This week I have run into so many people who are sniffling, coughing, froggy and just plain miserable with the summer cold. The good news is that relief is as close as your back yard and spice rack.

The hands-down best remedy for the common summer cold is …..drum roll please… creeping charlie.  Yes, the bain of every homeowner’s existence will actually cure the common cold.  Pick a few pieces, chop it up, cover with boiling water and voila…relief.  Of course, you may want to strain it and wait until it is cool enough to drink.

For sore throats, the cooking herbs of thyme and sage can’t be beat. These herbs can be used fresh (see instructions for creeping charlie) or dried from your pantry. If using dried herbs, the typical ratio is 1 tsp dried herb to 8 0z of boiling water. Steep at least 10 minutes, strain and drink.

Its that simple!

If you can’t find Creeping Charlie growing in your yard, Herbs for Autism has it in tincture form (called Ground Ivy).

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An herbal alternative to tonsillectomy

In April, my daughter was diagnosed with sleep apnea.  Per the doctor, her tonsils were “enormous”  – a size 4 on a scale of 0 to 4. He recommended immediate surgery and referred us to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist. Lucky for us, the ENT was booked for more than a month which gave me time to get a treatment plan in place.

Using herbs and cupping, I have successfully treated clients with enlarged tonsils and other glandular problems of the throat and enabled them to avoid surgery. So naturally, I turned to these modalities to heal my daughter.

My herb of choice for these conditions is Figwort, also known as Scrophularia. Species of Figwort grow in North America, Europe and Asia. It is a potent herb and should be used in very small doses – 1 or 2  drops  a day- even if commercial bottles say to give more.  My daughter took 2 drops per day and in a month’s time, her tonsils shrank from a size 4 to a 0.  The ENT was surprised that we were even sent for a consult and no surgery was needed.  That is the power of herbs!

Herbs for Autism offers organically-grown, gluten-free herbal tinctures, including figwort.

For more information on the risks of surgery for sleep apnea, check out my recent post, “Can an adenoidectomy lead to speech problems?

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Can an adenoidectomy lead to speech problems?

Recently, my daughter was found to have mild sleep apnea and we were referred to an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist for a surgery consultation. I was very apprehensive about this visit, because I am strongly against removing body parts – particularly important ones! But still, I went to the appointment with an (somewhat) open mind.

The tonsils and adenoids, which are typically removed in cases of pediatric sleep apnea, are composed of lymph tissue and are part of your immune system. They serve as the first line of defense versus airborne illnesses and pathogens that enter through the mouth.  Removing them just doesn’t make sense to me.

Upon examination, we learned that while my daughter’s tonsils had decreased in size from a 4 to a 0 (more on that soon!), her adenoids were enlarged and causing a partial blockage.  I thought the recommendation would surely be to operate. Thank goodness, I was wrong.

We learned during our visit, that removing the adenoids can cause hyper nasal speech (or velopharyngeal incompetence).  Hyper nasal speech occurs when too much air goes through the nose while talking. In other words, it can sound like a child is talking through their nose.

My daughter, non-verbal until about 5 years ago, still has apraxia of speech which makes communication a challenge.  Her doctor was concerned that an adenoidectomy would cause further speech problems and make it even more difficult to communicate.  Therefore she did not recommend surgery.  We were very relieved!  We are now concentrating my daughter’s herbal treatments on reducing the inflammation in her adenoids so that she can breathe easier on her own…naturally.

For more about keeping the lymph system healthy, check out our recent entry “The importance of exercise.”

Coming next…an herbal alternative to tonsillectomy.

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The importance of exercise

Now that the warm weather has come to most of North America, its time to get our kids moving!

Exercise is critical to proper lymph function. Our lymph system is our body’s trash can.  When we are inactive, our lymph becomes stagnant and is less effective in removing toxins from our body.

Walking, running, jumping, kicking, climbing, digging – it doesn’t have to be complicated.  Just get moving!

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Happy Faschnaut Day!

Faschnaut (Donut) Day is one of my favorite holidays!

It was with great pleasure that I strolled into my local donut shop this morning with my (GFCF) daughter and ordered a feast.  I always have frozen GFCF goodies stashed away in my freezer for gluten emergencies (like the last minute birthday party!) so I thought I was all set with the extra empty bag I ordered. I’d go home, slip in her treats and she’d never know the difference.

Wrong.  After frantically emptying the freezer I found no donuts. No donuts? How could this be?  My daughter was so excited for donut day. Donuts are a rarity in our house. I had no choice but to fess up.  And bake – quickly.

Here is what I whipped up.  The following recipe is GFCF but does have some items that are typically contraband like banana, vinegar and eggs.   My apologies. Desperate times called for desperate measures and today I was desperate.


  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup of brown rice, ground in blender into a fine powder
  • 1 tsp gfcf aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBSP cooking oil (safflower, sunflower, etc)
  • 1 smashed banana
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (to make it rise)
  • Water
  • Spray cooking oil (optional)

Mix all dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl mash the banana and add all the wet ingredients. Stir well. Combine the dry and wet ingredients. Add water to get to the consistency you want. Not too thick, not too thin.

Spray a donut pan with oil or coat with cooking oil using a paper towel. Pour in batter. If you don’t have a donut pan, you can pour the batter into a muffin pan about halfway full. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until a fork inserted comes out clean. If using a muffin pan, cut circles out of the middle to form a donut shape.

Note: I made up this recipe on the fly. They looked like donuts (see above!) but I’m not a baker as my family will gladly attest!  If you have any suggestions to improve this recipe, please post them!

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Home remedies for the dreaded sinus infection

I was going to post my GFCF tortilla soup recipe this morning but my daughter had a different plan.  She started the day with that famous green yucky drip…So today’s topic is “How to treat sinus infections at home.”

I knew something was up when my daughter wouldn’t eat her breakfast. In her early years, she refused to eat – literally nothing (sound familiar?).  Now she eats everything in sight. But today, I had to beg, plead and cojole. Something was definitely up. Then it happened….the green ooze.

In case you don’t know, green mucus is an indicator of infection. It’s important to nip nasal infections quickly because the infection can spread to the ears and throat. Do you know what it feels like when junk drips down the back of your throat?  Now imagine you are language impaired and can’t tell anyone. Misery. Pure misery. It’s best to be prepared so that you can start treatment as soon as possible.

Plantain (Plantago) is my herb of choice for sinus infections.  It grows freely between the cracks of sidewalks, in yards and anywhere that gets heavy foot traffic.

I use it three ways: oil, tincture and wash.

I rub plantain oil across the sinus area of the face and sides of the nose. The oil penetrates into the sinuses and clears the infection. Typically green mucus will turn clear with just one application.  Just to be safe, I also rub the oil behind the ears in case any infection is starting there.

I give 3 drops of the tincture by mouth every hour or so to treat any systemic infection that might be going on. If you try this at home, be sure to use gluten-free tinctures if you follow a GFCF diet or have a gluten-sensitivity.

The last way I treat sinus infections is with a wash.  You may be familiar with the netipot.  They are fabulous little pots for washing out the nasal cavity.  However, they can be daunting to a child or adult with autism. Instead, I use the little syringes that pharmacies offer for giving medication to young children.  I mix a solution of warm water (absolutely no hotter than body temperature) with a pinch of baking soda (too much can be painful) and sea salt. I then add a few drops of plantain tincture. Sometimes I brew a tea of plantain leaf and use that, but more often than not I need it done quickly and just use the tincture.

After the solution is made, I gently irrigate each nostril of my daughter’s nose and catch it with a towel. This procedure is lovingly called ‘elephants’ at our house.  The idea is that she will blow the solution and mucus out her nose, but that rarely happens.  Sometimes I will tickle her and that will blow everything out. Most of the time however, it just runs out her nose or down her throat.  Its ok though.  The solution is not harmful if swallowed and will actually help if there is any infection in the throat.

Other than plantain, garlic is a cure for virtually all infections.  Increasing garlic intake during this time can be helpful as well. For a tasty way to eat raw garlic, try our recipe for tapanade.

The FDA would have a field day if I didn’t say “The information presented here should not replace medical care. Always seek the advice of a medical doctor. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The statements made here have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.”

But I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that traditional healers have been successfully treating this condition with herbs for centuries!

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Is it a UTI?

When an adult or child with autism has a sudden increase in stimming or behavior issues, we typically assume that it stems from one of the supplements they are taking, a yeast flare or just another day in autism.

However, a sudden change of behavior in a person with autism can signal an infection. Sadly, it often takes several days of the behavior before we realize something might be wrong.

In a non-verbal or language impaired person, initially identifying strep throat, an ear infection or a urinary tract infection (UTI) can be difficult.  Of all of the infections, I find the UTI to be the most overlooked.  A doctor regularly checks the ears for infection. A rapid strep test is common place at pediatric visits. But rarely does a doctor suspect a UTI – especially in boys – and getting them to test for it can be a challenge.  Complicating the issue is when the infection is fungal in nature as most routine tests just scan for bacteria.

Caregivers need to know the non-verbal signs to look for so that they can seek medical attention when necessary.  If left untreated, UTIs can spread to the kidneys which can be extremely painful and more challenging to treat.

A few non-verbal cues of UTIs include wetting accidents in a potty-trained child (incontinence in an adult), frequent urination, not fully voiding when urinating and/or pink or red in the urine. Burning is common, but harder to detect in language-impaired individuals so watch for grimmacing or other behaviors during urination. UTIs are common after treatment with antibiotics and especially with the drug Flagyl. Lastly, a child or adult with constipation is at higher risk for UTIs.

If you suspect a UTI, consult your doctor, herbalist or other healthcare provider for assistance.

If you are interested in reading more on behaviors and autism, I welcome you to read When Behaviors are physical pain which I wrote a while back for Age of Autism.

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