Zhi Sou San for Coughs & Lung Support

By Dr. Eric Karchmer, PhD, MD (China), LAc /

Zhi Sou San for Coughs & Lung Support

Breathe Clear is our new DAO Labs formula for cough relief that is based on the classic Chinese herbal formula Zhi Sou San or the literals translation, "Stop Cough Powder". This ingenious formula, based on the unique Chinese medicine understanding of lung function, mobilizes the body’s natural restorative functions to reduce coughing and improve airflow. 

This formula is incredibly useful because it is grounded in a foundational Chinese medicine claims that the lungs are considered the “delicate organ.” As centuries of Chinese scholars have argued, the lungs are intimately connected to the air and environment around us. The lungs are said to move the breath, known as Qi in Chinese, inhaling and exhaling the air around us.

Our lungs help open through the nose and throat and are also intimately associated with the skin and its protective functions. Because of these unique proprieties, Chinese scholars have argued - and perhaps the recent pandemic has poignantly reminded us, that the lungs are especially vulnerable to airborne threats.

The DAO Labs Solution & Why It's Better 

Breathe Clear or Zhi Sou San protects the “delicate organ” through two actions. First, it restores the movement of Qi that animates the lungs. According to Chinese medicine theory, the breath should move both down (and into the body) and out (and into the air). When we cough, wheeze, or otherwise struggle to breathe clearly, the down and out movements of "Lung Qi" have been impaired.

Breathe Clear gently restores the movement of Lung Qi by using herbs that are mildly bitter and pungent. Bitterness produces a downward, draining action; pungency disperses and thrusts outward. Together, this combination moves Lung Qi in its two proper directions, down and out, countering the irregular, upward bursts of coughing.

Second, this formula also helps to eliminate the agents that are impairing the flow of Qi. One of these agents can be phlegm, which is a byproduct of constrained Qi itself. Poor flow of Qi means that fluids congeal, collecting as phlegm in the lungs and airways, and further impairing the flow of Qi. Several of the components of in this formula are known to improve airflow by  breaking up phlegm.

A Powerful but Gentle Approach to Moving the Offending Pathogens Out

The other intriguing method deployed by the formula is that is opens the door” to allow offending agents, especially "Wind", to move out of the body. Because the Lungs are delicate, harsh medicinals could actually trap the pathogens and worsen a cough. With its gentle pungent, out-thrusting herbs, Breathe Clear lets the Wind that first entered into the Exterior of the body and then moved into the Lungs and airways to reverse course and move back out of the body.

With its unique design, Breathe Clear is suitable both for acute and chronic coughs.

A Two Step Approach for Cold & Flu Season

It is also important to point out how this formula works together with its companion product, Bounce Back. We specifically designed Bounce Back to be used with Breathe Clear, as a two step approach to managing most cold season ailments.

When we get sick during cold and flu season, Traditional Chinese Medicine scholars argue that Wind and Cold are the primary cause. These pathogenic agents enter the exterior of the body, causing fever, chills, body aches, headaches, and a stuffy nose. At this stage, Bounce Back is the ideal formula for mobilizing the body’s natural recovery response.

If things are moving quickly or we medicate incorrectly, the Wind and Cold can start moving inward towards the Lungs. With this shift, it is important to add Breathe Clear to your regimen. Together, Bounce Back and Breathe Clear can work together to clear the Lungs and drive out the illness. If the fever, chills, and other symptoms of the Exterior resolve first, but a cough remains, we recommend that your continue with Breathe Clear alone until you make a full recovery.

Care Consideration: Just a reminder that the above information is not a substitute for medical care and is not a substitute for medical advice or recommendations  from a healthcare provider.  This information is not intended to treat, mitigate or cure any disease.  That said, we encourage you to connect with an Acupuncturist in your community to learn more about this and other Traditional Chinese Medicine options.  If you’ve got questions about Chinese herbal medicine or getting started with an Acupuncturist, feel free to connect with us on hello@mydaolabs.com


Dr. Eric Karchmer is a practicing Chinese medical doctor, medical anthropologist, and co-founder and Chief Doctor of Chinese Medicine for DAO Labs. From 1995-2000, Eric studied at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine and today is both a licensed acupuncturist and professor at Appalachian State University. Eric can be reached at drkarchmer@mydaolabs.com.

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