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Respiratory disease is the leading global cause of disability and death.

Respiratory health: A Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective

TCM has an extensive history treating respiratory illness and offers a comprehensive system of classification, diagnosis, treatment and, importantly, prevention.

Understanding the respiratory system in TCM

“Heaven’s Qi flows freely to the Lungs”
“The Lungs are the root of Qi” (2 p69)

Respiratory health: A Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective

In TCM, the Lungs are the source of our vitality. Known as the ‘delicate organ’ for their connection with our external environment and its’ pathogens, the Lungs also extract qi (energy) from the atmosphere (‘heavens’). (2) The exchange exposing them to disease can, when they are nourished and protected, provide us with the resources to defend them.

In TCM, the Lungs have many roles beyond respiration. With the assistance of the ‘grasping’ function of the Kidneys, they receive pure qi from the air and disperse it throughout the body, vitalising all bodily functions and promoting (with the Heart) the circulation of qi, blood and body fluids.

Pure qi combines with food qi and original qi – our core, inherited life force, residing in the lower abdomen in a space known as the lower dan tian – to form defensive qi (immunity). This circulates beneath the skin surface, protecting us from viruses, bacteria and climatic, ‘pernicious’ influences – Wind, Cold, Heat, Damp, Dryness and Summerheat. The Lungs also: regulate the water passages, control the skin and hair, open in to the nose and house the corporeal soul (“the somatic manifestation of the soul… a direct manifestation of the breath of life”). (3 p85) Along with their paired Metal organ, the Large Intestine, the Lungs receive and release on both a physical and emotional level. (3)

Many herbs are suitable for self-care. However if a health condition does not resolve with home remedies we recommend using the information in Herbal Reality along with your health advisors, especially herbal practitioners from the professional associations listed in our Resources page (‘If you want to find a herbalist”). When buying any herbal products, you should choose responsible manufacturers with independently assured quality standards and sustainability practices. Check the label carefully for the appropriate safety and sustainability information.

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