Chronic bronchitis according to Chinese Medicine

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In Chinese Medicine, chronic bronchitis can be associated with thirteen so-called "patterns of disharmony". Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted. It is not equivalent to the Western concept of "disease", as a matter of fact here chronic bronchitis can be caused by thirteen different patterns.

To understand whether someone's chronic bronchitis might be caused by a given pattern, one needs to look for signs and symptoms associated with the pattern beyond what one might typically experience from chronic bronchitis alone. For instance when chronic bronchitis is caused by the pattern Spleen and Stomach Qi Deficiency, patients also experience symptoms such as dizziness, unsteadiness, blurred vision and deafness. Similarly, patients with Spleen and Stomach Qi Deficiency typically exhibit weak (Ruo) pulses as well as a pale tongue.

We've listed below a description of the thirteen patterns associated with chronic bronchitis so that you can start to get an understanding of the various possibilities according to Chinese Medicine.

Once identified, patterns are often treated using herbal formulas. Drinking herbal infusions is the most common remedy in Chinese Medicine, together with acupuncture. Here we detail below thirteen formulas that can help treat the various patterns associated with chronic bronchitis, depending on which pattern fits your profile.

The thirteen "patterns of disharmony" associated with chronic bronchitis

The Spleen is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Spleen and Stomach Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Recommended herbal formula: Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang

Symptoms: Deafness Tinnitus Dizziness Weak voice Unsteadiness Loose stools Poor appetite Blurred vision Pale complexion Shortness of breath

Chronic bronchitis might be due to Spleen and Stomach Qi Deficiency if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as dizziness, unsteadiness, blurred vision and deafness. Similarly, patients with Spleen and Stomach Qi Deficiency typically exhibit weak (Ruo) pulses as well as a pale tongue.

Read more about Spleen and Stomach Qi Deficiency here

Milkvetch Roots (Huang Qi) is the key herb for Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, a formula used for Qi Deficiency Fever

Qi Deficiency Fever

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu)

Tongue color: Pale

Tongue shape: Swollen

Recommended herbal formula: Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang

Symptoms: Aversion to cold Spontaneous sweating Thirst for warm drinks Intermittent fever that worsens upon exertion

Chronic bronchitis might be due to Qi Deficiency Fever if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as intermittent fever that worsens upon exertion, spontaneous sweating, aversion to cold and thirst for warm drinks. Similarly, patients with Qi Deficiency Fever typically exhibit empty (Xu) pulses as well as a pale tongue.

Read more about Qi Deficiency Fever here

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Lung and Kidney Yin Deficiency with Empty Fire

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Fine (Xi)

Tongue coating: Partial absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Recommended herbal formula: Bai He Gu Jin Tang

Symptoms: Wheezing Dry throat Night sweats Hot palms and soles Coughing with blood-streaked sputum

Chronic bronchitis might be due to Lung and Kidney Yin Deficiency with Empty Fire if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as coughing with blood-streaked sputum, wheezing, dry throat and hot palms and soles. Similarly, patients with Lung and Kidney Yin Deficiency with Empty Fire typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or fine (Xi) pulses as well as a red tongue with partial absence of coating.

Read more about Lung and Kidney Yin Deficiency with Empty Fire here

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the key herb for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for Damp-Cold Phlegm

Damp-Cold Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Recommended herbal formula: Er Chen Tang

Symptoms: Nausea Vomiting Dizziness Palpitations Focal distention Coughing with copious white sputum Stifling sensation in the chest and epigastrium

Chronic bronchitis might be due to Damp-Cold Phlegm if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, stifling sensation in the chest and epigastrium and palpitations. Similarly, patients with Damp-Cold Phlegm typically exhibit slippery (Hua) pulses as well as a tongue with thick white coating.

Read more about Damp-Cold Phlegm here

The Bladder is a so-called "Fu" Organ. Learn more about the Bladder in Chinese Medicine

Qi Stagnation in Gallbladder and Stomach with Phlegm Heat

Chronic bronchitis might be due to Qi Stagnation in Gallbladder and Stomach with Phlegm Heat if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, dizziness or vertigo, dream disturbed sleep with strange or unusual dreams and palpitations. Similarly, patients with Qi Stagnation in Gallbladder and Stomach with Phlegm Heat typically exhibit slippery (Hua) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with yellow coating.

Read more about Qi Stagnation in Gallbladder and Stomach with Phlegm Heat here

Wind-Cold invading the Interior with Phelgm-Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Recommended herbal formula: Ding Chuan Tang

Symptoms: Labored breathing Coughing and wheezing with copious thick and yellow sputum

Chronic bronchitis might be due to Wind-Cold invading the Interior with Phelgm-Heat if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as labored breathing and coughing and wheezing with copious thick and yellow sputum. Similarly, patients with Wind-Cold invading the Interior with Phelgm-Heat typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or slippery (Hua) pulses as well as a tongue with yellow coating.

Read more about Wind-Cold invading the Interior with Phelgm-Heat here

Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Deep (Chen), Minute (Wei), Slow (Chi)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Recommended herbal formula: Fu Zi Tang

Symptoms: No thirst Cold extremities Generalized body pain Aching bones and joints Aversion to cold (especially at the back)

Chronic bronchitis might be due to Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as generalized body pain, aching bones and joints, cold extremities and no thirst. Similarly, patients with Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp typically exhibit choppy (Se), deep (Chen), minute (Wei) or slow (Chi) pulses as well as a tongue with thin white coating.

Read more about Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp here

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Kidney Yang Deficiency

Chronic bronchitis might be due to Kidney Yang Deficiency if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as soreness and weakness in the lower back, cold in the lower extremities, impotence and spermatorrhea.

Read more about Kidney Yang Deficiency here

Arisaema With Bile (Dan Nan Xing) is the key herb for Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan, a formula used for Phlegm-Heat

Phlegm-Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua)

Tongue color: Red

Recommended herbal formula: Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan

Symptoms: Nausea Chest fullness Focal distention Coughing and wheezing with copious thick and yellow sputum

Chronic bronchitis might be due to Phlegm-Heat if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as focal distention, chest fullness, nausea and coughing and wheezing with copious thick and yellow sputum. Similarly, patients with Phlegm-Heat typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or slippery (Hua) pulses as well as a red tongue.

Read more about Phlegm-Heat here

Dried Ginger (Gan Jiang) is the key herb for Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang, a formula used for Cold-Phlegm

Cold-Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slippery (Hua), Slow (Chi)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Tongue color: Pale

Tongue shape: Swollen

Recommended herbal formulas: Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang, San Zi Yang Qin Tang

Symptoms: Nausea Cold limbs Poor appetite White and watery sputum Feeling of oppression of the chest

A famous saying in Chinese Medicine goes: "Phlegm has its source in the Kidneys, is then moved by the Spleen, and resides in the Lungs."

This couldn't be more obvious in Cold-Phlegm patterns. The "Cold" aspect of it is that it stems from a Fire Deficiency of the Gate of Life (Ming Men), which is the source of warmth for all physiological processes. This Deficiency inhibits the Spleen's ability to transform and transport the Body Fluids, which accumulate and become Phlegm and thin mucus.

The thin mucus is then sent to the Lungs, the natural next step for Body Fluids after they're filtered in the Spleen. Hence there are the symptoms of white and watery sputum as well as chest oppression in this pattern.

Read more about Cold-Phlegm here

The Lungs is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Lungs in Chinese Medicine

Phlegm clogging the Lungs with Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Recommended herbal formula: San Zi Yang Qin Tang

Symptoms: Poor appetite Digestive difficulties Focal distention of the chest Coughing and wheezing with copious sputum

Chronic bronchitis might be due to Phlegm clogging the Lungs with Qi Stagnation if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as coughing and wheezing with copious sputum, focal distention of the chest, poor appetite and digestive difficulties. Similarly, patients with Phlegm clogging the Lungs with Qi Stagnation typically exhibit slippery (Hua) pulses as well as a tongue with thick white coating.

Read more about Phlegm clogging the Lungs with Qi Stagnation here

The Lungs is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Lungs in Chinese Medicine

Lung Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Recommended herbal formulas: Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang, Mai Men Dong Tang

Symptoms: Insomnia Dry cough Dry mouth Tiredness Weak voice Dry throat Malar flush Night sweats Hot palms and soles Thin body lacking strength

Exterior Heat and Dryness can invade the Lungs and exhausts the Body Fluids. If it is not dealt with for a long time, it leads to Lung Yin Deficiency. Other factors can cause this pattern such as the Deficiency of Kidneys or Stomach Yin as well as prolonged Lung Qi Deficiency due to excessive smoking or use of voice. Emotional stress such as sadness and grief may also deplete Lung Qi and Yin.

Empty Heat symptoms appear if the Lung Yin Deficiency condition is not treated for a while. Patients can feel malar flush, low-grade fever as well as Heat in the palms and chest, especially in the evenings. 

The treatment principle is to tonify Lung Yin, nourish Body Fluids and clear Empty Heat if it is needed. 

Read more about Lung Yin Deficiency here

The Stomach is a so-called "Fu" Organ. Learn more about the Stomach in Chinese Medicine

Stomach Yin Deficiency

The Stomach is responsible for receiving foods and drinks, ripening them and sending them to the Spleen for further digestion. Therefore, the Stomach is the origin of Body Fluids. It is also an Organ that likes Cold and Dampness which are both Yin characteristics. Stomach Yin Deficiency harms the Organ's functions and cause Dryness and Heat. As a result, symptoms such as thirst, dry stools, dry mouth and dry throat appear. 

However, this is just Empty Heat due to lacking of Yin (and not the Excess of Yang), so the feeling of Heat often only happens in the afternoons or evenings. The patients experiences thirst or hunger but there is no desire to drink or eat, or they only drink in small sips. They also prefer warm liquids and their appetite is poor. Due to lack of Body Fluids, there is constipation with dry stools. Retching and hiccups may occur as Stomach's Qi downward function is impaired. 

