Coughing of copious thin and white sputum according to Chinese Medicine

Coughing of copious thin and white sputum 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 coughing of copious thin and white sputum 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 coughing of copious thin and white sputum is often associated with dizziness, coughing and feeling of heaviness in the pattern “Phlegm-Fluids in the Lungs”. As you will see below, we have in record four patterns that can cause coughing of copious thin and white sputum.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of coughing of copious thin and white sputum we’ve identified five 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 coughing of copious thin and white sputum.

The four "patterns of disharmony" that can cause coughing of copious thin and white sputum

In Chinese Medicine coughing of copious thin and white sputum is a symptom for 4 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

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

Phlegm-Fluids in the Lungs

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Soggy (Ru), Wiry (Xian), Fine (Xi)

In addition to coughing of copious thin and white sputum, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Fluids in the Lungs include dizziness, coughing and feeling of heaviness.

Phlegm-Fluids in the Lungs is often treated with Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Dried Ginger - Gan Jiang - as a key herb). Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm and transform phlegm-cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms the Lungs".

Read more about Phlegm-Fluids in the Lungs here

Ephedra (Ma Huang) is the king ingredient for Da Qing Long Tang, a formula used for Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs

Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick white coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

This is when Body Fluids stagnate in the four limbs instead of flowing in the body and getting released as sweat.

In addition to coughing of copious thin and white sputum, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs include feeling of heaviness, absence of sweating and swollen limbs.

Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs is often treated with Da Qing Long Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Ephedra - Ma Huang - as a key herb). Da Qing Long Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear wind-cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Promotes sweating".

Read more about Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs here

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

Damp-Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua)

In addition to coughing of copious thin and white sputum, other symptoms associated with Damp-Phlegm include nausea, swollen limbs and oily skin.

Damp-Phlegm is often treated with Er Chen Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Er Chen Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dry dampness and transform phlegm", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm".

Read more about Damp-Phlegm here

Dried Ginger (Gan Jiang) is the king ingredient 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

This is when a Fire Deficiency of the Gate of Life (Ming Men), which is the source of warmth for all physiological processes, inhibits the Spleen's ability to transform and transport the Body Fluids, which accumulate and become Phlegm and thin mucus.

In addition to coughing of copious thin and white sputum, other symptoms associated with Cold-Phlegm include feeling of oppression of the chest, nausea and poor appetite.

Cold-Phlegm is often treated with Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Dried Ginger - Gan Jiang - as a key herb). Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm and transform phlegm-cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms the Lungs".

Read more about Cold-Phlegm here

Five herbal formulas that might help with coughing of copious thin and white sputum

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 coughing of copious thin and white sputum?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids in the Lungs' of which white and watery sputum is a symptom.

Read more about Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang here

Xiao Qing Long Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Releases the Exterior. Transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Warms the Lungs. Directs Rebellious Qi downward.

Why might Xiao Qing Long Tang help with coughing of copious thin and white sputum?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs' of which coughing with copious white sputum is a symptom.

Read more about Xiao Qing Long Tang here

Da Qing Long Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Promotes sweating. Releases the Exterior. Clears Interior Heat.

Why might Da Qing Long Tang help with coughing of copious thin and white sputum?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs' of which coughing with copious white sputum is a symptom.

Read more about Da Qing Long 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 coughing of copious thin and white sputum?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Phlegm' of which profuse white sputum is a symptom.

Read more about Er Chen 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 coughing of copious thin and white sputum?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Cold-Phlegm' of which white and watery sputum is a symptom.

Read more about San Zi Yang Qin Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat coughing of copious thin and white sputum

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with coughing of copious thin and white sputum?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing of copious thin and white sputum as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with coughing of copious thin and white sputum?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing of copious thin and white sputum as a symptom, like Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang or Wu Ling San for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might Cinnamon Twig (Gui Zhi) help with coughing of copious thin and white sputum?

Because Cinnamon Twig is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing of copious thin and white sputum as a symptom, like Ma Huang Tang or Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang for instance.

Cinnamon Twigs is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Adjusts the nutritive Ying and defensive Wei Qi. Relieves the Exterior through sweating. Warms and disperses Cold. Removes obstruction of Yang. Promotes the circulation of Yang Qi in the chest. Regulates and moves blood.

Read more about Cinnamon Twigs here

Why might Crow-Dipper Rhizome (Ban Xia) help with coughing of copious thin and white sputum?

Because Crow-Dipper Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing of copious thin and white sputum as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Drains Dampness and reduces Phlegm. Reverses the flow of Rebellious Qi. Reduces hardenings and relieves distention.

Read more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes here

Why might Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with coughing of copious thin and white sputum?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing of copious thin and white sputum as a symptom, like Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang or Wu Ling San for instance.

Atractylodes Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Fortifies the Spleen Yang and dispels Damp through urination. Tonifies Qi and stops sweating. Calms restless fetus when due to Deficiency of Spleen Qi.

Read more about Atractylodes Rhizomes here