Coughing with copious sputum according to Chinese Medicine

TCM Education Center > Symptoms list > Coughing with copious sputum

Coughing with copious 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 with copious 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 with copious sputum is often associated with headaches, stifling sensation in the chest and dizziness in the pattern “Wind-Phlegm”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause coughing with copious sputum.

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

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause coughing with copious sputum

In Chinese Medicine coughing with copious sputum is a symptom for 2 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang, a formula used for Wind-Phlegm

Wind-Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating

Tongue shape: Deviated, Swollen

Wind-Phlegm is when Phlegm invades the Channels and sensory orifices, leading to such symptoms as dizziness, vertigo, or headache.

In addition to coughing with copious sputum, other symptoms associated with Wind-Phlegm include headaches, stifling sensation in the chest and dizziness.

Wind-Phlegm is often treated with Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that transform phlegm and extinguish wind", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dries and dissolves Phlegm".

Read more about Wind-Phlegm here

Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) is the king ingredient for Xiao Yao San, a formula used for Qi Stagnation

Qi Stagnation

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

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Red sides

Qi Stagnation refers to Qi becoming stuck or stagnant, a bit like a traffic jam on the freeway. This restricted flow of Qi can be body-wide or happen in any specific Organ.

In addition to coughing with copious sputum, other symptoms associated with Qi Stagnation include stifling sensation in the chest and abdomen, fixed pain in the hypochondria and belching.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation.

Qi Stagnation is often treated with Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Yao San belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize liver-spleen", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen".

Read more about Qi Stagnation here

Three herbal formulas that might help with coughing with copious sputum

Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang

Source date: 1732 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Dries and dissolves Phlegm. Strengthens the Spleen. Smoothes the Liver and calms Liver Wind (antispasmodic).

Why might Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang help with coughing with copious sputum?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Wind-Phlegm include headaches, stifling sensation in the chest and dizziness.

Read more about Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang here

Yue Ju Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Promotes the movement of Qi. Releases all types of Stagnation (Qi, Blood, Phlegm, Fire, Food and Dampness).

Why might Yue Ju Wan help with coughing with copious sputum?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi Stagnation' of which coughing with copious sputum is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Qi Stagnation include stifling sensation in the chest and abdomen, fixed pain in the hypochondria and belching.

Read more about Yue Ju Wan here

Xiao Yao San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen. Relieves Liver Qi stagnation. Nourishes the Blood.

Why might Xiao Yao San help with coughing with copious sputum?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi Stagnation' of which coughing with copious sputum is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Qi Stagnation include stifling sensation in the chest and abdomen, fixed pain in the hypochondria and belching.

Read more about Xiao Yao San here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat coughing with copious sputum

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with coughing with copious sputum?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing with copious sputum as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Chai Hu Shu Gan San for instance.

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Spleen and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain.

Read more about White Peony Roots here

Why might Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with coughing with copious sputum?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing with copious sputum as a symptom, like Yue Ju Wan or Xiao Yao 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

Why might Szechuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong) help with coughing with copious sputum?

Because Szechuan Lovage Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing with copious sputum as a symptom, like Chai Hu Shu Gan San or Yue Ju Wan for instance.

Szechuan Lovage Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Gallbladder, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Regulates and moves the Blood. Relieves Wind-Cold and pain. Circulates the Qi in the Upper Burner, relieving headaches.

Read more about Szechuan Lovage Roots here

Why might Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu) help with coughing with copious sputum?

Because Bupleurum Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing with copious sputum as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Chai Hu Shu Gan San for instance.

Bupleurum Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Harmonizes exterior and interior. Smoothes the Liver and upraises the Yang.

Read more about Bupleurum Roots here

Why might Coco-Grass Rhizome (Xiang Fu) help with coughing with copious sputum?

Because Coco-Grass Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing with copious sputum as a symptom, like Chai Hu Shu Gan San or Yue Ju Wan for instance.

Coco-Grass Rhizomes is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter, Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Liver and the Sanjiao.

Its main actions are: Unblocks Stagnant Liver Qi and relieves pain. Regulates the Liver and Spleen. Assists the regulation of menses and relieves pain.

Read more about Coco-Grass Rhizomes here