Herbal medicines for babies and children

Echinacea purpurea, or coneflowerI see it everyday! One and all are seeking safer and more effective less deleterious alternatives to our current orthodox pharmaceutical medicines. People realise that the body was not designed to be modulated/stimulated/sedated by harsh and concentrated chemicals that many in themselves are toxic and lead to a myriad of side effects. Botanical medicine excels in treating most of our most common health concerns and in so many instances far outshines pharmaceuticals and folks are realising this on a global scale.

In other countries like China, Japan, and Germany botanical medicines are used as FRONTLINE treatments ahead of anything else, only after all botanical interventions have been exhausted do they resort to pharmaceuticals in more serious cases. China has the most established herbal healing system on the plant that spans 5000 years of experience and effectiveness. Research of animals in the wild has shown that when they are sick they seek out specific plants instinctively to self treat themselves when they are ill. This is instinct and plant medicine at it’s best, this is in many ways how humans started to experiment with plants.

Since time immemorial the human race has always turned to plant medicine as our ally in alleviating many of our physical and even mental ills. Granted it is all we have had! What did we do in the days before we had established patented and ridiculously expensive pharmaceutical chemicals? We had plant medicines known as HERBS or to be even more politically correct today Botanical Medicines growing in our gardens.

Our ancestors learned over time which plants harmed them and which seemed to help them, the world over cultures have extensive systems based on plant healing many into fully established art and sciences, today there is research coming out daily on new properties and uses of plants and existing herbs, the potential is endless!

Herbal medicines are powerful and should be used with respect and by an experienced practitioner, there are many botanicals that should not be used in any circumstances in toddlers and babies, however there are many household herbs that one can use for common childhood ailments that are very safe, effective and have a stellar track record as home remedies.

I find young children and toddlers are particularly sensitive and respond very well to herbal medicines, it is one of the most rewarding aspects of my practice! Botanical medicines do not disrupt the delicate internal ecological balance of small bodies; they work in harmony with the bodies natural processes and are gentler than allopathic chemicals.

Below are some of the most effective herbal treatments for common childhood ailments that are safe and easy to administer. In many situations I will provide solutions that we have around the house, there will be cases where one will just need to pop out to your nearest health shop to acquire one of the remedies.

Dosages and frequency is very important for babies and one needs to be very aware that too much of any herb will have side effects. I will provide a small section at the end on dosages which can be very circumstantial and it is always advisable to either call your Homeopath or Herbalist just to make sure you are on the right track, all of the herbs here are very safe and even if you give more than recommended will not result in problems, sometimes if there is unsatisfactory response at recommended dosages one can double the dosages for short periods this normally works well.

All these herbs can be found at your local Pharmacy or Health Shop, the teas are inexpensive and tinctures as well.

Herbs truly are wonderful and effective gentle healers and assist and work with the body natural rhythms and processes without overly interfering or affecting the body!


To reduce the painful skin inflammation and provide soothing relief and healing after sunburn.

Aloe Vera Gel – Can be applied frequently and is very soothing and healing. It is definitely one of those plants one can grow at home and just break open the leaf and apply inner gel to afflicted area, although I recommend getting an aloe gel for cosmetic application from a health store

Calendula oil – 30 drops can be added to a warm bath or applied directly to this skin mixed with 100ml’s of water then applied to the skin. Calendula is extremely soothing and antinflammatory, it is also mildly antiseptic.

St. Johns Wort Oil: Takes away the pain of burns and encourages healing.

Rooiboss Tea, Green Tea, Lavender Oil or St Johns Wort Oil, Calendula Oil Spray – Brew up a 1 teabag Green tea and 1x teabag Rooiboss in 200ml hot water and let it steep for 10 min, add to a spray bottle with 30 drops Calendula oil and 20 drops lavender oil or St.Johns wort oil. This is a most soothing and healing mix, this mix with stimulate the skins regenerative capabilities and can be sprayed on liberally and frequently, the antioxidants and other compounds like tannins within the Rooiboss and Green tea will assist healing and further damage of the skin epithelial.

Stomach Upset

This is very common and there are wonderfully effective botanicals for application here.

Chamomile – Is a great antispasmodic and carmitive for tummy upsets. It can be brewed as a tea and given warm or one can acquire a tincture from a health store, with most commercial tinctures you want to be using one – two drops per year of your baby.

