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Colic Remedies: Is TLC Better Than Herbal Tea?

Study Analysis Finds Scant Evidence That Fennel Extract, Herbal Tea, Sugar Solution Work, but ‘Common Sense and TLC’ May Soothe Colicky Baby
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 28, 2011 -- When babies get colic, stressed out parents often will try almost any remedy, from herbal teas to sugary solutions or infant massage, to stop the constant crying.

Now, a new analysis of these popular approaches finds little convincing evidence they work.

Although some encouraging results were found for fennel, mixed herbal tea, and sugar solutions, Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, who conducted the analysis, has this suggestion: "The advice is not to use any complementary treatment on them, because some of them are not risk free. All of them cost money."

Instead? "Just apply common sense and TLC, which seem to be the best treatment for that condition anyway," says Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth in the U.K.

If that's not enough, he concedes, fennel tea is probably OK.

Colic: When and How It Strikes

The cause of colic is still not known. It occurs most commonly in the first four months of life.

Besides constant crying, the baby may curl up the legs, clench the fists, and tense up the abdominal muscles. Crying can begin for no apparent reason. It can persist for three hours or more on a single day.

Doctors consider it to be colic when the crying occurs more than three hours daily, three days a week for more than three weeks in a baby who is otherwise healthy.

About one in five babies develop colic. A drug used in the past, dicyclomine hydrochloride, was found effective. But after reports of severe and potentially fatal side effects, it fell out of favor.

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