Medical herbalist Nicola Parker suggests remedies to boost your child’s immune system
Autumn is on its way and with Autumn, comes the usual back-to-school burst of bugs, bacteria and viruses.
With recent concerns about infections, isolation and the risks posed to us as we are exposed to larger groups of people, it’s more important than ever to keep our children healthy and to ensure that their immune system is working as well as it can.
It can be difficult finding remedies that are safe for children to use. Many herbal remedies are marketed for adults and most multivitamins are unnecessary. While there are lots of gummies and multi-vits marketed towards children, many of them are full of sugar and ultimately unnecessary, especially if your children already have a good diet.
If you’re looking for an immune boost for younger ones, I recommend elderberry. It’s a tasty way to get a large dose of vitamin C and it boasts antiviral properties that have kept it flying off my shelves both before and after the pandemic hit.
Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses, which is why so much research is pumped into vaccines. In the past, I’d see many parents coming to request help with viral infections, because a simple virus simply can’t be treated. The immune system needs to manage the issue all on its own.
Fortunately, most healthy immune systems can do this effectively, but while that happens, nobody enjoys a house filled with the tears of snotty children who are unwell, uncomfortable and unable to enjoy their usual day to day activities. It’s a horrible feeling, knowing there is nothing you can do for them, but if antibiotics aren’t appropriate, herbs like elder are.
Elder works by blocking the virus from attaching to our cells, rendering it ineffective. For this reason, it is best taken as a daily preventative medicine or at the very first sign of infection. It contains potent doses of vitamin C, so if you or your children take a daily vitamin to keep the colds at bay, switching to a daily dose of elder would significant upgrade in combatting viruses.
Elder is usually taken as a syrup. You can make your own if you like to get crafty in the kitchen and Autumn is the time to harvest them, so now is the time to start berry spotting.
Elder trees have old, gnarled looking branches so they are easy to identify, but make sure you’re 100 per cent sure of what you’re picking before eating anything you’ve foraged in the wild.
Soak the berries in water for an hour or so to clean them of debris and any creepy crawlies that may have been enjoying them. Once soaked, simmer them in a pan of water for 10-20mins, before straining. Measure the left-over liquid and add as much sugar in grams are there are mls of liquid. Let the sugar dissolve before simmering again to get the desired consistency and then store in a sterilised jar.
If making your own syrups, you can add mucous-busting herbs like thyme or ginger.
Liquorice and sage are soothing to sore throats while herbs like chamomile can help ease anxiety and promote restful sleep.
Autumn is my month for running syrup-making workshops, so if you’re interested in learning more about kitchen medicine, contact your local herbalist to see if they do the same.
If this all sounds like too much work, it’s readily available to buy over the counter.
I keep two in my own store. One for children over six and one that is taken in drop doses, suitable for babies as young as 3months old. It’s tasty, sweet and easily added to juice or taken off the spoon. It can even be diluted to make a yummy drink that they can take to school or enjoy at home.
Elder is my biggest selling remedy for children’s immunity, but it’s not just for kids. We keep a bottle in the staff area all year round, in case someone comes in looking under the weather. It doesn’t do our reputation any good if all the herbalists and nutrition experts are sneezing, coughing and spluttering! It’s our most effective and delicious way of keeping healthy.
l For more information, contact Nicola at her Herbal Medicine Clinic on 01524 413733.