Using Herbs

Build Your Child’s Immune System With An Immune Boosting Tincture

August 28, 2013

How To Make An Immune Boosting Tincture For Children

If I could pick one thing that I do every year to prepare my family for cold and flu season, it would be stocking up on an Immune Boosting tincture.

Now don’t get me wrong… I love using garlic during this time of the year too, especially since it has awesome antibacterial properties, but when it comes to working to KEEP my family from catching what’s going around… it’s this tincture, hands down. I mainly use garlic when we actually do get sick with something so that it doesn’t turn into an infection of any sort. Make sense?

How The Immune System Works… Briefly

The immune system is the first line of defense we have against foreign invaders in our body. When something enters the body, eventually it will come into contact with a white blood cell.

White blood cells are constantly on the prowl looking for things that aren’t supposed to be there so they can destroy them. When one finds something, it sends out a signal that tells other white blood cells to come help him out. Once the others get there, they all work together to fight the intruder off.

As you know, foreign substances like viruses and bacteria continue to multiply as well. This gives the white blood cells a real run for their money. As the intruders continue to multiply and take over the bodies cells, the more and more white blood cells have to come and fight them.

This process continues until someone wins. Either the bodies immune system or the invaders.

Why Boost The Immune System

You see, if you give the body healthy foods to eat, then the body is going to start off far ahead of the invaders. It’s going to be strong and ready to protect and heal itself when it gets attacked. It’s like the walls of a city… standing guard to keep invaders out.

But, when something does get in or when there’s a crack in that wall the next line of defense is the soldiers on duty… the white blood cells or the immune system. It pays to have many of them on duty, looking for these invaders so that they can get a head start on defeating them. Nutrition in and of itself plays a huge role in keeping our immune system strong, but we can also use herbs to help stimulate or boost it when need be, specifically when we know there are invaders out and about.

When we use things like herbs to boost the body’s immune system, it gets more white blood cells patrolling in the blood stream and it allows the body to have more of them available to fight if they’re needed.

Immune Boosting Herbs

There are a lot of herbs out there.

Western herbs. Eastern herbs. Ayurvedic herbs. I’m sure there are others… I’m pretty sure they’re labeled depending upon where they originate from.

Herbs are plants. They’re weeds, and they grow all over the world. I’m a big believer in using the herbs that grow where you live for the things you need. I think our bodies become accustomed to our environments and they will respond to they plants that grow in our environment as well. But hey, that’s just me.

So if you’re looking for herbs that boost the immune system, all you need to do is Google “best immune boosting herbs” and then check to see if they’re okay for your kids to take or for you to take if your pregnant or nursing… or even if they’re okay for you to take if your currently taking medications of any sort. That may take a several Google searches, but remember… Google is your friend.

The herbs in the formula below are great for everyone. Kids, older folks, mamas nursing their baby, and mamas growing babies. Plus there’s no upper limit on how much to give, but we’ll talk more about dosage below.

Ingredients For Your Immune Boosting Tincture

Herbs

The herbs I use in this formula are:

Echinacea, elderberry, and astragalus are all major immune boosting herbs. In fact, I use all three of these herbs separately during this time of the year too. I make a single alcohol tincture of echinacea root to give at the first sign of illness, I make elderberry syrup for giving when flu-like symptoms come around, and my astragalus root goes into my chicken broth during the cooler months.

Nettle, rose hips, and peppermint are great nutritional herbs that are very beneficial to the body and help with the taste of the tincture… specifically the peppermint.

Menstrum

When it comes to picking a menstrum to make your tincture from – a menstrum is what you infuse your herbs into – you have two great options.

Alcohol or food grade vegetable glycerin. I personally make both, and here’s why.

Alcohol is a better preservative, but it also extracts the properties of the herb better. And… since alcohol is filtered by the liver, it works to get the herbs into the body well. At least that’s my thoughts on the subject. If you chose to use alcohol you need to go with a 40-50% alcohol (80-100 proof). Any kind will do. It just depends on the taste you’re looking for. Vodka is cheap, but tastes awful. Brandy is more expensive, but makes for a better tasting tincture. I just go for the cheap stuff usually because I mix my tinctures with juice to take them so I don’t really taste them anyway. An alcohol tincture will typically last 2 years although if they’re stored properly, they’ll last even longer.

Glycerin on the other hand is also a preservative, but it doesn’t last as long as alcohol. A glycerin tincture will usually last around 1 year. Another downside to glycerin is that it has a harder time extracting the properties of herbs so it’s better to make glycerin tinctures using some heat. Glycerin on the upside does flavor your tincture nicely and it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels so if you give this kind of tincture to you kid, he’s not going to be jumping off the walls 30 minutes later.

Like I said, I make both. The man and I take the alcohol one, and I give the kids a 50/50 mix of alcohol and glycerin… well maybe more like a 40/60 mix.

The reason I mix the kids has nothing to do with the alcohol. I don’t have aversions to alcohol in anyway, and giving my kids tinctures made with alcohol isn’t going to harm them. It’s not like they’re drinking the tincture. Gross! I guarantee you if your kid took a swig of most herbal alcohol tinctures, he’d spit it right back out. They’re not delicious or anything. The reason I mix it is for the taste. The glycerin sweetens it and my kids will take this tincture straight in their mouth this way… no fussing about it.

Making A Tincture

There’s not much to say about how to make a tincture in this post because I’ve already outlined it all here on the Using Herbs page – Making A Tincture/Glycerite. Just follow the steps, and in the end you’ll have a tincture. They’re super easy. Just try it once, and you’ll see!

How To Take Your Immune Boosting Tincture

When it comes to actually using your tincture, you’ll need to start taking it as soon as you want to start stimulating the immune system to work… like when a cold is going around or when official flu season starts and cases of it have been reported in your area.

The preventative dose I usually take is 1 dropperful 3 times a day… my kids get half that.

An active does (what I’d take when I started actually showing symptoms of a cold) would be 1 dropperful every 2 hours for the first day, then moving down to 1 dropperful every 4 hours the next day, and back to 1 dropperful 3 times a day from the third day on… again giving my kids half that does at the same frequency.


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35 Comments

  • Reply sarah birchmoon August 28, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    Hi! So, I am a DIY person, mostly. Herbs and medicine is a whole complicated ball of fun and I am glad to leave it to people like you. We received our immune tincture yesterday and I tried it first, hmmm, not bad. Started the kids as school starts next week. going to public school means a whole litany of viral fun and I am so happy to have the help. thanks, Sarah

    • Reply Meagan August 28, 2013 at 2:15 PM

      You’re so welcome Sarah! Glad I could help!

  • Reply Jill's Home Remedies August 28, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    I really enjoy making this immune tincture too! :)

    • Reply Meagan August 28, 2013 at 2:16 PM

      Yay!!!

  • Reply Gretchen August 28, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    Do you use equal proportions of the herbs to make your tincture? Thanks!

    • Reply Meagan August 28, 2013 at 2:22 PM

      You know Gretchen, I probably do it differently each time, but I try to stick with equal parts of the echinaceas and the nettle, followed by equal parts of peppermint, elderberry, and astragalus, and finally rose hips are the smallest amount. So for instance to mix up a small amount of immune boosting herb mix you could do 3 TBSP each of echinacea leaf, root, and nettle, then 2 TBSP each of peppermint, elderberry, and astragalus, then 1 TBSP of rose hips. You can always adjust those amounts according to how much you want to make. And, if you don’t think it has enough peppermint flavor, next time add more of it. Just play around with it and see what you come up with.

  • Reply Morgan September 1, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    Just wondered if you cold give this to a one year old? Thanks!

    • Reply Meagan September 1, 2013 at 3:12 PM

      Yes, definitely!!

  • Reply manu November 25, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    hello
    I was wondering if you would make your immune system booster to sell?
    I dont know much about herbs or to prepare glycerides, but you seem to know a lot about it. We live in Los angeles, and my 5 year old never seems to get over colds… we eat kind of healthy, no fast food, organic veggies and fruits, little meat, dont smoke, have humidifiers but my son as soon as cold is in the air, gets all the colds from school, brings them home and passes it to us and my 1 year old also… who gets very stuffy and then gets an ear infection.

    Looking for a way to boost my 5y old immune system I came across your tinctures… could you make one and send it to me to try?

    or maybe could I get it in a compound, natural or homeopathic pharmacy? I have one very close… could you let me know what to ask for in the pharmacy?
    thank you!
    manu

    • Reply Meagan November 25, 2013 at 11:15 PM

      Hey Manu! Thanks for contacting me. Yes, I used to sell my immune booster in my Etsy shop, but I’m not any longer. Making a glycerite is actually very simple. Check out my Using Herbs page on how to make them to see how to make one step by step. You can also get a premade version of an immune boosting blend here with Bulk Herb Store. It’s a great start, and it’s a better price than buying one in a store. But, if you’d rather not buy your own, this is a great company with a good one for kids. Hope this helps!!