Unbalanced diet and bad eating habits are the major reasons for this pattern. The patients may often consume spicy and acrid foods, which deplete Stomach Fluids and Yin. Prolonged irregular eating habits also have similar negative impact, such as eating on the run, skipping meals, eating while working, having late meals or working right after eating. Finally chronic Stomach disease can also be a cause. In additional to above reasons, a high fever during an infectious disease or overconsumption of antibiotics can also lead to an acute Stomach Yin Deficiency. 

The treatment principle is to nourish Stomach Yin and Body Fluids.

Read more about Stomach Yin Deficiency here

The thirteen herbal formulas that might help with chronic bronchitis

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang

Source date: 1247

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi of the Spleen and Stomach (Middle Burner). Raises the Yang. Detoxifies. Lifts what has sunken.

Why might Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang help with chronic bronchitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help with the patterns Spleen and Stomach Qi Deficiency and Qi Deficiency Fever which are sometimes associated with chronic bronchitis. If any of these patterns look like something you might suffer from, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang here

Mai Men Dong Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Stomach. Generates Body Fluids. Directs Rebellious Qi downward.

Why might Mai Men Dong Tang help with chronic bronchitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help with the patterns Lung Yin Deficiency and Stomach Yin Deficiency which are sometimes associated with chronic bronchitis. If any of these patterns look like something you might suffer from, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Mai Men Dong Tang here

Bai He Gu Jin Tang

Source date: 1573 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Lung and Kidney Yin. Lubricates the Lung and clears phlegm.

Why might Bai He Gu Jin Tang help with chronic bronchitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Lung and Kidney Yin Deficiency with Empty Fire, a pattern sometimes associated with chronic bronchitis. If it looks like you might suffer from Lung and Kidney Yin Deficiency with Empty Fire, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Bai He Gu Jin Tang here

Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1148 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm. Regulates Qi and harmonizes the Middle Burner (Stomach and Spleen).

Why might Er Chen Tang help with chronic bronchitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Damp-Cold Phlegm, a pattern sometimes associated with chronic bronchitis. If it looks like you might suffer from Damp-Cold Phlegm, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Er Chen Tang here

Wen Dan Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Hot-Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder heat. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Wen Dan Tang help with chronic bronchitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Qi Stagnation in Gallbladder and Stomach with Phlegm Heat, a pattern sometimes associated with chronic bronchitis. If it looks like you might suffer from Qi Stagnation in Gallbladder and Stomach with Phlegm Heat, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Wen Dan Tang here

Ding Chuan Tang

Source date: 1550 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Clears Lung Heat. Expectorant for asthma.

Why might Ding Chuan Tang help with chronic bronchitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Wind-Cold invading the Interior with Phelgm-Heat, a pattern sometimes associated with chronic bronchitis. If it looks like you might suffer from Wind-Cold invading the Interior with Phelgm-Heat, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Ding Chuan Tang here

Fu Zi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Meridians. Assists the Yang. Dispels Cold. Transforms Dampness.

Why might Fu Zi Tang help with chronic bronchitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp, a pattern sometimes associated with chronic bronchitis. If it looks like you might suffer from Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Fu Zi Tang here

Ba Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Yang. Warms the Kidneys and lower extremities.

Why might Ba Wei Di Huang Wan help with chronic bronchitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Kidney Yang Deficiency, a pattern sometimes associated with chronic bronchitis. If it looks like you might suffer from Kidney Yang Deficiency, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Ba Wei Di Huang Wan here

Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan

Source date: 1584 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat. Transforms Phlegm. Directs Rebellious Qi downwards. Stops coughing.

Why might Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan help with chronic bronchitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Phlegm-Heat, a pattern sometimes associated with chronic bronchitis. If it looks like you might suffer from Phlegm-Heat, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan here

Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Lungs. Transforms congested Fluids.

Why might Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang help with chronic bronchitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Cold-Phlegm, a pattern sometimes associated with chronic bronchitis. If it looks like you might suffer from Cold-Phlegm, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang here

San Zi Yang Qin Tang

Source date: 1856 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Directs the Qi downward. Transforms Phlegm. Reduces harbored food.

Why might San Zi Yang Qin Tang help with chronic bronchitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Phlegm clogging the Lungs with Qi Stagnation, a pattern sometimes associated with chronic bronchitis. If it looks like you might suffer from Phlegm clogging the Lungs with Qi Stagnation, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about San Zi Yang Qin Tang here

Shen Qi Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and warms Kidney Yang.

Why might Shen Qi Wan help with chronic bronchitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Kidney Yang Deficiency, a pattern sometimes associated with chronic bronchitis. If it looks like you might suffer from Kidney Yang Deficiency, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Shen Qi Wan here

Zuo Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Strengthens the Kidneys. Fills the Essence. Augments the marrow.

Why might Zuo Gui Wan help with chronic bronchitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat , a pattern sometimes associated with chronic bronchitis. If it looks like you might suffer from , this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Zuo Gui Wan here