Using Traditional Chinese Medicine for Lung Health

Traditional Chinese Medicine uses herbs and natural substances to strengthen and tonify the body in order to avoid illnesses. This ancient art of medicine is still used today, and TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) offers us many options to strengthen the lungs and immune system before we experience the coughs, asthma, phlegm, chest pain, loss of voice, and other related respiratory conditions that seem to strike us this time of year.

The lungs are given a lot of importance in TCM. They open directly to the external environment and are therefore typically the first internal organ that can be attacked by external pathogens like bacteria or viruses. The lungs also control breathing and are seen in TCM as the source of qi (chi), the vitality or life force of a person. 

In TCM, when lung qi is strong, breathing is normal and the body has plenty of energy. Weak lung qi, however, can deprive the other organs in the body of energy, lead to shortness of breath, and general fatigue. Weak lung qi is also associated with a poor immune system and other respiratory problems.

Since the lungs are tied to qi, then qi strengthening herbs are often recommended for strengthening the lungs.

Chinese Herbs to Strengthen the Lungs

Ginseng Root

Ginseng is considered especially nourishing to the lungs, skin, and stomach. Ginseng is said to moisten and cool the lungs, making it particularly useful for those with dry coughs. American Ginseng is recommended over Asian Ginseng for this purpose, as American Ginseng is considered a yin tonic that is cooling in nature, while Asian Ginseng is a yang tonic that tends to be hot in nature.


Astragalus is one of the most commonly used Chinese herbs for strengthening and tonifying qi and the immune system. In TCM, the lungs and the colon make up the majority of the immune system, so strengthening these two organs leads to overall immune strength. Astragalus is thought to build up the protective qi, vitalize immune defenses, and to ward off infections. Astragalus is said to be useful for those who frequently come down with colds and the flu, have difficulty breathing (such as asthma), and who tend to sweat too much or not enough. 

Cordyceps Mushroom

Cordyceps is one of many mushrooms treasured in TCM. Cordyceps is a powerful yang lung tonic. This medicinal mushroom was used traditionally to strengthen respiratory power in those who needed extra energy, such as athletes. It is recommended for those who suffer from chronic lung weakness with cough, wheezing, or shortness of breath. Cordyceps may also help boost immune strength thanks to its natural abilities to resist a wide range of pathogenic bacteria, fungi, and viruses.


Schisandra (also spelled Schizandra) is another herb traditionally used in TCM formulas for the lungs. Instead of tonifying, or strengthening, like other herbs, Schisandra is instead revered for its astringent properties. Schisandra helps the lungs to retain whatever existing strength they currently have. It is often combined with a tonifying herb to protect the lungs from deficiencies while they are being strengthened. The traditional use for Schisandra includes asthma and wheezing. 

Other known TCM Lung Tonics include:

  • Asparagus Root
  • Codonopsis Root
  • Dendrobium Stem
  • Ginkgo Leaf 

Traditional Chinese Medicine is an ancient practice that is still used by millions of people all over the world. The use of herbal medicine is an ancient art as old as mankind itself. This practice may be a great complement to your current practices for immune support. Be sure to discuss all supplements, herbs, and medications you are taking or wish to take with your health care professional. 

Have you used TCM herbs to support immunity and respiratory/lung health, or to help recover from a respiratory illness? Be sure to tell us about your experience!

Melissa Zimmerman, Healthy Goods

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