Many families know this well: they reach for fennel tea when their baby or toddler is whining about tummy troubles. But children should drink the infusion only from the age of four. This is the current recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). What is behind this and what alternatives exist?

Safety not proven in infants

Fennel seeds contain estragole. Fennel tea contains it in a variety of quantities.

© dpa / Christine Klose/dpa-tmn

“Fennel contains estragole, which in animal experiments led to liver cancer at high doses,” says pediatrician Ulrich Fegeler, member of the scientific advisory board of the professional association of pediatricians and adolescent physicians (BVKJ). “Safety for infants has not been established.”

Problem: Estragole content can vary greatly from tea to tea. An Austrian study found that some teas contain nearly 60 times more estragole than other teas.

The purpose of the recommendation is to prevent children from consuming harmful amounts of estragole, especially since fennel is also found in some cereals.

But many questions still remain open. BVKJ notes that there is no exact limit for the safe amount of estragole per day. Therefore, children under eleven years of age should drink fennel tea in moderation.

Better cumin tea instead of fennel tea.

An alternative to fennel tea is caraway tea. “The essential oils in it have a digestive stimulating effect,” says pediatrician Fegeler. Cumin is a spice that has been used frequently for centuries and has been added to many dishes for its effects. A striking example: sauerkraut.

And cumin tea is prepared quickly: “Simply pour a bottle’s worth of boiling water over a teaspoon of cumin and let it brew for ten minutes.”

But in many cases, when your stomach is growling, what matters more than a warm infusion: your parents’ attention. “For example, by holding the baby in your arms or gently massaging the belly in a clockwise direction,” Fegeler describes. (DPA/VOI)

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