More than 11% of US children and teens take herbal supplements or another type alternative medicine, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study is the first to assess utilization of oral supplements, acupuncture, meditation and chiropractic care among children. The same study concluded that adult utilization of these treatments remained stable since 2002 at about 37%.
Herbal supplements were the most frequently used alternative therapy in all age groups. Children were particularly common users of Echinacea, fish oil, combination herb pills, flaxseed oil, and prebiotics or probiotics.
The most common symptoms triggering use of herbal supplements were head or chest colds, anxiety/stress and back or neck pain. Insomnia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and body aches made the top 10.
Kids were 5 times more likely to use alternative therapies if a parent or relative used them. Those with higher incomes and education, and those covered by private health insurance were more likely to use them than children who were uninsured or covered by public programs.
It’s hard to say whether this degree of utilization is useful or harmful since few of the therapies have been tested rigorously according to Richard Nahin, a study author head of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
The study relied on a 2007 survey of 23,000 adults representing themselves and 9,000 other adults who spoke for a child in their home.
The study did not examine use of vitamin and mineral supplements, folk medicine practices or religious healing.
Use of alternative therapies is likely much higher in immigrant communities, particularly those from China, Africa and the Caribbean.