As modern parents, our generation is seeking more natural approaches to healthcare for our kids. Complementary medicine is often referred to as integrative or holistic medicine. It covers a range of practices and therapies that can be used alongside conventional medical treatments. In this article, you’ll learn about complementary medicine for kids, what you need to know and how to use it at home.

What is Complementary Medicine?

Complementary medicine involves using therapies, techniques, and practices that are not typically part of conventional medical treatments. Instead of replacing these traditional methods, complimentary therapies are intended to complement them.

Why Complimentary Medicine Is Different

Complimentary medicine focuses on treating the whole child. This includes physical, emotional, and mental aspects of well being. It’s important to note that complementary medicine should be used alongside, not as a substitute for, conventional medical care.

Benefits of Complementary Medicine for Kids

There are some great benefits to using complimentary medicine to comfort your kids and help them feel better:

It’s A Holistic Approach

Complementary medicine focuses on treating your child as a whole, addressing both the symptoms and underlying causes of health issues. When we view illness and injury from a holistic approach, we have more opportunities to help our children in unique ways.

Reduced Side Effects

Many complementary therapies have minimal or no side effects compared to certain conventional treatments. In a hospital setting, complimentary therapies can decrease the amount of pain medication a child requires.

Empowerment

When you are more involved in your child’s care, it’s empowering! Having a list of different things you can try takes away some of the helplessness you feel when your child is sick or injured.

Personalized Care

Complementary medicine often tailors treatments to each child’s unique needs, taking into account their individual health status and preferences. Discovering what works best for your child may take time, but its definitely worth it!

Common Complementary Medicine for Kids

Herbs hanging to dry. Complimentary medicine for kids includes the use of herbs to treat common health issues.

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine uses plant-based remedies to support various health concerns. Oftentimes herbal medicine involves creating teas from natural plants. Here are some examples:

Chamomile: Chamomile is known for its calming properties and is often used to soothe anxiety, promote relaxation, and improve sleep quality in children. It can be given as a mild tea before bedtime.

Echinacea: Echinacea is believed to enhance the immune system and help the body fight off infections. It has bee used as a preventative measure during cold and flu season.

Ginger: Ginger is well known for helping with nausea and digestive discomfort. This makes is a useful remedy for motion sickness and upset stomachs.

Peppermint: Peppermint is used to ease digestive issues, including bloating, gas, and indigestion.

Lavender: Lavender is popular for its calming aroma. Lavender essential oil can be diffused in the room to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.

Calendula: Calendula is often used topically as a soothing agent for skin irritations, including minor cuts, burns, and diaper rash.

Marshmallow Root: Marshmallow root can provide relief for sore throats and coughs. It forms a soothing mucilage that coats the throat and alleviates irritation.

Lemon Balm: Lemon balm is known for its mild sedative effects and can be used to reduce anxiety, restlessness, and promote better sleep.

Fennel: Fennel tea or seeds can be helpful for relieving colic and gas discomfort in infants and young children.

A Word of Caution

Remember that while these herbs have been used traditionally for their therapeutic properties, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional, especially when using herbal remedies with children. Dosage, potential interactions, and safety considerations are crucial factors to keep in mind.

Acupuncture needles. Acupuncture is another form of complimentary medicine for kids.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the gentle insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow and promote healing. It can help with pain management, sleep issues, and anxiety.

How Pediatric Acupuncture Works

Acupuncture is based on the concept of qi (pronounced “chee”), the body’s vital energy, and the balance of yin and yang forces. The insertion of needles at specific points along energy pathways, or meridians, is believed to restore the flow of qi and bring about equilibrium in the body.

Acupuncture Benefits for Kids

-It can help manage various types of pain in children, such as headaches, migraines, musculoskeletal pain, and discomfort from chronic conditions.

-May assist in managing respiratory problems like asthma, allergies, and frequent colds by enhancing lung function and reducing inflammation.

-Children with digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, and colic may find relief through acupuncture, as it can promote healthy digestion.

-Acupuncture can help alleviate anxiety and stress in children by promoting relaxation, releasing endorphins, and improving sleep quality.

Pediatric Acupuncture Process

Pediatric acupuncture is adapted to suit the sensitivities of children. Practitioners use thinner needles and often apply a technique called “shonishin,” which involves gentle tapping, stroking, or pressing on the skin to stimulate acupuncture points. This technique is less invasive and more comfortable for children.

Considerations and Safety:
  1. Professional Expertise: Seek a licensed and experienced acupuncturist with specialized training in pediatric care.
  2. Comfort and Consent: Communication and comfort are vital. A skilled practitioner will prioritize making the child feel at ease and will not proceed without their consent.
  3. Needle Sensations: Children’s responses to needles vary. Some might not even feel the needles, while others might experience a slight pinch or tingling sensation.
  4. Safety: Pediatric acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by a qualified practitioner. Needles are sterile and disposable.

Parents play a crucial role in the success of pediatric acupuncture. Communicate openly with the practitioner about your child’s health concerns and any treatments they’re currently undergoing. Additionally, maintain an open dialogue with your child, addressing any questions or concerns they might have.

Mind-Body Practices

Techniques like yoga, mindfulness, and meditation can aid in reducing stress, improving focus, and promoting emotional well-being. Here are a few modalities for you to consider:

Types of Mind-Body Practices

Yoga: Yoga combines physical postures (asanas), breath control (pranayama), and meditation to promote flexibility, strength, balance, and mental clarity. Children’s yoga classes often incorporate storytelling, playful movements, and relaxation techniques.

Meditation: Meditation involves training the mind to focus on the present moment, promoting relaxation and reducing stress. Simple mindfulness meditation techniques can be adapted for children to help them manage emotions, improve concentration, and foster self-awareness.

Tai Chi and Qigong: These gentle, flowing movements are rooted in Chinese traditions and aim to balance energy (qi) while enhancing flexibility and calmness. Modified versions can make these practices suitable for children.

Breathing Exercises: Controlled breathing techniques can help children manage stress, reduce anxiety, and enhance concentration. Techniques like deep breathing or “belly breathing” can be easily taught and practiced.

Guided Imagery: This practice involves creating vivid mental images to promote relaxation, alleviate pain, and enhance well-being. Guided imagery can be particularly engaging for children and help them develop their creativity and visualization skills.

Mindful Movement: Incorporating mindfulness into everyday activities like walking, eating, or playing can help children develop presence and awareness in their actions, fostering a deeper connection between mind and body.

A boy is treated for back pain.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care involves manipulating the spine to address musculoskeletal issues. It is thought to be helpful with multiple conditions.

How Chiropractic Care Works

Chiropractors use hands-on techniques to manipulate and adjust the spine and joints, aiming to restore proper alignment and mobility. This, in turn, supports the nervous system’s function, as the nervous system relies on a well-aligned spine for optimal communication between the brain and the rest of the body.

Benefits for Kids

Colic and Digestive Issues: Gentle chiropractic adjustments can help alleviate colic symptoms and address digestive discomfort by promoting the normal functioning of the digestive system.

Ear Infections: Some parents report improvements in children with chronic ear infections through chiropractic care. Adjustments are believed to help drain fluid from the ears and promote better ear health.

Sleep Disturbances: Chiropractic care can assist in addressing sleep problems by enhancing relaxation, reducing discomfort, and promoting better sleep patterns.

Musculoskeletal Issues: Children’s growing bodies can experience musculoskeletal challenges. Chiropractic care can help with issues like scoliosis, postural imbalances, and joint pain.

Immune Support: A well-functioning nervous system supports the immune system’s response. Chiropractic adjustments may play a role in enhancing the body’s ability to fight off infections.

Pediatric Chiropractic Process

Pediatric chiropractic care differs from adult care in several ways. Chiropractors specializing in pediatric care use gentle techniques tailored to your child’s age and developmental stage. These techniques involve lighter pressure and minimal force to achieve adjustments. Chiropractors also take into consideration your child’s unique anatomy and responsiveness.

Important Considerations and Safety:

Professional Qualifications: Seek a licensed chiropractor with training and experience in pediatric care. Look for those who have pursued additional education in this area.

Age Suitability: Chiropractic care can be administered to children of all ages, from infants to adolescents. Techniques are adapted to match the child’s developmental stage.

Open Communication: Share your child’s medical history and any ongoing treatments with the chiropractor. Open communication ensures a comprehensive understanding of the child’s needs.

Comfort and Consent: Just as with any healthcare procedure, comfort and consent are paramount. Chiropractors should prioritize creating a relaxed and safe environment for your child.

Nutritional Therapy

Nutritional therapy, also known as dietary therapy, is a complementary medicine approach that focuses on using diet and nutritional interventions to promote health, prevent disease, and manage various health conditions.

How Nutritional Therapy Works

Nutritional therapists assess an individual’s dietary habits, lifestyle, medical history, and specific health goals to create personalized nutrition plans. These plans are designed to provide the right nutrients to support the body’s natural healing processes, enhance immune function, and optimize overall health.

Benefits for Children

Balanced Growth and Development: Proper nutrition is crucial during childhood for optimal growth, cognitive development, and bone health.

Immune Support: Nutritional therapy can help boost children’s immune systems, helping them better ward off infections and illnesses.

Behavior and Mood: Certain dietary choices can impact a child’s behavior and mood. Nutritional therapy can identify potential triggers and recommend supportive dietary changes.

