Lung Phlegm Heat

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Lung Phlegm Heat is a syndrome in Chinese medicine. It describes many kinds of acute chest infection, but older people sometimes get a chronic version of it that becomes acute from time to time.

Lung Phlegm Heat Symptoms

You won't necessarily have all these symptoms, though having them all when the syndrome is acute is not uncommon.

If you have the chronic sort, then the cough won't be so strong, you won't get the same fever and ongoing symptoms like dizziness and weakness will be marked. It will be hard to cough up the phlegm.

  • Cough: barking, short, strong
  • Phlegm/catarrh that is green or yellow and sticky or adhesive and sometimes stringy, or thick, even blood-streaked. It can occur in the chest or throat or nose. If you can cough it up, it eases the cough.
  • Breathing wheezes
  • Easily short of breath on talking or exertion
  • Feeling of a bar across the chest
  • Thirst, often for very cold drinks
  • Feels hot
  • Head feels heavy and foggy: no desire for mental or physical exertion
Copyright Stuart Miles
  • Anxious, easily upset, critical, fixed ideas, hard to persuade once they've made up their mind though often just haven't got the energy to think at all
  • Often some dizziness
  • Nose and/or throat often stuffed up with catarrh
  • Snores: sleep is unrefreshing
  • Tongue: red and swollen. Its coating is yellow and adhesive.
  • Pulse: fast and 'slippery'


Anything that has previously weakened the Spleen may cause or worsen Lung Phlegm Heat, including:

  • Qi stagnation from emotions such as fury, frustration, resentment and jealousy.
  • Too much of the wrong kinds of food, especially very rich or greasy food, spicy food, foods with a heating effect such as roasted or fried meat and hot curries; also alcohol: all these over time can exhaust your Spleen leading to the formation of Phlegm and of Heat.
  • Eating habits that give your Stomach and Spleen no rest. This includes eating on-the-go, over-eating and rushed eating, swallowing when food has not been chewed properly.
  • Environments or habits that introduce heat or keep you hot. These include working in very hot conditions and smoking tobacco which, although it temporarily calms and cools has a secondary action that is drying and heating.
  • Catching a 'bug' - a technical term, explained in Chinese medicine as 'Invasion of Wind-Heat'.
  • As you grow old, your Kidney energy decreases. Your Kidney energy supports your Spleen energy so when Kidney energy weakens your Spleen energy becomes even more susceptible to this syndrome.
  • If you have had Phlegm for some time, it can turn to Heat, which causes Dryness. So the phlegm gets thicker and more resistant to expectoration. 
  • Continuing Phlegm can block the movement of Qi, leading to Qi Stagnation, the emotions of which produce more Heat.
  • In older people, continued Heat, whether or not from Phlegm, weakens Yin, leading to Yin Deficiency which itself, like a vicious circle, makes it easier for Heat to appear, drying the fluids to form (more) Phlegm.

Treatment of Lung Phlegm Heat

The aim of Lung Phlegm Heat treatment is to enable your body to clear its Phlegm, to clear its Heat, and to help your Lungs return to being able to descend Qi rather than let it ascend, as in coughing, expectorating, angry outbursts etc.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have their own, time-honoured approaches to this syndrome.

What can YOU do?

  • Avoid or manage better Qi stagnation and the emotions that lead to it. (You might benefit from the insights in my book on the subject, see at foot of this page.)
  • Read my book "Yuck! Phlegm!"  written to explain all this, with a survey of the suggestions made on other websites and why some work, and many don't, for your type of phlegm.
  • Avoid foods that have a heating or drying or phlegm-forming effect on the body. These include pungent and greasy foods, including curries, though you may well be tempted by hot curries, because their primary effect is to stimulate your lungs to cough up the phlegm, to breathe more easily, and to warm your digestion; also to make you sweat some of the Heat away. Unfortunately, their secondary effect is often the opposite.
  • Other foods to avoid include meat, especially roast or fried meat, greasy and rich food, sweets and sweeteners.
  • Avoid alcohol, drinks and other drugs that heat.
  • Stop smoking tobacco.
  • Eat slowly and carefully, chewing well before swallowing. Don't overeat.
  • Don't drink too much cold or iced fluid or food. Better take it luke-warm or cool.
  • If you can, go for short walks in the open air - unless the weather is extremely hot or humid. This opens the lungs and moves their Qi.
  • See an acupuncturist or practitioner of Chinese herbal medicine. An acupuncturist might well employ, besides needles, cupping or guasha.

Booking Consultations with Jonathan Clogstoun-Willmott
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Jonathan Clogstoun-Willmott Books

All the books in the 'Chinese Medicine in English' series should be fully accessible on Kindles and Kindle apps. (Or you can buy the softback print editions, of course.)

('Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine' published 1986, was never available in a Kindle version.)

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Here are some of the books I (Jonathan) have written.

Subscribers to Kindle Unlimited can borrow the first four for 'free'.

Qi Stagnation - Signs of Stress

Yin Deficiency - Burnout and Exhaustion

Yang Deficiency - Get Your Fire Burning Again!

Yuck! Phlegm! How to Clear Your Phlegm ...

Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine

Published 1986 and, amazingly, still selling. Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine was apparently used back then by at least one acupuncture college to help students understand Chinese medicine! See Reviews.

Seven Reviews so far for Yuck Phlegm. (Despite the lurid cover, it explains the five main types of phlegm and what works best for each type. I hope it's easy to read and will be much more useful than all the websites on the subject.)

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