Views of pediatric health care providers on the use of herbs and dietary supplements in children

UMMS Affiliation

Center for Integrated Primary Care; Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Publication Date


Document Type



Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Behavioral Medicine | Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition | Integrative Medicine | Pediatrics | Primary Care


Herbs and dietary supplements (HDS) are widely used by adults for treating illnesses and/or preserving good health, and many parents use HDS for their children as well. Previous reports suggest parents will not divulge HDS use to health care providers for fear of their skepticism or disapproval. Yet the views of pediatric health care providers on HDS use in children are not well known. This study investigated the attitudes and practices of pediatric nurses and physicians regarding HDS use in children, in order to identify those characteristics associated with a high degree of confidence in initiating a dialogue on the topic of HDS with families in their practice. A written survey on attitudes and practices toward HDS was developed, piloted, revised, and then administered to a convenience sample of practitioners attending a regional postgraduate course in general pediatrics. Only 42% of 204 pediatric health care providers sampled felt confident in initiating discussions about the therapeutic use of herbs and dietary supplements with families in their practice. Confidence in discussing HDS with families correlated with both personal use of an HDS (OR 3.22; p=0.033) and length of time in practice less than 10 years (OR 8.26; p=0.007). Less than 18% felt that HDS were safe for children under 6 months of age; and only 35% felt they were safe for use in children < 24 months old. Only 7% felt that parents should be allowed to give their hospitalized child an herb or dietary supplement they had brought with them from home, although this increased to 35% if the herb or dietary supplement had been prescribed by a physician. Ninety-two percent of practitioners thought that HDS should be more closely regulated by the FDA. Only a minority of pediatric community practitioners felt confident in discussing HDS with families of children in their practice. Those who had been in practice for a shorter time and who had used HDS themselves were more likely to report confidence in initiating such discussions. The provision of more postgraduate educational opportunities to learn about herbs and dietary supplements may alleviate some practitioners' concerns about their own competency in discussing HDS with families in their practice.

DOI of Published Version



Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2005 Sep;44(7):579-87. doi: 10.1177/000992280504400705. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Clinical pediatrics


At the time of publication, Paula Gardiner was not yet affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID