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Aug 19

Foods to Relieve Coughing

In Chinese Medicine and many other cultures with a traditional healing modality, food is medicine. If you eat the right foods, it can help you feel better and alternatively, if you eat the wrong foods, it can make you feel worse. There are certain foods that can help you to feel better by relieving your coughing.

As with all conditions in Chinese Medicine, there are several possible causes for each condition.  For coughs, a few of the causes are due to what is called an “External Pathogenic Factor (EPF)”, which is what happens when we develop cold or flu-like symptoms. The EPFs that can invade us and cause a cough are Wind-Cold, Wind-Heat and Dry-Heat. We can choose the appropriate foods to alleviate our cough dependent on the EPF.

Cough due to Wind-Cold

Some signs and symptoms of a cough due to Wind-Cold are: cough, moderate amount of thin & white sputum, non-productive cough at initial stage, tight chest and stuffy nose with clear discharge and sneezing.

Some foods which help relieve this type of cough are:


Onions decreases phlegm and inflammation of the nose and throat, induces sweating and is a cure for a common cold. One way to use this to stop your cough is to simmer onions with a little bit of honey until they are soft and eat one every four hours.

Grapefruit peel

This has a warming energy and helps to resolve mucous conditions of the lungs and can treat lung congestion. To use the peel effectively, make a tea by simmering the fresh or dried peel for about 20 minutes.

Mustard greens

They have a warming thermal nature, influences the lungs, clears chest congestion and reduces mucous. For best effect from these, use mustard greens in a tea. Mustard greens are generally not found in a regular supermarket and in an Asian grocery store, there is a version known as “Gai Choi”. Please note that this shouldn’t be used in people with heat conditions.

Cough due to Wind-Heat

If you have a Heat type of cough, you may have thick yellow sputum which is difficult to cough up, thick nasal discharge, sore throat, thirst or fever, and these are the following foods which will help:


Pears have a cooling thermal nature which targets the lungs and eliminates heat and excess mucous. It stops coughing associated with heat in the lungs, moistens the lungs, throat and dryness in general and quenches thirst due to heat conditions.


They also moisten conditions of dryness, lowers fever, is highly alkalising and eliminates toxins from the body. They do need to be cooked well or fermented, otherwise, the soybean will inhibit the digestive enzyme, trypsin, which makes the soybean difficult to digest. Some examples of fermented soybean include tempeh, tofu, miso and soy sauce.


Resolves mucous and other damp conditions, relieves coughing and due to its alkalising nature, sulfur and other factors, turnip also detoxes the body. The best way to use the turnip for dispersing lung congestion is to eat sliced raw turnip.

Cough due to Dry-Heat

For coughs resulting from Dry-Heat, your cough will be non-productive or there will be scanty and sticky sputum which is difficult to cough up, or severe cough with chest pain, as well as dryness of the nose and throat. For these types of coughs, you can relieve the cough with the following foods:

Lemons and limes

These fruits have a cooling thermal nature, are antiseptic, anti-microbial and mucous-resolving, which makes it great for colds, flus and hacking coughs. It’s to be avoided by people with too much stomach acid or ulcers and to be used cautiously for those with Blood deficiency signs. Begin with 1-3 lemons daily for a week and increase according to need and desire (9-12 lemons can be tolerated by a robust person who needs their properties).


Bananas have a very cooling thermal nature, lubricates the lungs and generally benefits conditions of thirst and dryness. For dry coughs, eat bananas that have been sliced and cooked into a thick soup.


They are neutral in thermal nature and moistens the lungs. For dry coughs, drink half a cup of the water and eat 1-2 figs from a lightly cooked fig soup several times a day.

Make sure you get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids. A cough from a cold or flu should be gone in a week or two but if it is still lingering, a visit to a Chinese Medicine practitioner for some acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine will help to clear it before it becomes a chronic condition.

Jul 25

How to Beat your Cold with Food – Chinese Medicine Style

Lemon and Ginger Tea

Colds are often something that we often just deal with and ride out – we continue to push through doing what we do daily and “soldier on”. They usually happen when we are tired, run-down and our immune system is isn’t able to protect ourselves from the viruses and bacteria out there.

In Chinese Medicine, Qi is the energy that flows through our body. There are four levels of Qi in the body and the outermost level is called the Wei Qi, which is the defensive Qi of the body. When we have become run down, overworked, eaten poorly, not exercised and generally just not looking after ourselves, our Wei Qi weakens and we become more susceptible to getting a cold. If you catch colds often, this is a sign that there is an underlying deficiency in your body, which Chinese Medicine can help you with.

