9 Natural Alternatives to Over-the-Counter Medications for Kids

San Francisco Integrative PediatricianWhen your kid gets sick, your first instinct is often to run to the nearest drugstore in search of a “kid-friendly” over-the-counter drug. However, kids are not little adults and commercial medications can be really hard on – and often dangerous to – their sensitive developing systems.

Luckily, there are a slew of natural remedies available to comfort our little ones – both safely and effectively. Here’s a list of safe alternatives recommended by our functional medicine pediatricians, most of which are available for purchase in both of our offices and also at our virtual pharmacy: Fullscript.


Cold, Flu, and Fever Remedies

1. Honey is an excellent remedy for coughs and respiratory issues. This Mayo Clinic study reports that children suffering from upper respiratory tract infections experienced less nighttime coughing when given 2 teaspoons of honey at bedtime. The study also reports that honey is just as effective as dextromethorphan – a common ingredient found in most over-the-counter cough suppressants.

We strongly recommend buying organic honey from local San Francisco vendors. Conventional, nonorganic varieties are often full of harmful contaminates (pesticides, heavy metals, antibiotics, etc.).

2. Windbreaker is a Chinese herbal formulation by the Kan Herb Company (from Santa Cruz, CA) that works wonders for colds, flus, and fevers. It’s is part of the company’s “Gentle Warriors” formulas, which are made especially for children. All are easy-to-swallow, mild-tasting, low-alcohol liquid extracts. You can pair Windbreaker with additional Gentle Warrior tinctures, depending on your child’s symptoms.

At GetzWell we proudly have Windbreaker for sale at both of our San Francisco offices. It’s widely popular among our families because it’s so effective.

3. Peppermint Oil is as essential as it is versatile. It acts as an expectorant and may provide relief for colds, cough, sinusitis, asthma, and bronchitis. It’s also a great alternative to VapoRub – inhaling diffused peppermint oil is great for clearing up sniffles and relieving irritated throats.

Peppermint oil also has a natural cooling effect that can help stabilize your child’s fever. Simply rub it (diluted with a neutral oil such as coconut) on the neck and bottoms of the feet. We functional medicine pediatricians prefer this as an alternative to Tylenol, which can be very harmful to children. We offer a selection of Do Terra brand essential oils for sale in both our offices.

4. Umcka (also Umckaloabo) is a traditional African herb that can significantly shorten the duration and severity of colds, bronchitis, sinusitis, and throat infections. Studies show that it improves macrophage activity (the first line of defense), kills bacteria and viruses, and helps to clear mucous from the lungs. We carry a tasty version called VClear. It is also available as Umcka Syrup, manufactured by Nature’s Way.

5. Ferrum Phosphoricum is another great fever reliever. A homeopathic compound made from iron and phosphorus, it works great for mitigating low or mild fevers associated with colds and flu. Ferrum Phosphoricum comes in dissolvable pellets that your child will love. However, use only as directed by one of our functional medicine pediatricians – the dosage and frequency will vary according to your child’s needs.


Ear Remedies

6. Ear Oil Relief is a soothing alternative for treating earaches and ear-related irritations. It’s a natural herbal formula made from a combination of garlic, mullein, calendula, St. John’s Wort, tea tree oil, vitamin E oil, and olive oil. It gently and safely cleanses and comforts the delicate tissues of the ear canal and has antimicrobial properties, too.

However, before using Ear Oil Relief it’s important to make sure that your child’s eardrum hasn’t ruptured. Please seek our professional advice for guidance prior to use.


Digestive Remedies

7. Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria and yeast that live in our intestinal tracts and help support good digestion and optimal absorption of nutrients. At GetzWell, we frequently recommend probiotic supplements to address and correct many tummy-related issues and irregularities. We carry pharmaceutical grade probiotics by Klaire and BioGaia.

8. Magnesium citrate is an excellent supplement that can help alleviate constipation. It acts as an osmotic laxative, meaning it pulls water into the intestines to soften stool for easy passage. It can be purchased in powder form and mixed into a small amount of water or fruit juice. We like Natural Calm powder and recommend it frequently.

9. Tummy Tamer is a Chinese herbal formula that relieves symptoms of indigestion. It works great for soothing bellyaches, diarrhea, and stomach bugs.

10. Easy Going, another Chinese herbal remedy, is a modification of Tummy Tamer that works wonders for relieving constipation – safely and naturally.

(Note: Magnesium, Tummy Tamer and Easy Going are excellent alternatives to MiraLAX – a constipation medication that has become widely used for kids BUT has never been studied in kids nor has its long-term impact on adults been examined. Read this alarming new study on its potential dangers).

To learn more about the healing wonders of Chinese herbal remedies, we encourage you to visit San Francisco’s own Chinese Medicine Works.


We find the RIGHT remedies.  

As functional medicine pediatricians, GetzWell follows a patient-centric approach to care that emphasizes finding the RIGHT remedy for your child’s unique needs. We’ve found that using natural and safe remedies instead of mainstream pharmaceuticals is critical to fostering and maintaining a child’s optimal health.

To learn more about the many alternatives available, please give us a call at our San Francisco offices at 415-826-1701.