  • Reply Annie January 11, 2014 at 5:57 PM

    Hi! I am breastfeeding and was checking up on herbs that are ok and not ok for breastfeeding and peppermint came up as a possible problem with milk supply. Do you think I can just leave it out? Or maybe make myself my own batch? I might do that. I also couldn’t find stinging nettle at our natural food store, so I don’t have that one either.

    • Reply Meagan January 11, 2014 at 6:47 PM

      I’ve never heard of peppermint causing problems with milk supply. I looked it up in a few different herbal reference books and online and I’m not seeing anything. I’d love to know where you got that info though because I may have missed something. As far as the nettle goes Bulk Herb Store and Mountain Rose Herbs both sell it. Hope that helps a bit!

      • Reply Annie January 11, 2014 at 7:08 PM

        This was the main article I was reading- http://www.earthmamaangelbaby.com/mama-resources/reading-room/herbs-to-avoid-during-breastfeeding. I know you can’t always trust everything you read, so I try to be flexible and do more research than just one article :). Okay, thanks for the info about where to get the stinging nettle. One more question- I was reading about the garlic. How do you make the garlic oil? And with the tea, would I just boil it with water? Thanks so much for your time in answering my questions. I am working on boosting everyone’s immune systems, obviously :).

        • Reply Meagan January 11, 2014 at 10:25 PM

          Thanks so much for getting me that link. Melinda at Earth Mama Angel Baby is a world of knowledge… I’d totally trust what she has to say when it comes to pregnancy, babies, and breastfeeding. I mean, she’s built her business around those things. I’ve honestly never heard that though, and after reading that article, I went back and researched again… in more books and looked around on a site for herbalists that I’m a member of. Nothing… nada. Can’t find anything about peppermint decreasing breastmilk, only that if you’re prone to bleeding or miscarriage during pregnancy not to drink strong infusions or take peppermint oil internally during that time. I’m not saying she’s wrong though… I don’t have a lot of the books she referenced in the article so I don’t know where she’s coming from.

          To make any herbal oil –> http://www.growingupherbal.com/how-to-make-an-herbal-infused-body-oil-for-your-baby/ (read step 1 – infusing your oil)
          To make tea –> http://www.growingupherbal.com/using-herbs/making-a-tea/
          and here –> http://www.growingupherbal.com/how-to-make-a-perfect-cup-of-herbal-tea/

          • Annie January 11, 2014 at 10:38 PM

            Thank you!!! Thanks so much for getting back to me so quickly and thanks for doing that research. I had read about peppermint and pregnancy. Again, thanks so much.

          • Meagan January 11, 2014 at 11:03 PM

            You’re very welcome!

  • Reply Lee January 13, 2014 at 10:43 PM

    Meagan, thanks for the valuable information you offer. I’m particularly interested in learning about boosting kid’s immune systems. I looked at your combo ingredients for the tincture and one thing I didn’t see was Inula helenium, a herb I read about recently. I wondered if you had any opinion of this herb, pro or con. Thanks.

    • Reply Meagan January 13, 2014 at 11:12 PM

      Hi Lee… thanks for your comment. Yes, elecampane is a great herb, but it’s mainly used for respiratory issues like colds, coughs, bronchitis… things of that nature. It has been used to remove intestinal parasites and help with yeast, but like I said… it’s a big respiratory herb and that’s the reason it’s not in this blend. I don’t know of it having any real immune boosting properties… perhaps some due to the fact that it’s a respiratory herb that helps keep infections at bay, but it’s not immune boosting in the way the other herbs listed are. Now if you or your child had an affinity for developing respiratory infections when colds come around, you could always add it or use it in another preparation like cough drops or a syrup. Great question though!! Hope this helps you!

  • Reply Emalee February 6, 2014 at 11:56 PM

    Hi Meagan,

    I just found your site from Shalommama.com and I am loving all this wonderful info you are sharing! One quick question for you: Do you have a preference on the type of echinacea that you use? Also, I am very excited to try my hand at making this for the first time and I will likely be buying these herbs in bulk. (I apologize if you’ve posted on this before) are any of these herbs good for using in teas on a more as needed basis rather than a make ahead? I’m just wondering if I purchase 1lb of nettle if i will have many occasions where I can use it outside of this tincture. TIA!

