Ayurveda is an ancient healthcare system from India that aims to improve physical and mental health using a natural and holistic approach (1). This is perhaps why some parents opt for over-the-counter (OTC) Ayurvedic medicine for kids to treat and manage ailments, such as constipation, cold, cough, and flu.
The Bala Chikitsa (Kaumarbhritya) branch of Ayurveda uses Ayurvedic principles and medicines to treat and prevent ailments in children while they are still in the womb (2). However, the unguided use of ayurvedic medicines can have several side effects. Thus, consult a certified naturopath or Ayurveda expert to ensure the safety and efficacy of the treatment for children.
Read on to learn more about whether Ayurvedic medicines are safe for children, their possible benefits and side effects, and some necessary precautions to take while administering Ayurvedic medicine to children.
The Principle Of Ayurvedic Medicine
Ayurveda believes that the human body is composed of five essential elements: air, fire, water, earth, and space. These elements combine in a unique order to form three different doshas or components, namely (3) (4) (5) –
- Vata dosha (air and space)
- Pitta dosha (fire and water)
- Kapha dosha (water and earth)
Based on the combination of doshas and order of their dominance, the Prakriti, i.e., the constitution of the human body, comes into existence. Therefore, Ayurveda emphasizes maintaining harmony between doshas to enjoy a healthy and blissful life.
In Ayurvedic medicine, selecting a preventive and curative regime for an ailment (Vikriti) relies on analyzing one’s body constitution (Prakriti). Based on the Prakriti analysis, the cure for the illness consists of the following.
- Age-appropriate Ayurvedic medicine to your child with relevant dosages
- Changes in the diet to balance the elements
- Complementary Ayurvedic techniques, such as yoga, aromatherapy, meditation, and massage
Identification of the Prakriti can help your healthcare provider diagnose the Vikriti to treat your child safely and effectively.
Dosha In Children
Here are some traits specific to each dosha.
1. Vata dosha
In Vata dosha, space and air elements dominate, providing mobility to body functions, like blood circulation, digestion, breathing, and nerve impulse. It is believed to be the essential dosha to keep the other two doshas in balance.
A child suffering from a Vata dosha imbalance may exhibit symptoms such as constipation, anxiety, weight loss, colic, dryness, and sensitivity to cold.
2. Pitta dosha
Pitta means “heat” that is a type of transformative energy that governs several physiological functions, like digestion, maintenance of body temperature, color and complexion, visual perception, intellect, and emotions.
Fire/heat and water elements dominate in this dosha type. Pitta dosha imbalance may cause excessive thirst or hunger, heartburn and acidity, skin rashes, acne, and boils, hypersensitivity to light, strong body odor, and sensitivity to heat.
3. Kapha dosha
This dosha type reflects the dominance of water and earth elements in the body. Its function is to provide structure and lubrication to the body. A child experiencing Kapha dosha imbalance may exhibit symptoms such as loss of appetite, lethargy, mucous formation leading to congestion, allergies, cold sweats, and depressive feelings.
Dosha assessment helps identify imbalances, the ailments they are causing (or may cause), and the right Ayurvedic medicine in the correct dose to treat or prevent the ailment.
Is Ayurvedic Medicine Safe For Children?
The use of Ayurvedic medicines is generally safe. However, there are only a few clinical trials to substantiate their safety and efficacy. Also, the possible presence of high amounts of metals, like arsenic, mercury, or lead, in some Ayurvedic preparations, might be a safety concern (6). Therefore, you should avoid administering Ayurvedic medicines to your child without consultation with an Ayurveda expert.
Generally, prescription-based Ayurvedic medicines have fewer side effects compared to their allopathic counterparts.
Possible Benefits of Ayurvedic Medicine For Children
Some possible benefits of Ayurvedic medicines for children are:
- Unlike modern medicine that works on reducing symptoms, Ayurvedic medicines treat the illness.
- Ayurvedic treatment often involves favorable modifications in diet, exercise, and lifestyle. These changes may improve the child’s health in the long term.
- Ayurvedic preparations may help boost immunity, thus, in turn, helping in proper growth and development of the children.
Possible Side Effects Of Ayurvedic Medicines
- An overdose of Ayurvedic medicines can cause adverse effects. For instance, a high dose of Triphala, an Ayurvedic formulation, can cause loose motions due to its laxative effects.
- Ayurvedic medicines could have possible interactions with other drugs or herbs.
- Ayurvedic medicine consists of herbs that may trigger allergic reactions in some children.
- Some Ayurvedic preparations contain metals, like arsenic, lead, and mercury, in levels that can lead to toxicity.
Precautions To Take While Using Ayurvedic Medicine For Children
Follow these precautions if you are using Ayurvedic preparations for your child.
- Ayurvedic medicines and products do not undergo FDA review. Thus, do not use Ayurvedic medicines without prescription (6).
- Do not use non-prescription Ayurvedic medicines/herbs as home remedies. Their overdose in children can have adverse effects.
- Keep your Ayurvedic doctor informed about all the medicines or treatment modalities that you are following for your child. It is essential to avoid side effects and ensure coordinated care for your child.
- Discuss your child’s allergies with the Ayurvedic doctor so that they can provide you an alternative prescription.
- Never stop or alter the dose without the knowledge and approval of your healthcare provider.
You may use Ayurvedic medicine for kids as a natural treatment for different health conditions and overall growth and development. However, similar to most therapies and medicines, it should be considered only after consulting an Ayurveda expert to avoid adverse reactions, such as allergies or toxic reactions. An expert can provide your child with the right treatment and some effective lifestyle changes after diagnosing the condition.
2. Balaroga (Paediatrics); JSS Ayurveda Hospital
3. Prakriti (Psychosomatic Constitution); National Health Portal; The Ministry of Health And Family Welfare, India
4. Prakriti Analysis And Its Clinical Significance; International Journal of Ayurveda ANd Pharma Research
5. Fundamentals of Ayurveda National Health Portal; The Ministry of Health And Family Welfare, India
6. Is Ayurvedic Medicine Safe?; University of Minnesota
7. Ayurveda; C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital