Lung Dryness: from Dry Places and the Wrong Food

Lung dryness needs nourishment from the breath
Photo by Nienke Broeksema on Unsplash

Lung Dryness is a syndrome in Chinese medicine. ‘Syndrome’ means it’s one of the ways that Chinese medicine considers that your Lung energy may misbehave.

Not surprisingly, one of the most obvious symptoms of Lung Dryness is dryness! This pervades the whole syndrome.



What causes Lung Dryness?

Main reason – dry places

  • Living too long in very dry conditions, such as desert areas 
  • A long hot summer with hot, dry weather
  • Working in a dry place for too long. 
  • Normally this would be a hot, dry place, but cold dry places have similar effects, such as in some Arctic environments or in freezing – dry – food processing plants. These might introduce Cold as well, of course. 
  • Smoking tobacco for too long, though this introduces Heat which can lead to dryness and other syndromes too.
  • A background of Lung Yin deficiency


Secondary reason – bad eating habits

In Chinese medicine, how and what we eat and drink turns up again and again as underlying causes of ill-health.

We all know that food is our first medicine, but it’s also a comfort and a reason for letting off steam with friends. Sometimes the therapeutic aspect gets lost.

Good food and digestion produce good Qi and Blood, daily requirements for health.

This Qi and Blood feed all our zang-fu energy organs, including our Lungs. It is vital that our lungs retain their moisture levels: this comes from our Blood, a yin resource.

Dry air depletes this, leading to Lung Dryness unless the food and fluids we consume replace them.

There are various ways we can weaken the therapeutic effect of what we meet. (If you’re interested, read more about this under Spleen and Stomach. Also, read Nutrition.)


Too many Cup cakes weakens Spleen and Blood, contributing to Lung Dryness
Cup cakes

Eating …

  • … Over-eating
  • … Under-eating
  • the wrong foods
  • at irregular times instead of regular meal times
  • too much before sleep
  • in a rush
  • while working
  • when anxious or worried or thinking about work
  • while doing something else, like driving or operating machinery


The trouble with dietary-induced syndromes is that you are seldom aware of trouble brewing! You just go on doing your own thing and then one day you get ill, and it’s hard to accept that this might have been due to years of nutritional mistakes.

  • Fortunately, once you change your food habits, improvement can come fast – if you haven’t sunk too deep! Your body has amazing powers of recuperation given the right conditions.


The result is a form of yin deficiency. It starts often with Stomach Yin deficiency, but leads onto Lung dryness. If not corrected, this can proceed to another syndrome, Lung Yin deficiency.

Result – Symptoms of Lung Dryness

First, symptoms of Dryness

  • Dry cough. This is the most common symptom. It doesn’t seem much, and it can occasionally go on for years before someone notices. You often say it’s just a tickle, and suck sweets or sip fluids from time to time. It is more common in older people, but young people get it too. (Photo – Dryness Copyright Sbotas
  • Throat is dry. You might notice this before the cough – just a constant dryness or tickle, better for a little water. Talking irritates the throat. 
  • Mouth is dry. Almost as if you keep your mouth open all the time, drying out the fluids. Saliva always in short supply. Better for a little water.
  • Skin is dry. These days, with so many chemicals in the air and our diets, our skins are often dry, and manufacturers make a fortune out of us with moisturisers and emollients, nutritional supplements and what have you.
  • Nostrils may be dry. You notice this when they feel sore in dry hot or cold air. If very dry, a little blood may escape (though usually this comes when there is also a form of Heat.)
Dried leaves on stem - symbol for Lung Dryness
Dried leaves – Photo by Antonio Grosz on Unsplash

Then, consequences of dryness

  • Thirst: always a little thirsty. Not usually for huge amounts of water, but over a day you may get through quite a bit. Because, these days, it is acceptable to carry water in a bottle and to be seen drinking it regularly, you may not even accept that you have Lung Dryness, because – you think – everyone you know drinks as much fluid as you. Well, no: they probably don’t unless they exercise very hard (or are a bit manic).
  • Voice is hoarse. Some people like a slightly hoarse voice – it can sound attractive. Smokers, who often get Lung Dryness, don’t notice – they like a drink to wet the throat. But Lung Dryness makes it hard to talk for long, to lecture, for example.
  • Tongue: also dry. If the tongue is also red, that suggests Lung Heat as well.
  • Pulse: usually ’empty’ in the Lung position.
  • You don’t need ALL these symptoms to be diagnosed as having Lung Dryness.

Treatment for Lung Dryness

There are acupuncture points that help the body produce moisture in the Lungs. They strengthen the yin qualities in the body that support the production of fluids, and help the Stomach produce more Yin. (Click to find more about yin and yang.)

There are Chinese herbal formulae that back this up. But you’ll need to keep taking them for a while.

This syndrome seldom comes or goes overnight. When yin resources are depleted they take time to replace.

What can YOU do about it?

  • Avoid the environment or conditions that produced or might exacerbate it. That means avoiding hot, dry environments or climates.


Nourishing soup - good for Lung Dryness and Yin deficiency
Nourishing soup for Yin deficiency and Lung dryness – Photo by Dipesh Gurav on Unsplash


  • Adjust you dietary habits to support your stomach and digestion to produce more of the Yin fluids you need – mainly this means taking more time over food, both in preparation and in consumption, and living in a more leisurely way. Read Nutrition, and for a few weeks several times a week make yourself Clogstoun Congee!
  • Just drinking lots of water won’t be enough. You have to change the way your body works, which can take time and good treatment. But adequate fluid intake is important. However, according to Chinese medical theory, drinking too much water can weaken your Kidney energy, leading to other problems. In any case, only drink warm fluids. (By the way, alcohol is heating, which has a drying effect. Sorry.)
  • Stop talking or shouting so much! Even singing may be a problem if your condition is far gone.
  • See an acupuncturist. Don’t expect treatment to cure you overnight. This syndrome takes time to mend, but you should start feeling better quite early on. 
  • Ask about herbs to help.


Other syndromes affecting the Lungs include:

Deficiency syndromes:

Full or Excess syndromes:


Interior syndromes of the Lungs


Shared syndromes


Click to read about acupuncture points along the Lung channel.

Jonathan Brand colours

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2 Responses

  1. Hello Jonathan,

    For someone with Lung dryness, can warm steam inhalation help (alongside acupuncture and diet change)?


    1. If Lung dryness is due to Cold, warm steam inhalation would probably be pleasant and helpful. If from Heat, probably not. If from Lung Yin deficiency, doubtful. If from Qi stagnation, probably yes.

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