Herbal Medicine Treats Children with Learning and Behavioral Problems

depressed children improve with herbal medicine

Photo by Angus Chan

By Case Adams, Naturopath

German researchers have determined that a formula of three herbs successfully treats children with learning difficulties, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression and attention deficit issues.

The researchers, consisting of 17 physicians – including 15 pediatricians and a neurologist – studied 114 children from multiple hospitals throughout Germany.

The children were between six and 12 years old, with an average age of 9.4 years old among the study population. The children had been diagnosed with an emotional or behavioral disorder an average of 2.3 years previous to the study.

The symptoms of the children included anxiety, depression, learning disorders, speech disorders, lack of concentration, fatigue, sleepiness, problems falling asleep, headaches, and hyperkinesias. In the U.S., these symptoms are typically diagnosed as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.

The children were also qualified for the study for having been given conventional treatment without success. These were, in other words, difficult cases.

The above symptoms were measured by a physician prior to the beginning of the treatment, after two weeks of the treatment and after four weeks of treatment. The physicians were given the option of continuing the treatment and submitting final documentation later.

The children were treated with a combination of three herbal extracts – extracts from Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s Wort), Passiflora incarnata (Passionflower), and Valeriana officinalis (Valerian).

The researchers discussed the synergistic effects of this combination and compared therapeutic effects to that of Prozac:

“The experimentally verified synergistic effect of Passiflora on Hypericum enables application of a small amount of Hypericum with a simultaneous high efficacy. This reduces the probability of side effects and leads to effects more comparable to the impact of Fluoxetine [Prozac] than to the impact of St. John’s Wort extract alone. Passiflora is traditionally used in combination with other herbs as a mild sedative. The third plant, Valerian, is traditionally used in medical conditions of sleep disorders and nervous agitation. The combination of all the three medical plants act on gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) and serotonin (5-HT) receptors, which are recognized targets of pharmacological antidepressant treatment.”

Contrasting conventional medicine in the U.S., European physicians are increasingly concerned about the prospect of children taking drugs like Prozac which have been shown to have numerous side effects in addition to being potentially addictive. The researchers noted this in their paper:

“The broad range of interventions for anxieties, nervousness, and depression involve cognitive behavioral therapy as well as mostly chemical antidepressants, anxiolytics, and hypnotics. Especially, treatment with traditional allopathic medication is controversially discussed addressing efficacy and safety of psychotropic agents in pediatrics. Due to the potential for side effects and addiction, prolonged treatment with chemical drugs as it is recommended by the WHO is often accompanied by simultaneous impairment of quality of life. As a result, there is a clear increasing demand for complementary and alternative medicine…”

The herbal treatment therapy was successful in most of the cases. The researchers stated that:

“The majority of children were stabilized in a normal behavior under the treatment.”

As the data is analyzed, the researchers found that children with these disorders at the beginning of the treatment had no symptoms or mild symptoms at the end of the treatment period (remember these were difficult-to-treat cases):

  • More than half of those children with learning disorders
  • More than 85% who had speech disorders
  • Nearly 60% of those with lack of concentration symptoms
  • More than 80% of those with school and/or exam anxiety
  • Nearly 70% of those with other anxiety disorders
  • Over two-thirds of those with aggressiveness and/or irritability
  • Over 80% of those who had depression
  • Over 70% of those with hyperkinesias
  • Over 80% of those who had problems falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Nine of ten children who had headaches and/or abdominal/stomach pain

This was the effective rate among the children treated with the herbal combination. In addition, improvement in family life was experienced among 86.7% of the children.

The researchers found that the treatment with the remedy was highly successful. More than 97% of the children tolerated the treatment well.

In 53 cases, the children continued the treatment under the doctor’s supervision.

The researchers commented about the alternatives and why treatment with conventional medicine can be problematic for children:

“…approximately 40–50 % of children with these disorders do not have a response to medication or behavioral therapy alone, and a combination of both is more effective. On the other hand, psychotropic medications are used too early and about 25 % of depressive adolescents develop substance abuse. So, parents prefer non-medical therapies as initial treatment because of the higher risk of side effects in therapies with chemical medication. For these families, the tested herbal combination of St. John’s Wort, Valerian, and Passionflower offers a good alternative and fulfills the requested aspects.”

Other research has shown that these herbs can reduce anxiety. A large review of research from the Global Neuroscience Initiative found that among 24 studies involving 2,619 people, 71% of the subjects tested had positive results to their natural treatments, many of which received one or a combination of those herbs used in the German study.

Before prescribing medications to children, western conventional doctors need to ask themselves whether or not we want to expose our children to a possible lifetime of drug-dependency. What will the children do when their prescriptions run out? Will they necessarily stop? The evidence shows that many will reach for illegal drugs. What kind of illegal drugs will they take – and potentially become addicted to?

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REFERENCES:

Trompetter I, Krick B, Weiss G. Herbal triplet in treatment of nervous agitation in children. Wien Med Wochenschr. 2013 Feb;163(3-4):52-7. doi:10.1007/s10354-012-0165-1.

Lakhan SE, Vieira KF. Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review. Nutr J. 2010 Oct 7;9:42. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-42.

Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with the elements by surfing, hiking and being a beach bum.

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