Approximately 48% of Latinos used herbs for common ailments while 31.4 % of non Latinos in WIC clinics, also used herbs during their childhood illnesses. Aloe vera, chamomile, garlic, peppermint, lavender, cranberry, ginger, Echinacea and lemon were the herbs frequently used, with little risk of any major side effect.
WIC is an organization that provides low-income bracketed women, infants and children up to age five with food vouchers, and enables education about healthy eating. WIC also guides them with information about health care providers.
"Nutrition professionals and WIC educators have hesitated to talk about herbs for children because they feared that it would encourage acceptance and, perhaps, cause people to start using them. Our study has shown that more WIC clients than we thought are already using them, mostly in moderate and appropriate ways. However, because some herbal use has the potential to do harm, we urge herbal education in WIC clinics." said Dr. Barbara Lohse, associate professor of nutritional sciences, who is the lead author of the study. The co-authors are Jodi L. Stotts, Penn State research assistant and former instructor at Kansas State, and Jennifer R. Priebe, a clinical dietitian with San Luis Medical and Rehabilitation.
As part of the study, which is the first of its kind, the researchers conducted a survey of 2,562 caregivers of children living in Kansas and Wisconsin in the WIC clinic. About 1,363 children from the age group of 1 week to 17 years used herbal medicines to combat common ailments. It was seen that, the caregivers relied on sources such as family and friends, the news media, the Internet, medical doctors and other allied health professionals about the use of herbs to treat the children. Most treatments were absolutely low risk.
The researchers are of the opinion that presently, very little data and research is available to denote the safety of herbals during pregnancy and lactation. Opportunities to research the efficacy of herbal remedies should be created, so that people can make an informed choice of treatment.
The study is published in the February issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.