Lauren was only 3 years old, but she had just completed her 25th course of
antibiotics-and she was still suffering from a case of bronchitis that had
turned into asthma. Her mother was in tears when she brought her to my
office. She just didn't know what to do.
I reassured her that the solution was easier than she might think: I was confident that simply adjusting Lauren's diet and supplementing with a few specific herbs would greatly improve her health. And sure enough, six months later Lauren was asthma-free and infection-free-and she hadn't taken a single antibiotic.
This case highlights two very important issues when it comes to children.
One is that the overuse of antibiotics is causing germs to become resistant
to them.1 The other important issue that no one seems to recognize is that
antibiotics don't even address the basic underlying issue in young
patients: an underdeveloped immune system.
I'm not saying that antibiotics should never be used-I'm just suggesting that they should be reserved for times when they're really needed and not used for every little runny nose. In the meantime, strengthening and developing a young immune system with specific herbs will dramatically reduce the need for antibiotics in the first place.
Going for perfect attendance
More kids miss school because of common colds and the flu than for any other reason. But the right herbs could change that statistic, starting with Andrographis, an Ayuverdic herb known for supporting the immune system. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, 107 healthy children received either Andrographis tablets (200 mg per day of extract, standardized to 11.2 mg andro-grapholide) or a placebo for three months during the winter season.
At first, the herb didn't seem to have any effect at all, but at the end of
the three months its benefits were clear: Only 30 percent of the children
who received Andrographis got colds, while 62 percent of those on the
placebo got sick. That means that the relative risk of catching a cold was
2.1 times lower for the patients receiving Andrographis.2
Andrographis has also been tested in children in combination with other
herbs. One study that compared a combination of Andrographis and Eleuthero
(Eleutherococcus senticosus) with Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) found that
the herbal combination worked better than Echinacea when it came to
improving symptoms and hastening recovery times (although this could be a
reflection on the quality of Echinacea used).3
But that doesn't mean that Echinacea is without benefit. A clinical trial
showed that a product made from the leafy tops of Echinacea purpurea helped
children who had upper respiratory infections to avoid catching future
infections. This highlights something I have been saying for many
years-that Echinacea works best as a preventative.4 I find it interesting,
though, that the researchers did not test the most active part of the
Echinacea plant-the root. It's been my experience that the regular use of
Echinacea root in children provides a wonderful support for the immune
system. And, in fact, it was the main herb I used to help Lauren.
Another great herb for colds and flu is the elderberry (Sambucus nigra).
Although most of the clinical trials conducted on this herb have been in
adults, one small study did look at the effects of elderberry on influenza
B/Panama infection in a group of adults and children.5 In just two days,
researchers saw a significant improvement in symptoms (such as fever) in 93
percent of those taking elderberry, while it took six days before the
control group experienced a similar improvement.
Next on my list is propolis, an herb commonly used in Eastern Europe to
support immunity. Actually, it isn't really an herb in the strictest sense
of the word--it's a collection of the resin from various plants that bees
use to protect their hives. But regardless, it has tremendous benefits for
fighting colds, flu, and upper respiratory tract infections. Studies have
shown that it also helps prevent the flu and helps shorten the duration of
the common cold--often cutting recovery time in half.6 Propolis is also
beneficial for children with acute and chronic inflammatory diseases of the
upper airways.7 It's particularly effective for treating infections such as
tonsillitis, quinsy, sinusitis, and otitis media.8, 9 No antibiotic
Herbs that build immunity and fight infections
2-3 g/day for prevention|
4-6 g/day during acute infection
2-3 g/day for prevention|
4-6 g/day during acute infection
500 mg to 1 g per day for prevention
Double dosage for acute infections
*Be sure to use Clark's rule when determining dosage for children: Divide the child's weight in pounds by 150 to determine the fraction of the adult dose.
1 Kaplan SL. "Implications of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus as a community-acquired pathogen in pediatric patients." Infect Dis Clin North Am 2005; 19(3): 747-757
2 Caceres DD, Hancke JL, Burgos RA et al. "Prevention of common colds with Andrographis paniculata dried extract. A pilot double blind trial." Phytomedicine 1997;4(2): 101-104
3 Spasov AA, Ostrovskij OV, Chernikov MV et al. "Comparative controlled study of Andrographis paniculata fixed combination, Kan Jang and an Echinacea preparation as adjuvant, in the treatment of uncomplicated respiratory disease in children." Phytother Res 2004;18(1): 47-53
4 Taylor JA, Weber W, Standish L et al. "Efficacy and safety of Echinacea in treating upper respiratory tract infections in children: a randomized controlled trial." JAMA 2003; 290(21): 2824-2830
5 Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M et al. "Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama." J Altern Complement Med 1995;1(4): 361-369
6 Szmeja Z, Kulczynski B, Sosnowski Z et al. Otolaryngol Pol 1989;43(3): 180-184
7 Crisan I, Zaharia CN, Popovici F et al. Rom J Virol 1995;46(3-4): 21-24
8 Pershako IT. Pchelovodstvo 1973; 93: 38
9 Vosnjak M. "The Miracle of Propolis." Thorson: UK, 1978.
This article was published in the October, 2006 issue of the Dr. Jonathan V. Wright's Clinical Nutrition & Healing newsletter.