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Whenever there's a new cold going around, do you worry that Junior will catch it? In TCM, parents can try to build up their child's resistance against illnesses with simple home remedies. Here's a guide.

How does TCM view immunity?

In TCM, the body's immunity depends on ""healthy energy"", or Zheng Qi. Zheng Qi flows throughout the body and defends it against external pathogens.

Zheng Qi is closely linked to the functioning of the body's organs. ""Each organ has its own Qi (energy) and it contributes to the overall Qi in the body,"" Physician Zhang Ruifen of Eu Yan Sang Clinic at Jurong East, Sembawang and Serangoon explains. Well-functioning organ systems contribute to strong Zheng Qi, which makes one less likely to fall sick.

In healthy adults, all organ systems should be working properly. However, children's Lung and Spleen systems are weak. This compromises overall immunity. In addition, a weak Lung system increases the likelihood of respiratory illnesses, while a weak Spleen system makes one prone to digestive illnesses. This is why children often catch colds and have stomach upsets.

To boost a child's immunity, TCM remedies focus on tonifying the Lungs and Spleen systems.

Boosting Immunity with Herbs

To build up immunity, Physician Zhang suggests adding herbs to the diet which strengthen the Spleen and Lung systems and overall Qi. The herbs include Poria (Fuling, 茯苓), White Atractylodes (Baizhu, 白术), Euryale Seed (Qianshi, 芡实), Coix Barley (Yiyiren, 薏苡仁), Astragalus Root (Huangqi, 黄芪) and Chinese Yam (Huaishan, 淮山). Chinese Yam, in particular, can be consumed every day because of its mild and neutral properties.

For a soup that tonifies the Spleen and Lungs systems, you can simmer the following ingredients together in a pot of water.

• Astragalus Root (Huangqi, 黄芪), 10g 
• White Atractylodes (Baizhu, 白术), 10g 
• Licorice Root (Gancao,甘草), 5g (for sweetness) 
• Pork ribs, 500g

Generally, tonifying herbs should not be consumed when the child is sick. Physician Zhang advises, ""When you’re sick, you shouldn't be tonifying yourself because it would obstruct the clearing of pathogens from the body, hence impeding recovery.""

Lifestyle Tips

You can also adopt these lifestyle practices to boost a child's immunity and overall health.

1. Maintain a healthy diet
Avoid cold drinks and do not eat too much fried, sweet or spicy food. These foods are bad for the digestive system. Observe regular mealtimes.

2. Get plenty of sleep
For young children who are about three years of age, Physician Zhang recommends 14 hours of sleep a day, including naptimes.

The amount of sleep a child needs will decrease as they get older. In general, it is beneficial for young children to sleep at least 12 hours a day.

3. Don't overdress children when it's cold
In TCM, moderate exposure to cold can help train children's resistance against external pathogens. This is especially important between the ages of 3 and 7.

4. Catch some rays of sunshine
Some sun exposure helps boost Yang Qi, which is important for children's development. You can encourage your child to play outside in the early morning, when it's less hot, for about 30 minutes.

We hope you find these immunity-building suggestions helpful! But remember that home remedies will have limited effects. If you're interested in getting a more personalised treatment for your child, it is best to consult a licensed TCM physician.


The remedies in this article were contributed by Physician Zhang Ruifen of Eu Yan Sang Clinic at Jurong East, Sembawang and Serangoon.