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Herbs for Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease (HFMD)

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So, with many cases of Hand, Foot & Mouth (HFMD) Disease causing a stir on Salt Spring I’m compelled to write about this common infection that has a dreadful name in order to minimize some of the fear surrounding it.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

First, this illness is not related to Foot & Mouth Disease (aka Hoof & Mouth Disease)  found in cattle, sheep, and swine — the only thing in common is a similar sounding name.  This disease cannot transfer to pets or animals. In fact, HFMD is actually very common in small children under the age of five.  It is considered mostly harmless, with complications leading to serious illness extremely rare. The Centre for Disease Control has some useful information about HFMD .  There is no conventional medical treatment for this virus beyond Advil to take down the fever and ease discomfort.

However, there are several herbal and homeopathic remedies that have been in use for countless years to treat this condition  successfully.
HFMD is usually caused by the Coxsackievirus, a virus that belongs to the group of enterovirus — a class of virsues so common that they rank just second to the common cold viruses in causing many acute infections in adults and children.  Children usually only get this illness once, therefore most adults have acquired natural immunity to this disease from childhood and are rarely affected in adulthood.
Just like the common cold, we transmit these viruses via respiratory secretions (saliva, nasal mucous, sputum) or stool of an infected person; or of course sharing contaminated objects (utensils, the telephone, door knobs). The immune system is capable of  fighting this illness on its own, building life-long immunity to the virus.


At first, the symptoms may resemble the flu –  fever, poor appetite, malaise, and a sore throat may be experienced. Soon (perhaps a day or two later) the individual may complain of pains in the mouth and develop blisters. A skin rash likely appears, usually on the hands or feet; though in some cases knees, buttocks, elbows or genitals. Rarely are all of the above symptoms found in one person, although it can happen.

Below are some time-tested remedies to have on hand that are known to treat Hand, Food & Mouth Disease:

First – keep hydrated – Dehyration is the primary medical risk for small children who are fighting a fever. Remember, a fever is present to burn off the virus. It’s a good thing, and we want to keep the children comfortable, well-hydrated, free from drafts so their bodies can efficiently do what they need to do to heal itself. Water is the preferred choice for hyration, however, I also love warm herbal teas as herbs deliver rich minerals and other immune supporting properties

 while at the same time hydrating the body.

Here are a list of herbs that are known anti-virals (HFMD is a virus) and are rich in minerals and immune building properties that are served well as medicinal teas:

– Lemon Balm
– Astragulus
– Peppermint
– Garlic
– Thyme
– Sage
– Elderberry
– Licorice

You do not need to combine all of these together (if you can, that’s great). Just choose one, two or more of the above and prepare as a strong tea. To do so, pour one cup of just boiled water over one heaping teaspoon of herb — then steep covered with a lid — for a minimum of 20 minutes. Drink as much as you (or your child) like. These are safe herbs that can be consumed freely.

In addition to a lovely medicinal tea, for HFMD I recommend taking a tincture internally, and also apply externally on the rash common to this virus.

Tinctures that I recommend taking internally and externally are:

– Echinacea
– St. John’s Wort
– Oregano
– Usnea
– Bee propolis (may be very messy used externally)

Painful mouth ulcers can be soothed by tincture of Myrrh and or tincture of Calendula.

It is important to nourish the body while fighting infection and provide a healing environment for the individual so healing can happen speedily.

– Serve soups and stews rich in immune-building foods such as onions, garlic, leeks, ginger, kale, cabbage, broccoli
– Prepare broths from miso, burdock root, astragulus root, celery root, garlic, seaweed
– Remove immune comprimising foods such as sugar (including pure juice), from the diet. .

And of course, rest. Enough can’t be said about the importance of convalescence; while sleeping and resting quietly the body is working hard to recover successfully from illness.  So remember, with the proper support of herbs, nourishing organic foods, quiet and deep rest, the wisdom of the body will do what it is designed to do: recover speedily without complications and develop a stronger and more resilient immune system after the exercise of fighting off an acute infection. Truly an amazing system!

Warm Wishes,
Jamie Capranos


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