Friday, January 18, 2013

Treating Croup - The Healing Power of Herbs for Croup

Croup is a fairly frequent visitor in my home. 2 of my 4 children know the barking cough all too well. Aaron used to get croup with every upper respiratory virus that came his way. By the time he was 5 years old, he stopped getting the croup with every cold and virus, but did have it once last year. Jonathan at 6 years old, still gets croup with every upper respiratory virus. What is croup?
Croup is a condition that causes inflammation in the upper airways - the larynx and the windpipe. It leads to a barking cough and hoarseness. Jonathan gets terrible cases of it. Once it starts, he coughs incessantly for about 4 days. It keeps him up most of the night every night. I am up with him those nights as well because when a child has croup it's very important that you are close by to hear their breathing. Croup can become very dangerous and require a trip to the ER - so constant monitoring is necessary. After 4 days of it, you can imagine that we are both exhausted!
There were several things that I would do for him that helped a little, but it would never get him a good night's sleep and the help was fairly temporary. I would sit in the bathroom and run a hot shower for about 15 minutes, take him out into the cold night air, (as long as it was cold and not in the middle of summer!) and I used essential oils in several ways. I would put lavender and eucalyptus on his feet and chest. I would also run a hot bath and put the oils in the hot water and have him breathe in the oils for about 20 minutes. 
After the last bout of croup that Jonathan had last summer, I decided that I was going to  make some tinctures for him. I had no idea if they would work. I was ready to do just about anything to help him, though. Doctors will typically give steroids for croup and I didn't want to go that route, although as bad as croup is I can understand why anyone would choose that! Last fall I ordered some high quality herbs from the bulk herb store. I ordered a bunch of different ones, but I am highlighting these two herbs in particular. I made a tincture of Wild Cherry Bark and Mullein. Making tinctures are surprisingly easy! 
I used alcohol to extract the medicinal properties from the mullein and I used vegetable glycerin to extract the medicinal properties from the cherry bark.
After the tinctures were done and ready to be used. I waited. I am so thankful to say that Jonathan went 6 months without having croup! I had no idea when he was going to get croup again, but I was prepared with those two tinctures and I was ready to see if they would actually work. 

I came down with the flu a couple days before Christmas and it slowly worked it's way through the entire family. When Jonathan got it ... I was certain that he would also get croup ... but 4 days went by with no croup symptoms. On day 5, the croup symptoms set in and I was ready and armed with a mullein tincture and a cherry bark tincture. I had used both of the tinctures casually before this point for the mild coughs that my children and I had. I didn't notice that it helped at all. So, I didn't have high hopes for it.
I decided that I would give the tinctures to him intensively throughout the day hoping that giving him many doses over regular intervals all day long would give him relief. His coughing was every bit as bad as it had been in all of his other croup attacks that resulted in 4 days of incessant coughing. He was coughing incessantly most of the day as I was giving him the tinctures.
I gave him a mixture(about a 1/2 tsp or so of cherry bark and about an 1/8 to a 1/4 tsp of mullein) of the two tinctures every 30 minutes to 1 hour from about noon - until he went to bed. I gave him more cherry bark than mullein - and I mixed it because the alcohol mullein tincture is really hard to take. The sweet cherry bark masked the taste a little.
His terrible coughing peaked in the afternoon at about 3 PM. I didn't think the tinctures were going to help. I assumed that we were in for 4 days of miserable coughing.
However, by about 5 PM his coughing had slowed down a little bit. It was no longer constant. The barking cough had become less barking.
By bedtime, he was feeling a lot better. I put him in the school room to sleep - with the door wide opened and I planned to sleep on the couch where I would be able to hear him if he started coughing. I was prepped and ready not to sleep that night and to spend it trying to make Jonathan comfortable and keep him calm. (He has learned the hard lesson that getting worked up and crying makes his croup worse ... he has to talk himself into staying calm, though!!)
I gave him one last dose, said goodnight and told him I'd be listening for him. From the time he fell asleep until I went to bed, he only coughed a couple of times. I was stunned. Usually about an hour after he goes to sleep the attacks begin and last all night. He coughed a couple of times! No attacks at all. So, I went to my own room and slept in my bed with the door open, so that I would be able to hear him if he woke up. He woke up one time coughing, so I took a dose of the tincture to him, he took it, and fell right back to sleep and slept until morning!
I was amazed! The only thing I did differently was give him the tinctures.(and I assume because of that I didn't have to do all of the other things I normally do to survive the night!) This was the first time in croup history that the croupy child slept for more than 1 or 2 hours. His cough was not incessant. It was a mild cough that wasn't prevalent. I continued to give him the tinctures the following day. The following night he didn't even wake up once coughing! The 3rd day I gave him the tinctures, but not intensively. I can't remember how many times I gave it to him, but it was only a handful of times.
The croup was gone. I *think* the tinctures worked!
I have to mention that I am not an expert on herbs and dosages. I shared the dosage that I gave to my 47 pound 6 year old and what worked for him, but I am not a trained homeopathic doctor and I am not giving medical advice.

Wild Cherry Bark Tincture:
1 quart Mason Jar
Wild Cherry Bark
Vegetable Glycerin

Fill the Mason Jar halfway with Wild Cherry Bark
Pour about a 1/2 - 3/4 cup of boiling distilled/filtered water until it barely covers the cherry bark.
Pour in the Vegetable Glycerin until it reaches the top of the Mason Jar.
Cover with wax paper and screw on the lid tightly.
Method 1: Let the mixture steep for 2 weeks. (shake daily)
Strain the herbs after it has steeped and the liquid remaining is your tincture.

Method 2: Use a crock pot on the lowest setting and keep the tincture warm for 3 days to help extract the medicinal properties of the herbs. Put a towel on the bottom of the crock pot, put the jar on the towel, then fill the pot with water so that it surrounds the entire jar. If you have a smaller crock pot you could use smaller jars, so that the water can completely surround the jar. Run the crock pot for 3 days, then strain the herbs. You can shake the jar or stir once each day. (before straining)

Mullein Tincture:
1 quart Mason Jar
Vodka (I used 80 Proof - but most people say you should use 100 Proof)
Fill the Mason jar half way with Mullein
Cover the Mullein and fill to the top with the Vodka.
Cover with wax paper and screw lid on tightly.
Let steep for 2 weeks. (shake daily)
Strain the herbs and the remaining liquid is your tincture.


  1. Wow, Larissa! What a blessing to have a fairly easy case of the croup! I'm sure Jonathan was happy to have it gone faster than normal, and I KNOW you were.

    Don't know if there is any herbs to help heal/strengthen Jonathan's airways, but our chiro/naturapath dr. gives Penn liquid a herb tincture to take when ever he feels his mild asthma symptoms coming on. They work amazingly well and when I had bronchitis, they helped me. He is suppose to take them everyday, but of course forgets. I have wondered if he took them daily if he would have no more issues.

    But thinking about it, I wonder if these herbs are the same herbs you just used? Hmm, since our dr. puts them into a small bottle for us, I don't know what they are!!

    Anyways, I am so happy you found something that works for the croup!!!

  2. It certainly is the time of year for the Winter Yucks! I know my family has been fighting a cough for what seems like months. There are also lots of "littles" at out church fighting the croup, and I'll recommend your post to them to read. I'd love to invite you to come by and share this blog post on my blog hop, Get Real Frugal Friday!

    1. Thank you, Susan! I'll come by Friday and post it.