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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • October 2017
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Herbs and supplements to support immune health for kids

Fall is here and winter is quickly approaching, and with them brings the numerous illnesses that can spread throughout our communities. Several practices can be considered to keep children healthy through these seasons, as well as providing immune support through botanicals and supplements.

As a main line of defense, four key factors play an important role in keeping your child healthy. Simple hand washing should be a priority, with plain soap and water. Avoid using antibacterial hand sanitizer, which can contribute to antibiotic resistant bacteria and strip the skin of its beneficial microbes. Provide sufficient rest time for your child through plenty of sleep each night as well as naps, if needed. Switch from a cold, summer diet to emphasize a diet consisting of warming, hearty foods to bolster the body further. And finally, add in a few supplements and botanicals to provide additional nourishment and stability to the body.

There are a few supplements that have been proven to offer great benefit for direct immune support: Vitamins C and D, cod liver oil, probiotics and a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. With children spending more time indoors, and our location in a northern climate, our bodies are not always capable of producing the Vitamin D necessary for overall health. The majority of Americans are not consuming adequate amounts of fish to provide the omega-3s necessary for overall health. Cod liver oil contains omega-3s and vitamins A and D. A probiotic and multi-vitamin/mineral supplement round out the vitamins and minerals and bacterial support for our children’s growing needs. With so much of our population deficient in common vitamins and minerals, supplementing with a full spectrum vitamin is reasonable.

Echinacea has been popular for home use for several decades and was prominently used by the eclectic physicians in the 19th century. It has proven to be effective in preventing illness and is safe taken daily, but it is not as effective for treating an illness. A safe and effective dose for echinacea for children 2-5 years old is 7.5 milliliters per day, given in 2 divided doses, once in the morning and once in the evening. The dose for children 6-18 years old is 10 milliliters per day, given in 2 divided doses as well. Umcka or umckaloabo has been demonstrated to reduce the length and severity for upper respiratory infections; dosage is 30 drops, 3 times a day, taken at the first sign of symptoms. Andrographis has also been shown to boost immunity, diminish the frequency and duration of upper respiratory infections; dosage is 50-200 milligrams a day, usually for five days, for use in children. Start at the lower end for small children and work up to 200 milligrams a day for teenagers.

Further, medicinal mushrooms are showing great benefit for immunomodulation. They benefit both under- and over-active immune systems to boost immunity, and reduce the frequency and severity of illness. Reishi, shiitake and cordyceps are excellent choices that have the most evidence and clinical studies for use in children. Other herbs that can also be considered and combined with those listed above are elderberry, astragalus and codonopsis. Astragalus and codonopsis can be given in the form of tea, or made into gummies for another creative way to give herbal remedies to kids. Elderberry syrup and a children’s version of fire cider can be used frequently during the winter months. There is an abundant number of herbs that can be used to address symptom relief from coughs, fevers, sore throats, ear infections and conjunctivitis.

When taking several of these supplements or herbs over the course of an entire season, illness can be prevented and the duration or severity may also be lessened. If you are uncertain about a certain illness or feel that something more serious is going on with your child, please see your child’s health care provider for further evaluation. Trust your instincts as a parent and partner with a pediatrician, functional or integrative doctor or nurse practitioner who supports you and your family. 

This information is for educational purposes only; please speak with your family’s health care provider before adding botanicals to your child’s diet.

References: “Healthy All Year.” Aviva Romm. Romm Enterprises. 2015.

The National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements.

“Fortify Your Life.” Tieraona Low Dog. National Geographic Society. 2016.

Dana Schlies

Dana is a Certified Women’s Herbal Educator and Community Herbalist. She is passionate about educating women about the many botanical and alternative methods to bring the body into balance and create vibrant, healthy living. She utilizes a comprehensive approach including environment, nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and botanicals to bring support to the whole body. She is part of the team at Sweet Willow Naturals, and can be reached at 920-530-1188 or [email protected]

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