There's concern that some mothers are giving their babies herbal supplements and teas that could be a health risk since they are not regulated.

A study done for the University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, has found that nine per cent of infants in a major survey were given a wide variety of herbal supplements and tea. It is being raised as a concern because some supplements given to infants may be health risks.

Published in the June edition of Pediatrics, the study showed that infants as young as one month were given either dietary botanical supplements or herbal teas.

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Ginger has been used for centuries as a natural remedy. (istock)

The purity and potency of such supplements and teas are not regulated in the same way as pharmaceuticals and may lead to adverse drug reactions and may contain heavy metals and other contaminants which could be harmful, says the study.

In 2007 one brand of gripe water, used to soothe fussy babies, was recalled because it contained cryptosporidium, a parasite that can cause intestinal infections.

The supplements and teas are sometimes preferred by parents because they can be obtained without medical prescriptions and have been shown to be effective for some conditions. Most are marketed as, and considered to be, more natural. 

The most common reasons that mothers fed supplements and herbal teas to their infants were to help with fussiness, digestion, colic and relaxation. Mothers who used supplements themselves were more likely to give them to their babies.

Experts recommend that infants receive only human milk or infant formula for the first four to six months, with vitamins and medicine as needed.

Data for the study was taken from the Infant Feeding Practices Study II, a survey of women and their infants that was done between 2005 and 2007 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The sample was drawn from a nationally distributed consumer opinion panel and was limited to healthy mothers with healthy term or near-term singleton infants.