How to Use Pediatric Chinese Herbal Formulas
Herbal formulas for kids are a wonderful addition to any treatment plan and can be focused on treating acute symptoms or healing underlying imbalances. Below you'll find find a combination of Chinese and Western herbal formulas from the most trusted companies in the industry. But, before we get to that I think it's important to cover how to administer herbs to modern children that may not be used to the strong flavors of herbal medicine.
Helping Kids Learn to Love Herbs
Let's not sugar coat this (ha ha) - Chinese herbal formulas are strong and bitter-tasting. They may even seem gross compared to the fruity flavored sweet medicines children are typically used to! Kids may object to the gritty text texture of granule formulations or the large volume that needs to be consumed for home-brewed decoctions.
Some practitioners have success with granules and loose herbs, but taste and texture can be an issue for kids that are sensitive. In my opinion, liquid tinctures or syrups are by far the easiest for babies and kids to take. Liquids can mask the strong tasting herbs with sweeteners such as flavored syrups, glycerin, or rice syrup - without artificial colors or flavors.
Before prescribing herbs to your patients, make sure to set expectations with both the parent and the child that the herbs may have a strong flavor and may, at first, taste yucky. Even if this is the case, instruct your patient to take them anyway because they'll eventually get used to the flavor. Also, coach the parents to be firm and assertive when administering herbs. Just like with vegetables, trying the herbs multiple times is important before they are accepted.
The earlier children in life start taking herbs, the easier they’ll manage the taste. Click here to for more information on the safety and administration of herbal medicine to kids, in this video interview with acupuncturist, master herbalist, and founder of China Herb Co, Cara Frank. Cara has over 30 years helping kids successfully and safely take herbs.
6 Strategies for Giving Kids Herbs
1. Have the parents mask the taste of the herbs in juice, applesauce, nut butter, frozen grape juice concentrate, or chocolate sauce (last resort).
2. If using juice, it is recommended to use a juice that they don't normally consume so that it doesn't make the flavor they're used to taste funny.
3. When diluting the herbal liquids, 2 ounces or less of fluid or the herbs will be too dilute to be effective.
4. Have them drink the herbs through a straw. This will bypass having a strong taste on the tongue.
5. Give a small bite sized treat afterward for positive reinforcement (eventually they won’t need it).
6. For sensitive kids, start out with a smaller dose of the herbs that are masked and slowly increase the dosage until they are taking the full dose.
Herbal Formula Dosage for Children
Check with the manufacturer to get specific dosing instructions, but in general smaller amounts are given more frequently. For example, a common dosage for the Gentle Warriors line is 15 to 30 ml (1/2 to 1 squirt) 3 - 5x/day.
Recommended Pediatric Herbal FormulasHeading
China Herb Company has three time-tested children’s herb formulas that are loved by practitioners and parents.
- Ear Clear -Based on the formula Minor Bupleurum/Xiao Chai Hu Tang this formula is designed to clear heat and resolve pus in the ear that causes acute otitis media
- Fever Clear - This modification of Yin Qiao San is designed to resolve early stage febrile wind heat in children
- Nose Clear - Children’s Bi Yan Pian relieves stuffy noses and allergic congestion without being excessively drying. Based on the classic formula for sinus congestion Cang Er Zi San
I use the Gentle Warriors and Peacemakers pediatric line available from Kan Herb Company most frequently in my practice. This is my favorite pediatric line because the herbs are concentrated and smaller doses are needed for a therapeutic effect. They’re also fairly well tolerated by children, they are easy to mask and they are effective. Below I've listed the most common indications for the Gentle Warriors Formulas as outlined in the Growing the Dao by Efrem Korngold.
- Windbreaker - earaches, sinusitis, sore throat, colds, flu, allergies
- Chest Relief - laryngitis, cough, phlegm
- Pipe Cleaner - bronchitis, painful cough, tenacious phlegm
- Open Air - acute asthma, wheezing
- Deep Breath - chronic asthma, wheezing
- Grow & Thrive - poor appetite, low resistance, weak digestion, frail
- Tummy Tamer - indigestion, gastroenteritis
- Easy Going - constipation
- Belly Binder - diarrhea
- Fire Fighter - rash, hives, impetigo, bites, stings
- Quiet Calm - trauma, stress, moodiness, hyperactivity, crankiness
They sell Jake Fratkin’s line of herbal syrups. Each bottle comes with a handy dispenser for direct administration of herbs. The syrups are flavored and meant to be taken straight. Here is a list of the general uses and formulas available through Golden Flower.
