Herbal Remedies For GI Complaints
Herbal Remedies for GI Complaints
McKenzie Pediatrics Summer 2005
Parents are often concerned about their child’s nausea, motion sickness, or “tummy ache”. One-third of children will go through phases when they experience vague “tummy aches”, which, while not often medically concerning, still cause the child and the family grief. Some of these children will go on to develop Irritable Bowel Syndrome as adults.
Please be sure to contact us about your child’s “tummy aches” if they are recurrent. We may wish to bring your child in to the office sometime for an evaluation before recommending any treatment. But for children who experience motion sickness, nausea, or abdominal pain associated with stress (such as when a child wants to avoid a stressful situation at school), here are some home remedies for parents to try:
- Chamomile: This is one of the most widely used herbs for children. Chamomile tea can be used to treat colic in infants, and stress-related abdominal pain in older children. It works as an anti-spasmodic to relieve the symptoms of cramping and pain. It is safe, and proven effective, and allergic reactions are rare.
- Lemon Balm: This herb is also effective and safe in children when used for mild symptoms of heartburn, nausea, and nervous stomach. It can be used as a tea, or found in pill form often in combination with other herbal extracts.
- Peppermint: As a digestive aid, peppermint has long been used to reduce gas, cramping, and bloating. The primary ingredient of essential oil of peppermint is menthol. Peppermint produces smooth-muscle relaxation and helps to reduce spasms. There are no known side effects, but it should not be used in children with reflux as it can make their symptoms worse.
- Ginger: For centuries ginger has been used as a remedy for mild heartburn, motion sickness and nausea. Ginger root and ginger tea has been proven effective, though only for mild symptoms, however some children do not like the “spicy” taste of ginger. To make your own ginger drink, boil chopped ginger root in a quart of clean water for 20 minutes, let cool, and sweeten as desired. In large doses, ginger may cause bloating and diarrhea.
- Probiotics: These are good bacteria given as a supplement or as a food to help reduce symptoms of diarrhea during viral GI infections, or brought on by antibiotics taken for another infection. Side effects are unknown. Lactobacillus is the most commonly used probiotic, and is available inexpensively in capsule-form. For young children, simply open up the capsule and sprinkle the contents over a meal. Foods naturally rich in probiotics include: yogurts with “live” or “active” cultures, buttermilk, kefir, tempeh, miso, and sauerkraut.
Please avoid using Gripe Water, Chinese Star Anise, and Fennel Seed Oil in children. While still uncommon, these products still have an unacceptable risk of side effects in children.
For more information, check out the website for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, at http://nccam.nih.gov