Holistic Parenting

Tips to keep your children healthy naturally
By Jeff Cohen

Nothing is more important than our health—except the health of our children. From the time they are infants through young adulthood, nearly everything our sons and daughters eat, drink, inhale, swallow, or rub on their skin is determined by their parents—often at the advice of a pediatrician. While conventional practitioners know conventional treatments, holistic-minded parents must educate themselves on proper care for their children.

It’s 6:52 a.m. on a Tuesday, and my four-year-old son awakes with puffy eyes. He looks like a knocked-out boxer in a post-fight press conference.

“Daddy, if I am awake, why can’t I see anything?”

You’ve got to love toddler questions.

“Well, Gabe, I’m guessing you have pinkeye.” Anyone with young kids knows that a simple answer won’t suffice—more questions are coming.

“Did I play with something pink yesterday? Aren’t my eyes brown? Could I get orange eye ‘cause that’s my favorite color?”

Flash ahead two hours and we leave the eye doctor with prescription in hand. The diagnosis is not pinkeye—it’s pollen allergies. The scribbled blue paper calls for ocular steroid eye drops.

Fast forward another hour, and I’m dangling the first drop over a frightened, wincing little boy. Landing the first drop will be harder than typing on a BlackBerry with my knuckles. First drop lands on his shirt. Second drop douses his forehead. Third drop cures the carpet but not my kid.

“Let’s take a break before we finish the bottle,” I say. Perusing the label, I can’t help but notice the warnings. Warning number one: May cause elevated pressure inside the eye that can lead to vision damage. Warning number two: May increase the risk of cataracts clouding the lens of the eye that can impair vision.

Whoa! I’m trying to cure the kid, not blind him! Does a four-year-old need steroids? Didn’t all those ballplayers that took steroids experience back acne, bulging necks, hair loss, and anger-management problems?

Maybe my missing Gabe’s eye with the drops was a blessing. I called Lawrence Rosen, MD, our holistic-minded pediatrician. “Try Optique, a homeopathic treatment for eye irritation,” he explained. “Let him lie down with his eyes closed, aim the drop at the inner corner of the eye, and ask him to blink a couple times.”

No vision damage, no cloudy lens, no wrestling matches—count me in!

Gabe and I improved our eye drop accuracy, and two days later he could see perfectly again. Welcome to the beginning of our journey from conventional to holistic parenting. Never again would my wife and I blindly fill prescriptions.

Weeks later I ran into our eye doctor at the grocery store and asked him about Optique. “Never heard of it,” he responded. “It’s a homeopathic alternative to steroid drops,” I explained. Who knew eye doctors could have such blank stares!

The puffy-eye experience changed the way my wife and I looked at doctors. We realized that conventional doctors know conventional treatments, but holistic parents like us want the total picture. Sadly, you can’t find a holistic eye doctor, physical therapist, and gastroenterologist in every city.

I’m not here to tell you to ultimately pick the conventional or holistic choice—that’s your job as a loving parent. I just want you armed with credible information when you need it, namely the point at which a doctor hands you the prescription. We’re all busy. We all scan the Internet for health information when we need it. But who wrote these articles? Is it an established medical professional or a bored, opportunistic teenager?

I have been very fortunate to be partnered with Dr. Rosen, a renowned and board-certified pediatrician committed to family-centered, holistic childcare. He’s a nationally recognized expert in pediatric integrative medicine and understands the full spectrum of conventional and natural treatment options.

That’s the beauty of integrative medicine—it’s not either/or, but the best of both. Dr. Rosen approaches medicine from a standpoint that is holistic, not reactive. This requires him to understand what is happening within the body and the environment before prescribing a potentially harmful drug.

Our book, Treatment Alternatives for Children, was created by pairing questions from a holistic-minded parent with the professional experience of a holistic-minded pediatrician. Dr. Rosen makes everyone feel comfortable from the second they walk through the door of the Whole Child Center. His personality perfectly suits his pediatric patients. By speaking to them (and not to their looming parents) Dr. Rosen gets to know his charges and takes their wellness personally.

When your child is sick, your number one goal is to make him or her feel better fast. With young children, this can be especially difficult since they may not have the language skills to tell you what is wrong. Our book covers nearly 100 childhood ailments, offering a description of the conventional treatment method alongside a natural, homeopathic, and/or holistic alternative to the conventional treatment.

The goal is to provide you with integrative choices to make your own informed medical decisions the next time your kid coughs, sneezes, aches, drips, limps, or itches. The book is not designed to replace the medical advice of your family pediatrician, but rather be a resource to provide you the information to understand your treatment options.

Many of the treatments we cover use common, everyday items that can be acquired at your local natural grocer. Two conditions parents often deal with are constipation and insect bites. Both conditions can be treated with off-the-shelf, readily available items that have very minor side effects.

Constipation is defined as difficulty in passing stools or the inability to pass stools. Symptoms of constipation include hardened and painful stools, nausea, stomach pain, cramping, or changes in the frequency of urination. In children of potty training age, constipation is common due to the avoidance of the toilet. Changes in diet—especially increased junk food consumption—milk allergies, and dehydration may also cause constipation. Constipation can also be a side effect of many medications.

