Parenting: Raising Happy, Healthy Kids
The Holistic Pediatrician
Kathi Kemper is a pediatrician and the director of the Center for Holistic
Pediatric Education and Research at Children's Hospital in Boston. She
is also the author of The Holistic Pediatrician and a regular
contributor to onhealth.com.
Body & Soul asked her to shed
some light on the debate over the use of herbal remedies for the care
of children and the role antibiotics should play in a sick child's treatment.
think many parents turn to herbs because they're natural. And there's
a widespread assumption that if something is natural, it's probably
safe. That turns out not to be true. Families need to know that just
because something is natural, doesn't necessarily mean that it's safe.
It also doesn't necessarily mean that it's ineffective. Some of our
most powerful medications are derived from herbs.
with natural products is their variability and that human beings are
harvesting them. Sometimes there's misidentification. Somebody thinks
they're getting one mushroom that may be beneficial and in fact pick
a poison mushroom by mistake. There's also contamination. Ginseng products
may be contaminated with testosterone or steroids that can cause really
severe side effects. Also, some of the products from Mexico and China
are contaminated, not only with pesticides, but with herbicides. Heavy
metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury have been also been found.
a remedy has been used for thousands of years doesn't mean it's safe.
Ma Huang has been used for over 5,000 years in China to treat asthma
and allergies, and in fact, was used in American medicine up through
the 1970s as a treatment for asthma. Unfortunately, teenagers in the
1980s discovered it, and it was marketed to kids as a natural "herbal
ecstasy." Over 30 deaths were reported due to taking herbal ecstasy.
the cautions that I've discussed about herbs, there are still a few
that I recommend in my practice fairly often. One of them is aloe. Another
herb that I use almost every day in my practice is chamomile. It has
several compounds that are calming. They help relax spasms in the tummy.
It's also anti-inflammatory, which means it's good for pain and for
swelling and that sort of thing. And there are some scientific studies
of chamomile showing that it can be helpful in infant colic. Similarly,
peppermint grows very easily all over North America and is very good
for an upset stomach. For children who have an upset stomach with the
cold or flu, ginger is a very nice remedy.
"So when does
a child really need antibiotics? Obviously if a child has meningitis
or pneumonia or a kidney infections or something really serious like
that, that's the time you need antibiotics for sure. If my son had strep
throat, I would treat him with antibiotics, not so much to help him
deal with the strep, because 99 percent of kids are going to get over
their strep regardless of whether they get antibiotics, but to prevent
the serious complications that can develop from strep throat.
"My view on
herbs and other natural remedies is that they're the first treatment
that we try at home when we have a minor illness. But if your child
has a serious illness, you probably want something stronger than herbs.
And so that's when you really need to see your physician and make sure
that you've got the best that modern medicine has to offer."
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The Holisitic Pediatrician
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