Wheezing according to Chinese Medicine

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Wheezing 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 wheezing 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 wheezing is often associated with shortness of breath, fatigue and pale complexion in the pattern “Lung Yang Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record four patterns that can cause wheezing.

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

The four "patterns of disharmony" that can cause wheezing

In Chinese Medicine wheezing 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

Lung Yang Deficiency

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

In addition to wheezing, other symptoms associated with Lung Yang Deficiency include shortness of breath, fatigue and pale complexion.

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

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

Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Soggy (Ru)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

Phlegm in the Lungs (a synonym for "Substantial Phlegm") is the sputum that collects in the Lungs and is spat out during bronchitis or other Lung diseases.

In addition to wheezing, other symptoms associated with Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs include coughing, asthma and stifling sensation in the chest.

Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs 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 in the Lungs 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 wheezing, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs include coughing, asthma and stifling sensation in the chest.

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

Ephedra (Ma Huang) is the king ingredient for Xiao Qing Long Tang, a formula used for Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm

Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

This is when, often due to a stagnant Qi, the Body Fluids are retained in the chest and Lungs.

In addition to wheezing, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm include coughing, asthma and stifling sensation in the chest.

Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm is often treated with Xiao Qing Long Tang, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Ephedra - Ma Huang - as a key herb). Xiao 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: "Releases the Exterior".

Read more about Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm here

Four herbal formulas that might help with wheezing

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 wheezing?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Lung Yang Deficiency' of which wheezing is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Lung Yang Deficiency include shortness of breath, fatigue and pale complexion.

Read more about Si Jun Zi 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 wheezing?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs' of which wheezing is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Damp-Phlegm In The Lungs include coughing, asthma and stifling sensation in the chest.

Read more about Er Chen Tang 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 wheezing?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs' of which wheezing is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm-Heat In The Lungs include coughing, asthma and stifling sensation in the chest.

Read more about Wen Dan Tang here

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 wheezing?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm' of which wheezing is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm-Fluids Above The Diaphragm include coughing, asthma and stifling sensation in the chest.

Read more about Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang here

Acupuncture points used for wheezing

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat wheezing

Why might Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with wheezing?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat wheezing and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat wheezing as a symptom (such as Si Jun Zi Tang 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 Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with wheezing?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat wheezing as a symptom, like Gan Cao Gan Jiang 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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with wheezing?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat wheezing as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Si Jun Zi 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 Crow-Dipper Rhizome (Ban Xia) help with wheezing?

Because Crow-Dipper Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat wheezing as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Wen Dan 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 Schisandra Berry (Wu Wei Zi) help with wheezing?

Because Schisandra Berry is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat wheezing as a symptom, like Sheng Mai San or Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang for instance.

Schisandra Berries is a Warm herb that tastes Sour and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Kidneys and preserves the Essence. Astringes the Lung Qi and stops coughing. Retains Bodily Fluids and encourages their production. Tonifies the Heart and calms the spirit (Shen).

Read more about Schisandra Berries here