Researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia have reviewed the evidence in children and adolescents.

The authors include data from adults, because if they limited the discussion to children and adolescents it would be a very short article.

That’s not a problem here.

Omega-3 fatty acids

  • Low blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been reported in children with ADHD and associated with ADHD symptoms.
  • Also, long-term inadequate intake is associated with depression in young people.
  • In 6- to 17-year-olds with bipolar disorder, there was no difference in mood between flax oil (rich in the omega-3 precursor alpha-linolenic acid [ALA]) and placebo.
  • In 16 children with bipolar disorder there was a modest but statistically significant improvement in manic and psychotic symptoms and depression but, on average, the manic and depressive symptoms were still present.
  • Another study reported a significant reduction in symptoms in children aged 8-12 years with major depressive disorder.
  • Omega-3 is generally well tolerated by children.

St John’s wort

  • Pediatric data are lacking.
  • Watch for drug interactions.

Lemon balm/valerian

  • One poorly designed study of a lemon balm/valerian combination on restlessness and dyssomnia (difficulty sleeping) reported improvement, but the significance of the improvement was not addressed.
  • The contribution of lemon balm and valerian individually isn’t known.

Gingko biloba

  • Gingko biloba extract in children with dyslexia was associated with significant clinical improvement in their reading accuracy of word lists and texts, but reading speed was unchanged.
  • The study lacked a placebo control.

The bottom line?
The authors believe, “Considering the potential some CAM treatments have displayed in adult studies and the emerging potential revealed by the few pilot studies in children, quality research to establish the efficacy and safety of such treatments in this group is warranted.”

7/15/08 21:15 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.