- Children’s Clear & Release Formula is a formula for common cold, and it can also be used for fever due to viral infection. It combines herbs from various antiviral formulas, including Gan Mao Ling, Yin Qiao San and Zhong Gan Ling
- Children’s Lung Clear Formula addresses the sticky-viral stage as well as the more productive, rattly phlegm-heat stage, which are the two stages most commonly seen
- Children’s Jade Defense Formula is a variation of Yu Ping Feng San, in a syrup form that children can easily take
- Children’s Ear Formula is used for acute or chronic otitis media. Ear infection appears with acute, sharp pain, and this formula addresses microbial infection with accumulation of turbid damp
Blue Poppy also has a line of liquid pediatric herbal formulas. Many herbalists like this line because the formulas are very palatable.
- AllerEase Jr. This formula provides remedial treatment of acute episodes of allergic rhinitis characterized by clear, runny, itchy nose, itchy eyes and sneezing.
- Bupleurum & Angelica This formula treats the most common patterns causing pediatric earache and ear tugging.
- CQ Jr. This formula is designed to help end sore throats before they become serious and require antibiotic intervention. It addresses wind heat external contraction with an underlying defensive qi vacuity.
- Dry Nites This formula addresses bed-wetting in toddlers and young children due to a combination of lung, spleen and kidney qi vacuity, which is the most commonly seen pattern of this condition.
- Little Dragon This formula is designed to treat pediatric obesity due to phlegm heat brewing and obstructing.
- Lung Qi Jr. This formula is for cough and asthmatic wheezing. It clears heat and transforms phlegm, stops coughs and wheezing, and supplements the spleen.
- Peaceful Focus is designed for children with pediatric attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) due to liver-spleen disharmony with internal heat, malnourishment of the heart spirit, and possible phlegm dampness.
- Quiet Nites addresses the common problem of colic, intestinal gas and indigestion with night-crying and leg pumping in infants due to food stagnation complicated by stomach heat.
- Tender Teeth is designed to address the common problems associated with teething in infants.
Herb Pharm formulas are great tasting glycerin based tinctures that most kids will easily take. These are USDA Organic western herbal formulas that are condition specific.
- Black Elderberry Glycerite - supports active immune response
- Kids Captain Concentrate - promotes attention and focus in children
- Kids Cough Crusader - to stop wet or dry cough
- Kids Echinacea Glycerite - supports healthy immune function
- Kids Immune Fortifier - a daily herbal formula help support immune function
- Kids Lemon Balm Calm Glycerite - promote a calm and relaxed mood
- Kids Garlic/Mullein Ear Oil - supports healing of ear congestion and ear infections
- Kids Sinus Samurai - promote sinus and nasal health
- Kids Throat TLC - for the relief of sore throat
- Kids Tummy TLC - for the relief of tummy aches
Pediatric Nutritional Supplements
In addition to Chinese herbal formulas I also use a variety of nutritional supplements. Here is a brief overview of some of the companies that sell pediatric nutritional supplements.
They sell many different brands of supplements, essential oils, herbs and vitamins. The pediatric supplements come in chewable and liquid formulations. They also sell a variety of homeopathic and Bach flower remedies. They have highly concentrated probiotics like Therbiotic Complete from Klaire Labs. You can also sign up for Emerson's online dispensary service called Wellevate. With this service, you can email your patients custom prescriptions that they can fill online and the herbs will be mailed directly to the patient. Practitioners earn up to 35% on all sales. This is a great way to prescribe herbs without the cost or time of stocking a large inventory.
They sell my favorite pediatric allergy formula, D-Hist Jr and have a pediatric constipation formula, Ready-Set-Go, that is very palatable.
They have a variety of complex homeopathic remedies to help with lymphatic drainage, Core Mycelia blend for immunity, and one of my favorite chewable probiotics, Flora Syngery.