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Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese MedicineNatural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine

Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine: 12 Easy-to-Use Natural Solutions for Kids

 November 12, 2023

By  Juli Kramer

Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine can clear symptoms without the need to use medicine. As the weather turns cold, many children can develop a cough. Knowing how to treat the cough early on can prevent scary scenarios.

Too often parents and doctors only think about using medications to treat coughs. Unfortunately, this approach leads to other health problems from side effects of the medications to extra stress put upon the liver to detoxify the body.

In contrast, Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine treat coughs organically and prevent serious problems due to uncontrolled coughing.

Reading Time: 20 minutes 

  1. Distinguishing Different Types of Coughs
  2. Seven Massage Techniques
    1. Split Shoulder Blade Massage for All Coughs
    2. Press and Knead Feishu, BL-13 for All Coughs
    3. Massage Tanzhong, Ren-17 for All Coughs
    4. Massage Methods to Treat a Hot Cough
    5. Massage Methods to Treat a Cold Cough
    6. Massage Methods to Treat a Phlegm Cough
    7. Massage Methods to Treat a Cough due to Allergies
  3. Five Food-Based Remedies
    1. Ginger and Rock Sugar Tea
    2. Garlic and Rock Sugar Tea
    3. Roasted Orange Slices
    4. Steamed Pear with Rock Sugar
    5. Boiled Radish Tea
  4. Additional Food-Based Recommendations
  5. Keeping Your Child Free from Coughs


P.S. All of these methods work for adults as well!

A Story About the Effectiveness of Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine

My grandson is just under two-years-old and has had four colds during his life. Each time he gets sick, his parents and quickly assess his symptoms.

For example, his most common cold symptom is a runny nose with a light cough without sputum. His mom will massage key acupoints right away (you’ll learn which ones below). If the symptoms persist, they take him to Dr. Hou, one of Radiant Shenti’s advisors, for a more complex pattern of massage. Ultimately, he’s symptom free within 2 days.

Even more important than his recovery, his body’s ability to fight coughs more effectively in the future improves. Without medication interfering with the body’s innate healing efforts, his immune system “learns” how to combat future pathogens.

Types of Coughs Treated by Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine

Firstly, you should note that coughs are divided into different causes. External and internal allergens or pathogens can lead to a cough. Sometimes a cough comes from weakened lung functioning. When you learn to recognize the symptoms, you can treat the cough more effectively.

Some people may feel that it is too troublesome to distinguish the cough symptoms.

However, if you want to see your child get better faster and breathing easy, you need just a little patience and confidence.

You have the power to treat your child’s cough with healthier and safer methods.

Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine Baby and Mother

It’s helpful to be able to distinguish between different types of coughs. 

Knowing the type of cough helps you modify diet and other lifestyle choices to strengthen the effectiveness of the massage and food-based treatment techniques.

The most common types of coughs affecting children are: 

  • Cold Cough
  • Wind-Heat Cough
  • Food Accumulation Cough 
  • Cough Due to Allergies

Cold cough

A cold cough is often caused when the body has internal cold. The most typical symptoms for this type of cough include:

  • A white coating of the tongue
  • Fear of or irritation by feeling cold
  • Irritation or dislike of wind and cold
  • Runny nose or the exact opposite, a dry nasal cavity with no runny nose
  • Cough without sputum or spit white foamy sputum

Wind-heat cough

Wind-heat cough is mainly caused by external pathogenic heat or internal heat. The main symptoms are:

  • The tip of the tongue and lips are very red
  • Halitosis
  • Eye discharge
  • Yellow puss from the nose
  • Child spits yellow puss, phlegm.

Food accumulation cough

Food accumulation can cause children to cough. Particularly, when children eat too much chocolate, sugar, or foods high protein, such as meat, fish, and shrimp their digestion weakens.

Food accumulates in the digestive track and can result in coughing, fever, vomiting, anorexia, and other symptoms.

The most typical symptom of accumulative cough are coughing at night versus during the day. Even when the child lies down, the cough continues while the child sleeps.

If the child is asleep and suddenly coughs in the middle of the night, you should first and foremost know that the baby might suffer from accumulated food.

Take time to reflect on what your child recently ate. Also, observe the baby’s tongue on the spleen and stomach reflex zone (the center section of the tongue). If there is a thick tongue coating, yellow and greasy it could indicate accumulation. You might also notice halitosis; the cough most likely comes from accumulated food.

Cough due to allergies

A cough due to allergies usually manifests as coughing at night or after getting up in the morning. Generally, this cough contains no phlegm or little phlegm, and the cough will worsen after exercise.

Allergic coughs respond well to massage which supports the spleen & kidney systems. Modifying your child's diet also helps.