Allergies and Sensitivities: Nutritional therapy can help identify and manage food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities that may affect children’s health.

Gastrointestinal Health: Nutritional therapy can address digestive issues, such as constipation or irritable bowel syndrome, by recommending foods that promote healthy digestion.

Nutritional Therapy Process
  1. Assessment: A nutritional therapist conducts a comprehensive assessment of a child’s health, including dietary habits, medical history, and any existing health conditions.
  2. Personalized Plan: Based on the assessment, a personalized nutrition plan is created. This plan includes recommendations for specific foods, nutrients, portion sizes, and meal timing.
  3. Education: Nutritional therapists educate parents and children about the importance of nutrient-rich foods, balanced meals, and healthy eating habits.
  4. Monitoring and Adjustments: Regular follow-ups help track progress and make necessary adjustments to the nutrition plan based on the child’s response and changing needs.
Considerations and Safety

-Seek out registered dietitians or certified nutritional therapists with proper credentials and training. These professionals have a deep understanding of nutritional science and can provide evidence-based recommendations.

-Nutritional therapy for children should always meet developmental needs and age-specific requirements for growth.

-It’s essential to collaborate with your child’s pediatrician or healthcare provider when implementing dietary changes, especially if your child has underlying health conditions.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy, is a form of complementary medicine that involves the use of aromatic plant extracts, known as essential oils, to enhance physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.

How Aromatherapy Works

Aromatherapy works through the sense of smell and skin absorption. When essential oils are inhaled, the scent molecules interact with the olfactory system, which is closely linked to emotions and memory. Additionally, when applied to the skin, essential oils can be absorbed into the bloodstream and influence various physiological processes.

Aromatherapy Benefits for Children

-Aromatherapy can promote relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety in children. Scents like lavender and chamomile are often used for their soothing properties.

-Certain essential oils, such as lavender and bergamot, are known for their sedative effects and can help children achieve better sleep quality.

-Essential oils like rosemary and peppermint can enhance mental clarity, focus, and concentration, making them suitable for study or creative activities.

-Aromatherapy can uplift mood and promote feelings of happiness and positivity through scents like citrus oils (e.g., orange, lemon).

-Essential oils like eucalyptus and tea tree can assist in clearing congestion and supporting respiratory health.

Aromatherapy Applications

There are several ways to apply aromatherapy and each has its own advantages in different situations.

Diffusion: Essential oil diffusers disperse the oils into the air as a fine mist. This is a common method for aromatherapy at home, creating a pleasant and calming atmosphere.

Topical Application: Diluted essential oils can be applied to the skin, usually on pulse points, the feet, or the chest. Always use a carrier oil (such as coconut or jojoba oil) to avoid skin irritation, especially for children.

Aromatic Baths: Adding a few drops of essential oils to a warm bath can provide relaxation and soothe the senses.

Inhalation: Inhaling essential oils directly from the bottle or using a cloth with a few drops of oil can provide quick relief for stress or anxiety.

Aromatherapy Considerations and Safety

-Choose high-quality, pure essential oils from reputable sources to ensure their therapeutic benefits.

-Essential oils are potent and should be diluted before applying them to the skin. Follow recommended dilution ratios for children.

-Before applying essential oils to a larger area, perform a patch test to check for any adverse skin reactions.

-Some essential oils are not recommended for use with young children or infants. Research each oil’s suitability for the child’s age group.

-Children may react differently to different essential oils. Observe your child’s reactions carefully.

Important reminders when using complimentary medicine

Before starting any complementary therapy, consult your child’s primary care provider to ensure it’s safe and appropriate for their condition.

Look for therapies with a strong foundation of scientific research and clinical studies.

What works for one child may not work for another. Tailor your approach based on your child’s needs and preferences.

Ensure that any supplements, herbal products, or essential oils used are of high quality and free from contaminants.

Potential risks and limitations of complimentary therapies

Some people believe that because many complimentary therapies are “natural” that they are risk free. However, this is not the case. It’s important to be aware of the risks and the benefits with considering the use of alternative therapies. Here are a few things to consider:

-Relying solely on complementary therapies could lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment of serious medical conditions.

-Some complementary practices are not regulated, so it’s crucial to choose practitioners and products with caution.

-Children may react differently to various therapies, so monitor for any adverse reactions.

Final Thoughts

Complementary medicine can be a valuable tool in promoting holistic well-being and supporting conventional treatments! By understanding the various approaches, consulting healthcare professionals, and prioritizing evidence-based practices, you can make informed decisions that contribute to your child’s health and comfort.

Remember that the key is balance – combining the best of both conventional and complementary medicine is the safest way to go.

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