Certain herbs and supplements can help 'tummy aches'

08/29/05

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. As more parents choose home remedies for their children's gastrointestinal complaints, the question arises, which ones really work?

Kathi J. Kemper, M.D., M.P.H., a pediatrics professor at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, and the author of "The Holistic Pediatrician," has written the cover article for Contemporary Pediatrics magazine on which herbs and dietary supplements can help children with nausea, constipation and similar gastrointestinal (GI) problems.

"What we did was look at the original research, the studies, what people were out there doing, and came up with a guide for pediatricians," Kemper said. "Historically, 50 years ago, people used home remedies. Then they began relying on prescriptions, and now there is a swing back toward using more natural health products."

The article in the current issue cites chamomile as one of the most widely used and safest herbs for children with abdominal discomfort. It can be given in small amounts to treat colic in infants and can be combined with peppermint, star anise or fennel for stomach aches, gas, indigestion and bloating for school-age children, according to the article.

Ginger has been well documented as a remedy for nausea and dyspepsia. Probiotics, such as yogurt, have been used to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea, newborn colic, ulcerative colitis, and a variety of forms of diarrhea. On the other hand, the article says that star anise should be avoided for colicky infants.

The article recommends further study of herbal products for children and greater communication between patients, parents and pediatricians on these topics.

Kemper, a Brenner Children's Hospital pediatrician who is the Caryl J. Guth Chair for Holistic and Integrative Medicine, wrote the article with Paula Gardiner, M.D., a clinical fellow at Harvard Medical School.

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