Final thoughts on identifying coughs

You might think it's too time consuming to identify and diagnose cough symptoms. However, if you want your child to get better quickly, and continue to have more robust health overall, you need to be patient.

With practice, you will feel confident and empowered when your child starts coughing. Furthermore, you will know how to treat the different coughs through massage and dietary remedies.

Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine: Seven Massage Techniques

Children’s internal organs are delicate and Qi does not move as effectively. As a result, babies and children are easily affected by external factors. A sharp increase or decrease in temperature, overeating, and other stresses can reduce children’s disease resistance.

Therefore, you need to act. Pediatric massage can stimulate a child’s own immunity, improve fitness, and treat disease to relieve a cough.

For millennia, famous Chinese medical teachers have prescribed the following five massage techniques. Top doctors still prescribe and use these methods today. And, as you read above, Dr. Hou even uses them for my grandson.

As always, you should consult with your health care practitioner to determine which treatments methods best support your child’s health.

When massaging or applying gentle pressure to acupoints on children and babies, it's important to use a soft and gentle touch. 

Learn more about acupressure massage here.

Baby Massage Hand massage for coughs

Here's a step-by-step guide for massaging acupoints in a baby:

  1. Ensure your baby is comfortable and relaxed.
  2. Gently place your thumb's pad on the center of the baby's palm (on the opposite side of the palm from the fingers).
  3. Apply very light, gentle pressure while keeping your thumb relaxed.
  4. It's important to be gentle, as a baby's skin and bones are delicate.
  5. Massage the area as noted for the specific acupoints listed below.
  6. Pay attention to your baby's reaction. If your baby seems uncomfortable or cries, stop immediately.

Additional Kind Tips for Baby Massage

When performing massage operations on children, you can use massage oil as a lubricating medium on your hands. On the one hand, it prevents damage to the child's tender skin; on the other hand, it reduces the sluggish feeling and makes massaging the acupoints easier.

It's crucial to remember that massaging acupoints in babies should be done gently and should not cause any discomfort or pain. If you have concerns about your baby's health or well-being, it's best to consult with your TCM practitioner who can provide more detailed guidance and treatment options for your specific situation if needed. 

Abbreviations used for acupoint names for Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine

  • Bladder = BL
  • Du/Governing Vessel = Du
  • Heart = HT
  • Liver = LV/LR
  • Lung = LU
  • Pericardium = PC
  • Ren/Conception Vessel = Ren
  • Small Intestine = SI

The first three massage techniques serve as a basic prescription for cough massage in children, no matter what kind of cough. Then, techniques 4-7 describe specific methods for the different types of coughs.

Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine General Massage Methods

1. Split Shoulder Blade massage


Split Shoulder Blade Massage

Technique: From the shoulder wells on both shoulders, push down along the inside of the scapula and to both sides. When pushing, you will pass through the shoulder wells, wind gate, and Feishu on the back.

When pushing the scapula separately, you can push it through clothes. Push it several times, massage Feishu, and push it again. This way, the treatment effect will be better.

Key Points: If the baby's cough is not severe, push the shoulder blades 50-100 times in divided intervals. If the baby has a severe cough, it is more effective to push the shoulder blades 300-500 times separately. If the baby has serious problems such as tracheitis or pneumonia, the shoulder blades should be massaged for about 10 minutes.

2. Press and knead Feishu, BL-13 Acupoint

Feishu Bladder 13

Location: Feishu is located 1.5 inches below the spinous process of the third thoracic vertebra of the spine.

Technique: When massaging, use the tips of your index finger and middle finger to massage the acupoints for about 2-3 minutes, or use the palm of one hand or the hypothenar to place it horizontally on the lung acupoints on both sides, and make rapid back-and-forth friction to generate heat. You have the power in your fingers to help your child feel better with Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine.

Effect: Dispelling wind and cold, relieving cough and reducing phlegm.

3. Massage Tanzhong, Ren-17 acupoint

Shanzhong REN-17

Location: Tanzhong point is on the midline in front of the body, at the midpoint of the line connecting the two nipples. It is the point where Qi converges.

Techniques: Massaging the Tanzhong point can be done by kneading or pushing. The kneading method is to press and knead with the middle finger or index finger for about 1-3 minutes. The pushing method is to use the thumb belly of both hands to push outward from the Tanzhong point. It can also be divided up and down. Push the chest from the middle to the sides.

Effect: Regulates qi, neutralizes phlegm, and relieves coughing. Especially for children with internal injuries and a chronic cough, Tanzhong point is an essential acupoint for Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine.

Massage Methods for Specific Types of Coughs Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine

4. Massage methods to treat a Hot Cough

Lung 3 to Lung 11 Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine
Stop headache pain on your temples by massaging acupressure points liver 3 and 4

If your child has a hot cough, you should clear the liver and lung meridians as described below.

