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Chinese Medicine Basics for Allergies, Asthma & Healthy Lungs

As with all conditions, Chinese medicine takes a close look at both the symptoms and the root problem behind our respiratory issues. While we usually notice the strength of our symptoms (like a runny nose, itchy eyes, cough, or chest pain), it is common for issues like allergies and asthma to have a root weakness. To heal our Lungs, we must address both! Here are some common basics:

Excess and Deficiency:

Excess symptoms – phlegm, mucus, tightness, pain

Deficient root – lack of energy, weak immune system, poor digestion

Yin or Yang:

Yang: thick, yellow phlegm, tight chest, fever, hot constitution

Yin: thin, watery mucus, chills, cold constitution

Main Organ Systems in Chinese Medicine in Relation to Allergies, Asthma and Lung Health:

Lung: In Chinese medicine, the Lung controls the lungs themselves, the nose, and the sinuses. To treat respiratory conditions, the Lung is a main target for healing.

Spleen: The Spleen is responsible for maintaining our energy levels and immune health. Because weakened energy (qi) tends to be a root issue, the Spleen is also an important organ system in respiratory conditions. A weak Spleen system can also cause a buildup of fluids, mucus, and phlegm, worsening our symptoms.

Kidney: Among the functions of the Kidney is grasping the breath and pulling it into the body (Lung), so often it is appropriate to address dyspnea, wheezing, and/or asthma (where there is difficulty on the inhale) by strengthening the Kidney organ system.

Common Chinese Medicine Treatments for Allergies and Asthma

Chinese medicine takes a well-rounded approach to treating respiratory complaints. Many treatments focus on reducing mucus, stopping cough, improving the lung function, and easing breathing, but there is also attention placed on strengthening the Lungs and the immune system.

Acupuncture is a common Chinese medicine treatment for any respiratory complaint. Tiny needles are placed at specific points on the body to encourage proper flow of energy and restore the body’s ability to breathe naturally and restore energy. Cupping and gua sha are often used in conjunction with acupuncture to help reduce congestion.

Diet is an important factor when it comes to healing the respiratory system. Many foods can impair the Lung and Spleen system, increase phlegm, and make respiratory issues worse. Consider avoiding foods like dairy, fried foods, alcohol, sugar, and heavy pastas. Instead, choose foods that are light, vibrantly colored, and even a little spicy like fresh vegetables, citrus, and ginger.

Chinese Herbal Formulas for Allergies and Asthma

Chinese herbal formulas are one of the most helpful ways to treat respiratory conditions. From allergies to cough, chest congestion to sinus infections, there is an herbal formula out there that can help. Many formulas are warming and dispersing to help reduce the build-up of phlegm and mucus in the Lung system, while also strengthening the Lung and Spleen systems with gentle tonics. This prevents future respiratory issues and supports the entire immune system.

Sinus/Allergy Issues:

Bi Yan Pian: This formula addresses seasonal hay fever, pollen & dust allergies, and common cold when sneezing, runny nose, and red, itchy eyes are the predominant symptoms.

Pe Min Kan: Pe Min Kan unblocks the nose and breaks up phlegm and is appropriate for use for to address a variety of symptoms associated with the common cold presenting with sinus congestion (e.g. post nasal drip, sinus congestion and pain, sinus headache, etc…). This formula works best to clear heat (in other words, when the phlegm being expectorated is yellow).

Xin Yi Wan: This formula is similar in its actions to Pe Min Kan (above), but it is best for sinus congestion with signs of cold (that is, the phlegm is white, the fever is low grade and it alternates with chills, etc…).

Clinical note: the formula has several release exterior herbs and will help dispel a wind cold invasion.

Dyspnea/Wheezing/Asthma:

Ping Chuan: This formula specifically targets chronic asthmatic conditions and is also indicated for other respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and chronic shortness of breath.

Ge Jie Da Bu Wan (also known as Gecko Tonic): This formula functions as a general Kidney tonic that also includes herbs that specifically help strengthen the qi mechanism responsible for drawing breath into the Lung. So this is a good formula for asthmatic presentations when there are also signs of Kidney deficiency that you want to address as well (e.g. frequent night time urination, supporting normal sexual functioning, dizziness, vertigo, achy lower back, fatigue, general support for an elderly person who wants a boost, etc…)

Bai Xing Shi Gan Wan: This formula addresses asthma and labored breathing that is aggravated by fever or pre-existing cough w/fever and/or tracheitis (inflammation of the trachea, usually secondary to a nose or throat infection).

Special Herbs for Respiratory Health

Many of the herbal formulas for allergies, asthma, and other respiratory conditions will contain some of these special herbs:

Gan Jiang/Ginger root: Ginger is used both fresh and dried to help strengthen the Lungs, Spleen, and Stomach. Ginger is a warming herb and helps to eliminate mucus and phlegm in the Lungs. A natural antibiotic, anti-toxin, and circulation promoter, ginger is a fantastic herb for allergies, sinus congestion, sinus headaches, phlegmy cough, wheezing, and general respiratory health.

Gui Zhi/Cinnamon twig: Cinnamon twig (different from the more common cinnamon bark) is a commonly used herb in Chinese medicine. This herb greatly enhances circulation, reduces mucus, warms the body, and strengthens the immune system.

Ban Xia/Pinellia rhizome: Ban Xia is an effective decongestant and is used in many respiratory formulas. It is particularly useful for drying up watery nasal discharge, stubborn chest congestion, and settling coughs.

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