3 Herb Mamas

Herbal Medicine Making: Gentle Health Care for Children During Colds & Flu Season

on September 25, 2014

Rose Hips

Vitamin C-rich Rose Hips from my Rosa canina bush

The days, and certainly the nights, are cooling. The school buses are rolling. The leaves are changing, as are the winds. I am hearing more coughing, sneezing, and nose blowing. And my phone is ringing and message box filling with requests for herbs and herbal preparations to prevent and support healing from colds and viruses. Parents are looking for alternatives to antibiotics and I can hear the worry in their voices. Although I no longer have little ones, I remember that anxiety only too well.

Finding herbs that are gentle enough for children yet effective, and in a palatable form for sensitive taste buds, can be a real challenge. I’ve learned a few things caring for our four children over the past 25+ years and even a few things that I wish I had known when mine were small. I am including some recipes and ideas for remedies you can prepare and keep on hand for your own family. Obviously, I am not a doctor and, hence, cannot prescribe any herb or method for you or your family but I am happy to share things that have worked in our home to inspire you to research, experiment, and find what works best in your own situation.

Prevention is always preferable to treatments so look to a diet rich in plant foods, lots of dark, leafy greens, a wide variety of vegetables (Soups are delicious and warming on these cooler days!), whole grains, plenty of water, and warm herbal teas. Make sure to get some fresh air and sunshine daily. Get plenty of rest and add a daily immune system tonic such as Elderberry Syrup, like the one described below.

Goldenrod Tea

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) Tea

A simple pot  or mug of tea is a wonderful healing ritual that just takes a few minutes to do each day. Not only is it health-promoting but it makes it easier to administer herbal teas to children when they catch a cold than it would be if it was a completely new approach. Many herbs are suited to children such as Chamomile, Lemonbalm, Tulsi, and Goldenrod, which is blooming abundantly in my area right now. Add some raw local Honey for added benefits, like its ability to thin mucus and fend off viruses. It’s also a nice way to pause and listen to your child. I have cherished memories of many a “moonlight tea party” shared with my oldest daughter who is a lovely young woman out adventuring on her own independent life now. But she gifted me with those sweet blue teacups pictured and I think of her every time I use one.

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry Syrup is just one immune system supporting tonic we like to use daily starting in the fall through the winter. It’s sweet and spicy and delicious. 

Although I have a preference for Fire Cider, a hot and spicy Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) based tonic, I realize that not everyone likes such a kick-in-the-pants as a daily tonic. For children especially, I like to keep Elderberry Syrup on hand. I generally make mine using fresh or frozen whole Elderberries, Elderberry concentrate, Cinnamon bark, fresh Ginger root, Cloves, distilled water, and raw local Honey. Recently, however, I had a need to make an even more potent syrup for an active “bug” so I added fresh Rose Hips, which are super rich in vitamin C, and fresh Echinacea roots, one of my favorite go-to plants for the immune system.

Elderberry Syrup Plus Ingredients

Some of the ingredients for my Elderberry Plus Syrup: Rose Hips, Echinacea roots, Ginger root, Cloves, Cinnamon, along with Elderberry, raw local Honey, and distilled water.  

Syrups are easily made by combining your herbs with distilled water, simmering until reduced by half and then straining and stirring in Honey to thicken and sweeten. I like to add the Honey once the herbal base has cooled a bit to preserve the natural healing qualities of the raw Honey. It only needs to be warm enough to dissolve the honey. Although lots of sugar is conventionally added to make syrups very thick and shelf-stable, I prefer a thinner syrup with a natural sweetener such as Honey or Maple syrup. Sugar only increases mucus production and complicates healing. These are the general ratios of ingredients in Elderberry Syrup:

1 cup fresh or 1/2 cup dried Elderberries

1 Cinnamon stick

5 Cloves

About 1 generous Tbsp. minced fresh Ginger root

2 cups distilled water

1 cup local, raw Honey

1/4 cup Elderberry concentrate (optional)

Combine everything except the Honey in a non-reactive pot. Bring to a simmer and allow to simmer until reduced by half, generally 15 to 20 minutes. Cover with a lid and allow to steep for several hours. Very slightly re-warm this and strain through cheesecloth, squeezing out all the juice you can. Add the Honey and stir to dissolve. Bottle, cap, and label. Store in the refrigerator, where it will keep for at least 2 months.

For my Elderberry Plus Syrup I added 1 cup of crushed Rose Hips and a healthy handful of scrubbed and minced fresh Echinacea roots.

In our family, we take 1 Tbsp. daily as prevention or that amount hourly for active colds or flu. This is also delicious over pancakes, in smoothies, or on ice cream.

Elderberry Syrup simmering

Elderberry Syrup simmering is so lovely and it always makes the kitchen fragrant in the most beautiful way.

One other use for your Elderberry Syrup is in making an herbal gelatin, which is an easy way to administer herbs to children. It is cooling, light, delicious, and soothing to sore throats. I use organic gelatin but you can substitute agar flakes, a sea algae, if you are vegetarian. My ratios for Herbal Gelatin are:

3 cups brewed herbal tea or juice (or a combination)

1/4 Lemon (or other) juice

1/4 cup pure Maple syrup

Heat this to a simmer and then stir in 3 Tbsp. gelatin (for a firm set) or 3 tsp. gelatin (for a soft set). You will need to use an immersion blender to dissolve the gelatin into the liquid but it only takes a couple of minutes. Pour into a glass dish and chill in the refrigerator until firm.

I recently made an Orange Elderberry Gelatin using 1 cup Elderberry Syrup, 2-1/4 cups Orange juice, and 1/4 cup Maple Syrup along with 3 Tbsp. gelatin. YUMM! What a fun way to take a daily tonic!

Herbal Gelatin

Herbal Fruit Juice Gelatin is a tonic many children will enjoy…and grown-ups, too!

Elderberry/Orange Gelatin

Elderberry/Orange Gelatin is a fun herbal medicine. The foamy whipped top comes from whipping the gelatin in but tastes as delicious as the rest.

Another simple way to administer herbs to children is by brewing them as you would for tea, although stronger, and then adding them to a warm bath. You can use a variety of herbs and add a few drops of essential oils for added healing. Ginger root baths are very warming and help when experiencing chills. Eucalyptus, Mints, and Rosemary are good for clearing sinuses and giving a generally uplifting outlook. Lavender and Chamomile are relaxing and help a restless child. You can use many of these same herbs as a “steam” to clear congestion by simply having the child lean over the bowl with a towel draped over their heads and breathing in deeply. Keep a box of tissues handy and stay nearby to avoid hot spills.

Herbal Steams/Baths

Herbs for Steams or Baths

Happy, healthy Autumn! ~Leenie

2 responses to “Herbal Medicine Making: Gentle Health Care for Children During Colds & Flu Season

  1. tiffibug says:

    Thank you for sharing the Elderberry Plus recipe. It will definitely come in handy this winter.

    • 3 Herb Mamas says:

      We all really liked the gelatin we made with this syrup as well. I wish I had thought to make remedies this way when my kids were young. So much easier than getting them to drink a lot of teas and broths when they didn’t feel well.

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