Treating Children with Chinese Herbal Remedies
Herbal medicine is a powerful and effective modality used to bring health and wellness to children and adults alike. Just because herbs are “all natural,” though, doesn’t mean that they are completely harmless. It is said that, “anything strong enough to heal you is also strong enough to harm you if taken incorrectly.” When prescribed by an experienced practitioner, Chinese herbs are both safe and effective healing to treat a variety of disorders in children from infants to teens.
Why would an infant need herbs? Herbs can be given to babies to alleviate colic, to stop pain and irritability that is associated with teething, and to treat symptoms such as runny nose, allergies, or coughs. Chinese herbs are also well known for treatment of skin disorders such as pediatric eczema.
As kids get older and begin going to school or spending time with groups of children, herbs and a healthy diet are an effective combination to help strengthen the immune system. When groups of kids begin passing around cold and flu bugs, it’s an important time to be proactive with your child’s health and concentrate on prevention. Chinese medicine teaches that one should always first try the least invasive method of healing before moving on to more invasive methods. In focusing on health and healing, the first line of defense is feeding a child a diet that is low in sugar, high in fresh foods, and built around meals that are easy to digest. At the root of optimizing health is making sure the digestive system is functioning effectively. This means avoiding greasy and fried foods and eliminating “damp” foods such as excessive amounts of dairy, sugar, or peanut butter that create a build-up of turbidity in the digestive tract. Steamed or baked vegetables, a variety of grains, small amounts of meat and fresh fruits should be the focus of each meal.
If your child is exposed to sick kids or is traveling on an airplane, Chinese herbs can be taken a couple of times a day to increase immunity.
When symptoms such as sore throat, earaches, runny nose or other cold/flu-like illnesses do occur, specific Chinese formulas are given with anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. These formulas target the area where symptoms are occurring – including “guide” herbs which direct the formula to the area of the problem. For example, different herbs will be chosen for an earache than those used for a sore throat. Some herbs are used to stop pain and reduce swelling, others may be added to transform phlegm. Different herbs will be used for clear, runny nose than for thick, yellow mucus.
Herbal formulas are effective to treat acute illness as well as to prevent illness when there is a history of chronic infections and antibiotic use. For example, for kids who have had chronic recurring, earaches, herbs are given to break the earache/antibiotic cycle. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that one-third of the 150 million prescriptions written for antibiotics each year are unnecessary, resulting in bacterial strains that become tougher than the antibiotics being used against them. Children are among the patients most susceptible to these antibiotic resistant “super bugs”. At Oasis Palisades, we are proponents of antibiotics, but feel their use should be saved only for times when they are truly necessary.
When there are both emotional and physical components to a child’s condition, herbal remedies are used to balance both. For example, herbs are used in cases of insomnia to promote restful sleep without causing drowsiness during the day. Chronic – is treated with herbs according to the individual presentation of each child’s situation. In cases of ADD/ADHD, herbs are chosen to calm and balance the child.
At Oasis Palisades, I recommend a number of liquid pediatric tinctures from companies I trust. These tinctures are made from high quality herbs that go through rigorous testing for purity and quality (and are also formulas I find to be highly effective). In some cases, I prefer to customize formulas to meet the individual needs of patients. A typical customized blend will contain anywhere from four to fifteen herbs, each one chosen to meet the unique symptoms and constitution of the child.
The most important aspect of treating any child with Chinese herbs is to understand the full picture of their condition. This involves looking at all their symptoms and patterns, and creating a plan for total wellness through diet, herbs, exercise, and healthy living.