Differing from this scientific view of the Westerners, the Chinese consider it as “congealed moisture” opposing the body’s Qi (or Chi). According to them while Qi, which is “vital energy”, is ‘light and flowing’, phlegm is just the opposite, ‘substantive and stagnating’. From the time of Hippocrates to the nineteenth century, phlegm was one of the four bodily humours (the others being black bile, yellow bile and blood). It was thought that phlegm caused sluggishness and laziness.
The color of phlegm, except when it is white may be indicative of some ailment or the other. Yellow, brown or greenish appearance implies there may be infection. Yellow means also that you may be suffering from the common cold. During the initial period of a flu attack, the phlegm may be colorless, when it is considered highly infectious. Later, it may turn yellow. In some cases, smoking renders the phlegm brown or brownish gray. In some instances, tuberculosis and, on a minor scale, bronchitis may make you cough up phlegm tinged with blood.
It is therefore important that you clear phlegm before it bothers you with minor infections or major illnesses. For this, you may choose to look for suitable herbs rather than take the usual prescription drugs. In that case, you will find quite a few herbal solutions to the problem of phlegm clogging your respiratory passages and making you acutely uncomfortable or even ill.
The Oriental Materia Medica along with the Thousand Formulas and the Thousand Herbs of Traditional Chinese Medicine provides a long list of herbs for clearing, according to the Chinese concept, both the types of phlegm, the ‘cold-phlegm’ and the ‘hot-phlegm’. Cold-phlegm is supposed to be ‘moist, thin and clear’ and the hot one ‘drier, thick and sometimes discolored’. Warming herbs clear cold-phlegm and cooling herbs hot-phlegm, as per the thinking of the practitioners of Chinese medicine.
The following are only some of those herbs found to be effective in clearing phlegm:
Bamboo: The Chinese call it Zhu. The edible shavings of the stem, which is called Zhuru, have a sweet taste and are used as an ingredient in a combination of Aurantium and Bamboo, an herbal remedy to stop nausea and vomiting resulting from phlegm. The combination contains triterpenes as its active ingredient. These clear phlegm and reduce inflammation.
Bamboo sap (the liquid form is called Zhuli and the dried form tianzhuhuang) has also got similar properties. It is used in a medicine called Baoying Dan, which is effective for fever and breathing problems in infants.
Bulbifera is rhizome, used as a component of Jia Kang Wan a medicine in several herbs useful for resolving phlegm by removing thyroid mass (phlegm mass).
Cynanchum, a rhizome of a plant with white leaves, is an important ingredient in the medicine Platycodon and Schizonepeta Formula (Zhi Sou San). It is useful in the treatment of cough. It helps remove sputum.
Fritillaria refers to two important species of the Lily family, Fritillaria cirrosa and Fritillaria thunbergii. The latter is good for clearing phlegm masses and tumors. Fritillaria is used in the medicine Platycodon and Fritillaria Combination.
Some other herbs and the medicines (put, along with Chinese names, between brackets), in which they are used as ingredients, include the following:-
FOR HOT PHLEGM:
Epicedium (Perilla Fruit Combination: Suzi Jiangqi Tang);
Sterculia (Yanhou Tang);
Trichosanthes (Ophiopogon and Trichosanthes Combination:
Maimendong Yin Zi);
Trichosanthes seed (Anemarrhena and Fritillaria Formula: Ermu Ningsou Wan);
Trichosanthes fruit (Trichosanthes, Bakeri, and Pinellia Combination:
Gualou Xiebai Banxia Tang);
FOR COLD PHLEGM:
Arisaema (Pinellia and Arisaema Combination: Qingshi Huatan Tang);
Centipeda (Xanthium 12: Kang Xieqi Pian);
Galitsis (Angelica and Mastic Combination: Xianfang Huoming Yin);
Inula (Schizonepeta and Pinellia Formula: Qingfei Cao San);
Pinellia (Pinellia Combination: Banxia Xiexin Tang);
Platycodon (Fritillaria and Platycodon Formula: Ning Sou Wan);
The list is by no means exhaustive. Before choosing one or more of the herbs for clearing phlegm, it is advisable to obtain the expert opinion of the practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine, specializing in phlegm-resolving herbs.
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Article Posted: April 26, 2012