Catnip – Is great for stomach upsets, it is also useful for insomnia and is wonderfully calming for agitated children.

Cinnamon – Is a warming aromatic herb, one can brew a few Cinnamon twigs in some hot water and give as a warm team or in tincture format. A specific for cramps, bloating, and Nausea also good if one suspects an underlying bacterial involvement as it is has mild antibacterial and antiparasitic properties

Ginger – The powerhouse home remedy – A most effective remedy for Nausea, but it is very good at settling an upset stomach due to a number of mechanisms, a few drops of tincture or a weak tea works well, best to blend with other herbs.

Cloves – Only a small amount is needed as it goes along way in is quite strong, but is one of the most effective remedies to ease an upset stomach and pretty much any other related digestive system issue, like cramps, bloating, and gas, colic.  1-3 drops of tincture or a ¼ tsp per 300ml’s

Lemon Balm – Can easily be grown in the garden has a great taste and useful for unhappy tummies, it will relax cramping muscles, reduce inflammation and relax the nervous system. They will ease pain and discomfort due to flatulence and colic.

Rooiboss – A famous South African home remedy for upset tummies – brew as normal tea

A wonderful Tummy Ache Tea to ease digestion and aid in eliminating gas. Pour 1 cup boiling water over 2 teaspoons dried chamomile flowers, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon ginger. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Strain, sweeten to taste with a little honey and dispense in 1/4-1/2 cup doses throughout the day.

One can also take any of the above herbs in a trio or more besides the Ginger at ¼ teaspoon and combine in equal parts 1 teaspoon each to 300-500ml’s hot water.
Catnip and Lemon balm can easily be grown at home and picked from the garden and made into teas!


There are some very some very effective botanical medicines for this – Sinus and Lung congestions can be addressed with the below

Elderflowers are by far the best remedy for this clearing mucous and sinus congestion, in tea or tincture format. It is a safe herb for babies, and mild tasting in tea or tincture form.  It is also extremely useful for breaking FEVERS!

Ginger: is also very effective at breaking up mucous and congestion due to itswarming and dispersant qualities.

Anise seed – Has a great flavour component and is great at breaking up congestion.

Pelargonium Sidoides: A South African plant which is the number one cold and flu remedy in Germany and Europe, children respond very well to this plant. It is a natural antibiotic and mild astringent to the mucous membranes. Use for Colds, Flu, Bronchitis!

Use 2 teaspoons Elder flower, 1 tsp Anise seeds, and ¼ tsp ginger and brew in a tea in 300ml boiled water  sweeten to taste with a little honey– then dispense in ¼ cup dosages.

A baby or toddler can also benefit from chest rubs of eucalyptus or peppermint essential oill. Both should be diluted in olive or sesame oil at one drop, and remember to do a patch test first to determine sensitivity. Inhaling the vapours of the essential oil of lavender, and/or a warm bath that includes lavender oil, can also help clear upper respiratory tract congestion. Any of these three or a combination can also be used in a humidifier for overnight relief.


Pelargonium – A South African plant which is the number one cold and flu remedy in Germany and Europe, children respond very well to this plant. It is a natural antibiotic and mild astringent to the mucous membranes. Use for Colds, Flu, Bronchitis and any other lung, ear, nose, throat complaint, good to combine with Ginger and Liqourice or Thyme! Normally only comes in a Tincture format.

Mullein Leaves Flowers and Anise seed tea – Useful for coughs and clearing lung congestion

Sage and Thyme Tea – A very useful combination of two most effective cough remedies and to ease breathing

Ginger and Horehound – A stronger combination for more stubborn coughs.

Liquorice can also be added in half teaspoon and used in conjunction with any of the above; it is a great flavourant and is very soothing for sore throats and to ease bronchial congestion.

Coltsfoot is safe and effective for children for coughs; it is used in Germany as top seller in OTC dispensaries cough remedies. Use as an infusion at least 3 times a day whilst the symptoms remain. If there is a dry irritating cough use Marshmallow leaves or Liquorice to soothe the inflamed membranes. Consider Mullein if a stronger lung remedy is needed.

A teaspoon of each brewed in a tea or see tincture dosage guidelines.

