In a 2002 study of 142 families at Emory University School of Medicine, 80 percent of parents who used alternative therapies for their kids relied on friends or relatives for information. Fewer than half discussed the treatments with their doctor.
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In the U.S., complementary and alternative medicine for children is growing (estimates of CAM use are as high as 30 percent), but studies on safety and effectiveness are few; most have been done on adults. And because the FDA doesn't evaluate herbal remedies before they hit the market, pediatricians are wary of suggesting them for the fragile, developing brains and bodies of kids. "I'm a fan of a natural approach where appropriate, but I'm still very cautious about recommending supplements for children," says Russell Greenfield, MD, medical director of Carolinas Integrative Health, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a coauthor of Healthy Child, Whole Child.
Still, there are some things Greenfield and other experts can recommend or advise against, and they've filled us in on the most promising treatments. Of course, you should consult your pediatrician before trying any method for the first time. Remember, just because something is "natural" doesn't mean it's safe. (When purchasing herbal remedies, it's a good idea to check the brands and their safety ratings at ConsumerLab.com, which offers limited information for free and full-study results for a small annual fee.)
Related: What Being An Organic Parent Means