When a child has a bad cough, parents can feel helpless. You want so badly to be able to help, to give him some relief and help him sleep. There’s just nothing quite as upsetting as watching your little one’s eyes water as she coughs until she has to gasp for breath.
What if there were an all-natural cough syrup safe for kids to take? One that actually works. There is! In fact, there are a couple different choices … but first, why not just head to the drugstore?
Over-the-Counter Cough Syrup
When I was a kid and had a cough, my mom would give me some kind of over-the-counter cough syrup. I remember how much I hated that taste!
Even so, I bought a few bottles of cough expectorants and suppressants for my own kids in my early years of being a mom.
As I recall, they did seem to help. But in the last several years, studies were done that showed children’s cough syrup had pretty much no effect. Even worse, the studies said that these medicines might even be dangerous.
Sometime between the births of my second and third sons, they stopped selling commercial cough syrup for kids. I remember thinking, “Well, now what are we supposed to do?”
Alternatives to Over-the-Counter Cough Syrup for Kids
Over the years, I’ve learned several tricks that help settle a child’s cough without using any sort of medicine. Perhaps the easiest trick is to use steam.
When moist air is drawn into the lungs, it helps to open up the airways and to loosen phlegm so that it can be expelled (coughed out!) It’s a relatively cheap and effective way to ease coughing in kids.
The simplest method is to create a steam room in your bathroom. Turn the shower on full blast with hot water. Depending on the size of your room, it will fill with steam in about 5-15 minutes.
The child should sit in the steamy bathroom for about 20-30 minutes. (The water will need to continue running to keep the room steamy, of course.)
An older child can try taking deep breaths to draw the steam more deeply into his lungs.
A less expensive alternative is to use a vaporizer. These little machines use water and a bit of salt to create steam. We like to run them in the coughing person’s bedroom overnight.
What about going to the doctor?
For many, heading to the orthodox medical doctor is a first resort when their children get sick. While I’ll definitely head to the doctor for an emergency, it’s my preference to do what we can at home to support the body in healing itself from things like the common cold, cough, or upset stomach.
When a child has a cough, a medical doctor typically prescribes albuterol breathing treatments. While these treatments do help settle a cough in the short term, they don’t support the body’s healing efforts and may actually prolong the cough.
Furthermore, according to some research, these common medications may cause changes in mood and weaken normal immune function.
All Natural Cough Syrup Safe for Kids
When there’s a natural alternative that’s just as effective and safer than the standard medical choice, I’m all over it. I happen to know of, not one, but two natural cough syrups that have been effective for my own family.
Herbal Cough Syrup made with Mullein and Plantain
Two common “weeds,” mullein and plantain are both perfect for coughs because they reduce inflammation and are expectorants, meaning that they help the body to loosen and expel mucus from the lungs.
Mullein also has anti-spasmodic action, making it ideal for calming those hard, incessant coughs that lead to gasping.
A simple tincture made from equal parts mullein and plantain leaves (and then turned into a glycerite to remove the alcohol), is a wonderful herbal cough syrup for kids – and adults too! With six people in my family, we’ve given this blend a good test several times and have always had good results.
Old-Fashioned Cherry Bark Herbal Cough Syrup
I call cherry bark old-fashioned only because it’s probably the oldest cough syrup for kids known. In fact, the reason commercial cough syrups are cherry flavored is because they originally contained cherry bark tincture!
The dried inner bark of wild cherry – also called chokecherry or black cherry – is expectorant, soothing, and toning to the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. It also quiets the nerves and has a mildly sedative effect, making cherry bark cough syrup a great choice for kids who are anxious or having trouble resting.
Cherry bark cough syrup has the added distinction of being voted “The Best Tasting Herbal Medicine Mom Has Ever Made” by my kids.
If you’re making your own cough syrup, I suggest harvesting the bark in the fall, making an alcohol tincture, and then turning it into a glycerite. See the links above for complete instructions.
What if you can’t make your own cough syrup?
Even though I love making my own natural medicines, I recognize that not everyone wants to do the same. Thankfully, many companies make all-natural cough syrups that are effective and safe for kids to take.
Here are a few suggestions (with links to Amazon, for your convenience):
- Herbs for Kids Cherry Bark Blend (contains cherry bark, mullein, and other herbs helpful for coughs)
- Mullein Respiratory Blend: Dry Cough Formula from TincTract
- Mullein Respiratory Blend for Kids from Cedar Bear
- Herb Lore Organic Quiet Cough Tincture (contains mullein and other herbs)
- Bronchial Wellness for Kids from Gaia Kids (contains plantain and other herbs)
If you’d like to make your own cough syrup but don’t want to wildcraft the herbs, check out Starwest Botanicals for high quality, organic bulk herbs. I’ve been happy with everything I’ve purchased from them.
Don’t forget to support the immune system!
Along with using an all-natural cough syrup safe for kids, it’s important to support the body’s immune system. Try these tips for staying healthy to help your family get well faster and to keep sickness at bay next time!
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This information has not been evaluated by the FDA and is intended only for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure disease. Always consult a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your healthcare routine.
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Axe, Dr. Josh. “Top Home Remedies for Asthma.” Dr. Axe: Food is Medicine. Dr. Axe, 2017.
Christopher, John R., Dr. School of Natural Healing. Christopher Publications, Inc., 2014.
Green, James. The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual. Crossing Press, 2000.