Coughing with yellow sputum according to Chinese Medicine

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Coughing with yellow 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 yellow 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 yellow sputum is often associated with fever, coughing and dark urine in the pattern “Wind-Heat invading the Lungs”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause coughing with yellow sputum.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of coughing with yellow 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 with yellow sputum.

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause coughing with yellow sputum

In Chinese Medicine coughing with yellow sputum is a symptom for 3 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

Wind-Heat invading the Lungs

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Floating (Fu)

In addition to coughing with yellow sputum, other symptoms associated with Wind-Heat invading the Lungs include fever, coughing and dark urine.

Wind-Heat invading the Lungs is often treated with Yin Qiao San, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Honeysuckle Flowers - Jin Yin Hua - as a key herb). Yin Qiao San belongs to the category of "external formulas for external disorders", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Disperses Wind Heat".

Read more about Wind-Heat invading the Lungs here

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

Lung Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua)

In addition to coughing with yellow sputum, other symptoms associated with Lung Heat include feeling of heat, shortness of breath and high fever.

Lung Heat is often treated with Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ephedra - Ma Huang - as a key herb). Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat from the organs", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Invigorates Lung Qi".

Read more about Lung Heat here

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

Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua)

In addition to coughing with yellow sputum, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs include feeling of heat, shortness of breath and chest fullness.

Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs is often treated with Wen Dan Tang, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Wen Dan 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: "Clears Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs here

Five herbal formulas that might help with coughing with yellow sputum

Yin Qiao San

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Disperses Wind Heat. Clears Heat. Resolves Toxicity.

Why might Yin Qiao San help with coughing with yellow sputum?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Wind-Heat invading the Lungs' of which coughing of copious thick yellow sputum is a symptom.

Read more about Yin Qiao San here

Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan

Source date: 1584 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat. Transforms Phlegm. Directs Rebellious Qi downwards. Stops coughing.

Why might Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan help with coughing with yellow sputum?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Lung Heat' of which cough with thin yellow sputum is a symptom.

Read more about Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan here

Wen Dan Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Wen Dan Tang help with coughing with yellow sputum?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs' of which coughing of copious thick yellow sputum is a symptom.

Read more about Wen Dan Tang here

Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates Lung Qi. Clears Heat. Calms wheezing by directing rebellious Qi downward.

Why might Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang help with coughing with yellow sputum?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Lung Heat' of which cough with thin yellow sputum is a symptom.

Read more about Ma Xing Shi Gan 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 with yellow sputum?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs' of which coughing of copious thick yellow sputum is a symptom.

Read more about Er Chen Tang here

Acupuncture points used for coughing with yellow sputum

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

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

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing with yellow sputum as a symptom, like Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang or Er Chen 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 Crow-Dipper Rhizome (Ban Xia) help with coughing with yellow sputum?

Because Crow-Dipper Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing with yellow sputum as a symptom, like Wen Dan Tang or Er Chen 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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with coughing with yellow sputum?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing with yellow sputum as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Wen Dan Tang 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 Apricot Seed (Xing Ren) help with coughing with yellow sputum?

Because Apricot Seed is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing with yellow sputum as a symptom, like Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang or Ding Chuan Tang for instance.

Apricot Seeds is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Large intestine and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Stops cough and wheezing caused by either Heat or Cold. Lubricates the Intestines and relieves constipation.

Read more about Apricot Seeds here

Why might Baikal Skullcap Root (Huang Qin) help with coughing with yellow sputum?

Because Baikal Skullcap Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat coughing with yellow sputum as a symptom, like Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan or Ding Chuan Tang for instance.

Baikal Skullcap Roots is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder, the Heart, the Large intestine, the Lung, the Small intestine and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Expels Heat and Dampness. Clears Upper Burner Heat, especially of the Lung. Clears Heat and stops reckless movement of Blood. Clears pathogenic Heat which is upsetting the fetus. Cools the Liver, reducing Liver Yang rising syndrome.

Read more about Baikal Skullcap Roots here