Dry cough according to Chinese Medicine

Dry 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 dry 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 dry cough is often associated with dizziness, insomnia and night sweats in the pattern “/tcm-education-center/patterns/yin-deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause dry cough.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of dry cough 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 dry cough.

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause dry cough

In Chinese Medicine dry cough 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.

Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di huang) is the king ingredient for Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/yin-deficiency

Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Red

In the case of Yin Deficiency, the body is short in the cooling, moistening and nurturing aspects. This leads to Heat and Dryness accompanied by weakness and lack of strength and resistance. Yin becomes Deficient by over-working, lack of sleep, over-exercising, overindulgence in sex, long-term chronic diseases, internal injury due to the seven emotions, and the over-eating of dry and hot-natured foods.

In addition to dry cough, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/yin-deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and night sweats.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/yin-deficiency is often treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Liu Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system)".

Read more about Yin Deficiency here

Mulberry Leaves (Sang Ye) is the king ingredient for Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/dry-heat-or-dry-fire

Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire

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

In addition to dry cough, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/dry-heat-or-dry-fire include dry mouth, dry throat and dry skin.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/dry-heat-or-dry-fire is often treated with Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang, a herbal formula made of 9 herbs (including Mulberry Leaves - Sang Ye - as a key herb). Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that disperse dryness and moisten", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears dryness".

Read more about Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire here

Apricot Seeds (Xing Ren) is the king ingredient for Xing Su San, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/body-fluids-deficiency

Body Fluids Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Fine (Xi)

Tongue shape: Cracked

If Body Fluids - all liquids in the body other than Blood - are Deficient, then this leads to many symptoms of Dryness.

In addition to dry cough, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/body-fluids-deficiency include dry mouth, dry throat and dry skin.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/body-fluids-deficiency is often treated with Xing Su San, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Apricot Seeds - Xing Ren - as a key herb). Xing Su San belongs to the category of "formulas that disperse dryness and moisten", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Dry-Cold".

Read more about Body Fluids Deficiency here

Five herbal formulas that might help with dry cough

Liu Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system).

Why might Liu Wei Di Huang Wan help with dry cough?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/yin-deficiency' of which dry cough is a symptom.

Read more about Liu Wei Di Huang Wan here

Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang

Source date: 1658 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Clears dryness. Moistens the Lungs.

Why might Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang help with dry cough?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/dry-heat-or-dry-fire' of which dry cough is a symptom.

Read more about Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang here

Xing Su San

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Clears Dry-Cold. Disseminates the Lung Qi and relieves cough. Transforms thin mucus.

Why might Xing Su San help with dry cough?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/body-fluids-deficiency' of which dry cough is a symptom.

Read more about Xing Su San here

Bai He Gu Jin Tang

Source date: 1573 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Lung and Kidney Yin. Lubricates the Lung and clears phlegm.

Why might Bai He Gu Jin Tang help with dry cough?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/body-fluids-deficiency' of which dry cough is a symptom.

Read more about Bai He Gu Jin Tang here

Sang Xing Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Clears and disperses Dryness.

Why might Sang Xing Tang help with dry cough?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/dry-heat-or-dry-fire' of which dry cough is a symptom.

Read more about Sang Xing Tang here

Acupuncture points used for dry cough

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

Why might Fritillary Bulb (Chuan Bei Mu) help with dry cough?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dry cough and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dry cough as a symptom (such as Bei Mu Gua Lou San for instance).

Fritillary Bulbs is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Clears Hot Phlegm and stops cough. Clears Lung Heat caused by Yin Deficiency. Clears Heat and reduces hard lumps and swellings.

Read more about Fritillary Bulbs here

Why might Dwarf Lilyturf Root (Mai Dong) help with dry cough?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dry cough and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dry cough as a symptom (such as Mai Men Dong Tang for instance).

Dwarf Lilyturf Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Replenishes Yin Essence and promotes secretions. Lubricates and nourishes the Stomach. Soothes the Lung. Nourishes the Heart.

Read more about Dwarf Lilyturf Roots here

Why might Apricot Seed (Xing Ren) help with dry cough?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dry cough and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dry cough as a symptom (such as Xing Su San 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 Donkey-Hide Gelatin (E Jiao) help with dry cough?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dry cough and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dry cough as a symptom (such as Bu Fei E Jiao Tang for instance).

Donkey-Hide Gelatin is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney, the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies and nourishes Blood. Stops bleeding. Moistens and lubricates Yin.

Read more about Donkey-Hide Gelatin here

Why might Mulberry Leaf (Sang Ye) help with dry cough?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dry cough and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dry cough as a symptom (such as Sang Xing Tang for instance).

Mulberry Leaves is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and clears Heat. Clears Heat in the Lung with associated Dryness. Clears the Liver for either Wind-Heat or Yin Deficient Heat. Cools the Blood.

Read more about Mulberry Leaves here