The conventional remedy for constipation is the use of polyethylene glycol 3350, found in products such as Miralax. This helps soften the stool and makes the process of having a bowel movement easier by balancing the water in the digestive system. This is not intended for children under two and the dosage is based on the weight of the child. The most common side effects are nausea, cramping, stomach pains, gas, and bloating, with an allergic reaction being a less common side effect.

The holistic treatment alternative is the use of flaxseed powder (available at natural grocers under brands such as Bob’s Red Mill). Flaxseeds work as a natural stool softener. One tablespoon taken daily with fluids, fruits, or vegetables is all that is needed. The only side effects are gas and diarrhea.

Insect bites are another common childhood ailment. In most cases, the reaction is minor and includes skin irritation, pain, or redness. If your child is allergic to the insect bite, the reaction may turn into hives, difficulty breathing, severe swelling, abdominal pain, and nausea. In the cases of an allergic reaction, you should consult your pediatrician or other professional healthcare provider. In most cases the insect bite can be treated at home. The most common insect bites come from mosquitos, flies, and ants.

The conventional treatment for insect bites is the use of benzocaine, found in brands like Lanacane Anti-Itch. This is a topical anesthetic that provides temporary relief from itching caused by insect bites. For children under two, consult your doctor before use; for children over two, clean the affected area and apply a small amount topically one to three times daily. Do not use longer than seven days. The most common side effects are mild burning, stinging, irritation, redness, or itching. In less common cases, the child may experience an allergic reaction, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, headache, fatigue, confusion, severe burning or stinging, blistering, or methemoglobinemia (a blood disorder).

The holistic treatment is the use of baking soda. Arm and Hammer baking soda has alkaline properties that help neutralize a bite or sting caused by insects. The application is relatively simple—after cleaning the skin, apply topically as a paste to insect bites. To make paste, use a three-to-one ratio of baking soda to water. Apply as needed until pain and itching subside. Other than minor stinging there are no other side effects. Baking soda is a natural pH neutralizer, counteracting most acid solutions. This makes it a perfect choice for soothing stings and bites, as many insect venoms are acidic.

These are just a few examples of common-sense solutions that our children encounter every day. Don’t you owe it to your children to be prepared so that you can make informed decisions concerning your child’s healthcare?


Jeff Cohen is the author of three books and the holistic parent of two young children. Lawrence Rosen, MD, is a nationally recognized expert in pediatric integrative medicine and Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Integrative Medicine. Together they wrote Treatment Alternatives for Children, a comprehensive reference guide for parents that offers side-by-side comparisons between conventional and alternative treatment options for nearly 100 common childhood illnesses, from allergies and asthma to sinusitis and sore throats.


10 Spice Rack Resources

1. Basil: Basil is an herb that is also a natural expectorant. It is helpful in treating illnesses that involve excess mucus, such as a cold. It may also help soothe earaches and provide relief from indigestion.

2. Cayenne pepper: Cayenne pepper has anti-inflammatory properties beneficial for the management of allergies, arthritis, and diabetes. It is also known to alleviate headaches, lower blood pressure, and promote healthy cholesterol levels. Additionally, cayenne pepper may encourage proper circulation in the body.

3. Cinnamon: Cinnamon boosts memory recall, is thought to improve cognition, and has a regulatory effect on blood sugar that is beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes. It is known for its cardiovascular benefits, as cinnamon consumption is thought to reduce the risk of heart attack and heart disease. It can also help lower LDL cholesterol.

4. Cloves: Cloves have proven to be useful in the treatment of fungal infections such as ringworm. They are also a natural insect repellent when used in oil form. Cloves are high in antioxidants, helping protect the body from illness and disease.

5. Dill: Dill has a calming effect and may be useful in the treatment of sleep problems like insomnia. This herb is also known as a digestive aid, helping to treat problems like diarrhea or upset stomach.

6. Mint: Mint is known for its ability to relieve nausea, particularly when sipped in tea form. Mint also aids in digestion, providing relief from stomach cramps and discomfort associated with irritable bowel syndrome.

7. Oregano: A natural source of omega-3, iron, potassium, and fiber, oregano is also an antibacterial that helps strengthen the body’s immune system. It can help shorten the duration and alleviate symptoms of a cold.

8. Rosemary: Rosemary is an herb high in antioxidants that also has anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antiseptic properties, making it beneficial in treating and preventing a wide variety of health problems, including skin infections and fungi. It also offers respiratory relief for those with chest colds or asthma.

9. Thyme: Thyme is rich in vitamins and minerals that aid in promoting overall health. It is helpful—especially in oil or tea form—in treating congestion and coughs associated with croup, bronchitis, or other such illnesses. Thyme promotes oral health when used as a rinse, and helps improve bad breath.

10. Turmeric: Turmeric is a spice with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties, which lends itself well to the treatment of minor cuts and scrapes. It may be beneficial in treating skin conditions like psoriasis and joint inflammation conditions like arthritis.


Sources of Homeopathy Products







Maty’s Healthy Products



King Bio






Liddell Laboratories






Washington Homeopathic Products



Similasan USA



Newton Labs



Homeolab USA