As children are growing and developing, it is expected that they’d get nausea, diarrhea or other stomach bugs from time to time. It is part of the process of educating the immune system. The most critical way to help them is to keep them hydrated. These illnesses vary quite a bit but there are a few helpful herbal remedies that can make things a little better.
In the case of diarrhea, it is normal for the child to have frequent bowel movements for the first day or two and then it usually tapers off. Note that if they have a fever or vomiting as well it will be all the more important to hydrate them. Also note that infants under 1 year of age are more at risk for dehydration so careful watch of their intake in critical. Cinnamon can be very helpful at slowing the frequency of bowel movements and, thus, slow water loss. Cinnamon is also very antimicrobial which could be helpful as well. And it relaxes the smooth muscle of the intestines so that there is less abdominal cramping. I use this a lot in these situations and it really works well. I mix about a teaspoon of cinnamon in applesauce, oatmeal or honey (whatever they will take a bit or two of) and give it once a day. It is astringent enough to be cautious not to overdo it and give it more than once a day.
Carob is another option, although less likely to be in every kitchen cabinet. A teaspoon of Carob powder mixed in with the same options above usually slows down the water loss a bit due to its astringency. However, it isn’t as antimicrobial as Cinnamon and doesn’t reduce the cramping. Researchers are studying the option of making a Oral Rehydration juice including Carob that has had promising results. I’d maybe add a little bit of cinnamon too for the more antimicrobial effects because Cinnamon has been shown to be effective on many gastrointestinal pathogenic bacteria.
For indigestion or simple nausea I give a small amount of the following infusion:
- Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) flowers – 1 tsp
- Mint (Mentha spicata or Mentha piperita) leaves – 1 tsp.
I prefer Spearmint for taste (Mentha spicata) but any mint will do. You can add honey, although I found I didn’t need to most of the time. I sometimes add in a little slice of fresh ginger. You don’t want to over do the ginger so fresh is best in a small amount. You can make a fresh ginger syrup and store it in the refrigerator to add to teas as needed too.
Fennel seeds also are nice to chew on for kids older than 18 months. They help relax the stomach and improve digestion so they are excellent for mild cases of gas, indigestion and mild nausea. You can make it a little more fun by sautéing them in a little honey to coat the seeds and store them in a jar for the child to have a couple here and there for common stomach issues.
Overall, remember to keep them hydrated with water, teas or electrolyte fluids if needed and remember if Diarrhea or Vomiting is severe or lasts more than a couple of days, consult a physician.
Dr. Sheila Kingsbury is a Naturopathic Physician, Lactation Consultant and Registered Herbalist. Dr. Kingsbury is a 2003 graduate of Bastyr University’s naturopathic medicine program and a Licensed Primary Care Provider in Washington State. Dr. Kingsbury is currently the chair of the Botanical Medicine department as well as Associate Professor in the School of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University. She regularly teaches courses in Botanical Medicine, Lactation and Pediatrics at Bastyr University and in the community. Dr. Kingsbury has had extensive training in Pediatrics, Maternity and Post-partum care and Botanical Medicine. Dr. Kingsbury worked in the public health field for 5 years prior to her medical training and has been a labor support doula for 16 years and a Lactation Consultant for 14 years. She is the current President of the Pediatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians, a former council member for the American Herbalists Guild and an Advisory Board member for the Lloyd Library and Museum.