Herbal Teas For Your Family's Health

tea_shutterstock_1316190779By Ben Kligler, MD
As we wrestle with the various germs, ailments and complaints our children bring home from school every day—the colds, gastrointestinal (GI) bugs, headaches, stomach aches and overall misery—an excellent tool for the family to learn about is the use of herbal teas. Herbal medicines in various combinations have been used for thousands of years in multiple cultures around the world, and can be used very safely for the treatment of many childhood illnesses.

One great example is licorice tea, which, especially when combined with honey is a great symptom reliever for a sore throat. Many quality herbal teas contain licorice—Throat Coat by Traditional Medicinals  and Throat Comfort by Yogi Teas are just two examples—and they complement it with a variety of other herbals that can help with congestion, cough, and other symptoms of upper respiratory illness (URI).  Licorice can be a strong taste for some kids, but if you ease them into it (and add enough honey!) they can get to like it. And honey itself actually has medicinal properties—it has been shown to work as well as many over-the-counter cold remedies in reducing cough in children.[1]

Another example of an herbal to keep on hand is ginger, which is excellent for both nausea and for general gastrointestinal distress. Here again there are many good products available, and ginger is often combined with other herbal digestive aids like spearmint, peppermint, and fennel. And for sleep problems or mild anxiety—let’s say before a big test or a school play—chamomile tea is an excellent option to help relax and get to sleep.

Whenever I recommend herbal teas, I make sure to remind people that these are actually very effective medicines used in many cultures, and that they should take them with that in mind. For URI, for example, I would recommend specifically one cup of strong licorice tea 3-4 times daily, and expect the family to use it that way. This gives the herbal medicines the added “oomph” of “doctor’s orders,” which may help evoke the body’s natural healing response in and of itself. I think the idea of someone making you a warm cup of tea—or even of making it for yourself—is also very therapeutic: feeling taken care of helps immune function and overall psychological well-being as well. Finally, teas can be a great tool for children to learn self-care: in our house we always had a drawer of herbal teas, and once they were old enough the kids would go there themselves and take and make what they needed. And try to find organic herbal teas when you can—better for us and better for the environment as well.


[1] https://www.cochrane.org/CD007094/ARI_honey-acute-cough-children

Dr._Kligler

Dr. Kligler is the Medical Advisor for The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® and Professor of Family Medicine at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University. He is also the National Director of the Integrative Health Coordinating Center for the Veterans Health Administration and Research Director for the Center Institute for Research and Education in Integrative Medicine. He is Co-Director of the Beth Israel Fellowship Program in Integrative Medicine, and teaches in the Beth Israel Residency Program in Urban Family Practice. Dr. Kligler is the author of Curriculum in Complementary Therapies: A Guide for the Medical Educator, and co-editor of Integrative Medicine: Principles for Practice, a textbook published by McGraw-Hill. He is also Co-Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed journal Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing.

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