By Danisha Bogue, L.Ac. - October 10, 2022
Categories: General

As we sink more into cooler weather, our thoughts start turning more toward the cozy side of life – flannel, pumpkin spice, changing leaves… And it’s always in the midst of this lovely time of year that the worst of the colds, flus, and other lung ailments (cough *covid* cough) start making themselves at home.

Maybe this is why the lungs are associated with autumn in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The primary job of the lungs, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, is to maintain the circulation of qi. Qi is acquired not only through the food we eat, but also the air we breathe, and the physical motion of breathing helps to circulate that qi throughout the body.

Additionally, the lungs contribute to the regulation of water in the body. (Fun fact, did you know that you lose up to a cup of water each day just from breathing?). The lungs are responsible for circulating bodily fluids and controlling the metabolism of water. Catching on to the “circulating” theme?

Unsurprisingly, the lungs are an important component of the immune system. If your lung qi is strong, it’s able to protect the body against any pathogens that you breathe in. Deficiencies in lung qi can weaken the immune system. What is surprising, is that this deficiency can be seen in the skin! Symptoms like dry skin can indicate that your lung qi is inadequate to nourish the skin’s surface, while acne can indicate heat in the lungs.

So… Lungs are important?

Correct. But not just for your physical health. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, healthy lung energy is associated with clear thinking, openness to new ideas, and good communication. Meanwhile, poor lung energy is associated with sadness or grief.

Got it. So how do I know if my lung energy is weak? (Besides having the sads?)

Well, a lot of it is what you would expect – things like a weak cough, shortness of breath, or getting sick frequently are often symptoms of weak lung energy. There are some symptoms that might seem more surprising though like: spontaneous daytime sweating, dislike of speaking, fatigue, and sensitivity to cold water.

That… does not sound fun. How do I keep my lungs healthy so I can avoid all that?

There are definitely things you can do to help support your lungs. Practicing mindful breathing, and focusing on expanding the physical capacity of the lungs can be helpful, along with low impact exercise like swimming or walks. Cleaning your physical space and adding plants that help to clean the air of toxins is a great preventative measure. Additionally, you can support the circulation aspect of your lungs through dry brushing. And finally, white foods are associated with keeping the lungs healthy, so make sure your diet incorporates foods like:

  • Almonds
  • White meat
  • Cauliflower
  • Potatoes
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Rice
  • Oats
  • Onion
  • and garlic

I think I can handle that. But what about after I’ve caught whatever nasty cough is going around?

That’s where we come in! Your first great option for helping to heal and support your lungs is (as always) acupuncture! Acupuncture dilates the blood vessels, which helps to distribute more oxygen through the body and supports your immune systems. It also has anti-inflammatory actions, which help to relax the muscles and open your airways. Because of how interconnected the body and its systems are, your symptoms may be affecting, or originating in, different body systems altogether. Your acupuncture practitioner will be able to diagnose the areas that are causing your issues and tailor your treatment to strengthen your Lung qi.

That makes sense. What else do you recommend?

Cupping is another fantastic therapy for lung issues. Because of the suctioning action, it’s super effective at loosening phlegm in the Lungs. Additionally, it stimulates the movement of lymph and blood which improves your immune system function.

And finally, you should know by now – there’s a herb for that. Or, several herbs, really. Since lung issues have probably been with us for as long as humans have had lungs, Traditional Chinese Medicine has formulated some really fantastic herbal medicines to deal with those issues. Here are some of the more popular herbs for Lung health:

  • American Ginseng root – moistens and cools the lungs
  • Astragalus – Strengthens and tones immune system
  • Cordyceps mushroom – strengthens weak lungs
  • Schisandra – helps keep the lungs moist

Again, the exact blend and dosage that will have the greatest benefits will depend on the person and their symptoms, so make sure you consult a practitioner before you start adding them all willy-nilly to your routine.

It feels good to have a plan for the sick season this year.

Doesn’t it? We can’t prevent every infection or illness, but we can take steps to strengthen our lungs, and follow up with treatment at the first signs of illness to make our fall and winter way easier. If you’re ready to start either treatment or a preventative routine, give us a call today!

Be well.




This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or illness. Please consult your healthcare provider prior to the use of this product if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications or have a medical condition. Individual results may vary.