One can take any 2-3 of these herbs and combine in a tea at 1tsp each per 300-500ml water with exception of ¼ teaspoon ginger and administer in 1/4glass in a bottle or dropper full as per dosage guideline at end of article.

A baby or toddler can also benefit from chest rubs of eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil. Both should be diluted in olive or sesame oil at one drop, and remember to do a patch test first to determine sensitivity. A mixture of eucalyptus and rosemary works really well at night, since the eucalyptus will calm your baby’s cough and allow her to breath easier, while the rosemary helps calm her down and drift off to sleep. Inhaling the vapours of the essential oil of lavender, and/or a warm bath that includes lavender oil, can also help clear upper respiratory tract congestion. Any of these three or a combination can also be used in a humidifier for overnight relief.


One of the most common causes of toddler diarrhoea is normally the “stomach flu” (known medically as viral gastroenteritis). Although many different viruses and bacteria can cause stomach flu in toddlers, the most common is rotavirus.

The most common herbal remedies for diarrhoea are described below…

Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatorium) is an effective traditional remedy for diarrhoea

Raspberry Leaf is astringent which will help “dry up” the mucous membranes in the intestine. Make a tea with 1 heaping tsp. per cup. Drink a ½ cup per hour

Ginger tea can stop cramps and pain is antibacterial and mildly antiviral so will assist with the cause but mainly the symptoms

Cinnamon is antiparasitic and assists cramps, also a great flavourant

Chamomile can also be added to the tea as it is antibacterial and eases gas and cramps

Also consider Cloves – As it is anti-parasitic and eases symptoms of most digestive issues.

Make a tea with 1 heaping tsp of Raspberry, Agrimony and a choice of any of the other 3 with the exception of only using ¼ tsp with ginger is used as it is quite strong add to a cup and brew up 300 -500ml’s. Try administering ¼ cup or a few dropper fulls or what your toddler will tolerate every hour, with a small amount of honey for natural sugars and a touch of Himalayan crystal salt should be added to assist with electrolyte replacement.


Very easy to treat with herbal medicine and there are many valuable remedies for this.

Colic is torture for the baby and the parent. There are easy ways to alleviate the problem, however.

Give your baby a small amount of (1/4glass):

Fennel seed

Chamomile flower

Catnip leaves

OR Cardamom

In a tea infusion in a bottle at the first sign of distress, a combination of 2 or 3 of the above herbs can be used depending on what you have in the house but anyone of them by themselves will work well. It also helps to give the baby a warm bath that has lavender essential oil added. The vapours have a calming, soothing affect on baby and parent. Breastfeeding mothers will want to add some fennel and or caraway to their diet for a couple of days to help alleviate the colic.

Bug bites

Chickweed – This can be grown in your garden crushed and applied directly to bug bites; it is a particular for itching!

Calendula cream – Is anti-inflammatory, soothing and reduces itching

Cedar essential oil – Diluted in a little aqueous cream or olive oil will reduce itching

Tea tree oil disinfects the area while the Lavender is a natural anti-inflammatory. Go ahead and apply the oil to the skin and let it do its magic but dilute in a little aqueous cream or olive oil. It smells good too!

Apply immediately sodium bicarb moist with water immediately after bites or bee stings. It gives immediate relief in pain.

Sore troats

Liquorice: Soothing and has antibacterial effects, also assists with boosting the immune system Herbal monographs say liquorice is completely safe in the small amounts used to flavour teas and other products.

Ginger: Warming, soothing, and is mildly antibacterial

Echinacea: Mobiles the bodies immune system against infection, is antibacterial/viral and speeds the healing the process.

Basil: A very well used and effective remedy for sore throats – antibacterial

Lemon: A small squeeze of lemon added to any of the above teas will assist in immune function and sooth a sore throat.

Colloidal Silver spray: Sprayed into the throat will assist healing and has antibacterial properties

A good option will be to add 5 drops of Ginger, Echinacea and liquorice tincture in a little juice to older toddler 2-3 years.

