Herbal Solutions for Coughs & the Research to Support Them

Lenore Cangeloso

By Lenore Cangeloso

Acupuncturist

Herbal Solutions for Coughs & the Research to Support Them

A cough is the main way that the body expels any foreign objects from the lungs—such as microbes, fluids, or irritants such as molds, pollen, or dust. When the lungs get overwhelmed or irritated from these objects, it pushes air out to help clear its way. A cough can be a symptom related to an infection from a virus/bacteria, or environmental toxin. Coughs may be short-lived or chronic in nature, and they are the body's way in asking for help and a further inspection of what is happening within the respiratory system. 

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, your lungs are classified within the "Tai-Yin" system (referred to as the "Lung-Spleen" system) and the Metal Element (Lung/ Large Intestine), yin-yang respectively.

zhi sou san

Categorizing Your Coughs

Traditional Chinese Medicine theory recognizes multiple types of cough and categorizes them accordingly. Some pattern differentiations noted are coughs caused by:

  • Wind-heat,
  • Wind-cold,
  • Wind-dryness (hot or cold),
  • Phlegm,
  • Qi,
  • Yin deficiency.

These categories help practitioners of Chinese medicine correctly choose herbs or acupuncture points that will be the most effective in supporting the body to heal and rid itself of the cough. Often the sound of the cough is also taken into consideration when choosing an effective remedy.

chinese herbs for coughs

Eastern Solutions to Your Coughs & Research

Chinese herbal medicine has successfully treated the many inundations of cough throughout millennia. More recently, many clinical studies have been performed to document the successes herbal remedies have on treating various types of coughs. Many of these herbal formulas are safe and efficient for children or adults alike.

One such study¹ performed by American and Chinese Respiratory specialists worked with a three year old patient diagnosed with chronic asthma to document the various ways to treat this condition.  The integration of these two disciplines is a helpful way to approach more severe respiratory conditions and we are seeing more and more of this happening within the medical field.

Another more extensive study², a random double-blind placebo control study consisting of 82 patients, utilized common Traditional Chinese herbal combinations for coughs.  Classic herbs such as chuan bei, fang feng, jie geng and gancao were reviewedwith results shown improvements and no adverse effects in areas such as sputum production, cough score and hoarseness and decreasing use of antibiotics. 

Coughing can be very distressing and many people seek help in dealing with this condition. Herbal poultices can be used topically and herbal decoctions or herbal pills can be taken internally to help with the underlying issues causing the cough. Often herbs are used not to suppress the cough but to strengthen the body defense mechanisms, soothe irritations of the lungs/ throat and make it more resilient. 

Sources & For Additional Information
  1. Liu X, Kesebir D, Kazachkov M. Approach to patient with cough by American and Chinese respiratory specialist. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2021;60:102733. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2021.102733 
  1. WCW W, A L, AT L, et al. Effectiveness of a Chinese herbal medicine preparation in the treatment of cough in Uncomplicated Upper Respiratory Tract Infection: A randomized double-blinded placebo-control trial. Cough. https://coughjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1745-9974-2-5. Published June 22, 2006. Accessed July 28, 2021. 

Lenore Cangeloso is a state-licensed and board certified Acupuncturist and Herbal medicine practitioner. She is the owner of Wild Earth Acupuncture in Portland Oregon. Lenore has spent many months traveling to deepen her knowledge of the human body, and is a dedicated and skilled practitioner that strives to help you achieve optimal states of wellbeing. You can learn more about Lenore at wildearthacupuncture.com.

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