Popping a smart pill
Q: I take supplements to keep my mind sharp. My grandchildren are in school. With all of their classwork and testing, is there anything they can take to help them succeed?
Dr. Wright: I’m turning this question over to my colleague (and regular Nutrition & Healing contributor) Kerry Bone:
The herb Bacopa is traditionally used to improve memory and learning. And believe it or not, this herb can help to improve a child’s intelligence.
In one clinical trial, Bacopa significantly improved IQ scores in 10- to 13-year-old children with average intelligence over a nine-month treatment period. In an earlier trial, scientists tested its efficacy as an intellectual stimulant for 40 children 6 to 8 years old. The researchers conducted a series of tests designed to investigate visual motor function, memory, perceptual ability, and visual motor perception for all the children. They found that taking Bacopa (350 mg, three times a day) for a period of three months was superior to placebo in all tests.
For example, in the maze learning (which tests visual motor function) and in digit span tests (which test immediate memory), the Bacopa group demonstrated significant improvements, while the placebo group showed no improvement at all. Bacopa also improved visual motor perception. It’s important to note that children achieve the best results with Bacopa with continued use.
Bacopa is just one of the herbs that are beneficial to children. Overall, herbs can support the development of the immune system, boost digestive functioning, and improve appetite. Certain tonics can assist overall growth and maturation and can reduce the biological stress associated with growing and adapting to new situations. Herbs can also help prevent allergies, asthma, and other chronic diseases by strengthening the child’s immune system. And unlike conventional medications, they don’t have nearly as many side effects.
Of course, whenever you’re giving children medicine of any kind–even if it’s completely natural–it’s important to consider dosage. Children differ from adults in their metabolism of herbs, they have lower body weights, and they have developing nervous and immune systems that make them more sensitive. There are various rules for figuring out doses for children. The easiest one is Clark’s rule: Divide the child’s weight in pounds by 150 to determine the fraction of the adult dose that he should take. For example, if a child weighs 50 pounds, he should be given 1/3 of the adult dose.
But you should be especially careful when treating children under 24 months old. First of all, only certain herbs are suitable for children this young. Also, instead of using body weight to determine the proper dosage, it’s better to use their age in months. According to Fried’s rule, divide the age of the child in months by 150 to determine the fraction of the adult dose. So a 15-month-old child would get 1/10 of the adult dose. And, of course, you should always check with the child’s doctor before adding a supplement to their routine.