Objective: To examine herbal use by a sample of low-income, nutritionally vulnerable children.
Design: Caregivers completed a survey of child and caregiver herbal usage practices.
Subjects/setting: A convenience sample of 2,562 caregivers to children participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in Kansas and Wisconsin who were attending a WIC clinic was selected. WIC project selection was random, with stratification for geographic and ethnic representation.
Statistical analyses performed: Herbal usage profiles were described with measures of central tendency. Groups were compared with a two-tailed independent t test and chi2 for continuous and categorical variables, respectively.
Results: Child herbal use was reported on 917 surveys, representing 1,363 children ranging in age from 1 week to 17.5 years; 820 were younger than age 5 years. Herb use was greater among Latino children (48.4% vs 31.4%) and caregivers (43.4% vs 37.2%). Caregivers had a mean age of 27.8+/-8.32 years and 38.8% (n=994) denoted using herbs. Herbs most commonly used by children were aloe vera, chamomile, garlic, peppermint, lavender, cranberry, ginger, echinacea, and lemon. Reasons for herbal use paralleled recommendations. Family (78.9%) and friends (32.9%) were predominant information sources. Herbs with safety issues, such as St John's wort, dong quai, and kava were used. Herbal use characteristics did not differ between states, but were unique for Latino clients.
Conclusions: Herbal use by WIC children is mostly congruent with known indications; however, practices with potential to harm urge herbal education in WIC clinics, especially for Latinos.