I don’t know about you, but back to school time is always bittersweet for me.
On the one hand it’s a relief to get the kids (and their parents) back on a normal schedule, on the other hand it means the end of summer family fun and the beginning of the inevitable sniffling, sneezing and virus season.
The best way to keep your kids healthy is to provide them a strong foundation of whole foods nutrition, limited exposure to toxins and a to create a happy home atmosphere.
But, I can tell you as a doctor and a mother of two, even when you do all those things stresses come up and kids get sick.
Attention health-conscious-clean-eating parents: this is not a bad thing.
Catching the occasional virus or getting the nervous nellies at the start of a new school year gives their physical and emotional immune systems a chance to flex their muscles and get stronger.
Plus, many childhood health experts and visionaries believe that illnesses often parallel a significant shift in a child’s life, like reaching a developmental milestone or experiencing a growth spurt.
When these inevitable times of illness come up, our family turns to these safe and natural remedies to help support the body’s innate healing power.
Back to School Natural Remedy #1: Cinnamon
It seems so simple, but the polyphenols found in plain old cinnamon have a powerfully positive effect on the immune system by helping regulate inflammation…and it’s great for blood sugar issues too.
Since children generally love its flavor, encourage them to sprinkle it on oatmeal, apple slices, mix it into nut butters, add cinnamon sticks to herbal teas or diffuse cinnamon bark essential oil.
It also works great mixed with raw honey—another natural immune booster—as a homemade cough or throat-soothing syrup.
To make: mix a tablespoon of raw honey with 1-3 teaspoons cinnamon and take as-needed.
Back to School Natural Remedy #2: Natural Hand Sanitizer
Hand washing is still one of the best ways to prevent illness from spreading, especially during flu season or those first few germy weeks back at school.
Unfortunately with the best intentions, we parents have gone way overboard using chemically-based hand sanitizers.
Despite their popularity, these products present a danger to children because of their high alcohol content—remember, everything we put on our skin goes into our bloodstream. If we wouldn’t give our children alcoholic beverages, why would we put it on their skin?
Plus, they disrupt the skin’s natural microbial balance which ends up inhibiting our body’s ability to fight off pathogens.
Natural hand santizers like “Clean Well” are a great way to help prevent the spread of germs without toxic alcohol or have such a dramatic effect on the skin’s microbial balance.
You can also make your own at home using witch hazel and essential oils, check out this recipe here.
Back to School Natural Remedy #3: Bach Flower Remedies
Childhood is full of emotion, and children often need help processing feelings of nervousness, fear of unknown or separation anxiety that arise during their transition back-to-school.
The good news is you can help them create a greater sense of calm without resorting to medications.
The Bach Flowers remedies, discovered in 1932 by British physician and homeopath Dr. Edward Bach, are homeopathic formulas designed to help support emotional well-being in adults and children.
You can browse specific remedies for your child here, or do what I do, keep Rescue Remedy Kids handy. It’s alcohol-free, tastes great and contains specific flower essences to help with focus, patience, courage, fear and staying present.
All natural, no side effects and it works.
Back to School Natural Remedy #4: Garlic Mullein oil
Available at any natural foods store, this simple preparation of oil infused with fresh garlic and mullein is a life-saver for preventing ear and sinus infections.
At the first word of ear infections going around, drop a few drops into each of your children’s ears before bed and you will be singing its praises. I also use it any time my kids get a cold to prevent congestion from spreading to their ears or sinuses.
It’s also wonderful to rub on a child’s feet if they refuse or can’t stomach taking any remedies orally.
Back to School Natural Remedy #5: Probiotic Supplements
Your child’s gut, specifically their gut microbiome, is the key to maintaining healthy immunity, focus, and mental/emotional balance.
Sadly, much of school-culture involves processed foods, toxins and other stresses that can interfere with that precious bacterial balance. Add in a round or two of antibiotics for strep or other infections, and you’ve got a whole year of compromised immunity.
For this and many other reasons, I give my children a probiotic supplement in addition to cultured foods during the fall and winter season.
Quality really counts here, so be sure and look for a multi-strain probiotic/prebiotic supplement containing at least 50 million CFUs with NO artificial fillers, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives.
If you can get a professional brand from an integrative practitioner, even better.
It’s fine to give them an adult probiotic but give them only half or a quarter of an adult serving.
Back to School Natural Remedy #6: Peppermint Essential Oil
This is an oil I feel is greatly under-used as it works great for breaking up congestion from colds, improving cognitive function, AND for helping with nausea from stomach bugs.
Look for 100% pure essential oils (like this one). For colds, you can make a homemade salve using coconut oil and a few drops of peppermint.
For tummy trouble, use the same salve to rub into their abdomen, onto their feet or they can smell it directly from the bottle.
For cognitive function such as increasing alertness and focus, they can inhale directly from the bottle or you can add a few drops to a tissue and place it in their pocket.
Power to the Parents!
As caring parents, I fear we have given much of our healing intuition away to drug companies, corporate medicine and a slew of fear-based health campaigns. That’s not to say medical intervention isn’t ever necessary, of course it is! Antibiotics, steroids, etc. have their place and there is a time for every type of medicine.
BUT it is so important to resist the temptation towards fear and instead educate ourselves on all the choices available to appropriately support our children’s natural healing process.
Remember, acute illness is not a bad thing and will actually make our children stronger if we can learn to trust and support that process.
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend working with an integrative family physician, naturopath or pediatrician who can help provide guidance when you need it…and we all need a second opinion at times.
Heart-felt wishes to your family from mine for a healthy, happy and fulfilling school year ahead.