Warm a Cold, Cool a Fever

When life is interrupted by sudden sneezing or a sore throat, you can easily make the following at home from common pantry items: • For common cold with runny nose, chills, head/neck ache, but no sore throat: Sweat it out with a soup of fresh ginger, scallion, cilantro, cabbage, and cayenne (high in vitamin C). Drink cinnamon stick tea (gui zhi) or fresh ginger tea (sheng jiang) with brown sugar. Avoid cold foods like salad, iced drinks and ice cream (sorry!). This is called "wind-cold" in Chinese medicine and is the most common type of cold.

For swollen sore throat, bodyache, fever and possibly a cough: Drink tea made from a Chinese herb like peppermint (bo he). Chrysanthemum tea (ju hua) is also great but you might have to make a trip to the Asian market. Keep food intake light, drink lots of fruit and veggie juices, and add honey to your tea. This is called "wind-heat" and can correspond to the flu or tonsillitis in Western parlance.

Herbs for Tummy Trouble

Does your child ever complain of a tummy ache? Try fennel (xiao hui xiang), a Chinese medicinal used to treat stomachache and colic. Make a tea by pouring boiling water over 2 tsp. of crushed fennel seeds, let cool and then drink. You can also get fennel extract from an herbal practitioner.

If Irritable Bowel Syndrome or "nervous stomach” is what troubles your child, try enteric-coated peppermint capsules such as Pepogest brand. Peppermint oil (called bo he in Chinese/Pinyin) helps ease spasms but shouldn't be used for acid reflux.

Probiotics from the refrigerated section of the health food store will also help over the short and long terms, especially if your child has had to take antibiotics, and they now even make them specifically formulated for kids.