In recent days, I have treated a few children for conditions mostly related to the misuse of modern drugs. I wanted to share my concerns with parents, so that they may have natural options and so that their children may end up with fewer health problems. I hope that this in turn will help children reach their fullest potential.
One nine-year-old girl with eczema who came to my office was particularly outstanding. She had almost no appetite. She felt bloated after eating. She could not sleep at night because of severe itching from skin and food allergies, and would only fall asleep in the morning. She felt thirsty and sweaty, as well as chills inside and heat on the surface of her body. She was treated with antibiotics for an ear infection before coming to see me. Her mother used an inhaler to help relieve her asthma and cough she had been suffering from at one time.
During an interview with her mother present, it turned out that the girl’s condition was due partly to the drugs’ side effects and partly to poor dietary habits: she was consuming a lot of fruit and drank very cold drinks. In modern thinking, we associate fruits with goodness and healthiness, but according to the view of traditional Chinese medicine, an overabundance of fruit and raw foods leads to an imbalance named “cold and dampness.” Just to give an idea of how “cold” her body was, I recall how she was shivering while lying on my treatment table, even under a blanket and with the heat lamp over her!
I gave the traditional Chinese diagnosis of “severe yang deficiency of the spleen, heart and kidneys, and accumulation of toxins in the liver.” The term yang represents the patient’s metabolic function. The organs named above do not correspond to the modern understanding of organic function but represent abstract diagnostic entities that help refine the diagnosis and guide the treatment. Herbal treatment was therefore prescribed to help recover the yang energy in those organs and clear the toxins from the liver. Acupuncture was also used, and after only a couple of treatments, she recovered.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, the balance of yin and yang is the most important condition for health. Modern drugs have a mostly yin quality. An excess of yin will damage the yang. Some drugs, such as antibiotics, damage the yang energy of the heart. The heart is associated with the fire element in the five-element system of Chinese medicine. Less heart yang means less warmth and liveliness in the body as if the weather were rainy, cold, and damp, a greater tendency to fatigue, and a lowered immunity. Only the presence of yang, like sunshine, would let those cold and humid conditions evaporate, enlivening the body again.
For many children, problems aren’t as serious, but of similar nature. Antibiotics and inhalers weaken their yang energy. As a result, they need a long time to recover from colds and flu, have a hard time falling asleep, and do not have much appetite. Often these children will present with cold hands and feet, which is another indication of weak yang energy. This is contrary to children’s general constitution, who, according to traditional Chinese texts, normally have abundant yang energy. When children have weak yang and reduced digestive capacity, they tend not to grow as tall, have thin frames, puffy muscles, poor memory, and a tendency to tire easily.
I once treated a teenager who suffered from scoliosis of the lumbar vertebrae. The curvature was caused by muscular atrophy on one side; thus the muscles on the other side pulled the spine disproportionately, causing a deformation. The treatment principle consisted of a special acupuncture technique that employs long and thick needles. This teenager did not seem to be otherwise suffering from any serious condition besides lacking energy and a bit of acne. When I interviewed his father, I learned that my patient had been on antibiotics off and on for about three years because of an ear infection when he was about five years old.
I reasoned that prolonged treatment with antibiotics depleted his spleen energy and blocked certain energy channels. Again, in Chinese medicine, the spleen represents the digestive system, food metabolism, and muscular development, rather than the modern biomedical notion of spleen function. Fortunately, after a couple of acupuncture sessions, his muscles started to grow slowly on the atrophied side. With acupuncture treatments and daily exercise, we can hope that his muscles will become more even and vertebral alignment can be ameliorated.
From these experiences, I wish to tell parents that children can be helped to grow healthy and strong, so as to develop a robust physical constitution into their adult years. In this way, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture can be of help. Instead of using modern drugs to cover up the manifestation of illness, thereby eventually weakening the immune system, Chinese medicine goes to the root of the problem. With appropriate diagnosis and treatment, children can be healthy and strong. This medical system has been in use for thousands of years and has an extensive track record of safety, effectiveness, and a near-complete absence of side effects.