Kids' immune health - the traditional Chinese medicine perspective
- In Chinese medicine, supporting defensive qi (a specific form of life force energy that helps guard against illness) is one helpful way to support immune health in kids
- A herbal combination called Jade Windscreen formula - found in Fusion Kids' Astra 8 Immune Shield - is traditionally taken in Chinese medicine to support defensive qi and consequently to help reduce the frequency of common colds in kids
- Eating a healthy diet and warming foods, getting plenty of rest and protecting children against the wind are other ways to encourage healthy defensive qi
In this article, we'll briefly explain some of the unique perspectives that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has to offer regarding children's immune health and the frequency with which they catch common colds.
Understanding defensive Qi
In TCM, a specific form of life force energy called defensive qi is believed to act as a protective barrier at the body's surface (including the skin, throat and nasal passages), where it's traditionally understood to help fend off external influences with the potential to cause mild illnesses like common colds and flu.
TCM theory says that defensive qi becomes depleted when children or adults experience repeated minor illness like the common cold or are slow to recover from them. In a vicious cycle, the depletion of defensive qi further weakens their resistance, making them more prone to further illness.
Jade Windscreen Formula: Chinese medicine for kids
A herbal combination called Jade Windscreen Formula (Yu Ping Feng San) has been used for more than 670 years in TCM.
In TCM, Jade Windscreen Formula is traditionally taken to support defensive qi to help reduce the frequency of common colds.
Jade Windscreen Formula combines the herbs astragalus, white atractylodes and fang feng, all of which are found in Fusion Kids' Astra 8 Immune Shield.
Astragalus is the chief or 'emperor' herb in Jade Windscreen Formula. In TCM, its traditionally used to help improve children’s immunity and support defensive qi. It also helps reduce the frequency with which children catch common colds, according to traditional use in Chinese medicine.
Astragalus is also traditionally taken to increase vitality and relieve fatigue in TCM.
White atractylodes is traditionally regarded as the deputy herb in Jade Windscreen Formula, playing a secondary role behind that of astragalus.
In Chinese medicine, white atractylodes is traditionally used to nourish the spleen, and is therefore taken to relieve children's loss of appetite.
In TCM, when illnesses arise from outside the body and involve the rapid onset of symptoms, they're often regarded as being associated with wind (sometimes referred to as exterior wind).
Fang feng is also known as Wind protector. Its name is a reference to its traditional use in TCM for clearing wind-heat from the body.
Consider zinc for additional immune support
Kids' Astra 8 Immune Shield also contains zinc for additional immune system support. In addition to helping to maintain kids’ healthy immune system function, zinc helps reduce the frequency with which children catch common colds. It also supports a healthy appetite in children whose dietary zinc intake is inadequate.
Diet and lifestyle tips to boost your child’s immune system
- Prioritise a healthy diet: Kids need a healthy diet full of vitamins and minerals to support their defensive qi and immune health. Make sure to give them a wholesome diet that’s rich in fruit and vegetables and contains healthy sources of protein and fat
- Warm them up: Warming and pungent foods like soup or stews with garlic, onions, radishes, cinnamon, pepper, ginger are the go-to for kids’ immune health in Chinese medicine. Plus, they’re a great way to get some extra veggies into their diet!
- Protect against wind: Dress kids in beanies, scarves and warm, insulated clothing to protect against exposure to excessive wind, which can weaken their defensive qi. If it’s a particularly cold and windy day try to minimise their time outside, too
- Encourage rest and sleep: It can be a challenge to get active kids to slow down and get the rest and sleep they need to support their defensive qi and immune system. Try to balance busy playtime with more restful activities like reading books, drawing, or playing games, and get them to bed early to help them catch up on sleep
HOT TIP: If your child catches a cold, discontinue use of the herbs mentioned above, and instead consider honeysuckle and forsythia, which are traditionally used in TCM to relieve common cold symptoms associated with external wind-heat.
If you're unsure whether these herbs are suitable for your child, please contact our Naturopathic Advisory team for free, confidential advice.
Always read the label and follow the directions for use.
- Paediatr Child Health 2005;10(8):493–495
- Hou JP, Jin Y. The healing power of Chinese herbs and medicinal recipes. Routledge, 2005.
- Lou, J.S. et al. Sci Rep, 2016;6:631926.