Holistic Care for Kids
As more people use herbal and other alternative therapies, it's natural that they want to use them on their children. Recent studies have shown that as many as 70 percent of American children who suffer from severe or chronic illnesses have been treated with some form of alternative therapy. But is alternative medicine safe for our kids?
Yes, according to Dr. Kathi Kemper, a pediatrician and researcher investigating alternatives for children at Childrens Hospital in Boston, but with some caveats. Holistic care for children, says Kemper, doesn't mean you avoid immunizing your child and it doesn't mean that you avoid going to the doctor for necessary care. It means choosing remedies that are most helpful.
Dr. Kemper says marketing hype masks the fact that many, if not most, alternative therapies have not been tested on children. Parents, she says, are really doing uncontrolled experiments on their kids when they give them herbs.
For instance, she won't give her own toddler echinacea because there are no studies evaluating its effectiveness in children (though Kemper is currently studying this herself.) But Kemper does recommend some herbs that have a long history of safe use: chamomile or peppermint tea to calm an upset stomach; aloe vera to treat minor burns and scrapes; and ginger to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting.
But Kemper advises growing these plants on your own. That way, she says, purity can be assured. Kemper is currently researching, among other topics, the use of herbs and supplements to treat children with cancer, the effectiveness of acupuncture to relieve post-tonsillectomy nausea and yoga therapy to help adolescents with anorexia.