Harmonious arrangement of TCM herbs Astragalus, Orange Peel, Ginger, and Licorice Root, symbolizing natural balance and health in managing phlegm

Understanding Phlegm Through Traditional Chinese Medicine

Phlegm is a concept in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that goes beyond its common understanding in Western medicine. In TCM, phlegm is not just a physical substance but also a pathological factor that can affect the body's Qi (energy) and lead to various health issues.

The TCM View of Phlegm

In TCM, phlegm is seen as a result of the body's inability to properly metabolize fluids. This can be due to a dysfunction in the spleen, which in TCM is responsible for transforming and transporting bodily fluids. When the spleen's function is impaired, fluids accumulate, leading to the formation of phlegm.

Types of Phlegm in TCM

TCM categorizes phlegm into two main types:

  1. Substantial Phlegm: This is the physical phlegm we are familiar with, such as mucus produced during a cold or respiratory infection.
  2. Non-Substantial Phlegm: This is a more elusive concept, referring to a metaphysical aspect that can block Qi and lead to symptoms like dizziness, mental cloudiness, and palpitations.

Causes of Phlegm in TCM

TCM attributes the formation of phlegm to several factors:

  • Dietary Habits: Consuming too much greasy, sweet, or dairy foods can lead to phlegm accumulation.
  • Emotional Factors: Emotional distress, especially prolonged worry or overthinking, is believed to affect the spleen and lead to phlegm.
  • External Pathogenic Factors: Elements like dampness and cold can invade the body and contribute to phlegm production.

TCM Treatment Approaches

Herbal Remedies for Phlegm in TCM

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, various herbs are utilized to target phlegm by strengthening the spleen, aiding in the dissolution of phlegm, and regulating the body's fluid metabolism. Some of these herbs include:

  1. Astragalus (Huang Qi): Known for its immune-boosting and spleen-strengthening properties, Astragalus is often used to enhance the body's ability to metabolize fluids effectively. Get Sacred Plant Co's Astragalus Root here.

  2. Dried Orange Peel (Chen Pi): Commonly used to resolve phlegm and regulate the Qi, it's particularly helpful for phlegm caused by spleen and stomach dysfunction. Get Sacred Plant Co's Dried Orange Peel here.

  3. Licorice Root (Gan Cao): Often used as a harmonizer in herbal formulas, Licorice Root can help in moderating harsh properties of other herbs and supporting spleen health. Get Sacred Plant Co's Licorice Root here.

  4. Ginger (Sheng Jiang): Ginger is frequently used in TCM to expel cold and transform phlegm, making it useful in cases where phlegm is combined with a feeling of coldness. Get Sacred Plant Co's Ginger Root here.

Customizing Herbal Treatments

It's important to note that in TCM, the use of herbs is highly personalized. A TCM practitioner would typically assess an individual's overall health, specific symptoms, and constitution before recommending a customized herbal formula. This tailored approach ensures a more effective and balanced treatment.

Safety and Professional Guidance

While these herbs have been used traditionally for managing phlegm, it's crucial to use them under the guidance of a qualified TCM practitioner and in consultation with a healthcare provider, especially if you are on other medications or have underlying health conditions.

  • Acupuncture: This can help in restoring the balance of Qi and supporting the spleen’s function.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Adjustments in diet and exercise, along with stress management, are recommended to prevent and reduce phlegm.

The Holistic Nature of TCM Treatments

TCM approaches health in a holistic manner. Thus, the treatment of phlegm is not just about targeting the phlegm itself but about restoring overall balance and harmony within the body.


Understanding phlegm from the TCM perspective broadens our view of health and disease. It emphasizes the importance of balance and harmony in maintaining health and offers a unique approach to managing conditions related to phlegm.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult a healthcare professional for any medical concerns.

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