Monday Medical: Chinese medicine for children


Many times when I am treating adult patients, they ask me if Chinese medicine can be helpful for kids. The answer is always a resounding, “yes!”

Kids respond very well to acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Most of them actually look forward to coming in for their treatments. In fact, Chinese medicine can be used for babies and children of any age as there are many different modalities to choose from.

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If a child initially doesn’t want to try acupuncture needles, we can use other techniques to stimulate the acupuncture points, such as Chinese massage, acupressure, moxibustion or gentle microcurrent stimulation.

Conditions commonly treated in children include allergies, asthma and digestive issues, such as constipation and diarrhea. Ear infections, colds, flu, colic, eczema and ADD/ADHD also are common.

Acupuncture works by stimulating a child’s body to heal itself as it was designed to do, and it has virtually no negative side effects. Acute conditions generally require six visits, whereas chronic conditions can take 12 or more visits to fully resolve.

At a child’s first visit, I always try to see if she is open to trying acupuncture. We talk about what acupuncture feels like, and I demonstrate the insertion of a needle on either the table or a parent.

Very small 44-gauge acupuncture needles are used in the treatment. I always explain to the child that there can be some very minimal discomfort when the needle is inserted, but it is very brief. A needle can be removed at any time at her request. After our discussion, if the child would like to try acupuncture, we proceed with a treatment.

With kids younger than 5, needles generally are inserted and immediately removed. With older kids, needles are retained for at least 10 minutes.

If a child prefers not to try acupuncture needles during her first visit, I move on to another modality such as stimulating the acupuncture points with a microcurrent device. This device delivers a mild electrical current to the acupuncture points when placed on the skin. Most kids find this modality completely painless.

Another non-needle option that almost always is employed with babies is tuina, or Chinese massage. This type of massage involves pinching and pulling the skin of the back in an upward motion, which stimulates all of the back tonification points. I often show parents how to perform this type of massage so that they can continue daily treatment at home.

Gua sha also can be used to stimulate acupuncture points. With this modality, a scraping tool such as a smooth ceramic spoon is used to gently scrape along different acupuncture meridians. This helps to boost the immune system and ward off colds and flu.

Finally, moxibustion also can be used for certain conditions such as ear infection, colic or digestive disorders. Moxibustion for children involves burning a stick of mugwort above the acupuncture points to gently warm them.

Chinese herbs are yet another powerful option for treating kids. Children often do best taking herbs in liquid tincture form, as these tinctures easily can be mixed with juice or apple sauce. Depending on the child’s ailment, I select a Chinese herbal formula that needs to be given two to three times per day for best effect. Tinctures are either glycerin-based or alcohol-based. The alcohol can be removed easily from a tincture by placing it in hot water prior to dispensing.

Using Chinese medicine for kids can be a great way to resolve some common ailments and avoid medications and their side effects. A wonderful website for more information can be found at

Kelley McDaneld L.Ac., Dipl.OM has been practicing Chinese medicine at Yampa Valley Medical Center’s Integrated Health and in her private practice since 2005. She recently completed a pediatrics course in Chinese medicine with Robin Green, L.Ac., MTCM.


Chris Hadlock 2 years, 9 months ago

Might not be a medical study, but acupuncture relieved the worst of my back problems and let me return to a normal level of activity...... 20 years and counting. If you have not been exposed to this kind of treatment, perhaps you are missing out on something that may help.


Scott Wedel 2 years, 9 months ago

For chronic conditions then there is nothing with trying something that won't cause harm and could help.

But suggesting alternative medicine for a child's ear infection comes real close to doing harm of not seeking proven effective treatment and lack of treatment can have long term effects upon hearing.

At the very least, the child's pediatrician should be involved and consulted on what could be helpful and at worst harmless alternative medicine treatments vs failing to treat a serious easily treatable medical issue vs hoping that an alternative medical method works.


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