Chronic cough according to Chinese Medicine

Chronic cough can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like chronic cough here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here chronic cough is often associated with dizziness, tinnitus and shortness of breath on exertion in the pattern “Kidneys failing to receive Qi”.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of chronic cough we’ve identified two herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat chronic cough.

Kidneys failing to receive Qi, a "pattern of disharmony" that can cause chronic cough

In Chinese Medicine chronic cough is a symptom for the pattern "Kidneys failing to receive Qi". Below is a small explanation for it with links for more details.

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

Kidneys failing to receive Qi

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Tight (Jin), Weak (Ruo)

In addition to chronic cough, other symptoms associated with Kidneys failing to receive Qi include dizziness, tinnitus and shortness of breath on exertion.

Kidneys failing to receive Qi is often treated with You Gui Wan, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Prepared Aconite - Zhi Fu Zi - as a key herb). You Gui Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that warm yang and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms and tonifies Kidney Yang".

Read more about Kidneys failing to receive Qi here

Two herbal formulas that might help with chronic cough

You Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Warms and tonifies Kidney Yang. Replenishes the Essence. Tonifies the Blood.

Why might You Gui Wan help with chronic cough?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidneys failing to receive Qi' of which chronic cough is a symptom.

Read more about You Gui Wan here

Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Directs rebellious Qi downward. Arrests wheezing. Stops coughing. Warms and transforms Phlegm-Cold.

Why might Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang help with chronic cough?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidneys failing to receive Qi' of which chronic cough is a symptom.

Read more about Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang here

Acupuncture points used for chronic cough

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat chronic cough

Why might Cinnamon Bark (Rou Gui) help with chronic cough?

Because it is a key herb in You Gui Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Kidneys failing to receive Qi' (a pattern with chronic cough as a symptom)

Cinnamon Bark is a Hot herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney, the Liver and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Warms the Spleen and Kidneys and tonifies the Yang. Expels Cold, Warms the meridians, promotes circulation of Qi and Blood and relieves pain. Used with tonics to assist in the generation of Qi and Blood.

Read more about Cinnamon Bark here

Why might Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with chronic cough?

Because it is a key herb in You Gui Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Kidneys failing to receive Qi' (a pattern with chronic cough as a symptom)

Prepared Rehmannia is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Tonifies the Yin of the Kidneys.

Read more about Prepared Rehmannia here

Why might Cornelian Cherry (Shan Zhu Yu) help with chronic cough?

Because it is a key herb in You Gui Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Kidneys failing to receive Qi' (a pattern with chronic cough as a symptom)

Cornelian Cherries is a Warm herb that tastes Sour. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Preserves and tonifies the Kidney, Liver and Essence. Stops sweating and benefits the Yang and Qi. Assists menstruation and stops bleeding.

Read more about Cornelian Cherries here

Why might Deer Antler Glue (Lu Jiao Jiao) help with chronic cough?

Because it is a key herb in You Gui Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Kidneys failing to receive Qi' (a pattern with chronic cough as a symptom)

Deer Antler Glue is a Warm herb that tastes Salty and Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Yang tonification of the Kidneys and Liver, and to nourish vital Essence and Blood

Read more about Deer Antler Glue here

Why might Prepared Aconite (Zhi Fu Zi) help with chronic cough?

Because it is a key herb in You Gui Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Kidneys failing to receive Qi' (a pattern with chronic cough as a symptom)

Prepared Aconite is a Hot herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Raises the collapse of Yang. Warms the meridians and relieves pain caused by Cold. Reduces Damp caused by Deficiency in Yang.

Read more about Prepared Aconite here