Chronic Coughingaccording to TCM

Symptom family: Cough Related Symptoms

Parent symptom: Coughing

What is Chronic Coughing?

Chronic coughing is a persistent cough that lasts for eight weeks or longer in adults and four weeks or longer in children. This condition can be a significant source of discomfort and anxiety, affecting daily activities and quality of life. Chronic coughing may present itself as dry or productive, meaning it can occur with or without the production of mucus.

It is often a symptom of underlying health issues such as allergies, infections, acid reflux, asthma, or even certain medications. Identifying the cause is crucial for effective treatment and relief.

How does TCM view Chronic Coughing?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) regards chronic coughing as a manifestation of imbalance within the body's organ systems, particularly the Lungs, and Kidneys.

Unlike the symptom-focused approach of Western medicine, TCM aims to identify and treat the underlying pattern of disharmony causing the cough. This holistic perspective considers factors such as Qi Deficiency, Phlegm accumulation, and external pathogenic influences, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive diagnosis to guide treatment strategies.

Root Causes of Chronic Coughing in TCM

In TCM, chronic coughing can result from various patterns of imbalance, with Kidneys failing to receive Qi being a notable cause. This condition reflects a fundamental imbalance where the Kidney's ability to grasp the Qi sent down by the Lungs is compromised, leading to symptoms like chronic cough, exertional dyspnea, and difficulty breathing.

Such patterns highlight the interconnectedness of organ systems in TCM theory, where the dysfunction of one organ can significantly impact another, illustrating the complex etiology of chronic coughing from a TCM perspective.

Explore below more details about what might cause Chronic coughing according to TCM.

  • By Organ
  • Kidney
Detailed description of the cause


In TCM the Kidneys are regarded as the body's most fundamental reservoir of Essence, known as Jing, which influences growth, reproduction, and aging. They are not just organs for filtering blood, but a holistic system governing vital life forces. When the Kidneys malfunction in TCM, it can manifest as a variety of health issues, such as chronic fatigue, reproductive problems, imbalances in fluid metabolism leading to edema or dryness, lower back pain, and a sense of fear or insecurity.... see more

Kidney Patterns That Can Lead to Chronic Coughing

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Kidneys failing to receive Qi Chronic cough, Exertional dyspnea, Rapid respiration, Weak respiratory, Difficulty breathing in, Chronic coughing, Asthma, Spontaneous sweat, Cold extremities, Facial edema, Emaciation, Low energy, Lower back pain, Dizziness, Tinnitus, Clear urination... see more You Gui Wan | Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang | Ren Shen Ge Jie San

TCM Herbal Formulas for Chronic Coughing

For treating chronic coughing, particularly when associated with the pattern of Kidneys failing to receive Qi, TCM recommends formulas that warm Yang and tonify the kidney. You Gui Wan, containing key herbs like Prepared aconite (Zhi Fu Zi), is designed to strengthen the Kidneys, enhance their ability to receive Qi, and thereby alleviate chronic coughing symptoms.

This approach underscores TCM's principle of addressing the root cause of symptoms through personalized herbal prescriptions aimed at restoring balance and vitality to the body's systems.

Explore below some TCM herbal formulas used to address chronic coughing, organized by cause and by formula type.

  • By Formula Type
  • Formulas that warm yang and tonify
  • Formulas for a rebellious qi
  • Formulas that tonify qi
  • Formulas that clear heat from the organs

Acupoints for Chronic Coughing

TCM also incorporates acupuncture as part of the treatment strategy for chronic coughing. A key acupoint for addressing this condition is Lingtai DU-10, located on the back midline, below the spinous process of the 6th thoracic vertebra (T6).

Stimulating Lingtai DU-10 is believed to clear Heat, detoxify the body, and ease cough and wheezing, offering a non-pharmacological option for patients seeking relief from chronic coughing. This method reflects TCM's holistic approach, integrating various therapeutic modalities to harmonize the body's Qi and alleviate symptoms.

See more details below about Lingtai DU-10, an acupoint used to address chronic coughing.

  • By Meridian
  • Governing Vessel
Lingtai DU-10

Lingtai DU-10

On the back midline, in the depression below the spinous process of the 6th thoracic vertebra (T6).