Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is slowly gaining popularity among young Singaporean adults, but did you know that children as young as 6 months old can also benefit from TCM?
For the uninitiated, TCM is a medical system based on more than 2,500 years of Chinese medical practice. It is based on theories such as Yin and Yang, the five elements and the five organs.
TCM approaches the body holistically and corrects the imbalance within our body to achieve better health. Children too, can benefit from this age old practice.
Feeling apprehensive? We take a closer look at TCM and debunk some of the misconceptions and myths about TCM for children.
1. My child is too young to start TCM treatment
TCM is not limited to any age. While physicians might shun from using acupuncture on young children due to fidgeting and the fear of needles, other treatment methods like herbal medication can be used for any age.
Paediatric tuina, a form of TCM massage therapy where gentle techniques are used to stimulate acupoints to treat illnesses and strengthen the body, is most effective for children under 7.
2. Getting children to take TCM herbs is hard
While Chinese herbal medication is certainly a taste that one has to get used to, it is a common misconception that all Chinese herbal medications are bitter (think wolfberries and red dates). Not all TCM herbs are foul tasting! There are also modern options where herbs are made into small granules or capsules that are easy to swallow and are quite tasteless.
If bitter herbal preparations do need to be taken, wash down with some naturally sweet food like raisins, fruit or honey after taking the medicine. Before you know it, the medicine is inside the child’s stomach.
Frankly, it is also a matter of habit. If the child is exposed to the taste of Chinese herbal medication from young, he or she will be more likely to accept it easily.
3. I should seek out a TCM practitioner only when my child is sick
TCM takes a holistic approach towards health, thus, apart from treating illnesses, great emphasis is also placed on prevention. Herbal medication, auricular plaster therapy or paediatric tuina can be used to strengthen the child’s immunity and correct imbalances in the body even when the child is not sick. Some common conditions in children that can be improved using TCM include: frequent colds (low immunity), chronic coughs, poor appetite and indigestion.
4. TCM and western therapies should not be mixed
TCM can be used to complement western therapies. For example, in asthma, western therapies focus on providing quick relief during an acute attack and long term control of symptoms.
TCM comes into the picture by targeting the root cause of the disease, which could be due to lung, spleen or kidney deficiency, among others, thereby reducing the frequency and severity of asthma. If your child is taking western medication, a 2 hour time interval between western and Chinese medication is recommended.
5. I can give my child a smaller dose of my own TCM medication, or his older brother’s, if they have the same illness
No, you should not. TCM medicine as prescribed from a physician is individually tailor-made based on the person’s illness and body condition. Each person may require a different mix of herbs that is best suited for his/her body and illness. Consult a physician or trained TCM advisor to check if your younger child could take the same medication.
6. The more bitter the herbs, the better it is
No. That would only mean there are many bitter herbs in the prescription. There are many different kinds of herbs. Some herbs are bitter while some are sweet, sour or salty. The herbs prescribed depend on your illness. TCM medicine could in fact be very sweet and tasty.
7. TCM effects are slow
No. Illnesses such as sore throat, cold and fever can possibly be resolved in 1 or 2 days using available remedies bought in-store. Diseases such as asthma and digestive problems could take a few rounds of medicine for improvements to be seen, and weeks or months for full recovery.
8. TCM may not work and is not suitable for everyone
TCM is suitable and can work for anyone, as long as you are taking the right herbs for your condition. Taking the wrong remedies can result in the illness not improving or even worsening. Speak to a physician or a trained TCM advisor to understand your body condition in order to use the right herbs.
If you are considering TCM for your child, it is best to consult a registered TCM physician for a thorough diagnosis and treatment.
These questions were answered by Physician Fan Yu Zhen of Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic @ Chinatown / Clementi Mall and Eu Yan Sang Premier TCM Centre @ HarbourFront, and Certified TCM Herbalist, Huang Yan Fei
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