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The last 100 generations of TCM practitioners have discovered various characteristics that are common in all children. Moreover, according to TCM, children are not just considered miniature adults but they are also believed to be immature both physically and functionally. Another observation noted was that children easily and quickly return to health when the root of their illness is addressed.
In TCM, there are four primary methods of treating children (and adults): Dietary Therapy, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Chinese Pediatric Massage and Acupuncture.
• Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese Herbal Medicine is one of the most sophisticated herbal medicine systems in the world. Typically, combinations of more than 10 ingredients are used in formulas correlated to an individual's pattern of disharmony. The formulas are crafted together to act synergistically and every ingredient is designed to accomplish a part of the overall process of restoring balance.
Chinese herbs include roots, barks, fruits, berries, twigs, stems, leaves and flowers from the plant kingdom. As well, Chinese herbs may also encompass ingredients from the animal and mineral kingdoms. Chinese herbal medicine is great for both the preventive and remedial treatment of illnesses. There are a number of formulas that have been used by Chinese doctors for 2,000 years to improve the general health of children. Preventive herbal formulas may be used to inhibit chronic or recurrent tonsillitis, ear infections, cough, asthma etc.. The dosage and type of formula is modified as the person’s illness changes.
There are a number of ways that Chinese herbal medicine can be dispensed for children. There are pills, powders, tinctures and teas. Any liquid form of Chinese medicine may be conveniently and effectively administered via an eye dropper. When prescribed and dispensed by a qualified practitioner of TCM, Chinese herbal medicine is safe with few or no side effects.
• Dietary Therapy
Seeing that digestion plays such a pivotal role in the health and well-being of infants and young children, their diet is extremely important in preventing and treating the most commonly encountered children's diseases. The same diet that the average parent in Western society has been led to believe to be healthy for infants and children can be problematic according to TCM. Most pediatric diseases can be either completely eliminated or markedly improved if a child's diet is modified.
Human breast milk is the single best food for babies and is the right consistency and temperature. Breast milk has too many benefits to list in this short article, but is well known to lower the incidence of many diseases including asthma, eczema and allergies to name a few. When children are overfed, their stomachs and spleens are inundated with more food than they can efficiently handle and this may lead to digestive system discomfort, such as colic. Feeding on a schedule and in smaller amounts can significantly decrease colic, earaches, coughs, and colds in young children.
Proper introduction of solid foods is an important stage in the child’s development and (if done properly) can prevent various diseases from taking place. Limiting sweets and dairy foods is also important for a child's health. According to TCM, sweets damage the spleen (or digestion), while dairy products are too dampening. Fruit juices contain a lot of sugar and should be decreased or eliminated from the child’s diet. In general, the amount of sugar any child eats must be monitored by their parents. No child can eat whatever they wish and still remain entirely healthy. The majority of food a child eats should be cooked because cooked foods are easier for them to digest due to their immature digestion. Children should be fed whole foods with a high percentage of vegetables, fruits, grains and complex carbohydrates and smaller amounts of meats, eggs and dairy products.
In general, acupuncture is not often used in the treatment of children especially under six years of age. In TCM, the primary modalities used in pediatrics by the Chinese doctor are herbal medicine and massage. Acupuncture may be used in treating serious or emergency conditions. It is important to understand that the needles used in acupuncture are extremely fine (as fine as a strand of horse hair) and rather painless when compared to the hypodermic needles used in modern medicine.
To lessen any anxiety that may accompany a child's first acupuncture treatment, the acupuncturist may use acupuncture points on the child's back that are out of the child's view. Others stimulate the needle for a moment or two after insertion and then immediately remove it in comparison to adult patients where the needles are left in for 20-30 minutes. Also, fewer needles are used when treating children with acupuncture in comparison to an adult with a similar condition.