Treating Chronic Cough With Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs
Coughing on its own is a protective function of the body’s immune system. When you cough, your body is able to propel irritants, bacteria and other toxins up and out of your lungs and out of your body system, keeping you safer and healthier.
But what about when coughing turns chronic? It is one thing to cough a bit here and there as your body sees fit. It is another thing entirely when it starts to feel like you can’t stop coughing!
In this article, find out how some chronic cough patients are experiencing success by treating chronic cough with acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
Meet the Two Basic Types of Coughing
There are two basic types of coughing. The first type of cough is called “acute.” This means the cough is sudden in onset and ceases when its purpose has been fulfilled.
The second type of cough is called “chronic” and that is the type this article will focus on. It is important to realize that chronic coughing can have a variety of underlying root causes and can even be triggered by certain medications!
Regardless of which type of cough you contract, it is vital to ensure you receive an accurate diagnosis. Working to end the cough without understanding what is causing it is like putting a band-aid over a tumor hoping all will be well.
Sometimes the cause may be very minor. In other cases the cause may be more serious. But in either case, when you know what is causing your coughing you have a much better chance of benefitting from any treatment you seek out, including treating chronic cough with acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
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What Causes Chronic Coughing?
To that point, let’s take a brief look at the various potential causes for a chronic cough.
Did you know that coughing is the number one reason patients seek medical help today?
Whether you turn to a western medicine physician, an acupuncturist, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner or some combination thereof, it is quite likely you won’t be the only patient in the waiting room that day hoping for relief from chronic coughing.
These are the most common patient-reported, practitioner-confirmed root causes for chronic cough in adults today:
– Post-nasal drip (often from seasonal allergies or cold and flu).
– Acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux).
– Airway irritation (secondhand smoke, perfume, cleaning products, etc.).
– Sinusitis (respiratory tract infections).
– Recurrent bronchitis (several types).
– Side effect from some medications (particular ACE inhibitors).
– Lung cancer.
– COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder).
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), there is also such a thing as “chronic cough syndrome.”
Chronic cough syndrome may be triggered by any or all of the above-named health issues. It may also be linked to other non-respiratory disorders, including heart problems, heartburn/indigestion and other G.I. tract issues and shortness of breath or wheezing.
Chronic cough syndrome is usually diagnosed when symptoms have persisted beyond the span of six weeks time.
Treating Chronic Cough with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs
Perhaps you are reading this article because you are at the start of your journey to find what will work to ease and alleviate your chronic cough.
Or maybe you are reading this because you are literally at your wit’s end, having faithfully pursued every conceivable remedy your doctor, allergist, immunologist, cardiologist, oncologist or other specialist prescribed to no avail.
In either case, we are glad you are here. We hope this information will be valuable and get you on the road to feeling better quickly and completely!
While acupuncture and Chinese herbs (a part of the greater field of traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM) are both relatively recent entrants here in the west, in Asia and elsewhere around the world both have a time-honored and respected lineage that stretches back for centuries.
Outside of the United States, holistic (“whole body”) treatments like acupuncture and Chinese herbs are anything but “alternative” medicine. In fact, these treatments are considered a first line of defense and, ultimately, prevention, against just about every health issue known to humankind, whereas here in America the very same treatments are often viewed as a last resort.
It is important to understand that, when practiced properly by a highly trained professional practitioner, the path to mastering the intricacies of acupuncture and Chinese herbs is just as rigorous, just as well-researched and just as empirically-supported as any treatment a modern western doctor might prescribe.
Even better, such treatments are typically much gentler on your body system than are western medicine approaches that generally favor hard-hitting medications or invasive procedures.
When you approach treating your chronic cough through acupuncture and Chinese herbs with a positive, open and receptive mindset, you are likely to be surprised by just how well these remedies will work for you!
When to Seek Treatment for Your Chronic Cough
If you are like most people, you probably didn’t think much of it when your cough first started. Cough, cough, cough – okay, it’s just a cold. Or allergies. Or your co-worker’s awful perfume. Or a seasonal asthma attack. Or even a bout with the flu.
But then it continued. You tried throat lozenges, nasal sprays, lemon juice and honey, hot tea, over-the-counter allergy medications, prescription-strength decongestants, Neti pots, you name it – still….cough, couch, couch.
Then you probably started to worry at least a little. What if it doesn’t go away? What if it never goes away?
At this point, your co-workers and certainly your family members and friends have probably also started to notice. They are likely busy coming up with their favorite remedies in an effort to help you out (and ease their eardrums in the process). You try everything they suggest and it still doesn’t work. Cough, cough, cough.
What is left? What else could you possibly try?
It is likely at this point that you wound up here, reading about treating chronic cough with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Your thought process is probably along the lines of, “Well, I’ve tried everything else – might as well try this too just in case.”
So let’s take a closer look at how acupuncture and Chinese herbs may be able to work when nothing else has.
Treating Chronic Cough with Chinese Herbs
Many professional practitioners who work with Chinese herbs are also licensed, degreed professionals in the field of acupuncture and vice versa.
Happily, finding a practitioner who specializes in both disciplines can make treating your chronic cough more affordable and easier.
You will also enjoy the difference in the diagnostic process as compared to how western medical doctors approach diagnosis and treatment.
Whereas a mainstream medical doctor typically asks you for a list of symptoms, time span of those symptoms, current medications and supplements and family health history, a holistic medicine specialist such as an acupuncturist or Chinese herbs practitioner will come at the problem of your chronic cough as what it is – a symptom itself of something deeper.
What that something deeper may be is the beginning of a search for the cure, not the end. An herbalist that works with Chinese herbology and an acupuncturist are likely to approach this quest in a similar fashion, digging down deep into your system to discern the health of your vital force, or life force (called the “Chi” or “Qi”).
Imbalances in the female (yin) or male (yang) energy can cause a greater imbalance in your vital force, which can then manifest in many ways, including as a chronic cough.
There may also be irritants or foreign matter that are triggering these imbalances. Common examples can include environmental toxins such as smog, pollen, pet dander or secondhand smoke. Bacteria, viral germs, fungi, mould and mildew are also common culprits that can throw your entire life force out of balance.
If you can overcome the differences in semantics (immune system versus yin/yang, energy level versus vital force), it is easy to see that the ultimate end result will be to identify the remedy that will best serve you to relieve the underlying root cause of your chronic cough.
Common Chinese Herbs Used for Treating Chronic Cough
These are some of the many Chinese herbs that are frequently prescribed to treat health issues that can result in chronic cough symptoms.
– Mume fruit (wu mei).
– Lily bulb.
– Codonopsis root (dang shen).
– Aster (zi wan).
– Thunberg fritillaria bulb.
– Chinese yam (shan yao).
– Ginkgo biloba leaves.
– Stemona root.
– Reed rhizome.
– Red tangerine peel.
– Mint leaves.
– Tangerine peel.
– Apricot seeds.
– Cordyceps mushroom.
– Perilla fruit.
How Frequently Will You Need Chinese Herbs Treatments?
The question of how frequently you will need to be seen varies from one person to the next.
For the most general purposes, you can expect to be seen on a monthly basis to assess symptoms resolution and adjust your treatment as needed.
However, just like with any western medical doctor, you can always contact your herbology practitioner as needed with questions in between visits.
In some cases, you may start to experience relief right away. However, since Chinese herbs are different in how they work and affect your body system, and have an overall gentler impact on your body, it usually takes some time (think weeks, not days) before you see a full resolution of symptoms.
Treating Chronic Cough and Acupuncture
While it may not be necessary to receive treatment with both acupuncture and Chinese herbs, you may experience faster resolution of your chronic cough if you do so.
Here, it will be reassuring to learn that treatment with acupuncture and treatment with Chinese herbs are naturally complementary, with similar history and evolution.
Both systems work with the body’s life force, or vital force, to balance yin/yang energies, root out foreign matter and imbalance and restore order and vitality to the body system.
And in both cases, the initial diagnostic process is quite similar. In this way, when you choose a practitioner that uses both disciplines for healing, you will find your path to health is expedited.
The herbalist will use different Chinese herbs to target the systemic imbalance, ease disturbance or disease and restore order and calm throughout your body system.
The acupuncturist will use fine needles to achieve the same, targeting different energy or “Chi” points to support the proper healthy flow of energy throughout the body.
Here again, as with Chinese herbs treatment, acupuncture treatment time can vary depending on each person’s needs. In most cases, you will receive more frequent treatments with acupuncture than you would with Chinese herbs. Where you might visit your Chinese herbalist every two to four weeks, you may visit your acupuncture practitioner weekly.
However, in either case, you can expect to receive several treatments before your symptoms resolve in full to your satisfaction. And in either case, you are always welcome to adjust the frequency and duration of your treatment if you experience a faster resolution of your chronic cough symptoms.
Learning about other medical approaches to treating symptoms such as chronic cough can be exciting. As you learn more about these ancient, time-honored, often lineage-based and well-respected healing modalities that are widely practiced outside the United States, you harness new knowledge that may work to heal you where western medicine has not.
Many patients are finding gentler, longer-lasting relief with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Acupuncture in particular is often covered by health insurance plans today so be sure to check with your insurer to find out if you have coverage. Acupuncture is also commonly used in hospitals today as an adjunct to western pain medications.
We hope this article has provided you with tools and next steps to find lasting relief for your chronic cough. Be sure to share this article with a friend or loved one who may benefit!