to fight infection."
Pink Eye can be treated with an eyewash made of antimicrobial and soothing herbs, says White. In their book, White and Mavor recommend an herbal eyewash containing eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis), yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and Oregon grape root.
Talk to a qualified herbalist before treating your child. Also, monitor symptoms closely. If your child's condition worsens, see your health care practitioner immediately.