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Updated: Apr 18, 2019


This winter my family has been hit hard with a yucky respiratory infection that has been making rounds visiting many of us living in the Bay Area. Watching your little one cough and feel sick and icky is such an awful and powerless feeling. When it comes to coughs and congestion over-the-counter medicine is pretty much off the table for children under 4. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the FDA have ruled that over-the-counter cough and cold medicine not be made available for children under the age of 4, and recommend children under the age of 6 not be given any.


The good news is that herbs, essential oils and other natural remedies can provide safe and effective relief for kids and adults. This latest cold season really put my skills as a tired, sick, pregnant herbalist to the test. I focused on simple and easy remedies that were safe for both my two and half year old and myself during pregnancy.


6 SIMPLE SUGGESTIONS FOR COUGH & CONGESTION RELIEF


Honey helps soothe the throat, acts as a cough suppressant and fights against infection. Taking honey before bed has been found to calm night time coughs in children in this study. Children older than 1 years old can take ½ tsp of honey, twice a day. And sure you can lick it straight off the spoon, but by adding honey to hot water or tea you are getting in more liquids (tip #6). I recommend adding honey to tea in the morning and having some before bed.


Running a humidifier at night adds moisture back into the air and helps with stuffy noses. In the winter time when heaters are running and drying out the air a humidifier is extra helpful in preventing a dry cough. Keeping your sleeping space moist will help with congestion throughout the night.


Salt water or a saline spray helps thin mucus with stuffy nose and congestion. My little one wont let me near her when she spots a NoseFrida or some other snot sucking device. But even using just the salt water drops will help!


A neti pot helps to thin the mucus and clear up the nasal passages. This is my favorite tried and true remedy for sinus relief. When congestion is really bad I aim to use the neti pot 3-4 times a day. Again, not a option for little kiddos but great for adults and older children.


Steam helps open the nasal passages and soothe inflamed sinuses. For little ones spending time in a steamy bathroom can help ease cold, cough and congestion symptoms. Try the recipe below for an herbal facial steam!


Get in as much liquids as possible! Fluids help thin out the mucus and help with congestion. Juice is a nice option for kids who have little interest in eating while sick.


STEAM TO THE RESCUE: HERBAL FACIAL STEAM


Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

When it comes to herbs for respiratory relief my favorite preparation is a facial steam. Steam helps to moisten the respiratory tract, break-up mucus and expectorate gunk out of the lungs. For congestion and sinus pressure there is nothing better than steam!


A useful respiratory herb I always have on hand is thyme. As an antimicrobial thyme is helpful in fighting off infection and is great in a steam, specifically when green or yellow mucus is present. It can be used for both wet or dry coughs. Think of thyme when you have a lingering dry cough that is deep and tickles the throat. Gargling with thyme can help relieve a sore throat or irritation from coughs. Thyme also supports sluggish digestion and is a great spice to cook with.


Another herb for congestion is yerba santa. This California native plant is a powerful decongestant and helps to open up the lungs and removes accumulated phlegm. Yerba Santa is great for moist coughs, where the reflexes are too weak to bring up phlegm and the throat might be raw from coughing. Since yerba santa dries up the membranes I like to combine it with moisturizing demulcent herbs such as marshmallow or licorice when used in tea or tincture.


Here is a recipe for an herbal facial steam featuring thyme and yerba santa.


CONGESTION FACIAL STEAM RECIPE


Ingredients:

1 tbsp Yerba Santa

1 tbsp dried Thyme or a few sprigs fresh

1 tbsp Lavender

1 tbsp Mullein


Instructions:

Add 1-2 inches of water to a pot and bring to right before a boil.

Add herb mixture to the pot and cover. Let steep for 2 minutes.

Lean over the pot and cover your head with a towel. Aim to breath in the steam for 5-10 minutes.

For congestion it’s great to do a herbal facial steam 2-3 times a day.


There is no way my toddler was sticking her face over a pot of steaming herbs. Believe me I tried. She was not having it! A child friendly alternative is to add respiratory herbs to a bath. Adding calming sleepy time herbs like lavender, chamomile and rose is a great addition to night time baths.


To prepare a herbal bath add a small handful of herb mixture to a muslin cloth bag and add it to the bath. Alternatively you can steep 1 oz of herbs in 4 cups water for 30 minutes to make a strong tea. Strain tea and add to bath water.



Ever since working at a café known for its delicious milky chai I have been on a mission to recreate my own equally delicious chai. During my café days I learned that the secret to an incredible chai was not lots of cinnamon like I had imagined. The make-it or break-it ingredient was in-fact cardamom. Green cardamom seed pods to be exact.

Cardamom is a staple in many kitchen pantry's. Most recipes call for cardamom powder, which is made from the ground up black seeds inside the green pods. Cardamom is a great medicinal herb known for its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, carminative properties. It helps clear stagnation, congestion and moves mucus out of the lungs and digestive tract. Think of the cardamom to help clear wet coughs. As a carminative it helps with gas and indigestion and is useful after a big meal.

Anytime you are preparing a tea made from mostly roots, seeds, bark or berries you will want to use a process known as decoction. A decoction simply means the ingredients are simmered on low heat for a minimum of 30 minutes. This allows for the herb to more fully break down and release its medicine. I always aim for 60 minutes of simmering, but you can decoct chai and other similar herbs for hours.

A few years ago I kicked my daily caffeine habit and now I am super sensitive to caffeine. For this recipe I like to use herbal rooibos to make a caffeine free chai. Feel free to substitute with your favorite Assam black tea for the full caffeinated effect.


CARDAMOM CHAI RECIPE

Ingredients:

- 2 heaping tbsp of green cardamom pods

-1 inch knob of fresh ginger

-1 tsp black pepper corns

-1/2 stick of cinnamon

-1 tbsp. carob or dandelion root

- 2-3 tsp rooibos or Assam black tea

- Splash of milk/ nut mylk

- 4 Cups water


Instructions:

Using a knife, crack open the cardamom pods. Chop up the fresh ginger root (feel free to leave the peel on). Add the cardamom, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon and carob/dandelion to a pot. Cover the herbs with 4 cups of water and bring to gentle boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 60 minutes (or longer). Add the rooibos or black tea and simmer for an additional 3-5 minutes. Strain out the herbs. Store extra chai in a glass quart jar and store in the fridge for 1-4 days. Gently heat up to serve. Add a splash (or more!) of milk or nut mylk while reheating.

Enjoy!

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