Herbal Treatment for Viral Diarrhea in Children
Children suffering from diarrhea and dehydration due to rotavirus infection may benefit from taking tormentil root (Potentilla tormentilla) extract, according to a new study in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal (2003; 22:706–10). Those taking tormentil root extract had a shorter duration of diarrhea and did not require as much intravenous or oral rehydration fluids.
Rotavirus is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in children and primarily affects children under one year old. It is estimated to cause more than 800,000 deaths each year in developing countries. Although death can usually be prevented by adequate replacement of fluid and electrolytes, rehydration fluids are not accessible or are too expensive for routine use in these countries. Since a virus causes this type of diarrhea, antibiotics are ineffective; moreover, no vaccine is currently available.
There is a great need, therefore, for an effective, inexpensive treatment to prevent the thousands of unnecessary deaths. The findings of the current study suggest that tormentil root may shorten the duration of diarrhea and thus reduce the need for rehydration fluids that may not be accessible in developing countries.
In the new study, 40 children between the ages of three months and seven years admitted to the hospital with rotavirus diarrhea and dehydration were assigned to receive 3 drops of tormentil root extract or placebo three times a day until the diarrhea stopped or for a maximum of five days. All children continued to receive rehydration fluids as needed. The frequency and duration of vomiting and diarrhea were monitored and recorded during the treatment period. The volume of rehydration fluid required was also measured.
Children receiving tormentil root extract had a significant reduction in diarrhea, compared with those taking a placebo. The duration of diarrhea in the tormentil root and placebo groups was three days and five days, respectively. After 48 hours, diarrhea ceased completely in 40% of the children in treatment group, compared with only 5% of the children receiving the placebo. Those taking tormentil root also required less rehydration fluids and had significantly shorter stays in the hospital. No adverse reactions were observed in those receiving tormentil root.
Tormentil root extract has been shown in preliminary studies to have anti-inflammatory, immune-stimulating, and potentially antiviral effects. It is not clear which of these effects is most responsible in stopping rotavirus diarrhea. The researchers observed several children whose diarrhea ceased after a single dose of tormentil root. They suggest that treatment at the onset of symptoms may produce even better results. No toxicity or drug interactions have been reported with tormentil root, even at high doses, making this a safe treatment for infants and children. This inexpensive, effective treatment could have a significant impact in reducing childhood mortality in developing countries.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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