The dip in temperatures outside means winter has finally hit Hong Kong, and with that comes the cough season and plenty of sniffing red noses conquering subways, schools and kindergartens. You’re probably going to spot one of them among your loved ones and you might even remember last year’s hit on your family – that week when your annual tissue consumption reached an impressive peak.
So, how do you avoid it this year? Some ancient Chinese wisdom might do the trick, offering simple and effective ways to boost your kids’ immune systems and cure the little red noses with natural and mild alternatives to western medicine. Let’s enhance your parental toolbox and have a look at what Traditional Chinese Medicine can do for you and your kids.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has a long history which includes the development of pediatrics within TCM, dating back to the first book on treatment of children called “Xiaoer Yaozheng Zhijue” in 1114 AD. The traditional Chinese childcare strongly focuses on what kids should eat, how much clothes they should wear and how much sleep is needed. What at first glance might look like a very protective way of child upbringing is actually based on a complex and sophisticated system within TCM. To understand this system, we need to take a closer look at how TCM views kids.
Kids are growing humans, as much on the outside as on the inside.
In our young age, organs are still immature and therefore more sensitive. Children’s lungs are yet to be fully developed, but since our lungs are responsible for the circulation of our protectiveqi, weak lungs usually mean an inferior immune system. There’s also a strong connection between weak lungs and upper respiratory diseases such as colds, coughs, allergies and asthma. In autumn and winter especially, your lungs will need some extra help to keep up the necessary protective qi.
To boost your kids’ lung power in winter, try brewing them a cup of the famous “Jade Windscreen Tea”:
5g Chinese Parsnip Root
10g Astragalus Root
10g Atractylodes Rhizome
Boil together in 400-600ml of water. Then lower the hear, cover the pot and let it simmer for 30-45min. Turn off the heat, leave it covered and let it rest of 15 minutes. Then filter the tea and serve.Tip: This tea can only use for prevention but not for treatment of colds and flu.
Another important organ that is often overlooked by western medicine is our spleen. Together with the stomach, the spleen is responsible for our digestion. Kids under 7 years have an immature and sensitive digestive system, which is worsened by our modern diets filled with unhealthy foods and sweets.
This becomes especially problematic when we look at the close connection between the spleen and the lung: according to the Chinese 5-element theory, the spleen is the mother of the lung. And like in real life, when mama gets sick, the kids won’t be happy either: An improper diet causes a weak spleen, which will weaken the lung and trigger colds and coughs.
A chronically troubled spleen may even lead to respiratory diseases such as asthma and allergies. By addressing the root cause and managing a healthy diet for your family, you can control these diseases easily. Avoid overeating and foods that are high in unnatural elements like processed foods. Opt for the organic choices as much as you can.
To specifically invigorate spleen function, try out this Chinese porridge:
20g poria cocos (also known as fu ling)
10g Chinese jujube
50g sticky rice
A little brown sugar
I recommend to eat small portions of this congee as part of your three meals a day.
The Yin and the Yang
Children are constantly growing and developing. According to TCM, this is accompanied by “Pure Yang” in the body, which easily turns into an overload of heat – your kid is on fire! There is good news and bad news. Bad news is, the lack of cooling Yin and an abundance of Pure Yang usually leads to liver heat. Your kid will have trouble sleeping or not being able to focus in school. In extreme cases, it might lead to ADHD.
The good news is, your kids can use their Yang-power to recover very fast, too. To support your kid you need to take some of the heat out of their system. Simply drinking the right tea or other mild herbs will help to get the right balance back. Avoid foods that contain high amounts of growth hormones, like none organic milk and chicken. Stay away from deep-fried foods, barbecues or chips, as those foods contain a lot of heat. And again, choose organic foods wherever you can.
If your kids are already starting to get the sniffles, TCM can be a good alternative to western medicine, with some milder and safer treatments. Pediatric treatments can include acupressure or acupuncture, using small and pain-free needles specifically designed for children. Since younger patients usually don’t like to sit still, they will only be shortly pricked into the qi points and then removed again.
More commonly, traditional treatment for kids involves light herbals, which are consumed as teas. Another common practice is pediatric massages, which you can also learn yourself and use as a comforting way to bond with your child.
By simply observing the subtle imbalances in your body and integrating preventive TCM advices into your everyday life, you will find it easy to keep your family healthy throughout winter!
Certified Holistic Health Coach and Chinese Medicine nutritionist at Balance Health and Oriental Health
Chinese Medicine Nutritionist, Chinese University Hong Kong
Holistic Health Coach, IIN New York (Institution of Integrative Nutrition)
Judy Xu is a Holistic Health Coach, combining integrative medicine from the West with the ancient wisdom of Chinese Medicine for a modern lifestyle that helps patients to naturally achieve balance and health. Judy believes that creating balance is the prerequisite for health and self-healing. In her coaching she takes a holistic approach to address imbalances and create a long-term basis for health. She enables clients to achieve weight loss, a peaceful mind, improve energy levels and manage stress. Judy is originally from Shanghai and a long-term resident of Hong Kong. She speaks and writes English and Chinese.
Originally published 12 December 2014 on Sassy Mama HK