Feature Archive

Herbs for Kids

Are they safe?

WebMD Feature

June 26, 2000 -- Ever since Linda White's daughter reached puberty, the family's consumption of catnip has gone way up.

But it's not that the family cat is getting blissed-out; it's White's 13-year-old daughter who's been taking the herb. White, a writer based in Denver, believes that catnip (mixed with a tincture of cramp bark) makes an ideal remedy for her daughter's menstrual cramps.

The girl happily accepts the concoction, just as she and her brother slurped astragalus soup when they were little kids with sniffles. Ever since they were toddlers, their mother has given them echinacea to ward off colds and peppermint tea to calm their stomachs. Now that they're older, they also take various herbs for acne and muscle strains.

When it comes to medicine, it may seem like White's family is miles from the mainstream. But White, co-author of the book Kids, Herbs, and Health, still believes in doctors. As well she should: Her formal title is Linda White, MD.

White graduated from medical school and trained in pediatrics before she took up writing. With her background, she knows that herbs can't cure everything. She also knows that most herbs have never been scientifically tested on adults, let alone children.

"People ask, 'How can you be experimenting with your kids?' " White says. "But these herbs have been used for thousands of years, which is like a clinical trial on a huge scale. I just use what seems to work best."