As a mother and naturopathic doctor, my first concern is protecting my children’s health. My second concern is that when sick, they’re treated with medicines that are effective and safe. A huge advantage of natural treatments is that there are almost no side effects. New scientific studies are confirming the effectiveness of natural medicines, revealing an ever-growing list of benefits. For example, we’re only now starting to fully understand the wide range of benefits derived from green tea and vitamin D. Living in Beijing, our immune systems are constantly being called to action, whether to protect us from the harmful effects of pollution or to fight off an infection. The most important way to strengthen our immune system is to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables; however, there are times when supplementation is needed. Here are some of my favorite natural medicines – the ones I like to keep around the house. Some benefit our immune system or provide relief when we’re sick, while others are just extremely useful. These remedies are great for kids and adults alike.
Good for: All kinds of aches and pains, especially sore muscles. This cream can be used for aching joints, pain caused by arthritis, repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, growing pains, and even bruising. Safe for all ages.
Buy it: Taobao.com (Taobao) or iHerb.com (iHerb)
Cost: RMB 139 on Taobao; USD 13 (approximately RMB 97) on iHerb. Remember, when ordering online you must include shipping in the final cost. For first-time customers on iHerb.com, use the code IGU117 when placing your order for a USD 5 discount.
Good for: Colds, flu, infections, and any time your immune system needs a boost. It is an excellent antioxidant and helps combat the effects of free radical damage, which is important for counteracting the effects of pollution and aging.
Buy it: World Health Store, Watsons, iHerb, Taobao
Cost: RMB 100-550
Things to consider: The powder form of vitamin C is very convenient, especially if higher doses are needed. For kids, simply mix the powder with water or juice for a pleasant drink. Buffered vitamin C and Ester-C have lower acidity levels, so they’re better for people with sensitive stomachs.
Golden Throat Lozenges
Good for: Very effective for treating sore throats caused by irritation, cold or flu. They’re fairly potent and can even help clear nasal passages.
Buy it: Most local pharmacies.
Cost: RMB 5
Good for: Green tea contains antioxidants and polyphenols, which help support the immune system and counteract aging. This Chinese staple can also improve cholesterol levels, help with weight loss, increase bone density, and the list goes on.
Buy it: Loose leaf tea can be found at tea shops and grocery stores across town. If variety is what you’re looking for, head to Tea Street (Maliandao Chayecheng, near Beijing West Railway Station). There, you’ll find hundreds of tea shops in one convenient location.
Cost: Prices range from RMB 30 to well over RMB 15,000 per 500g.
Consider: What can be better than drinking green tea? Drinking organic green tea. Ask for yǒujī lǜchá (有机绿茶) next time you’re hunting for these healthful leaves.
Honey-Based Cough Syrup
Good for: A honey-based cough syrup is excellent to help soothe an irritated, dry throat and to calm a stubborn cough. Honey also has antimicrobial properties.
Buy it: World Health Store, iHerb, Taobao
Cost: RMB 65-250
Consider: Honey is safe for children over the age of 1. Children less than 12 months old should not consume honey because of the risk of contracting infant botulism. For kids, be sure to choose a product without alcohol or artificial sweeteners.
Good for: Maintaining proper vitamin D levels helps prevent rickets and assists with the development of healthy teeth and bones. Vitamin D has many other beneficial properties. In studies, it has been shown to be highly effective in preventing the flu. It may also prevent various cancers including breast, prostate and skin cancer.
Buy it: Inexpensive brands can be found at pharmacies around town. Watsons, World Health Store, iHerb and Taobao all carry foreign brands.
Cost: RMB 20-350
Vitamin B Complex
Good for: B group vitamins are needed for many functions including red blood cell formation, carbohydrate metabolism, and the synthesis of DNA. The health of our eyes, nerves, skin, hair, liver, mouth, digestive system and brain depends on these vitamins. A B vitamin complex can also help the body deal with environmental and emotional stress.
Buy it: World Health Store, Watsons, Taobao
Cost: RMB 85-230
Things to consider: These vitamins work together in synergy, so it’s best to take them as a complex.
Good for: Fish oil has a long list of benefits including balancing cholesterol levels. It is especially important for heart, brain and skin health. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have anti-inflammatory properties, and are an important supplement for rheumatic conditions, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Buy it: World Health Store, iHerb
Cost: RMB 300-700
Consider: Poor-quality fish oil can be contaminated with heavy metals such as mercury. Only choose fish oil from high-quality brands such as NutraSea, Nordic Naturals or Carlsons. Fish oils should be kept tightly capped in the fridge. Fish oil capsules should be kept at room temperature in a cool, dark place. Always take fish oil with food.
Good for: "Friendly" bacteria can boost the immune system, as well as help prevent and treat gastroenteritis and other stomach upsets. As a supplement, it is beneficial for problems caused in the gut from the use and abuse of antibiotics. Probiotics can decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and total cholesterol. In general, probiotics promote digestive tract health, facilitate digestion, and aid in absorption of nutrients.
Buy it: World Health Store, iHerb, Taobao and local pharmacies.
Cost: RMB 90-350
Consider: Good bacteria, such as Lactobacilus acidophilus, can be found in fermented dairy products such as yogurt (look for "live culture" on the label). For children, buy a probiotic formula specific to their age. If you are lactose-intolerant, look for a non-dairy formula. Most probiotics must be kept refrigerated.
Camilia Teething Relief
Good for: This homeopathic remedy by Boiron provides effective and fast relief for children and babies suffering from pain and irritability caused by teething. There is no possibility of overdosing, and there are no side-effects to worry about. As a bonus for tired parents, babies generally take it without fuss.
Buy it: iHerb or Taobao.
Cost: RMB 35 on iHerb; RMB 88 on Taobao.
Consider: Boiron also have a product called Cocyntal, which is great for colic.
Dr. Melissa Rodriguez is a Naturopathic doctor who lives with her family in Beijing. www.drmelissarodriguez.com