Fall is all around. As the leaves change bright colors and the air turns crisp, winter bugs can sneak up on us*. And when someone in your family is sick, everyone suffers! You want to do something to help them, but what?
There are many natural remedies you can try to help support healthy immune function*. Here are some tips for parents and caregivers from ACHS adjunct instructor Deborah Halvorson, BA, Dip Aroma, RA, who says, “I've never used over-the-counter cold remedies with my kids, just herbs and essential oils, and when the colds start going around, my kids generally get over it much quicker than their friends and classmates.”
One of Deborah’s favorite cough recipes is vapor balm, which is a natural alternative to a VapoRub-type ointment. Here’s a recipe you can use to make vapor balm at home. The recipe has been adapted from Aromatherapy, A Complete Guide to the Healing Art by Kathy Keville and Mindy Green.
1 cup Olive oil
3⁄4 oz. beeswax
1 1⁄2 tsp Eucalyptus (E. smithii) essential oil
1 tsp. Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) essential oil
1⁄4 tsp Thyme (Thymus vulgaris ct. linalool) essential oil
Directions: For children 2-10 years old, use Eucalyptus smithii and Thyme linalool; for older children and adults, E. globulus or E. radiata and Thyme ct. thymol can be used. For children ages 1-2 years, the above recipe can adapted using only the Eucalyptus smithii and leaving out the peppermint and thyme oils.
Melt beeswax and olive oil in top of double boiler. Allow to cool a bit and add essential oils. Pour into clean containers, label, and date. To use, rub a small amount on the child's chest.
For cold or flu with a fever, Deborah recommends a combination of lemon (Citrus limonum) and marjoram (Origanum marjorana) essential oils. Lemon may help reduce the fever, and marjoram traditionally has been used for respiratory infections and to help with sleep. To use these essential oils, blend 10 drops of lemon with 5 drops of marjoram; then add 1 drop of the blend into a warm bath before bedtime or nap time, or use the blend in a nebulizing diffuser.
If you child is experiencing nasal congestion or sinus infection, you can use essential oils with steam inhalation. For children older than 5, use the ratio of 3-5 drops of essential oil to 6 cups of water. To make the inhalation, boil the water and pour into a bowl, and then add the essential oils. Have the child inhale the steam, and be sure to remind them to keep their eyes closed and their face 8-12 inches from the bowl.
To use steam inhalation with children younger than 5, do not have them directly inhale the steam. Rather, place the bowl in the room with the child, and the essential oils will disperse into the air through the steam.
Essential oils typically considered effective and safe for use with children include:
- Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica): An expectorant that may strengthen the immune system and have a calming/sedative action.
- Frankincense (Boswellia carteri): Traditionally an immune system stimulant that may also help with cough.
- Manuka/New Zealand Tea Tree (Leptospermum scoparium): Traditionally used with bronchial congestion/bronchitis, sinus congestion/sinusitis, and has been shown to inhibit the growth of streptococcus (bacteria that cause strep throat) as well as bacteria that cause pneumonia. .
- Marjoram (Origanum majorana): An expectorant that may be helpful for respiratory infections and sinusitis, and is thought to have a calming action.
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): Traditionally used with respiratory infections and sinusitis (may be stimulating; do not use before bedtime).
- Peppermint (Mentha x piperita): Frequently used with sinusitis and bronchitis. *Should not be used with children younger than 2.
If your child is willing to drink tea, a warm tea with honey (no honey for children younger than 12 months) can be soothing and comforting. Deborah recommends lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) for use with fever and to help calm fussy children. For use with coughs and achiness, lemon balm can also be combined with peppermint and chamomile (Matricaria recutita).
*Always see your primary care physician for diagnosis. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. For informational purposes only. Not intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.