The information provided here is not a replacement for a doctor. You shouldn't use it for the purpose of self-diagnosing or self-medicating but rather so you can have a more informed discussion with a professional TCM practitioner.
Chinese name: 痰 Pinyin name: Tán
Pattern nature: Full
Common causes: 1. Emotional stress, 2. External environments, 3. Diet
Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)
Tongue description: swollen tongue with sticky coating
Phlegm has a great importance in Chinese Medicine as it is both a condition in and of itself as well as a cause for other diseases.
The main cause for the formation of Phlegm is Spleen Deficiency since the Spleen rules the transformation and transportation of Body Fluids. If this function is impaired, Body Fluids accumulates and change into Phlegm.
The Lungs and Kidneys may also be involved since they each play a role in handling body Fluids: the Lungs disperse and descend Body Fluids while the Kidneys transform and excrete them. Again, if they fail to perform those roles, Body Fluids will accumulate and become Phlegm.
That being said, the Spleen malfunction is the fundamental reason behind the formation of Phlegm and, as such, treatments will focus on it first and foremost.
There are two broad types of Phlegm: so-called "Substantial Phlegm" and "Non-Substantial Phlegm". Simply put, Substantial Phlegm can be seen, such as sputum in the Lungs and throat. Non-Substantial Phlegm is more hidden and will manifest itself into, for instance, kidney stones, gallstones or arthritic bone deformities.
Phlegm can accumulate and settle down in different parts of the body and lead to corresponding symptoms. For example, if it stays in the joints, muscles and Channels, there are muscle numbness, bone deformities and etc. If it mists the Heart, it causes many mental illness. If it settles in the Gall Bladder or Kidney, it leads to stones in these Organs.
"Phlegm-Fluids" is very similar to Dampness and is very watery and thin. It can be heard splashing in the body, found usually in the Stomach and Small Intestines, hypochondrium, limbs or above the diaphragm.
Precursor patterns: Phlegm can derive from Damp-Heat in the Liver Spleen Yang Deficiency Stomach Qi Deficiency Heart Blood Stagnation Spleen Qi Sinking Stomach Deficient and Cold Stomach Qi Stagnation Spleen Blood Deficiency Spleen not controlling Blood Damp-Heat invading the Spleen Spleen and Lung Qi Deficiency Obstruction Of the Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation Pericardium Blood Stagnation Liver Fire insulting the Lungs Kidneys failing to receive Qi Kidney and Spleen Yang Deficiency Damp-Heat in the Stomach Food Stagnation in the Stomach
Emotional stress : Emotional stress can damage the Qi movement functions of the Lungs, Spleen and Kidneys. Therefore they are not able to circulate Body Fluids and accumulate Phlegm.
External environments : External Wind, Cold, Heat, Fire and Summer Heat and Dampness can invade body and give rise to the formation of Phlegm.
Diet : Excessive intake of fried or greasy foods such as deep-fried foods, milk, cheese, butter, avocados, nuts and nut butter, chips and fried foods produce Dampness and obstruct the Spleen function. This leads to Phlegm, which causes symptoms such as sinusitis, nasal discharge, heavy and fuzzy feeling in the head, dull headaches and etc.
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 as well as learn to read from a long list of seemingly unrelated symptoms.
Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua) or wiry (Xian)
Tongue description: swollen tongue with sticky coating
Diagnosis commentary: Key characteristic symptoms of this pattern are the general feeling of oppression and heaviness, dizziness and lumps.
Remove Phlegm, tonify the Spleen, Kidneys and Lungs
Source date: 1174 AD
Number of ingredients: 8 herbs
Key actions: Clears Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.
Wen Dan Tang is a 8-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula. Invented in 1174 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that dry Dampness and transform Phlegm.
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).
Er Chen Tang is a 5-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula. Invented in 1148 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that dry Dampness and transform Phlegm.
Source date: 1107
Number of ingredients: 6 herbs
Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach. Clears Phlegm and mucus. Promotes appetite.
Liu Jun Zi Tang is a 6-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula. Invented in 1107, it belongs to the category of formulas that tonify Qi.
Avoid fried or greasy foods such as deep-fried foods, milk, cheese, butter, avocados, nuts and nut butter, chips and fried foods. It is because they cause Dampness and harm the Spleen function.
Please keep in mind that a Western Medicine condition can be caused by several Chinese Medicine patterns of disharmony and vice versa. As such a patient suffering from one of the conditions below will not necessarily be suffering from Phlegm, it is just one pattern that's commonly associated with the condition. Click on a condition to learn what other patterns it's associated with.
Morning sickness Menopausal syndrome Low breast milk supply Hepatitis Cystitis Migraine Trigeminal neuralgia Conjunctivitis Pyelonephritis Edema Glomerulonephritis Nephrotic syndrome Hydrocele Motion sickness Menieres disease Gastrectasis Acute enteritis Ascites Congestive heart failure Pericardial and pleural effusions Hydrocephalus Polyhydramnios
The main cause for the formation of Phlegm is Spleen Deficiency since the Spleen rules the transformation and transportation of Body Fluids. If the Spleen doesn't transform or transport Body Fluids they will accumulate and change into Phlegm, which often stay in the Spleen and Stomach.
The accumulated Phlegm then impairs the Stomach's function of ripening and rotting food as well as the Spleen's function of transforming and absorbing food. This leads to a situation where those Organs do not...Read more about low breast milk supply
Typical symptoms for menopausal syndrome caused by Phlegm: Nausea Oedema Obesity Belching Moodiness Depression Irritability Poor appetite Chest fullness Breast distention Abdominal fullness Sputum in the chest
This pattern often appears among young women with premature menopause. The symptoms are due to Phlegm or Dampness accumulating in the Lower Burner instead of the more typical decline of Kidneys Essence, normally the key cause for menopausal syndrome. As for absence of menstruation, Spleen Qi Deficiency is the fundamental reason leading to Phlegm. This is because the Spleen rules the transformation and transportation of Body Fluids. The malfunction of this Organ leads to the accumulation of...Read more about menopausal syndrome
Phlegm does not lead to Blood Stagnation directly, but in a supportive way.
Phlegm can cause Blood Stagnation. Since one of the Liver's major responsibility is to store Blood. Therefore, general Blood Stagnation can cause Liver Blood Stagnation.