Coughing with copious sputum according to Chinese Medicine

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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 constipation, headaches and stifling sensation in the chest 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 four 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 constipation, headaches and stifling sensation in the chest.

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

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

Lung Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Slow (Chi), Slowed-down (Huan), Wiry (Xian)

In addition to coughing with copious sputum, other symptoms associated with Lung Yang Deficiency include poor appetite, frequent urination and cold limbs.

Lung Yang Deficiency is often treated with Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang, a herbal formula made of 2 herbs (including Dried Ginger - Gan Jiang - as a key herb). Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm interior 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 Lung Yang Deficiency here

Four 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 of phlegm is a symptom.

Read more about Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang here

Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Lungs. Strengthens the Stomach.

Why might Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang help with coughing with copious sputum?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Lung Yang Deficiency' of which coughing with copious clear thin sputum is a symptom.

Read more about Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang here

Si Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach.

Why might Si Jun Zi Tang help with coughing with copious sputum?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Lung Yang Deficiency' of which coughing with copious clear thin sputum is a symptom.

Read more about Si Jun Zi Tang here

Sheng Mai San

Source date: Yuan Dynasty

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Augments Qi. Supplies the Yin. Stops excessive sweating. Generates Body Fluids.

Why might Sheng Mai San help with coughing with copious sputum?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Lung Yang Deficiency' of which coughing with copious clear thin sputum is a symptom.

Read more about Sheng Mai San here

Acupuncture points used for coughing with copious sputum

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

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with coughing with copious sputum?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing with copious sputum as a symptom, like Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang or Si 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 Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with coughing with copious sputum?

Because Ginseng is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing with copious sputum as a symptom, like Si Jun Zi Tang or Sheng Mai San for instance.

Ginseng is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Very strongly tonifies the Qi. Tonifies the Lungs and Spleen. Assists the body in the secretion of Fluids and stops thirst. Strengthens the Heart and calms the Shen (mind/spirit).

Read more about Ginseng 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 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 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

Other symptoms often associated with coughing with copious sputum

Coughing Constipation Vomiting Poor appetite Chest congestion Vertigo Hemiplegia Epilepsy Convulsions Tetanus