    • Reply Meagan February 7, 2014 at 10:25 PM

      Good questions Emalee, and I’m so glad you’re here. I love Shalom Mama! Nina is awesome!

      As far as echinacea goes, this calls for the leaf, but I throw in a bit of root too because I feel like it has stronger properties. I think the most common echinacea is E. purpurea, but you can really use any.

      You can actually make this very blend as a tea and drink it. If you include the hard herbs (roots), just make sure you let it steep longer… about 30 minutes as opposed to the normal 5-10 minutes.

      And as far as nettle goes… add it to everything! Nettle is super nutritious. Drink that tea on a daily basis, put it in your homemade broth, blend it into your smoothies. Seriously… it’s good stuff!!

      Hope that helps… glad to have you here!

      • Reply Emalee February 8, 2014 at 2:27 AM

        Thank you for getting back to me so quickly :) I must admit nettle always scared me because of that whole “stinging” part in it’s name, but I’ve seen it around enough that I’m past that (thankfully). I’m very excited to start my “learning more about herbs” journey and I think this is just the perfect place to begin!

        • Reply Meagan February 8, 2014 at 9:29 AM

          Yes, that part does scare a lot of people, but the stinging only comes from the little hairs on it and those are “deactivated” for a lack of a better word with heat. So if you make a tea or use it in your food, you don’t have to worry about it. Plus, with teas, tinctures, and homemade broths, you strain the herbs out before you drink them anyway. No worries there!

  • Reply Hos Haus Mama May 8, 2014 at 8:34 AM

    What is your experience with the shelf life of this particular tincture? I know it’s much longer when using some sort of alcohol base, but not sure with a glycerite. I just threw out a very bitter lemon balm glycerite from last summer – it was awful. Tips? Tricks?

    • Reply Meagan May 8, 2014 at 9:03 AM

      Humm… I’ve had this one stay good for over a year when stored in a cool dry place and untouched… meaning we weren’t using it at the time so there was no chance of contaminating it. Another thing you can do is store your tinctures in the fridge to help them stay good for longer… you can also add in just a touch of alcohol to the glycerite to help preserve it a bit too. Totally your choice. Also, it will depend on the herbs you’re using in your tincture. If you use fresh herbs, you’re introducing more water to the mix which will cause it to not last as long. Dry herbs are better for long term storage in my opinion. The rule of thumb is that alcohol tinctures stay good for 2 years while glycerin tinctures stay good for 1 year. Of course there are exceptions, and I almost always have them last longer than that. Hope that helps a bit.

  • Reply Charlene June 21, 2014 at 9:02 PM

    Hello,

    Thank you for this information. When you say “dropperful,” what does that equal? A teaspoon? What kind of dropperful?
    Thanks,
    Charlene

    • Reply Meagan June 21, 2014 at 9:22 PM

      Great question Charlene. A dropperful typically means whatever comes up in the glass tube when you squeeze the rubber bulb once… usually it fills up 1/3 of the way full. This is equal to right around 30 drops give or take a few. Hope that answers your question. If not, let me know, and I’ll try to be more specific.

  • Reply Veronika September 13, 2014 at 8:31 PM

    I just recently discovered your site (which is awesome, by the way! :) and I’m wondering whether I can make this tincture with honey (for my kid). I’ve read in your earlier post a recipe for honey tincture — would it work in this case? I just think it’ll be much easier for my kid to take it.

    Also, can I take this alcohol or glycerin based tincture mixed with tea or juice? Or it wouldn’t be as effective?

    Many thanks!

    • Reply Meagan September 16, 2014 at 1:23 PM

      Yes Veronika, you can infuse these herbs into honey. It definitely won’t be as strong as using alcohol, but it will work. You can also infuse them into apple cider vinegar and then mix that with honey if you’d like too. That’s called an “oxymel,” and it tastes good too… plus the vinegar is healthy and it really draws the medicinal properties out of the herbs well.

      If you decide to make it with alcohol, then definitely mix it in something like juice or tea to get your kiddo to take it. Alcohol tinctures usually don’t taste too great so they need to be mixed in order to get kids to take them. It doesn’t change the effectiveness of the herbs either.

