A Survey of Herbal Use in Children with Attention-Deficit—Hyperactivity Disorder or Depression


College of Pharmacy, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, MC #A1910, Austin, TX 78712; e-mail: CRISMONL@mail.utexas.edu.


Objective. To examine whether herbal medicines were given to children or adolescents receiving care for attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder or depression.

Methods. Between October 2000 and July 2001, a 23-item questionnaire was administered in five community mental health centers in Texas. Parents or primary caregivers of children who received a psychiatric assessment were sought for participation. One hundred seventeen caregivers completed a questionnaire. The main outcome measure was primary caregivers' self-report of the use of herbal therapy in their children.

Results. The lifetime prevalence of herbal therapy in patients was 20% (23 patients). Eighteen patients (15%) had taken herbal medicines during the past year. Recommendations from a friend or relative resulted in the administration of herbal medicines by 61% of 23 caregivers. Herbal medicines were given most frequently for a behavioral condition, with ginkgo biloba, echinacea, and St. John's wort most prevalent. Almost 83% of caregivers gave herbal medicines alone, whereas 13% gave herbal medicines with prescription drugs. Most caregivers (78%) supervised the administration of herbal therapy in their children; the children's psychiatrists (70%), pediatricians (56%), or pharmacists (74%) typically were not aware of the use.

Conclusions. Most caregivers supervised herbal therapy in their children, without communication with a health professional. A need exists for better communication between health professionals and caregivers regarding the use of herbal therapy.