A great soothing tea for sore throats: ¼ tsp Ginger, 1 tsp Liquorice, 1 tsp Basil or Echinacea in 300 to 500mls water with added honey and little lemon and put into a decant into 50ml and add to bottle will assist with sore throats

Anxiety, Stress, Excitability

Externally, these problems can be alleviated with a warm herbal bath at bedtime. Combine a handful of lavender and a handful of chamomile in one quart of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and let steep for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain, and then add the liquid to a warm bath for the child. This is good for colicky infants as well. Allow the child to bathe and relax in the warm water. Internally, a cup of the infusion ofchamomile and/or skullcap can be very beneficial and calming. Kali Phos tissue salt I find very effective for this as well – 1-2 tablets every few hours.


Teething pain can be soothed by giving a chamomile and/or lemon balm infusion internally. Mix a teaspoon of powdered slippery elm bark with a little water 1 drop cloves to make a paste, and rub it gently on the gums.

Caution with certain herbs

Severe side affects are very rare with herbal medicine. Although there is a selection of herbs to avoid, most are fine. Always consult with me or your practitioner just to be sure!

Passionflower- may cause excessive drowsiness in badies, children. I routinely use this in formulas with no problems – Just stick to dosages. This remedy is quite safe though.

Peppermint – Is fine in small amounts as the menthol is quite strong, can be used as part of a colic formula

Arnica: external use is safe short term. Does not use internally in herbal form, only Homeopathic form.

Aloe vera external use is safe. Internal use of Aloe Vera juice can cause severe diarrhoea

Buchu this herb acts as a diuretic and could cause dehydration in children

Cascara sagrada can cause dangerously severe diarrhoea in children

Senna– Is a laxative and can cause severe digestive irritation and diarrhoea

Rhubarb – a powerful irritant laxative, can cause diarrhoea

Comfrey – Some studies have found liver damaging compounds.

Poke root: Is a very potent herb and can be toxic

Horseradish: quite pungent and can cause digestive irritation

Ginseng Can be too stimulating short term and disrupt hormones long term

Cayenne pepper: Is very pungent and can irritate digestive systems

Valerian may cause excessive drowsiness in children as it a sedative, but at recommended dosages I have not had any adverse reactions with babies and toddlers, although taste is problem so I doubt one will be able to get their baby to take this

Soy isoflavones, soy lecithin may cause hormonal imbalance and diarrhoea in children

Fenugreek: do not give to children who have diabetes

Ginkgo may cause headaches and lowered blood pressure in children

Mate this herb contains caffeine, which may over stimulate children

Hops may cause excessive drowsiness in children – This is only in higher doses, but in proper dosages is a wonderful calming agent.

Horse chest nut can be poisonous to children

Gaurana: contains caffeine can cause over stimulation

Kola nut: contains caffeine can cause over stimulation

Gentian root: can cause severe gastrointestinal irritation and is very bitter

Goldenrod: this herb is a diuretic and may cause dehydration

Uva ursi: is diuretic not for children under 12 years old. Prolonged use may cause dehydration and urinary tract irritation

Yellow dock can cause diarrhoea in children

Yucca may cause an upset stomach in children; can block the absorption of other medications

Black walnut leaf may cause skin irritation in children

Witch hazel may cause skin irritation in children with very sensitive skin, although rare

Yarrow may cause allergic reactions in children, although rare

Most herbs do not pose a problem for children in small doses. Long term use like a few months is generally where the problem comes in – Short term usages over a few days for minor challenges like in this article do not pose any significant risk within the dosage guidelines.

Children seem to have a natural affinity for herbs, as though they can sense these are substances that will balance and restore health without causing further harm. In order to ensure your child is receiving the best possible care, it is important to educate yourself about the herbs being used, their safety, and intended use.

Tinctures are the ideal way to ingest herbs. These are concentrated doses of medicinal plants, extracted into alcohol. Glycerine based extracts are not nearly as effective. Most all chemical constituents of herbs, the active aspects which give the herbs medicinal power, are solvent into alcohol, even more so than in water. Glycerine is the least effective medium for creating a potent herbal extract, although kids do love its syrupy sweet taste and there are a few ranges I know of in SA that use this format.

Alcohol extracts can be added to a cup of fruit juice. If alcohol is not desirable for your child in any form or quantity, the appropriate tincture dose can be added to a cup of hot tea, and left to stand about five minutes before drinking. The alcohol will evaporate out, leaving the medicine behind in the tea.

The next best option, especially if babies turn their noses up at the taste is to make a strong tea and blend with other herbs. Herbs long valued for their sweetness and used to improve the taste of unsavoury blends are fennel, liquorice, anise, and stevia. Tincture drops may also be added to a teaspoon of honey, maple syrup, and taken this way by the spoonful as needed.

As a dosage guideline is to divide the child’s weight in half to determine the amount of tincture drops or tablespoons of tea. As an example, a 13kg toddler would take 6.5 drops of most tinctures, or 6.5 tablespoons about ¼ cup of tea. For babies 1 drop or per kg of body weight or 1 teaspoon of tea per kg body weight in divided doses through out the day normally 3-4xday in most situations. Some herbs are potent and potentially toxic to children, and in these cases neither formula applies, as these should be avoided altogether.

Tincture guidelines: The drops are easy to hide in fruit juice of sweet tea.

Under 6months old: 2-10 drops 2-3xday

6months to a year: 10 -15drops 2-3xday

1 year to 3 years:  15-25 drops 2-3xday

For babies under six months, it is good to have mom ingest the tincture and pass it along to baby via breast milk. Mom will take regular adult dosages as per recommended on the product which for tinctures is normally 2.5mls (half a tsp, 20 3xday). Another option is to give baby water based extract (infusion or decoction) of the appropriate herbs through an eyedropper. The dropper can be slid alongside a nursing nipple. Once a baby is sitting up and taking other fluids/foods, it is quite fine to give herbs directly.

Always remember the best way to nursing babies it to treat the mother. Any herbs that you as the mother take go directly into your milk and then onto your baby. Use the same herbs you would give for the baby’s ailment and drink them in tea. Start with a teaspoon doses of the tea at first to make sure your baby doesn’t have a reaction, your baby will be able absorb the herbs through your milk. All the herbs in this article are quite safe to take during nursing.

For those that cannot nurse, there are several other effective ways to give babies herbs.

A plastic eyedropper of the tea, squeeze directly into your babies mouth several times or more throughout the day, smaller doses more frequently with babies/toddlers work very well!

Also consider HERBAL BATHS – Brew the teas and add to the bath water, your baby will absorb the healing properties of the herbs from the warm water through their skin. This can done 2-3xday in conjunction or in place of oral or breast milk application if these methods are not effective to get herbs into your baby.

Parents also may want to nurture children’s relationship with herbs and should use them from a young age, involving them with growing and harvesting them, as well as making teas. Using herbal medicine in the home is a way of life it involves a relationship with the earth. When we teach children about plants as medicine, it helps them develop a soulful, deep relationship with them this can also lead to a continuing practice of nurturing their health with the aid of natural remedies which is most important gift you can give your children!

When to Call the Doctor

Contact your doctor or child’s paediatrician immediately if your sick child:

• is younger than 2 months old

• is younger than 3 months old and has a fever

• Has a fever higher than 39 degrees, at any age

• Acts extremely irritable; can’t be comforted

• Seems lethargic

• Becomes confused, delirious or loses consciousness

• Has a convulsion

• Has difficulty breathing

• Has problems with balance or coordination

• Because dehydrated

• Develops a rash that looks like tiny bruises

Rory Jean- Jacques is Master Herbalist running a highly successful practice from Neals Yard Health Shop in Fourways Mall, he has been mentored and trained by the best in the industry and is actively involved in many cutting edge projects in the health industry in SA. He runs a fully stocked liquid herbal dispensary with over 150 botanicals from across the globe, his speciality is custom formulating and mixing herbal combinations for his patients who delight at the tailor made treatments that cater for their very specific needs in one formula. A fiery and creative individual with a warm personality. His passion for service and giving has made him a success with all the projects he starts. He has a strong sense of purpose in his life based on a foundation of giving and being of service unto others and it is reflected in the essence of his work and interaction with people and the industry players he is involved with. Having experienced his own critical personal health challenges and finding no relief or answers from the allopathic medical world, he journeyed into the world of wellness and natural healing, through this personal journey of study and practice, he healed himself from the most challenging health afflictions by the use of wellness philosophies from the ancients as well as through modern day wellness experts he ascertained the root cause of illnesses and via nutritious eating, specialized herbal medicines and other useful useful therapies he healed himself of his illnesses.


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