Herbal Medicine and Children - Is It Safe? What you need to know...

Date: October 11, 2016 Posted by: Dafydd Monks

Over the past few days, there have been some reports in the media about a 4 year old little boy who ended up in hospital with Vitamin-D toxicity, and some have even called the use of complementary and alternative medicines in children dangerous. But what actually happened in this case, and how does it affect your choice on whether or not to take your child to see a Medical Herbalist?

The background to this case is that a 4 year old boy was given 12 different vitamins/supplements by a naturopath over the course of 12 months. Worryingly enough, this was in an attempt to 'cure' the child of autism. The amount of Vitamin-D the child was taking caused his absorbtion and retention of calcium in the blood to rise to dangerous levels, making the child ill.

There are three questions that need answering here, which I shall do in turn - from my perspective as a medical herbalist.

  1. In what conditions can herbal medicine help my child?
  2. Is treatment safe?
  3. When should you 'treat' a condition?

Firstly, herbal medicine can help with a great many childhood conditions. The kind of conditions that respond well to herbal medicine in childhood are

  • Eczema and asthma

  • Food intolerances

  • Nervous problems and emotional issues - as part of a strategy for understanding and rectifying the underlying cause

  • Digestive upsets

  • Bedwetting and urinary problems

... And as supportive treatment in many more conditions.

Herbal medicine has an excellent safety record. When chosing your medical hebralist, you should always look for a practitioner who has been trained in herbal medicine to degree level or equivalent. We as professional clinicians are taught a sensible and balanced view of health and healthcare and our clinical training is rigerous.

The approach to treating children is significantly different to that of treating adults - because children have such a high degree of vitality, and are still growing, only the gentlest medicines are used and in doses appropriate to the child's age, state of development, and body mass. Children often respond to gentle medicines which act to 'nudge' the child back to a state of wellness - if that is not possible there is likely to be something more serious underlying the condition and referral to appropriate medical care is called for. However, we can, and do work alongside other care providers including GPs, Consultants, and so on.

Lastly, there is an ethical consideration here. It is unethical to 'treat' a condition such as autism as it is not a disease but a neurological difference. Such an attempt would likely have only distressed this little boy, and the parents are partly to blame here for trying to 'fix' their child. But the onus is on the practitioner to ensure that they are acting ethically and appropriately at all times.

If you have any questions about how herbal medicine can help you or your child, please do get in touch with us. If you have any comments or questions on this article, please don't hesitate to ask in the comments box below!