• Dampness in the Spleen
  • over-consumption of greasy, cold and raw foods
  • over-consumption of greasy, hot and spicy foods, and alcohol


"Phlegm in the Lung" is a pathology, which originates from the Spleen.

In traditional Chinese medicine the Spleen is referred to as the collective work of some organs and systems participating in the digestion rather than the anatomical organ spleen. To get a better grasp about the concept of the Spleen please review the introduction material “The Spleen in Chinese medicine” in the Physiology chapter.

One of the functions of the Spleen is to govern the water metabolism. It is in charge of the separation, transportation, and movement of fluids. If the Spleen is deficient it cannot sufficiently transport fluids, which eventually will lead to fluid retention, called "dampness in the Spleen" or "internal dampness”.

In Five Elements theory the Spleen is element Earth and the Lung is element Metal. In nature metal is contained in earth, thus Earth element “generates” Metal element. Since the Spleen is Earth and the Lung is Metal the Spleen is in a “generating relationship” with the Lung. This means that if the Spleen is chronically disbalanced the Lung will become disbalanced as well. Lasting "dampness in the Spleen" will eventually transfer to the Lung and manifest as "phlegm in the Lung".



Foggy Messy Landscape



There are two types of "phlegm in the Lung" – "cold phlegm" and "hot phlegm". "Cold phlegm" is provoked by over-consumption of greasy and "cold foods" (foods consumed straight out of the refrigerator and all raw foods). "Hot phlegm" is caused by over-consumption of greasy and "hot foods" (spicy foods, alcohol).

If you want to learn more about the Lung and its functions from the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine go to "The Lung in Chinese medicine" in the Physiology chapter.




  • chest oppression
  • shortness of breath
  • cough


  • cold-phlegm symptoms - cough with profuse white sputum
  • hot-phlegm symptoms - barking cough with thick, yellow or green phlegm, asthma


Phlegm is heavy and obstructive in nature. Thus whether the phlegm is “cold” or “hot” chest oppression and shortness of breath will be experienced. The major symptom for “phlegm in the Lung” is cough as the Lung is trying to expectorate the phlegm. In the cases of “cold phlegm”, where the phlegm is more watery, the cough is accompanied by profuse white sputum, that is easy to expectorate. As the phlegm is profuse lying down may worsen one’s condition. (1)

In the cases of “hot phlegm” the heat has thickened the phlegm making it yellow or green in color and more difficult to expectorate. The cough is profound with a “barking” quality. A typical symptom for hot-phlegm in the Lung is asthma. (1)




To treat phlegm in the Lung it is important to address the underlying condition that causes it, which is “dampness in the Spleen” and “deficiency of Spleen Qi”. Please read the materials Deficiency of Spleen Qi and Dampness in the Spleen in the Physiology chapter to review how Chinese medicine treats these two conditions and more importantly what foods to avoid in order not to worsen them.

The symptom of the underlying condition - phlegm in the Lung - also needs to be treated. According to Chinese medicine the color that benefits the Lung is white therefore foods, herbs, and spices with white color are beneficial.

If you want to read the rest of this article and learn the foods and acupressure points that are healing for this condition (as well as watch the instructional acupressure point location videos) you can do so by subscribing to the Customized options of this project. To learn the other benefits you will get as a subscriber click here.



(1) Maciocia, Giovanni (1989). The Foundations of Chinese Medicine. Nanjing: Harcourt Publishers Limited

(2) Pitchford, Paul (2002). Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books


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