Herbs for Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease

With so many cases of Hand, Foot & Mouth (HFMD) Disease causing a stir in my home community I’m compelled to write about this common infection – namely to let folks know that it is not as dreadful as it’s name.

First, this illness is not related to Foot & Mouth Disease (aka Hoof & Mouth Disease)  found in cattle, sheep, and swine.  FHMD 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 here.  There is no conventional medical treatment for this virus beyond Advil to reduce fever and ease discomfort.

However, there are several herbal and homeopathic remedies that have been in use for generations to successfully treat this condition.
HFMD is usually caused by the Coxsackievirus, a virus that belongs to the group of enterovirus — a class of viruses 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 (plus some common sense) to have on hand that are known to treat Hand, Food & Mouth Disease:

HYDRATION – Dehydration 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!  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 hydration, however, I also love warm herbal teas. Herbs deliver rich minerals and other immune supporting properties while at the same time provide necessary fluid to the body.


Here are a list of herbs that are known anti-virals (HFMD is a virus) plus rich in minerals and support the immune system (not to mention they taste good!):

– Lemon Balm
– Astragalus
– Peppermint
– Garlic
– Thyme
– Sage
– Elderberry
– Licorice
– Echinacea
– St. John’s Wort
– Oregano
– Usnea
– Bee propolis

Check your local health food store and see if they have a herbal tincture that has some or many of these ingredients. Tinctures are a convenient and relatively inexpensive way to consume herbs. Or better yet, contact your village herbalist and have them make you (or your child) a custom blend.

You can also apply the tincture externally to the rash that commonly appears with this virus.

I would also source some or many of these ingredients as loose dried herbs to prepare as a strong tea. Teas are another easy way to deliver herbs. Add some honey for flavour and also to soothe a cough or sore throat.

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.

The 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 to provide a healing environment for the individual to heal quickly.

– Serve soups and stews rich in immune-building foods such as onions, garlic, leeks, ginger, kale, cabbage, broccoli
– Prepare broths from miso, burdock root, astragalus 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 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 our bodies are amazing!


  1. alijoy on September 13, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    There’s an outbreak in Vancouver at my child’s school, which homeopathic remedy would you recommend ?
    thank you for the amazing information

    • Seraphina Capranos on September 14, 2016 at 12:16 pm

      Hi Ali,
      It really does depend on how each child presents with the illness. As homeopathy is prescribed based on the individuality of how each person expresses their illness.
      I suggest connecting with a homeopath in Vancouver, or, pick up a good homeopathy book at any book seller and they can guide you based on the symptoms your child presents.
      Some remedies I’ve used with success: mercurius, Hepar-sulph, Rhus-tox, sulphur.

  2. Taylor on September 28, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Thanks so much! I currently have the HFMD and I’m almost twenty! I’m literally suffering right now. I’m going to try one of the herbal treatments you suggested.

    • admin on September 29, 2014 at 9:56 pm

      Great! I hope this helps, please let me know if you have success. Warmly, Seraphina

  3. Jennalee on June 10, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Thank you Seraphina for being so in tune with the community health events and so caring as to offer free herbal wisdom. Your so thoughtful and inspiring to me as an herbalist. This virus has hit some children of close friends of ours, I am only a little concerned that our baby could have got it if they had touched same toys or hands. As a precaution I might drink some anti-viral tea and tincture. Would my breast milk serve quiet a lot of protection against this virus? thank you so much love, Jennalee

    • Seraphina on June 10, 2013 at 6:36 pm

      Hi Jennalee!
      Thank you for your lovely words! Your babe may get some benefit from your breast milk, notably as you strengthen your immune system to be strong and vigorous so will your child’s be. However, for more active protection and in the case of specific treatment, I would administer small amounts of infusion to your baby directly, by the teaspoon, or, by sticking the pipet in his mouth along side your nipple while nursing. At this time of year I’d be on top of the Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm) as it’s such a great time of year for it and it’s a brilliant antiviral. Elderberry or elderflower, also in season, is another favourite antiviral of mine for small babies and children – that also happens to be in season for harvesting. Regular infusions, even in small amounts, is very powerful and protective while being safe and nourishing for babies.
      I hope this helps!

  4. charlotte clark on September 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    my granddaughter has hand and mouth virus I heard myrrh would help

  5. megan on November 15, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    Thank you so much! My toddlers, and their cousins, recently got HFMD from playgroup. This info is just what I was looking for! Hugs, Meg

    • Seraphina on November 15, 2011 at 11:16 pm

      Hi Meg,
      Glad you found it useful! Great to hear from you, sending blessings your way.

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