Conference Coverage

Get familiar with evidence on these supplements



NEW ORLEANS – With more than 10% of children receiving complementary or alternative medicine (CAM), you should be familiar with what does and doesn’t work when it comes to using supplements for various medical issues, said Cora Breuner, MD, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, Seattle, and attending physician at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Cora C. Breuner, chairperson of the AAP Committee on Adolescence

Dr. Cora C. Breuner

Dr. Breuner presented an overview of more than a dozen popular supplements with their uses and evidence at the American Academy of Pediatrics annual meeting. Most of the evidence comes from studies in adults, not children, and the evidence overall is sometimes scant, but it can guide physicians in discussing options with parents interested in CAM.


This root primarily is used to treat migraines via anti-inflammatory effects. The ideal dose is 50-75 mg daily in 2-3 divided doses for children aged 8-9 years and 100-150 mg daily in 2-3 divided doses for those aged 10 and older (Headache. 2005 Mar;45:196-203; Eur J Pain. 2008;12:301-13; Neurology. 2012 Apr 24;78[17]:1346-53).

Adverse effects are mostly gastrointestinal, such as diarrhea and stomach upset, and dermal/allergic reactions, such as itchy eyes, asthma, and itching.


Caffeine is the most popular drug of choice for reducing drowsiness and increasing alertness and has the strongest evidence base, including for improving sports and work performance (J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Jan;24[1]:257-65). Regular caffeine use can lead to dependence, however, and it can cause anxiety, nervousness, irritability, insomnia, peptic ulcers, palpitations, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and tremors. Withdrawal can involve headaches, irritability, and anxiety.


Marijuana has more than 80 cannabinoids, and a nonpsychoactive one, cannabidiol, makes up about 40% of cannabis extracts, Dr. Breuner said. It’s been used as an anticonvulsant and to combat anxiety, psychosis, nausea and rheumatoid arthritis pain. In a study using a rat model for arthritis, inflammation and pain-related behaviors decreased in rats that received cannabidiol (Eur J Pain. 2016 Jul;20[6]:936-48).

A human dose would be about 160-300 mg daily, but side effects can include dry mouth, hypotension, lightheadedness, psychomotor slowing, sedation, and sleepiness.

Coenzyme Q10

This antioxidant is fat-soluble and has a chemical structure similar to vitamin K. It has been used in people with autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, fatigue from chemotherapy, Lyme disease, and muscular dystrophy, but the evidence focuses on fibromyalgia. One study of patients with fibromyalgia found that a 300-mg daily dose for 40 days reduced pain by 52%-56%, fatigue by 47%, morning tiredness by 56%, and tender points by 44%, compared with baseline (Antioxid Redox Signal. 2013;19[12]:1356-61.)

In another, 200 mg of coenzyme Q10 with 200 mg ginkgo daily for 3 months resulted in improvement of quality of life measures, including physical fitness levels, emotional feelings, social activities, overall health, and pain (J Int Med Res. 2002;30:195-9).

Potential adverse effects of coenzyme Q10 include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, appetite suppression, and heartburn, albeit typically in less than 1% of patients.


Next Article: