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Chinese Medicine for Coughs

The cough is one of the chief symptoms of lung disorder, but it may occur in diseases of other organs involving the lungs. Some diseases in modern medicine have the cough as the major symptom, such as upper respirator infection, tracheitis, bronchitis, pneumonia and pulmonary tuberculosis, etc. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), coughing indicates abnormal qi activity inside the lungs. TCM believes that the lungs are not only responsible for respiration, but also dominate the qi (vital energy) of the whole body. It inhales pure qi from nature and exhales the impure qi. It also receives nutrient qi from the spleen, combines the nutrient qi with the inhaled qi to form pectoral qi which then enters blood and then is distributed over the body.

The development of a cough can have external or internal origins.

1. Invasion of external pathogens

Exterior Wind Cold or Wind Heat may remain in the body and eventually cause Lung Qi Deficiency. There is often a chronic cough following an exterior Wind Cold or Wind Heat invasion. This situation can be worsened when taking antibiotics for cold or flu, as they contain the Cold in the chest and interfere with Lung's dispersing & descending functions.

2. Internal health problems

Coughing can be caused by dysfunction of the internal organs, such as the lungs themselves or other organs involving the lung. Lung dysfunction that can't maintain the normal qi activities inside the system will have coughing as a major sign of the condition. This usually occurs in chronic lung conditions. A dysfunctional spleen also produces dampness and phlegm that attack the lungs directly, and so cause coughing. This is usually associated with an improper diet and excess alcohol intake. The fire in the liver may attack the lungs, transform the lung's fluid into phlegm, interrupt its qi flow and induce coughing.

Generally, coughs of external origin are usually of acute onset, with known causes and last for a short period; while those caused by internal health problems have a long duration and tend to have flare ups from time to time. Traditional Chinese medicine is especially effective in the treatment of coughs because of its careful differentiation of the various types. For example, a cough due to heat produces sticky phlegm that is difficult to expectorate; it is treated with cooling, moistening herbs and acupuncture points that clear heat from the lungs. On the other hand, a cough due to cold is accompanied by chills and copious mucus; it is treated with warming, drying herbs and the application of moxibustion.

Without this differentiation, it is easy to see how an unfocused treatment might be ineffective or even cause the cough to get worse. Depending on how the body responds, TCM physicians investigate different symptoms, diagnose a cough pattern and choose a remedy accordingly. Three patterns are commonly seen in cough and cold symptoms.

Treating a Hot Phlegm Cough with Traditional Chinese Medicine

In this syndrome, the accumulated phlegm becomes thick and sticky due to heat. The cough can have a loud, barking sound. The phlegm is quite difficult to expectorate and the heat gives it a darker color, ranging from yellow to brown or dark green. This type of cough requires aggressive treatment as the green indicates that the trapped mucus has become infected. Mucus in the lungs is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, so it is important to clear the mucus as quickly as possible with herbs that moisten the lungs to dislodge the mucus and stimulate expectoration.

A highly effective formula for this condition is Pinellia Expectorant Pills. This patent medicine is available under several names, including Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan or Pinellia Root Teapills, but they are all the same formula. To maximize the effect, it is best to take it along with Gan Mao Ling or Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian. As in all syndromes involving phlegm, diet is extremely important. It is best to avoid cold foods, dairy products, and sweets, as these all create mucus. Therapeutic foods include hot soups, cooked vegetables and whole grains, and small amounts of raw juices at room temperature to assist in moistening the lungs in order to promote expectoration.

Treating a Damp or Cold Phlegm Cough with Traditional Chinese Medicine

This pattern is characterized by frequent coughing with expectoration of copious amounts of clear or sticky white phlegm that is typically more plentiful in the morning or after meals. There can also be nausea, a sensation of fullness in the chest or abdomen, poor appetite, fatigue, and a sensation of heaviness. The principle treatment in this syndrome is to clear the phlegm from the lungs and strengthen the digestion, since an underlying deficiency in spleen qi creates an inclination toward excessive mucus production.

The classic formula for this condition is Er Chen Tang, or "Two Old Things Decoction," with the addition of herbs to repel the pathogen and warm the lungs. The patent version of Er Chen Tang is Er Chen Wan. If there are accompanying wind-cold symptoms of headache, stiff neck, and nasal congestion, the patent medicine Chuan Xiong Cha Tiao Wan can also be taken.

Dietary therapy is similar to that for hot phlegm cough, except the avoidance of cold foods is especially important. A person with this condition should consume lots of hot liquids, especially ginger tea, get plenty of rest, and stay warm. Hot soup made mostly from vegetables is a tasty treatment as well.

Treating a Wind Dryness Cough with Traditional Chinese Medicine

This type of cough is typically contracted after exposure to a dry environment. Different from a chronic dry cough caused by a deficiency of lung yin (often from smoking), in this case the dryness of the air allows the dryness external pernicious influence to attack the lungs. The symptoms are a dry cough and a sore throat with a ticklish sensation, dry lips and mouth, and, possibly, a headache.

The treatment principle is to repel the dryness pernicious influence, moisten the lungs, and stop the cough. A classic formula for this condition is Sang Xing Tang, translated as "Mulberry Leaf and Apricot Seed Decoction." This formula doesn't come in a patent medicine, but an effective replacement is Chuan Bei Pi Pa Gao.

The diet should consist of soups and plenty of liquids. When the condition is gone, it would be wise to begin taking American ginseng (xi yang shen) on a daily basis for a few weeks. This will strengthen the qi and yin of the lungs and make a future attack less likely.

Most acute coughs respond to the above treatments within a week, unless the person fails to improve their diet and get some rest. In that case, the cough can linger for weeks, often leading to a series of colds due to weakened immunity. In TCM experience, coughs caused by external pathogen invasion are not difficult to treat and can be relieved in a short time. However, ineffective management of a cough can easily see the cough develop into chronic, necessitating long-term treatment. Take an improper diet for example. Eating too many cold and raw foods will weaken the spleen, make it produce phlegm and dampness which will disturb lung functioning; on the other hand, over-consumption of hot and spicy foods promote heat accumulation, which dries up the lungs and makes the mucus sticky and hard to expectorate. When this type of cough is associated with internal damage, there is no quick way of getting rid of.

止咳祛痰平喘

咳嗽是呼吸系统疾病的主要症状之一,本身不是一种独立的疾病,而是一种清除呼吸道异物的防御性反应。常有咳嗽症状的疾病有感冒、支气管炎、咽炎、过敏、肺炎、胸膜炎、肺结核、肺心病、肺癌等等。

哮喘是由于急、慢性支气管炎、呼吸道过敏症、肺炎(包括非典)、肺纤维化等多种呼吸系统疾病引起支气管慢性炎症、支气管痉挛而出现的临床症状,哮喘发作时患者呼吸困难,全身细胞处于缺氧状态,临床表现为:咳喘、气喘、痰多、胸闷、喉痒、干咳、呼吸困难、心悸多汗、严重烦燥、喘鸣有声、心跳紊乱、血压下降、甚至窒息死亡。

中医认为哮喘发作是由于正气虚,邪气实,邪过盛导致肺、脾、肾脏腑功能失调,以致气阴两虚,痰火湿壅阻而缠绵难愈。患者往往先因呼吸道免疫功能较弱(中医称肺虚),在受到外界感染、过敏或气候因素影响时,开始咳嗽(外邪侵入)。久咳导致脾伤,水湿停聚,产生许多痰。肾伤而纳气不力,肺气上逆而喘。

咳嗽一年四季均可发生,尤以冬春季最多。一旦出现咳嗽,人们常选用止咳中成药。虽然每种止咳中成药都标有“止咳化痰”、“镇咳平喘”等功效,但由于中医讲究辨证施治,所以止咳中成药应辨证选用,才能达到应有的效果。

风寒咳嗽:此类咳嗽的特点是咳嗽声重,咳痰稀薄色白,常伴有鼻塞、流清涕,头痛,发热怕冷,无汗,肢体酸楚等症状。风寒咳嗽应用温化寒痰止咳药,常用的有杏仁止咳糖浆、蛇胆陈皮口服液、桂龙咳喘宁、小青龙颗粒、通宣理肺口服液等。

风热咳嗽:此类咳嗽的特点是频咳,气粗,咽痛,咳痰稠黄或黏稠不爽,常伴有畏风,身热,鼻流黄浊涕,口渴,头痛等症状。风热咳嗽应用清热化痰止咳药,常用的有急支糖浆、罗汉果止咳冲剂、蛇胆川贝露(液)、川贝枇杷露、镇咳宁糖浆、牛黄蛇胆川贝液、祛痰灵、鲜竹沥口服液等。

风燥咳嗽:此类咳嗽表现为干咳无痰,或痰少而黏不易咳出,或痰中带有血丝,咽干,鼻唇干燥等。风燥咳嗽应用清肺燥兼宣肺疏表药,风燥咳嗽可选择的中成药有:羚羊清肺丸、杏苏二陈丸等。

痰湿咳嗽:此类咳嗽(解释,药品)的特点是咳声重浊,痰多,痰黏腻或稠厚成块,色白或带灰色,进甘甜油腻食物可加重,有胸闷、食少、体倦、便溏等症状。痰湿咳嗽应用理肺健脾、宁嗽祛痰药,可选择的中成药主要有:半夏露、橘红痰咳冲剂(口服液、膏剂)、二陈丸等。

久咳阴伤:此类咳嗽的特点是久咳干咳,咳声短促,或痰中夹有血丝,常伴有午后颧红潮热、盗汗、神疲等。久咳阴伤应用滋肺阴、除顽痰、生津液、降逆气的药,可选择的中成药主要有:蜜炼川贝枇杷膏、百合固金丸、秋梨膏、养阴清肺膏等。

肺气虚咳:此类咳嗽表现为咳声低弱,痰吐稀薄,自汗畏风,常由咳嗽日久不愈所致。要用益气固表、健脾补肾的药,可选择的中成药有:固本咳喘片等。

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