Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs

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Pattern factsheet

Chinese name: 湿痰阻肺

Pinyin name: Shī Tán Zǔ Fèi

Associated TCM concepts: Phlegm Lungs Dampness


Common symptoms: Nausea Asthma Coughing Wheezing Pale face and nine other symptoms

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Soggy (Ru)

Tongue description: Swollen tongue with sticky white coating

Phlegm in the Lungs is synonymous with Substantial Phlegm. It is Phlegm that is located in the Lungs and that can be seen. It is manifested by the swollen tongue. The main symptoms, on top of general Phlegm symptoms, are the heavy sputum that develops in the Lungs and throat as well as, in some cases, asthma or difficulty to breath. 

This Phlegm is associated with or deriving from Dampness. This type of Damp-Phlegm can be reflected by the sticky white tongue coating and profuse white sputum. 

The pattern can be acute or chronic. In acute cases, it is normally caused by Wind invasion of the Lungs. If the patient's immune system is not strong enough to defense this Pernicious Evil, the patient then develops acute cough with profuse sputum.

In chronic cases, it is often the result of Spleen Deficiency. It is because the Spleen is responsible for Body Fluids transformation and transportation and its dysfunction leads to Phlegm formation, which then get stored in the Lungs. 

As a result, the descending of Lung Qi is greatly disturbed, thus the symptoms of coughing and short of breath. The Pale complexion shows the Spleen and Lung Yang Deficiency

The patients usually dislike lying down, because the horizontal position make the chest pain, stifling and distention condition even worse due to the obstructed chest and Lungs by Phlegm. This Phlegm also obstructed the head's orifices which then cause the feeling of muzziness, dizziness and head heaviness. 

In acute cases, the patient's Qi is usually not weakened which indicates a purely Full pattern, then the pulse is Slippery. However, the pulse is Soggy in chronic cases,  which means the Qi is harmed to certain degree. 

Diagnosing Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs

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

Diagnosing a pattern in Chinese Medicine is no easy feat and should be left to professional practitioners.

In particular one has to know how to differentiate between different types of pulses and tongue coatings, shapes and colors. Here patients with Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs will tend to exhibit slippery (Hua) or soggy (Ru) pulses as well as a tongue with sticky coating, thick coating.

Practitioners also learn to read from a long list of seemingly unrelated symptoms. Here patients with Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs might experience symptoms like sputum in the lungs and throat, coughing, pale face and phlegm in throat (full list here above).

Herbal formulas used to treat Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs

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).

Formula summary

Er Chen Tang is a 5-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) and Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi) as principal ingredients. Invented in 1148 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that dry Dampness and transform Phlegm.

Besides Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs, Er Chen Tang is also used to treat Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs or Damp-Phlegm.

Read more about Er Chen Tang

Diet recommendations

As for food, avoid cold and raw foods, dairy, greasy, spicy, fried food. Also avoid alcohol or tobacco. Try simple warm soups or vegetable juice until the patients are recovered. 

Cupping over the chest or upper back, nasal wash and breathing exercises can also help healing. 

Finally, the patients should take as much as bed resting.  

Most important herbs used to treat Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs