Natural Remedies for your Baby’s Cold

A mum from my daughter’s nursery asked me one day, why my ten-month old’s nose never runs. I was confused, of course my daughter catches the periodic cold; I just keep cleaning her nose when that happens. But over months I started observing the other kids at her nursery and realised what she meant. At the end of the nursery day, many of the kids had dried snot collected around their nose. Some of the kids had this happening more often than not and my daughter was definitely not one of them.

I have no scientific proof, but it is possible that some of the herbal suplements my mother had me take while I breastfed my daughter could’ve improved her resistance to the common cold. We are lucky to be privy to ancient natural remedies while having access to western medicine and am thus sharing this knowledge here. I am however not a doctor and this is not meant to be medical advice. These is simply a share of grandma’s remedies for the common cold, passed from generation to generation across millions of Indian families.

Turmeric (curcuma longa)

img courtesy bushrab2011.blogspot

img courtesy bushrab2011.blogspot

Seldom used in western foods, turmeric is the queen of spices in India and has been part of Chinese and Indian medicine since seventh century AD. Typically the root of the plant is used. It is used in everything – salads, curries, vegetables, breads, you name it. If that isn’t enough turmeric claims to cure a zillion other things. Google benefits of turmeric and you will come across many websites that list the numerous benefits of turmeric, including cancer prevention, relief from arthritis, weight loss, control of diabetes and cholestrol, and slowing down of Alzheimer’s disease. Some of these claims are based on scientific research, however this is all early stage research and we do not accurately know how awesome turmeric is.

Grandma’s Remedy 1: Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory and also warms the body internally. Consuming turmeric helps the body fight off germs. My brother and I, and more recently my niece, nephew and daughter grew up swallowing crushed turmeric every morning with our glass of milk. While my daughter was being exclusively breastfed, she got the turmeric from the turmeric I ingested. Now that she drinks cow’s milk, I sprinkle a bit of turmeric into her milk before I heat it. As an adult I simple shove a tea spoon of turmeric in my mouth and swallow it with water or milk.

Grandma’s Remedy 2: Turmeric has a very distinct flavour that may not suit all pallettes. So another easy way to ingest turmeric is to make a paste of turmeric and honey. This is especially soothing when one also has a bad throat. The honey-turmeric paste coats the throat providing relief and the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric help heal the throat in addition to everything else. Babies under one should not be having honey, so this only works for toddlers and older kids.

Grandma’s Remedy 3: A third way of consuming turmeric is to boil milk with some salt and turmeric and then to drink the milk after it’s cooled down but is still reasonably warm. I never got used to the taste of salt in my milk, but people swear by this for coughs and colds.

Portion Control: I don’t know of anyone who has suffered any side effects from turmeric. However as it generates heat, the amount of turmeric consumed should be controlled. I consume a maximum of two tea spoons per day when I am well. My two year old probably ingests less than a quarter of a tea spoon each day, across her three glasses of milk.

Where can I get it: The larger Waitroses stock small packets of turmeric, as do many of the independent groceries – especially the organic ones. If your local grocery doesn’t have it you can order the turmeric from Amazon or from Holland and Barrett. Though your cheapest option is to get some from an Indian grocery store. For those of you in London, Wembley has a lot of Indian groceries. Make sure you purchase good quality turmeric. While our household turmeric comes directly from India, we use the Fudco brand for other spices and have found the quality of their spices to be pretty good.

I’ve provided a couple links on turmeric if you want to read more. They do not talk about the common cold specifically, but give more health related information on the spice.

Saffron (crocus sativus)

img courtesy swide.com

img courtesy swide.com

Saffron is less exotic and has properties similar to turmeric. It is however much more potent than turmeric and should be used in very small doses. It is also the world’s most expensive spice and we only use it when there is a special need – like a cold that just won’t go away. Like turmeric, saffron claims to help abate several diseases – including asthma, whooping cough, insomnia, cancer, and my personal favourite, premature ejaculation. :)

Grandma’s Remedy 1: As with turmeric, saffron is a heat generating herb and helps fight off germs. Unlike turmeric, saffron is not commercially available in powdered form. The long saffron threads need to be crushed before consumption using a mortar and pestle. I introduced saffron to my daughter after she started consuming cow’s milk. When her cold refuses to go away, I sprinkle very little crushed saffron (the amount that would fit on a small nail head or less) in her milk before heating it.

Grandma’s Remedy 2: When she was younger we’d sometimes create a thin paste of saffron and water and apply it on my daughter’s forhead. I have no idea how this works, but it was supposed to give her relief from a clogged nose, facilitating easier breathing while asleep.

Portion Control: I’ve said it earlier, in the world of natural remedies saffron is quite potent. WebMD provides some clear guidance on dosage and side effects. My daughter ingested saffron only after she turned one. We still never give her more than the amount that can sit on the head of a small nail.

Where can I get: Saffron is easily available – most groceries stock it. It is expensive no matter where you buy it from. The best Saffron comes from Spain and the Kashmir region of India – Spanish saffron, Indian Kashmir Saffron. Quality saffron threads will be thick and long.

Castor Oil (ricinus communis)

img courtesy iherb.com

img courtesy iherb.com

Castor oil enjoys the same god-like status as turmeric in India. In south India warmed castor oil is rubbed on a baby’s stomach to reduce colic. Everywhere in India, it is used to massage a baby’s scalp and body – to strengthen scalp hair and moisturise the skin. It is also used on post natal women to massage the stomach back to its normal size.

Grandma’s Remedy: Castor oil is not ingested for colds but used as a much more effective altnerative to saline drops. Saline drops sting. Warmed castor oil is much more gentle on the baby’s soft skin. The warm oil will dissolve all snoot blocking the baby’s nasal cavities. It will moisturise the skin around the nose, that may have dried out due to constant cleaning. When done just before the baby is tucked in for the night, it allows the baby to sleep better by reducing the congestion.

I love castor oil. It gave my daughter relief on many nights when nothing else worked. To administer the oil, warm a little in the microwave. You will only need a couple drops. Test it to make sure it is warm and not hot. Place the baby in your lap, with head tilted slightly back. Take the oil on your index finger and generously coat the nasal openings, allowing the oil to slowly seep into the nostrils. Then wait for the magic to happen.

Oil in the nostrils produces a funny sensation and an even funnier taste in the back of your mouth. So this may not work for toddlers who are more sqirmy and better at running away, but this is the best natural parenting hack for babies who haven’t yet learnt to blow their nose.

Where can I get: Castor oil is not easily available in regular groceries. Holland and Barrett stock it, as does Amazon.

If you choose to try any of the above remedies, I’d love to hear of your experiences. If you have your own set of natural remedies, please share. If you like reading about stuff like this, please follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Related:

1. Seafood to avoid when pregnant
2. Easy foods to serve toddlers
3. Fighting off itchy skin during pregnancy

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