Is It Safe for Infants to Drink Herbal Teas?

by Sara Ipatenco

    Herbal teas can be calming, soothing and relaxing, but they aren't necessarily safe for infants. In fact, infants under the age of 6 months old shouldn't have anything to eat or drink other than formula or breast milk, but preferably breast milk, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. After the age of 6 months, you can begin introducing solid foods into your infant's diet, but think twice before letting her drink herbal teas.

    One of the primary reasons to avoid giving your infant herbal teas is that most herbs aren't regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Without regulation, you can't be sure that herbs aren't contaminated or are too potent for your little one. In fact, according to the FDA, they leave it up to individual manufacturers to label and monitor their own herbal products. The only responsibility that the FDA has is to take action if it turns out that a product was mislabeled or ends up being dangerous. For that reason, herbal teas might pose health risks that are unknown right now, according to a 2011 article published in the journal "Pediatrics."

    While most adults can safety drink a cup or two, or even more, of herbal tea each day, infants are much smaller, weigh less and can be effected by less of each ingredient. In the cases of many herbs, there are no known safe doses for infants and children so it's difficult to know how much would be too much. Further, many parents give their infants herbs without the recommendation or supervision of a doctor, according to a 2011 article published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association." Without approval from a physician, you might inadvertently give your infant a potentially dangerous amount.

    Because most herbs haven't been tested in children, it's tough to know if they're safe or not. Many might be beneficial, but it's impossible to know that, or if they're dangerous, without scientific test results. Certain herbs are known to cause side effects in both adults and children. For example, aloe, which is often used to treat burns and constipation, can cause an abnormal heartbeat in children, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Ginger, which is often used as a natural remedy for an upset stomach, can get in the way of normal blood clotting. If a tea contains chaparral, comfrey, germander or ephedrine, it can pose a risk to your infant as well, the KidsHealth website reports.

    In some cases, your infant's doctor might recommend an herbal supplement for a specific condition, such as colic, or if she hasn't responded to medicine for an illness such as an ear infection or urinary tract infection. Don't assume that because a package of herbal tea says it's natural, that it's safe. Many things that grow in nature and are natural, such as poison ivy, can be dangerous. It's usually safer to err on the side of caution and skip the herbal teas entirely. If you're breastfeeding your infant, you should also ask your doctor about what herbal teas are safe and which you should avoid until you're done nursing.

    About the Author

    Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

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