First, you should massage down the spine from top to bottom 10-20 times.

Then, to clear the liver meridian, bring the thumb to LV-4 by the inner ankle and rub up to LV-7 by the inner knee 300 times. Additionally, you should clear the lung meridian by swipe down the arm to the thumb, starting at LU-3 and ending at LU-11.

5. Massage methods to treat a Cold Cough

If your child has a cold cough, rub their back for 5-10 minutes to expel the cold air.

Use massage oil as a medium and use the heel of your palms or the thenars (a group of muscles located at the base of the thumb on the palm side of the hand) to quickly rub back and forth in an L-shaped pattern on the baby's back to heat the spine until the heat is fully absorbed.

Feishu Bladder 13
Shenshu Bladder 23

Then massage the following areas horizontally until warm: 

  • Firstly, rub the Feishu BL-13 points between the shoulder blades.
  • Secondly, rub across the navel. 
  • Lastly, rub horizontally across the Shenshu BL-23 points.

6. Massage to treat a Phlegm Cough Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine

If there is phlegm when coughing, you need to replenish the spleen meridian, lung meridian, and kidney meridian.

  • Stroke up the inside of your child's shins 300 times to nourish the spleen and kidney meridians.
  • Stroke down the inside of your child's arm along the thumb side, 300 times to nourish the lung meridians.

Massage your child's hands: Use your thumbs to massage the pulps of your child's hand with the pulp of your thumb. Make sure to massage the thumb, ring finger, and little finger respectively. Then circle around the palm 300 times.

Baby's Hand

Massage Fenglong, ST-40, for 2-3 minutes. Fenglong is located 8 inches above the tip of the outer ankle. The midpoint of the line connecting the outer knee eye and the outer malleolus bone tip.

Effect: It has the effects of resolving phlegm, relieving asthma, and relieving stomach qi. Mainly used to treat abdominal distension, excessive phlegm, cough, asthma, etc.

Fenglong Stomach 40

7. Massage methods to treat coughs due to allergies

Lung 3 to Lung 11 Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine
Stop headache pain on your temples by massaging acupressure points liver 3 and 4

If your baby has been coughing for a long time, or has an allergic cough, you need to replenish the lung meridian, spleen meridian, and kidney meridians.  

  • Stroke up the inside of your child's shins 200-300 times to nourish the spleen and kidney meridians.
  • Stroke down the inside of your child's arm along the thumb side, 200-300 times to nourish the lung meridians.

  • Then, pinch down the spine 5-10 times. Finally, divide the spine into thirds and pinch and lift the skin of each section one at a time from the top of the spine to the bottom. Repeat this sequence 2-5 times.

    Massage methods to treat an allergy cough caused by food accumulation

    If an allergy cough is caused by food accumulation, Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine will help. Massage the following acupoint and areas as described.  

    • Pinch the spine top to bottom 10-20 times. 
    • Pinch the Houxi SI-3 acupoint 10-20 times. 
    • Clear the stomach meridian by swiping down the outer leg 300 times. 
    • Clear the lung meridian by swiping down both arms 300 times.
    • Massage Zusanli ST-36 for 1 minute.

    Food-Based Remedies Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine

    Massage, combined with diet therapy, often gets twice the result with half the effort.

    Dietary Remedies for Cold Coughs

    Natural remedies for Covid ginger
    Rock sugar moistens and nourishes the lungs when you have a virus

    Ginger and Rock Sugar Tea

    If your child suffers from a cold without a cough, drinking warm ginger and brown sugar tea can have a therapeutic effect.

    If your child also has a cough, 2 to 3 cloves of garlic can be added to the ginger and rock sugar water and simmered over low heat for 10 minutes to remove the spiciness of the garlic so that your child feels comfortable drinking the tea.

    Garlic tea Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine
    Rock sugar moistens and nourishes the lungs when you have a virus

    Garlic and Rock Sugar Tea

    Take 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, smash them into pieces, put them in a bowl, add half a bowl of water, add a grain of rock sugar, cover the bowl, and put it into the pot. Bring to a boil. After it boils, simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from the stove.

    Once the garlic and rock sugar tea is warm, help your child drink it. They don’t have to eat the garlic. Repeat 2 to 3 times a day, half a bowl at a time.

    Garlic is warm in nature and enters the spleen, stomach, and lung meridian. It is very effective in treating cold cough and kidney deficiency cough. It is also convenient and simple, and children are willing to drink it.

    Roasted Orange Slices

    Place an orange directly over a low fire and roast them, turning constantly, until the orange peel turns black and steam comes out of the oranges.

    After the orange has cooled down a bit, peel off the peel, and let you child eat the warm orange segments. If it is a large orange, your child can eat 2 to 3 pieces at a time. If it is a small orange, the child can eat one entire orange at a time.

    It is best to eat roasted orange slices in conjunction with garlic water, 2 to 3 times a day.

    Oranges are warm in nature and have the effect of resolving phlegm and relieving a cough. After eating roasted oranges, the amount of phlegm will be significantly reduced. The antitussive effect is immediate, and children love eating the warm orange slices.

    Dietary remedies for Wind-Heat Coughs

    Asian pears with rock sugar are a super power natural remedy to stop a cough
    Rock sugar moistens and nourishes the lungs when you have a virus

    Steamed Pear with Rock Sugar

    Cut the pear crosswise along the handle, scoop out the middle core and add 2 to 3 grains of rock sugar.

    You can also add 5 to 6 grains of Chuanbei if you have a TCM practitioner from whom to buy the herbal remedy. Put the pear halves with rock sugar inside into the top of a steamer pot.

    Steam the pear halves for about 30 minutes. Let cool and serve to your child in two portions. This prescription has the effects of moistening the lungs, relieving cough, and resolving phlegm.

    Daikon radish

    Boiled Radish Tea

    Wash a white daikon radish and cut from it 4 to 5 thin slices. Put the slices into a small pot, add a cup of water. Bring to a boil, then turn to low heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Wait for the water to cool down slightly before giving it to your child. This remedy is effective in treating wind-heat cough, dry nose and throat, dry cough with less phlegm, and the effect is better for babies under 2 years old.

    Additional Food Recommendations Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine

    For wind-heat cough, you can also give your child cooling foods such as persimmons, watermelons, water chestnuts, and loquats.

    Spicy and easily irritating foods are harmful and increase symptoms. Examples include: mutton, dog meat, black-bone chicken, fish, shrimp, dates, longan meat, lychees, walnut kernels, peppers, and cherries.

    Dietary Precautions

    When using therapeutic methods to treat cold coughs, you should also not feed your child the following foods: mung beans, crabs, clam meat, snails, snails, persimmons, grapefruits, bananas, kiwis, sugar cane, watermelon, muskmelon, bitter melon, water chestnuts, arrowroot, kelp, seaweed, raw radish, eggplant, artemisia, lotus root, winter melon, loofah, sweet potato, etc.

    Keeping Your Child Free From Coughs

    As the saying goes in China, "Thirds to cure, seventy to nourish.” In the west, the equivalent phrase is, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

    The goal is prevention. If you want to prevents coughs in children, you must pay attention to nourishing their overall health.

    1. Wear appropriate layers for the season.

    Children have a hot constitution, so many babies’ coughs are not due to cold, but due to lung heat cough caused by wearing too much or eating too hot food.

    When the weather gets cold, you must pay attention to your child's clothes. The baby's clothes are the same as the clothes of the parents, and the baby can even have one less layer of clothing than you as an adult.

    The rule of thumb is to keep warm in the spring and feel slightly chilled in the autumn. This method allows your child to be exposed to cold temperatures at appropriate levels, which can actually enhance immunity.

    2. Maintain the appropriate level of humidity

    If the environment is too dry, the mucous membrane becomes dry and brittle. As a result small blood vessels may rupture and bleed, ciliary movement is restricted, and phlegm is difficult to spit out.

    Therefore, keep the indoor humidity at a moderate level and let your baby drink plenty of water.

    3. Strictly control your child's diet

    This recommendation is the most important. As the saying goes, "Fish makes fire, meat makes phlegm, vegetables and tofu keep you safe."

    Traditional Chinese medicine believes that fish, crab, shrimp, fatty meat, and other fishy and greasy foods may increase dampness and phlegm production. Furthermore some of these foods may even cause allergic reactions and aggravate the condition.

    Spicy products such as chili, pepper and ginger can irritate the respiratory tract and aggravate coughs, so be careful to avoid them.

    Fresh vegetables, such as carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, etc., can provide a variety of vitamins and inorganic salts, which are beneficial to the recovery of the body's metabolic function.

    When your child suffers from a cough, be sure to strictly control your child’s diet and avoid fish, shrimp, seafood, and other easy-to-catch foods. You should also eat less beef and mutton. Mainly eat a light diet. Otherwise, the cough will worsen.

    References for Natural Cough Remedies for Children in Chinese Medicine

    Pitchford, P. (2002). Healing with Whole Foods

    Suizhou Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, Hubei Province Editor: Han Ming

    Zhang, L. (2017). A TCM Way to be Healthy Inside and Out 

    Juli Kramer


    Dr. Juli Kramer is a certified qigong instructor. She also holds a diploma in Chinese Medicine Nutritional Therapy and multiple certificates in Chinese medicine. As a qigong and meditation teacher, Dr. Kramer understands the important role movement and meditation have on developing a healthy body and mind. Juli also has a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Counseling Psychology.

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