  • Reply MJ November 24, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    I have a question about allergies. I am allergic to the daisy family, so have naturally disappointed for years that I can not benefit from Echinachea. I also suspect a peppermint allergy since every time I take or eat any peppermint I get a terrible stomach ache and sometimes swelling of the throat. What recipe or ingredients would you recommend to replace these? I also have a 7 year old -who I have been hesitant to introduce to these plants for fear she may also have inherited these same sensitivities. What are your thoughts? We are an almost completely natural remedy family, but inevitably someone in our house always ends up getting the flu, a sinus infection, or strep (always DH who is on immune suppressants). I would love to have something more reliable in our medicine cabinet. Thanks!

    • Reply Meagan November 24, 2014 at 9:39 PM

      Well, whether it’s you or your daughter that you want to test for herbal allergies, this is the method I’d personally use as the dose starts so small. As far as replacing herbs, it depends on how you’re using the herb. If you’re using the echinacea to boost your immune system, maybe you could try elderberry or astragalus root instead. If you want to work through a sinus infection naturally, I love olive leaf. It helps to keep infections at bay when I get sick with a head cold. As far as strep, thyme or sage work really well there. Again, it’s not just replacing one herb with another in all cases… it depends on the way the herb is being used. And of course, always check out the family of the herb you’re using first to make sure you don’t have any reactions. For example, sage is part of the mint family so if you have problems with peppermint, you’d definitely wanna do an allergy test for sage before using it. Hope this helps!

  • Reply MJ November 26, 2014 at 12:38 AM

    Thank you so much! I have both olive leaf and elderberry around all the time, but did not know I could use the olive leaf for sinus related issues.. We also take astragalus regularly, but have been concerned the pill form is not as effective as homemade tincture could be (I haven’t gotten that far into herbs yet). I am just starting to navigate your posts lately, and am loving everything. Is there a post on getting an herbal education? I am so nervous about signing up for an online program, it seems like this stuff would be safer to learn and experiment with in person. Thanks again! You are a blessing.

    • Reply Meagan November 26, 2014 at 9:45 AM

      No problem MJ, and yes, I do recommend The Herbal Academy of New England for online herbal studies. Their info is easy to understand, hands on, and the site is easy to navigate. Plus their prices are EXCELLENT as far as herbal schools go. This is the link to their introductory course which is probably where you’ll want to start. They also just opened up their Herbarium which is a membership site that gives you lots of unique content on using herbs. You can find more about it here.

  • Reply Nicole December 1, 2014 at 3:29 PM

    Meagan – I’m thinking of making a honey-based tincture for my son using the crockpot method you describe on your making tinctures page.

    What do you think about pureeing the mixture before straining it? I’m thinking this would make for a very strong extract of the root, which is what I’m aiming for.

    • Reply Meagan December 2, 2014 at 9:57 AM

      What herbs are you using Nicole? What you’re describing sounds like my garlic syrup which is basically pureed honey and garlic and it is strong depending on how much garlic you use. Here’s the thing with honey… if you’re using raw honey, you don’t want to heat it at all. If you’re using cheap honey for it’s flavor and moisturizing properties, then you can definitely do this, but keep in mind it shouldn’t be used on kids under 1 and whatever herbs you infuse into it will flavor it a bit so strong herbs may give it a nasty taste.

      Another option is to make an alcohol or glycerin tincture and mix the dosage with a little raw honey to hide the flavor. You could even mix it in some herb balls to hid it too.

  • Reply Nicole December 2, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    Ooops! Sorry – I should have mentioned that I was thinking of using just astragalus. (Incidentally, I do make a garlic syrup inspired by your syrup, only I used lacto-fermented garlic in mine with a raw buckwheat honey.)

    Since I have access to only dried slices or powdered astragalus root, I’m not that confident honey would be effective enough menstrum. That’s why I was wondering about pureeing the honey with astragalus before straining to get a bit more of the astragalus in the “tincture”. I don’t have any access to food-grade vegetable glycerine that I don’t have to buy online and wait weeks to receive. Pre-made locally purchased gylcerites are far too expensive for me to be buying frequently (especially given how easy it could be for me to make them myself). And I don’t want to use alcohol in remedies for my son at the moment (although I have no qualms about giving him the small amounts in tinctures). So I figured honey would be the most accessible option for me. I buy only local, raw honey, and I never, ever heat it when used in medicine making, so no worries there.

    Also, my son is two and a half, though I am well aware of the botulism issue with children under one year.

    I like your idea of herb balls; I hadn’t even thought of that. And it would be a much more effective way of getting herbs like astragalus into my son. The trick will be developing an herb ball a picky and suspicious toddler such as my son will actually eat…

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