Complementary and alternative medicine in children: an analysis of the recent literature

Curr Opin Pediatr. 2012 Aug;24(4):539-46. doi: 10.1097/MOP.0b013e328355a214.


Purpose of review: Although many publications have documented the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in children and adolescents, most have lacked the scientific rigor to establish clear benefits over so-called conventional medicine. We reviewed the literature published in the past year to identify the types of CAM most often studied in children, the variety of conditions to which these modalities are applied, and the methodologies used in the articles exploring the most prevalent CAM modalities.

Recent findings: We identified 111 published articles on CAM use in children in 2011. The most common modalities were herbal/dietary supplements, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, and homeopathy. The most commonly studied conditions were pain, headache, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), asthma, and colic. Although a majority of the articles consisted of reviews, case reports, and other nonhypothesis-driven methodologies, we did find that several were randomized controlled trials, meta-analyses, or systematic reviews. These methodologies, however, rarely accounted for the majority of publications on a particular therapy or condition.

Summary: The use of CAM in children continues to occupy a niche area of interest for many providers and families, but only a minority of articles published in the past year utilized methods of sufficient rigor to provide a useful comparison to more conventional therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asthma / therapy*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Colic / therapy*
  • Complementary Therapies / adverse effects
  • Complementary Therapies / methods*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Headache / therapy*
  • Homeopathy
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pain / diet therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome