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How effective are herbal supplements in reducing illnesses in children?

The use of herbal supplements in women is increasing. Many mothers may also be giving herbal supplements to their children to treat or prevent various illnesses, including asthma, hyperactivity, colds, and respiratory infections. A study in the March issue of The Journal of Pediatrics reviews the medical literature to provide information about the effectiveness of some of the most common herbal supplements in children, including Andrographis paniculata, evening primrose oil, ivy leaf, and valerian.

Gail Mahady, Ph.D. and colleagues from Karl-Franzens-Universitaet Graz and the University of Illinois reviewed studies published 1960-2003 that tested the effectiveness of common herbal supplements. Unfortunately, many popular herbal supplements have not been evaluated in systematic studies. Insufficient data were found for the pediatric uses of chamomile, feverfew, ginger, and ginko. However, useful information was found and assessed for various other herbal supplements.

Andrographis paniculata is an important therapeutic plant in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for the common cold, flu, and other respiratory infections. One study evaluated children who were given A. paniculata supplements for three months. Although no evidence of the supplement's effect was observed in the first two months, a 70% reduction in the number of colds was seen in the third month. Studies of A. paniculata have shown that it may also reduce the risk of upper respiratory infections.

Evening primrose oil is derived from the seeds of the American wildflower and is commonly used for skin disorders, premenstrual syndrome, and arthritis because of its high concentration of essential fatty acids. Results of studies have suggested that evening primrose oil supplements may significantly improve the severity of dermatitis in children. Evening primrose oil supplements may also be associated with an improvement in performing certain tasks by children who are hyper
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Contact: Monica Helton
journal.pediatrics@cchmc.org
513-636-7140
Elsevier Health Sciences
8-Mar-2005


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