Children’s Immune Boosters

I love Autumn with its gorgeous colours and milder temperatures, but this change in the seasons also signal the start of the cold and flu season and already there are many kids and parents complaining about runny noses, coughs and splutters and walking around with red rimmed eyes. Allegiant film download

Because I work with herbs, I’m often asked which herbs kids can take to help boost their immune system to face the onslaught of bacterial and viral infections. The good news is that there are several herbs that are not only old-wives’ tales, but have been proven to benefit the immune response in both adults and children.

Before delving into a few of these natural medicines, just a word on diet and sleep, two very important supporting factors in strengthening the child’s immune system:

Diet: Have a long hard and critical look at your child’s diet, it could be filled with refined sugars, colourants, preservatives, processed foods (yes, even white pasta, white rice and white bread) and soda drinks, all which may have a negative effect on the overall well-being of bodily systems. Changing these to include more natural, fresh and raw (unprocessed) foods will immediately benefit young, growing bodies.

Besides increasing their intake of whole foods, fruits and vegetables, many herbs can be helpful here too as they are rich in antioxidants, vitamin and mineral content and other nutritive substances (e.g. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) and Oatstraw (Avena sativa))

Sleep: a full night’s rest is one of the greatest enhancers of health, especially for children. Ensuring that your child (and yourself) wakes up from a full night of sound sleep will improve the body’s ability to withstand many of the viral and bacterial infections that lurk around every corner. If you or your children are having a tough time falling asleep, or wake up during the night and toss and turn without any comfort, there are again some herbs that are helpful to get you to a calm and relaxed state for better nights’ sleep; e.g. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), Hops (Humulus lupulus) and Skullcap (Scutellaria spp).

Now to look at the two most widely used herbs to boost immunity:

Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea):
Quite well known and a popular medicinal herb, Echinacea is often the first plant turned to for immune support. Various studies on the purple coneflower and its chemical constituents have shown that it stimulates the immune system’s response to viral and bacterial infections. It can be used preventatively during high risk periods and to help you overcome an illness quickly (take immediately at first sign of illness and quite frequently in the first few days).

Dosage (suggested to take up to three times a day for 7 days):
• Echinacea tea: 1-2g dried herb or root per cup of boiled water
• Echinacea tincture (1:5): 1-3ml (20-90 drops)
Above dosage based on 70kg adult, so calculate dose according to child’s weight, e.g. a 20-25kg child would take 1/3 of the adult dose.

Astragalus Root (Astragalus membranaceus):
A highly recommended herb by various herbal texts, Astragalus is attributed to boosting energy, increasing stress adaptation, being antiviral and amplifying the efficiency of immune functions. As with Echinacea, Astragalus can be used throughout high-risk times as a preventative and to support recovery if infection has already taken place. It is suggested, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), that a child who has a fever not be given Astragalus as it is a warming herb and may cause the fever to last longer or grow stronger.

Dosage (suggested to take up to three times a day):
• Astragalus decoction: 3-6g dried root per 350ml water
• Astragalus powdered root: 500-1,000mg
• Astragalus tincture (1:5): 3-5ml
Above dosage based on 70kg adult, so calculate dose according to child’s weight, e.g. a 20-25kg child would take 1/3 of the adult dose.

Other herbs mentioned with regards to immune boosting and cold preventing, are: Garlic (Allium sativum), Elderflowers (Sambucus nigra), Liquorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Rosehips (Rosa spp), Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis).

Further to the abovementioned herbs, the following has also been noted to help increase immune function and prevent the common cold:
• Zinc
• Vitamin C
• Probiotics
• Omega 3 Oils

Unfortunately, even if we eat right and enhance our immunity with herbs, vitamins and minerals, we won’t be guaranteed of a winter without sniffles, but at least we’re increasing the chances. Hope you’ll have a healthy winter!

Herbal medicine has a long and safe history of use, and most herbs have been documented by recent research in countries across the globe. It is understandable though that parents who are new to the world of herbal medicine will have sensible concerns about the safe use of herbs – if in doubt, please contact a qualified herbal practitioner or your local healthcare provider.

One or two resources mention that Echinacea not be given to children under 12 years of age while others only gave a much reduced dosage for younger children.
People who are allergic to plants in the ragweed family should be cautious when taking Echinacea.
Please check contraindications, and interactions with other medications, especially if children are already taking antibiotics.

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