A cold generally manifests fairly suddenly in a couple of ways, cold-natured or heat-natured, and there are steps that we can take to get rid of it so we can get back quicker to what doing what we love!

Cold-natured signs and symptoms:
  • feeling more chilled than fever-like
  • phlegm is clear or white
  • aversion to cold
  • no or limited sweating
  • sneezing
  • stiff neck and/or body aches
When you feel some or all of the above signs and symptoms, the foods to have are:
  • ginger
  • onions
  • garlic
  • hot peppers
  • soups
  • ginger tea
In addition, you can also apply sweating therapy by drinking a cup of ginger tea, having a hot shower, putting on lots of clothes and covering yourself with blankets to get yourself to sweat. You don’t need to sweat excessively and do not apply sweating therapy if you are severely weak or dehydrated.

Heat-natured signs and symptoms:

  • feeling more fever-like than chilled
  • phlegm is yellow or green
  • sore throat
  • cough
  • thirst
  • body aches, headaches
Some foods to have when you have the above are:
  • mung beans
  • apples
  • spinach
  • peppermint tea
  • chrysanthemum tea

Overall, if you have either cold or heat signs and symptoms:

  • eat less food
  • drink more warm fluids
  • drink honey (particularly raw honey), which has antibacterial and antiviral properties, with lemon and its Vitamin C to boost your immune system
  • keep your neck covered
  • rest when tired

Above all else, prevention is the best cure and make sure you look after yourself, rest well and do things for yourself that nourish you!

Apr 25

Autumn and the Element of Metal and the Element of Metal

Autumn is the season of Metal energy. It is a time when the fruit of Late Summer has been harvested and trees drop their leaves, to return to the Earth, enriching it for future growth in the cycle of the Elements. This energy of getting rid of the unneeded keeps us unclogged and allows us to be able to receive the pure and see the essence of who we are.

Grief is the emotion of Metal and expressing our grief appropriately allows us to experience the loss and separation needed, and then let go. It helps us to get rid of what we no longer need and start afresh. When our Metal element is unbalanced within us, grief can be excessive and constant or cannot be expressed at all.

The Large Intestine, the “Drainer of the Dregs”, is one of the Organs associated with Metal and its function is to expel waste products and any toxicity in our body. However, it does this more than at a physical level and applies to the mental and spirit levels, too. In the process of growing up and just day-to-day living, we often have had to deal with a lot of garbage and if we don’t remove it, it creates a toxic dump, clogging us up and making us mentally and spiritually constipated. This doesn’t allow us to experience the purity and beauty around us.

The Lung is the other Organ associated with Metal and it receives the pure, like the crisp Autumn air. It inspires from the Heaven, allowing the new and fresh in. It is the “Receiver of Heavenly Qi”, which allows us to receive pure Qi, connect to spirit and have a deep and real connection to others.

When the Metal element is unbalanced, some of the physical symptoms you can experience include skin problems, asthma, cough, bronchitis, emphysema, constipation and diarrhoea. However, underlying this, we can tend to feel a lack of spontaneity and freshness, depressed, stubborn and isolated.

Metal adds richness to the Earth and in us, it is related to our own sense of richness, our own self-worth. We cannot see how precious we are or how we have something meaningful to contribute. People with an unbalanced Metal element will often be attempting to seek to prove their worth by gaining status, power and assets, which they find still leaves them unfulfilled. They often find it difficult to “let go” because the respect, recognition and quality they seek is gained from  outside of themselves through possessions, achievements, attachments and attitudes.

Treating in Autumn is more effective for the Metal element and you can support your own Metal element by noticing the energy of the season and living with it.

  • Begin to rest and quieten, acting and speaking when necessary, taking care not to overexert yourself.
  • Go through cluttered areas and clear it – give what you no longer need to friends, donate or sell.
  • Review your attitudes, including resentments, jealousies, hatred, envies, and try to resolve them and let them go.
  • Step outside and breathe in the fresh, crisp Autumn air every day and as you breathe in, allow it purify you as you and as you breathe out, allow negativity and impurity to leave you.

Gumenick, N. (1997). The Five Elements: Retrieved 20 April 2015, from

Franglen, N. (2006). Keepers of the soul: the five guardian elements of acupuncture, London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers.