Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan and Physician Ng Qing Xiang
Chinese Cough Medicine and Natural Remedies for Cough Relief
Published | 4 min read
A bout of cough can impair your quality of life. Chinese cough medicine and other natural, herbal treatments can help improve the symptoms.
A bout of cough can be extremely uncomfortable. It can cause muscle strain, impairing your sleep quality and leaving you feeling tired. Fortunately, there are natural ways to remedy it, like taking Chinese cough medicine or herbal concoctions.
Causes and Medical Treatments for Cough
Common causes of cough range from irritants and allergens like dust, smoke, perfumes, pollen, and pet dander to certain medicines such as angiotensin enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or heart medication for high blood pressure.
On the other hand, more chronic cases of cough are due to asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), throat disorders, and other lung ailments.
Medical conditions can bring about cough as well. For instance, a cold, the flu, acute bronchitis, sinusitis, pertussis or whooping cough, and pneumonia.
You can find relief for a mild cough by drinking more water. It’s also important to stop smoking and avoid allergens that trigger a cough. In terms of medication, doctors usually prescribe medicine according to what is causing the cough. If it’s an infection, antibiotics or antivirals can work. For other illnesses like GERD, the prescription may include a proton pump inhibitor.
If your cough doesn’t go away and is accompanied by symptoms like wheezing, fever, chills, or yellow, green, or bloody phlegm, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
TCM Cough Treatments
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that the Lungs are susceptible to external pathogens like Cold, Fire, Heat, Wind, Dampness, and Dryness. The most significant cause of a cough is the wind pathogen. It can also act in concert with other pathogens and present as bouts of cough with unique characteristics.
Usually, TCM practitioners will prescribe suitable treatment options for a cough by looking at your symptoms and body constitution. The general rule of thumb is to restore balance in the body by addressing Deficiencies and removing Excesses.
Chinese cough medicine
Multiple trials have found that Chinese cough medicine has a potentially positive clinical effect on coughs. The use of Chinese cough syrup and similar formulations treated the main cough symptoms whilst showing no adverse side effects whatsoever.
Additionally, a 2013 study concluded that Chinese herbal medicine effectively improved core symptoms of post-infectious cough (acute cough symptoms lasting three to eight weeks), acted better and had earlier antitussive (cough suppression) effects. The herbal medicine was considered safe without any side effects.
In another 2013 clinical study, results found that Chinese medicine treatments could ease and improve the syndrome of cough variant asthma.
Herbal ingredients can be prepared in various ways to support the treatment of cough. For example:
- Peppermint, burdock seeds, chrysanthemum flowers and white mulberry leaves can remedy a wind-heat cough.
- Cordyceps, ginseng, codonopsis root and lily bulbs can help nourish and strengthen the Lungs.
- Adults and children can also use a pill containing a collection of herbal extracts to strengthen the body and improve cough symptoms. Specifically, this product — Kang Du Bu Fei Pills — was the brainchild of a 2003 collaboration between Eu Yan Sang Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong to prevent a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) infection. It’s mainly derived from two classical formulas — Sang Ju Yin (桑菊饮), and Yu Ping Feng San (玉屏风散) and contains ingredients like chrysanthemum, liquorice, apricot kernel, astragalus root, mulberry leaves and weeping forsythia.
Stimulating acupressure points can also help relieve the accompanying symptoms of a cough. For example, the lian quan (CV 23, 廉泉) or zhao hai (KI6, 照海) acupoints aid with soothing a dry throat.
There are no shortcuts to preventing a cough. While the consumption of Chinese cough medicine or herbal formulations can help to speed up the recovery process, the best way to keep it at bay is a healthy diet and lifestyle.
This is an adaptation of an article, “Soothing a Cough with TCM”, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang website.
- Cleveland Clinic. 2018. Cough. [Accessed 23 November 2021]
- 2013. Chinese Herbal Medicine for Postinfectious Cough: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. [Accessed 23 November 2021]
- National Library of Medicine. 2013. Clinical study on treatment of cough variant asthma by Chinese medicine. [Accessed 23 November 2021]
- Hong Kong Med J Volume 17 No 1 Supplement. 2011. Immunomodulatory activities of the herbal formula Kwan Du Bu Fei Dang in healthy subjects: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. [Accessed 23 November 2021]
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