Herbal Therapies in Pediatrics
Answered by: Susan Eagles
Question from: Richard
Posted on: August 5, 2000

I am a pediatrician in Columbus, Ohio, have become interested in the use of medicinal herbs since I take care of a population of children and adults with cystic fibrosis. They seem to use many things that they do not discuss with us all the time unless asked. I have been asked to give a short talk about alternative medicine in pediatrics and wondered what you would choose as the most common herbal therapies used in pediatrics? I would appreciate your input.

There are many wonderful books on the use of herbs in pediatrics, including:

* "Natural medicine for Children" by Julian Scott, Ph.D. (Avon Books publisher)

* "Phytotherapy in Paediatrics" Handbook for Physicians and Pharmacists, (medpharm Scientific Publishers Stuttgart 1997) which references the German Commission E monographs

Diet is the most common therapy that I use with pediatric patients. I usually research dietary information for possible factors in children’s diseases in:

Melvyn Werbach, M.D. in "Nutritional Influences on Illness" (Third Line Press, Tarzana, California, (800) 916-0076 or (818) 996-0076) and Melvyn Werbach, M.D. in "Nutritional Influences on Mental Illness" (Third Line Press, Tarzana, California, (800) 916-0076 or (818) 996-0076).

In cystic fibrosis, common therapies used by herbalists are postural drainage and avoidance of gluten in the diet. Possible support for the immune system, to avoid infection, may include Echinacea or Wild Indigo. Herbs to promote a more liquid mucus and expulsion of mucus might include the herbs Hyssop or Elecampane. Dandelion may be used to stimulate production of pancreatic enzymes. A steam inhalation of Friar’s Balsam may be recommended to thin bronchial mucus.

Some of the most common health problems in children are allergies that cause eczema, asthma, chronic ear infections. Any glandular problems would be referred to an MD to check for leukemia and lymphomas. The most common solution to these problems is taking all dairy products out of the diet. Dietary suggestions for milk replacement are given, including:

Vitamin A: eggs, beans, peas, tomatoes, carrots, apricots, green peppers, parley, broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables;

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): Whole grain cereals and bread;

Vitamin D: Sunlight;

Calcium: Fish, soy products, black-eyed beans, millet, almonds, brazil nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds, oranges, lemons;

Proteins: Soy products, meat, fish, eggs, poultry, beans, lentils, wholegrain cereals, rice, pasta, nuts, seeds;

Fats: Extra-virgin olive oil, oily fish (e.g. sardines), meat, nuts, seeds, avocado.

We do not advise children to stop taking prescribed medications. When a change of diet and supportive herbs are used, the children usually get better and stop taking their medications.

There are no common herbal prescriptions. Each child is treated uniquely according to his or her conditions, symptoms, background and emotional state.

Chronic ear infections: Children are usually brought in to a herbal clinic when they are not suffering from acute infections. Advice: try a dairy-free diet for 3-4 weeks. If there is no improvement, then dairy is not the cause. In most cases, there is great improvement with only the elimination of dairy products. Herbal supplements may include lymphatics such as Clivers (Galium aparine), Plantain (Plantago major or P. lanceolata) to astringe and discourage mucus from forming, German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) as an anti-inflammatory and liver support, and Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) as anti-inflammatory and anti-cattarhal.

In asthma, as well as being advised to remove dairy products from the diet, the patient may be advised to take Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) for an unproductive cough, Cramp bark (Viburnum opulus) to ease spasms, Hyssop as a relaxing nervine and expectorant. We would also question (tactfully!) what may be causing the asthma attacks, such as stress at home, at school or with other children.

In eczema, we would treat according to the condition, whether weepy or dry, itchy or not. Plantain juice used as a wash is soothing and healing. Essential fatty acids such as Borage flower oil or Evening Primrose oil, taken internally, are the first line of defense. If this doesn’t work within a week or so, we may try a cream made from Chamomile or Calendula flowers. If the eczema is very itchy, we may use a Chickweed cream. An internal formula may include Clivers, a lymphatic to reduce heat and itching, Viola as an anti-inflammatory, German Chamomile as an anti-inflammatory and liver support.

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