HERBS THAT TRANSFORM PHLEGM AND STOP COUGHING
by Thomas Avery Garran
This category is really two categories combined for clinical ease to distinguish these medicinals as those used to treat
phlegm located in the lung. That being said, one should not assume that all three of the medicinals found in this chapter
are used only for phlegm in the lungs. To transform phlegm implies a relative gentle action on eliminating phlegm. Stopping
cough is exactly that, downbearing qě and restoring the depurative function of the lung.
Pleurisy Root Herb
Pleurisy root is a very important medicinal in this category with a wide range of actions, which also makes it a very important
medicinal in the materia medica. It is bitter, acrid, and cold in nature. Pleurisy root is very effective for diffusing lung
qě and circulating the qě of the chest, thus it is used for a wide variety of ailments in the chest including cough,
major chest bind, and asthma. Yerba santa is likely the most famous of the California endemics. Unlike pleurisy root, yerba
santa is warm and is an important medicinal for transforming phlegm in the lung and spleen. Yerba santa also has the
extra benefit of warming spleen yang and resolving rheum. Both pleurisy root and yerba santa resolve the exterior, but their
action is different. Grindelia is bitter, acrid, and cool in nature and is an important medicinal for diffusing and
downbearing the lung qě. Grindelia also treats the lower burner with cool and bitterness, clearing heat in the kidney
Asclepias tuberosa Aslepiadaceae
Butterfly Weed, Wind Root
Flavor and Qě: bitter, acrid, cold
Channels entered: lung, large intestine
Actions: expectorant, antitussive, diaphoretic, anticatarrhal
Functions & Indications
- Clears heat, diffuses the lung qě and transforms phlegm for lung-heat with symptoms of pain in the chest with fever
and cough with no or difficult expectoration. Pleurisy root has a bitter and acrid flavor and is cold in nature. Its bitter
and acrid flavor transforms phlegm and drains the lung of repletion heat, while diffusing the lung qě. Its cold nature
strongly clears heat.
- Circulates the qě of the chest, relieves pain, and harmonizes the upper jiao. This herb is very effective for major
chest bind (da jie xiong) caused by chronic heat and phlegm where the heat is predominate with a tight, rapid pulse. Pleurisy
root has an acrid and bitter flavor. Acridity outthrusts while bitter downbears. This combination of flavors creates a harmonizing
action in the chest where this medicinal has an affinity. Owing to its acridity and cold nature, pleurisy root circulates
the qě in the chest, transforms phlegm, and clears heat, thus relieving pain and treating this condition very effectively.
This medicinal is also used for hot asthma with chest pain and/or difficult breathing. This herb is effective for any type
of heat in the chest but because of its cold nature should be used with warming medicinals in extremely deficient patients.
- Resolves the exterior and expels wind for external wind-heat invasion with sweating, cough, fever, sore throat, and a
floating and rapid pulse. Acridity outthrusts and cold clears heat. Because pleurisy root is acrid and cold, it outthrusts
wind and heat. This is a major way this medicinal is used and when considering the history of the use of this medicinal, this
occupies a significant portion of the literature.
- Clears heat and cools the blood for fever with dry skin, a red tongue, and a rapid and replete pulse. When heat enters
the blood at the blood aspect there is serious illness and pleurisy root is an important medicinal for this pattern. Pleurisy
root has a bitter flavor and is cold in nature. This bitter/cold combination is essential for the treatment of heat at the
blood aspect. Furthermore, this medicinal is acrid in nature, which activates the qě and quickens the blood secondarily.
This secondary action is beneficial to the overall action of this medicinal as stasis and stagnation are common confounding
factors when heat enters the blood aspect. Also helpful for skin rashes where blood heat is part of the pattern.
Pleurisy root is cold in nature and should be used with caution by those with spleen qě vacuity or internal cold.
root should be avoided during pregnancy.
Dosage and Preparation
Use 2–6g in strong infusion or decoction, 2.5–5ml in tincture. The fresh plant tincture of pleurisy root is
superior to the dry preparation.
Pleurisy root is gathered in the autumn after the plant has withered or in the early spring. The root is either prepared
fresh or sliced and dried for storage. Good quality root is grayish-white and firm. It is quite fibrous, so if it is cut and
sifted it will have significant fibrous material included.
- Combine with American ginseng and sweet flag for phlegm-heat in the lung. Change the dosages of the medicinals to fit
the clinical picture.
- Combine with lobelia for hot spasmodic cough with difficult expectoration.
- Combine with black cohosh for acute rheumatic fever with arthritic pain that is worsened on motion, abdominal pain, and
- Combine with bugleweed for chest pain due to heat stagnation with or without cough with blood-streaked sputum.
Pleurisy root is exceptional in the treatment of lung heat, especially when phlegm is a confounding factor. Further, pleurisy
root is a very effective medicinal for major chest bind (da jie xiong).
The genus name Asclepias comes from the ancient Greek god of medicine Asklepios, and "tuberosa" arose due to its enlarged
root system. The genus is endemic to America. The Cherokee used this plant for pain in the breast, stomach, and intestines.
Most Native American Peoples within its range used it for lung diseases. It is often combined with Zingiber to enhance its
effectiveness. Pleurisy root was official in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1820–1905 and the National Formulary
HERBS THAT CALM THE SPIRIT
by Thomas Avery Garran
This category consists of medicinals that generally nourish the heart and quiet the spirit. The heart is the storage place
for the spirit, if the heart is either replete or vacuous, the spirit may become disquieted. When the spirit is disquieted
a patient may experience heart vexation, insomnia, palpitations, anxiety, susceptibility to fright, and even biomedically
defined clinical depression.
The Western materia medica is replete with medicinals that fit into this category, perhaps because of our cultural predilection
for stress, overwork, and undernourishment - physical, emotional, and spiritual. Seven medicinals are represented here. Each has its
niche, but with the exception of passionflower, none of them are nourishing. California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
is bitter and draining, and thus is generally applied in conditions associated with heat, especially replete heat. Passionflower
(Passiflora incarnata) is nourishing and can be used for all types of disquieted spirit. St. John's Wort (Hypericum
perforatum), kava (Piper methysticum), and valerian (Valeriana officinalis) are useful because of their
qi-coursing actions. Although chamomile (Matricaria recutita) also courses the qi, this is a weaker action, and this
plant will be more serviceable when digestive problems exist. Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) is an exceptionally
important medicinal native to the Americas. Skullcap is bitter, acrid, and cool. It quiets the spirit and resolves depression
- both in the heart and liver. It is also helpful in the treatment of liver-wind conditions.
See Awakening the Soul Qigong and Enlightenment Qigong for Returning to Oneness