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Children often need some support with their wellbeing, and TCM provides ways to care for many childhood ailments safely and naturally.

Children’s health: A traditional Chinese medicine perspective

Understanding paediatric conditions

“fa bing rong yi, chuan bian xun su.” (Children easily become ill, and their illnesses quickly become serious.)

“zang fu qing ling, yi qu kang fu.” ([Children’s] yin and yang organs are clear and spirited. They easily and quickly regain their health.) (1 p4-5)

Children are energetically dynamic beings. While this means illnesses may take hold and flourish quickly, it thankfully also means that they can recover quickly and typically require far less intervention (including quantities of herbal aides) than adults. 

How do conditions affecting children work in TCM?

As with adults, TCM treats the child as a whole, taking into account the state of their bodies, minds, spirits and lifestyle. We view their digestive, respiratory, immune and nervous systems as immature and prone to disruption. In particular, the digestive system, of which so much is asked in childhood in terms of metabolism and growth, is seen as pivotal to a child’s wellbeing. A disturbance in this area, known as the spleen/ stomach system in TCM, can and often does have a knock-on effect to all other systems. This impacts both physical and psychological processes and is found at the root of most paediatric maladies, from eczema to asthma, recurrent colds to behavioural challenges.

In particular, digestive issues impact the respiratory system in young children. This occurs in several ways. The spleen and stomach are responsible for extracting qi from the food we eat and this provides energy to the Lung system. If this process is weakened, the lungs will be, likewise. Secondly, our immunity (wei qi) is built upon energy derived from digestion and the air we breathe. Where wei qi is insufficient, the child will be prone to catching colds and these, in turn, further weaken the lungs. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the spleen and stomach are responsible for transforming and transporting food and fluids. When this is impacted, turbidity and fluids accumulate and lead to the formation of ‘dampness’ and phlegm. In TCM we say that “the spleen is the source of phlegm and the lungs are the storehouse of phlegm”. As such, we see a direct link between typical childhood conditions such as frequent loose stools and chronic coughs or stuffy noses. We also believe that the lungs express themselves through the skin. Not only does this explain why children with skin conditions so often have concurrent digestive complaints, but also the known connection between paediatric asthma and eczema.

Needless to say, TCM views a suitable diet and sound eating habits as central to the treatment and prevention of many childhood complaints and imperative for fostering well-being and long-term health in our little ones.

Many herbs are suitable for self-care. However if a health condition does not resolve with home remedies we recommend using the information in Herbal Reality along with your health advisors, especially herbal practitioners from the professional associations listed in our Resources page (‘If you want to find a herbalist”). When buying any herbal products, you should choose responsible manufacturers with independently assured quality standards and sustainability practices. Check the label carefully for the appropriate safety and sustainability information.

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