Health

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Americans Choosing Herbal Remedies Over Prescriptions to Save Money

March 24, 2009 01:21 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Economic concerns are prompting more Americans to replace expensive prescription drugs with cheaper herbal supplements, but are they safe for kids?

Herbal Remedies Gain Appeal

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Many Americans are changing their health habits to save money, using herbal remedies and forgoing checkups with doctors. But some doctors question whether such practices are harmful to children.

According to the Associated Press, sales of herbal medicines have improved as the economy has gotten worse. Retailers, such as Whole Foods Market Inc., have seen “nutritional supplements and herbal products” fly off store shelves in recent weeks. A U.S. government survey from December explains the phenomenon: “concerns about the cost of conventional medicine influenced Americans’ decisions to try alternative remedies,” reports AP.

The trend has some doctors concerned, particularly because alternative treatments and supplements “don’t require rigorous testing and government approval,” and “can interfere with prescription drugs,” the AP article said.

What also troubles medical professionals is that some families are saving money by giving herbal supplements to children in place of prescription drugs. In December, ABC News reported that about one in nine kids use alternative medicines, such as fish oil and ginseng. But in addition to the lack of federal oversight of alternative remedies, studies on them “have focused on adults, not children.”

Dr. Wallace Sampson of Stanford University told ABC News, “The reality is none of these things work, including some of the more popular ones. They’re placebos.”

But other doctors point out the ambiguity surrounding some prescription drugs. In October 2008, for example, drug makers said “they no longer would recommend cough and cold medicines for youngsters under 4,” ABC reported.

The FDA has been hesitant to ban cold medication for young children, however, claiming that more research is necessary. Some pediatricians have spoken out about the risks of cough and cold medicines for young children, and favor a ban.

To decide what medicinal options best suit you and your family, and to sift through the conflicting opinions, consult trusted sources, such as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and discuss the matter with your doctor.

Reference: Guides to alternative medicine

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